IWSG – Asking

InsecureWritersSupportGroupToday is the first Wednesday of the month. That means, it’s time for Insecure Writer’s Support Group!

You can find the sign up for the IWSG here. We owe Alex J Cavanaugh a huge thank you for thinking this blog hop up.

I need advice. I’m a non-confrontational person who enjoys keeping friends happy and situations as minimally awkward as possible. As such, I haven’t asked my friends to review my book.

How do I do this? I think they’ve read it. I know they have copies of it.

But what if they started it, and just couldn’t get through it? Or what if they hated it and didn’t want to hurt my feelings? My friends are polite and kind. If I asked them, they’d be trapped in that awkward position of either honesty—thus making them feel bad for making me feel bad—or a reluctant lie. Oh yeah, it was great. What? You want me to tell other people that too? And put my name on it? Uh…

Is there a tactful way to ask this question without feeling awkward at every football game/bbq/birthday party?

Edit: I should clarify that I never asked them to read the book. I know they own copies, and they enjoy reading that genre, regardless of my contribution to it. I just don’t know how to ask if they enjoyed my book or not. Based on the majority of comments, I shouldn’t.

Have you ever asked your friends to review your work? How did you approach it? Do you have any advice?

Loni Townsend

About Loni Townsend

Wife. Mother. Writer. Ninja. Squirrel.

60 thoughts on “IWSG – Asking

  1. Oh, Loni, boy do I know how you feel. I sent the first 3 chapters of my current WIP to my BROTHER!!! Has he gotten back to me for more? NO.

    This is why a crit group is so important. You crit theirs, they crit yours. It’s part of the obligation of belonging to the group. They are compelled to crit. Friends aren’t. And while it’s wonderful to have friends love your stuff. It’s more important that strangers do. They have nothing to prove. Anyway, happy IWSG. Know that you are not alone.

    • Thanks Joylene! I have critique partners, beta-readers, and even a local critique group. I owe them a lot, and they’ve become my good friends. I just don’t know how to broach the subject with my friends who are just readers and not writers. That’s what makes me insecure.

  2. I have asked friends to review my book, but typically only the ones who email me or message me or tweet at me about how much they loved the book. Beyond that, to get reviews on my first book, I queried a number of book reviewers and tried Netgalley. (Don’t do that.) Librarything was a great place to get some nice reviews as well. I say don’t force it. If they liked it enough to talk to you about it, they will be happy to review it. Also, keep in mind they might be busy and have the book but haven’t read it yet. Time. Time is the only solution there.

    • Thanks Crystal! I think part of my fear is that they haven’t mentioned anything to me about the book. What if that’s a sign? 🙁

      I’ll check out Librarything and avoid Netgalley. Time. That word scares me.

  3. I’m new to this author thing, but I’d avoid putting people on the spot.

    When I first published, I put out the word through family that ‘if people want to help, ask them to write a review.’ I also put this on my website as part of a list of things people could do to help me succeed, and I offer it, occasionally, when it seems appropriate in conversation.

    One thing that could help is to rate and / or review other writers’ books. When someone does this for me, I try to return the favor if possible. I’ve heard good things and bad things about services like NetGalley. Some authors have actually made things worse for themselves by seeking reviews there.

    Maybe someone who’s been at this longer than I will come along and leave you some better advice.

    IWSG #184 until Alex culls the list again.

    • I’ve been trying to read a lot of indie books and reviewing when I can. I think part of it is time like Crystal said. I’ll have to use your line about helping author success. That seems like a tactful way to broach the subject.

  4. That’s a crappy place to be. I don’t ask real world friends to read my books for just that reason. Online I might send an email but I’m prepared to hear the truth.

  5. Emma Adams

    I don’t mention my books to my non-writer friends, other than a general Facebook past whenever I have a new release! I’d rather not know if they didn’t enjoy it. 😉 Most of my family and my old school/university friends aren’t readers, so I don’t expect them to buy and review my books – though it’d be nice!

    • Most of my family aren’t readers either. I was the oddball of the bunch. 🙂

  6. I actually haven’t asked my friends or even my family to review my work, because no one has read my work! It’s a bit of a bummer. A few bought Hurricane Crimes to support me, but I know they haven’t read it. Maybe that’s the reason why no one has talked to you about it. Perhaps they haven’t read it and don’t want you to know that. If you want to give a broad statement politely asking for reviews, the safest bet (and the best option for the biggest number of your friends to see it) would be to post a gentle reminder on your FB profile kindly asking anyone who read your book and enjoyed it, to hop on over to Amazon to post a review. Good luck!

