Saturday, August 20, 2011

Guest Post: Mike Saxton - The Mysterious Review

Curling Up By The Fire is thrilled to have Mike Saxton, author of 7 Scorpions: Rebellion, here to discuss the topic of book reviews with us.  If you have a moment, take a look at my review of 7 Scorpions: Rebellion, a novel set amidst the chaos of a world we once knew, destroyed by flash bombs by a man intent on destroying the human race.  It's a rollercoaster ride, where a small group of humans, led by a man almost destroyed by the government who wanted to create a super-soldier, intend to destroy the new order and restore peace to a human world in utter chaos.  It's a post-apocalyptic ride you don't want to miss.

The Mysterious Review

by Mike Saxton

I first wanted to thank Stephanie for allowing me to invade her blog. I have a bit of a sense of irony and chose to make this entry about reviews, which I thought was fitting. :-)

So what’s up with reviews? It’s pretty simple. Reviews sell books. Reviews allow potential buyers to make an informed decision. Big named authors garner reviews without much effort. Stephen King, Nora Roberts, and other such household named authors simply release a book and it has reviews. Large publications such as the New York Times or USA Today are notoriously difficult to get reviews in.

So how do Indie authors such as me get reviews? Here are the main ways:

Review Sites/Publications
There are a number of decently known web-based publications that give reviews, many of them posting their reviews to Amazon. There are even sites, such as Midwest Book Review, that specifically give priority to Indie authors. Of course, there are others who won’t review a book that isn’t traditionally published, so it balances. Other common review sites that post on Amazon are Apex Reviews, Feathered Quill Reviews, Reader Views, Reader’s Choice, Bestsellersworld, and Rebecca’s Reads. And of course, Book Bloggers!

Author Review Exchange
This is an interesting one. This is where two authors exchange their books and review them. It is a common practice, not just amongst Indie authors. If you look at a number of Bestsellers out there, they have reviews from other authors. What’s funny is a number of people will claim this is unethical when an Indie author does it but not when a big name does it. I’ll shed a little light here. Review exchanges require a bit of maturity. Most authors will not give a good review to a book they don’t feel deserves it, even if they receive a good review. Giving a good review to something you don’t think is good kills your credibility. On the flip side, it is the unwritten rule that an author will not post a bad review of another author’s work. It’s the old adage, “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything.” Why is this?

It depends on who you talk to. For me, it’s partially Karma but also a question of ethics. Unfortunately, there are some authors who think, in order to succeed, they need to discredit the writing of others. Not everyone is on the up and up. Bashing another author’s work could be perceived as cutthroat. People don’t like cutthroat authors all that much. I prefer to stick with the golden rule as much as possible.

In my own experience, I have participated in numerous review exchanges. Has everyone who has reviewed my book felt they could give it a good rating? No, of course not. Have I been able to give a good review to every book I’ve read? Definitely not (although most books I have been willing to review ended up being worth 4 or 5 stars, I check them out before I agree to review). Actually, I don’t review anything I don’t feel I can give 4 or 5 stars too. That’s not a cut on anyone else. Do what you feel is right. This is just my preference.

Ask For Them
There have been times when I have received an email from a reader who especially enjoyed my book. Obviously, any author loves to get these. When I receive these messages, I will typically ask the person if they are willing to post a review on Amazon, Goodreads, and/or Shelfari (some do, some don’t, no biggie). I explained this to someone once who asked me if I ever asked a friend to write a review. Of course. If someone likes my book they like my book. The only exception is family. I specifically asked my family not to review it (even the ones with different last names). I thought that crossed a boundary (even though my family is tougher on me than most outside reviewers ever would be).

The above three methods are quite common and not typically seen to be in violation of codes of ethics. In a perfect world, all authors would abide by it. Unfortunately, not all do. There are some instances where reviews are “set up”. Here are some things you can look for:

1. Large number of reviews in a short time. There are less than honorable services out there where an author can pay a large amount of money to a person/company, who has numerous Amazon accounts. They subsequently post numerous (usually short) reviews. In cases like this, you’ll see a bunch of reviews (could be upwards of 30 or 40), all 5 star, all terse (and probably poorly written). Matter of fact, none of them will be labeled “real name”. They also tend to be posted within a couple of days. It is definitely suspect to have an unknown book have 40 excellent reviews posted In 2 or 3 days.

2. Friend/Family setup. One of the reasons I don’t feel bad about asking a friend to write a review (and only a couple have by the way) is because I let them come to me on their own indicating they liked the book. There are others who specifically ask their friends and families to post reviews, whether they’ve read the book or not. Warning signs of this are similar to the unethical review purchasing.

3. Copying others. Basically, this is when someone takes pieces of the synopsis, word for word, as well as pieces of other reviews and creates a new one. It isn’t as hard to spot as you might think. What you’ll see is a bunch of reviews that read pretty much the same with some slightly different wording.

Now, does this mean that every terse review or a cluster of a few reviews in a short time is indicative of fraud? Not at all.


  1. I've read a few reviews about your book and it sounds very exciting!

  2. This is great information on reviews; who and why. I learned a lot - I particularly like the author to author.

  3. Really great guest post. As a small press author myself, I appreciate the honesty regards to reviews and ethical practices. More authors need to read this to save themselves the embarrassment of ruining their credibility before they even earn it. Thanks for a really insightful post!


  4. Mike, you may be new to the game but you've done your homework. This is excellent!

    Norma Beishir