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The Influencing Dilemma

by Laurie Alice Eakes

Let’s start off with an explanation of “influencing”. This is the practice of putting your name and address on a list to receive a copy of the book either directly from the publisher or from the author. The idea is that you will read said book, write reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, CBD, etc., or talk about it with your friends, and “influence” others to buy-or-not-buy that book.

A free book. Yes, you’ll take that opportunity to maybe try out a new author without any financial risk. Seems like a good deal all around.

You receive the book, love it, and post glowing reviews all over the Internet. Not a problem. You’re happy. The author is happy. It’s all good. You sign up to be an influencer for someone else.

And you dislike the novel.

You tell all your friends not to waste their money. You tell strangers through Amazon, Goodreads, CBD, etc. not to buy the book. After all, you have a right to say what you like.

But is your right the right thing to do?

This is the influencing dilemma we all face when we take on the responsibility of reading someone’s book for review-what is the right way to handle not liking that book? Some of the choices are:

A: If you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all.

B: Write the author with your concerns and don’t make them public.

C: Treat your review like a critique and sandwich the criticism in-between good things you found.

D: Write your perfectly honest and uncomplimentary opinion.

However you choose to review a book for which you’ve agreed to be an influencer, keep two things in mind: An editor, probably an entire committee, liked this book well enough to buy it, and this is the author’s hard work, her brain-child, and that harsh review might hurt her in more ways than sales.

Award-winning author Laurie Alice Eakes wanted to be a writer since knowing what one was. Her first book won the National Readers Choice Award in 2007, and her third book was a Carol Award finalist in 2010. Having her first book with Baker/Revell, Lady in the Mist, picked up by Crossings Book Club, and six of her books have been chosen for large print editions by Thorndike Press. She has been a public speaker for as long as she can remember; thus, only suffers enough stage fright to keep her sharp. In 2002, while in graduate school for writing fiction, she began to teach fiction in person and online. She lives in Virginia with her husband, two dogs, and probably too many cats.

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4 Responses to The Influencing Dilemma

  1. Thank you for the advice. i have yet to find a novel i couldn’t write a positive review for, though i personally don’t like all novels. Those that are published by the main book publishers are always great.

  2. A good question to ask yourself when tempted to write something negative in a review is whether or not you would be willing to say that to the author’s face. A number of reviewers, including author Lena Nelson Dooley, do not post a review of something under a certain number of stars (on my own blog we in general are not going to post under a four star review).

    I will be honest – on a psychology book, if I think they are flat out wrong or are misleading the reader, I will put that in a review. But with fiction so much is up to taste. Yes, there are people who have poor writing skills but many opinions are from preference. So for myself, I like a more popular fiction novel rather than literary.

    The reader/reviewer is spending hours and hours reading a book and then writing up a review. Laurie Alice, I sometimes think people then rationalize that gives them the right to blast someone whose book they agreed to read and review. Better to set it aside and contact the author directly, as you suggest.

  3. This is interesting b/c I just discussed this very thing with several authors and friends. I know that not everyone is going to have the same tastes in books, so if I read a book that is boring and I can’t give it at least 4-5 stars, I will not post a review on the book! I will not give a 3 or under rating on a book that took the author so many hours of time and labor, just b/c it doesn’t strike my fancy.

    Please author friends, don’t be upset if I haven’t posted your review yet, thinking I didn’t like your books. I just have one head and I have probably just not had time to review it yet. I’m not in this for free books, I’m in this to encourage and uplift authors and get others to read their books, and help spread the message of the Gospel through Christian books. God hasn’t called me to hurt people’s feelings and say rude, cutting things!

  4. Laurie Alice Eakes says:

    Carrie and Diana, we wish more of you were out there with this attitude. It ends up reflecting badly on the reviewer, not the author, especially when that reviewer is another author or writer aspiring to be published.