    • The FB profile would be a good bet, but my reach is sadly small. But it might work! Thanks for the suggestion!

  7. Oh boy. I wish I had a good answer for this. The one thing I will say first is that it’s not just you – this is a tough, awkward, potentially problematic situation!!

    So, I try to ask my friends for feedback only when I’m still writing. I have them beta read, and offer critiques, and so on. Once a piece is done, I’ll ask people I’m NOT so close to for reviews. That way, if they don’t like it, it won’t damage an important relationship! I also think it’s important to specify that you want honest reviews; that way, people won’t worry so much about posting something that might not be entirely positive. However, that means you have to expect some not-so-great reviews sometimes!

    I think Melissa has a good point – the more you review other people’s stuff, the more people will return the favor. Like everything else, though, it’s time-consuming.

    • It seems to be that avoiding those closest to us is the most common approach. I find that very interesting.

  8. That’s the first thing I say at the end of the book: If you enjoyed TITLE, please leave a review. But you can’t force it. You can ask and explain why it’s important in a young writer’s career.

    • That’s a good idea. I’ll probably do that going forward.

  9. I’ve shown parts of my work to my wife and daughter, but I’m not sure I would ever give a finished book to a non-writing friend and ask them to review it. I’d just feel too uncomfortable. So in your case, I’d probably just let the matter drop. It would be too easy for feelings to get hurt.

  10. I don’t like to be put on the spot so I’m very sensitive – too sensitive, probably – about doing that to other people.

    Maybe some of the people you’re talking about don’t really write book reviews in general. Maybe they’re promoting it face to face – telling their hairdresser, their children’s teacher, their neighbor. Maybe they’ve Tweeted about it instead of reviewing it. My sister mentioned my collection on her Facebook page. I didn’t ask her to, she just did it.

    As you can see, I’m not the very best at marketing and promotion…. 🙂

  11. I struggle with this too so you’re definitely not alone. I like Mary’s idea about putting the review request at the end of each book.

  12. Since I haven’t told my real world friend that I’m even writing, I’m not sure what to do. If it is one that is already written, I’d let it go. They may have though it was a complementary copy or a whenever you get around to it or just not their kind of story.

  13. I don’t have a published book, but I can sympathize. You want reviews, but you don’t want to put people on the spot. Probably best to just make a general plea for reviews on your blog and hope readers are motivated to do it.

  14. I only ask my crit group to review my books. I don’t want to put my friends into a position of having to read my book. On the other hand, if they ask to read it and want to review it, I’m always eager for them to do it.

  15. My friends and family are GREAT, but they suck at anything beyond buying something I create. I love them for that, but I can’t count on them to be real readers and reviewers.

  16. Loni,
    I have asked family and friends to read my stuff before. When it came time to get their feedback, it was like I forced them on a death march. I eventually quit asking. I also quit giving them the material to read.

    If you figure out how to broach this subject with tack and delicacy, pass on the info. It sounds like we could all use it.

  17. people are always scared to hurt others. I just ask them outright-what do you think? When they say negative things I club them…..Ok no I don’t club them but I may whine a little and then they remind me that I asked-then I club them! OK no I don’t but when I ask what they might do better, they quiver as they are unsure. My one friend proceeded to rewrite my whole little story and , in the end, it wasn’t mine. (yup he got clubbed) hahahahaaaa I take it in stride. If I ask then I need to realize I might be told negative things but as long as it is constructive I am glad for it! A great friend will tell you the good, the bad and the ugly because you would do the same for them. If you want my club, let me know:)

  18. Oh my goodness, I hear ya on this. I can’t even get my spouse to read my books, let alone other family members. (Who me, bitter? 😉 The only time I’ve gotten serious and asked for reviews was when I was going to do a big promo thing that I wanted to have some more reviews ahead of time. So I asked on facebook for anyone who was willing to do it, and provided links. It worked, for a few people. I didn’t want to be pushy, and I hated asking, but I think people who aren’t into writing don’t realize how vital those reviews are, ya know? Anyhow, that’s my thoughts on the matter. And from reading the other comments, I will say that I did a bit of time on Netgalley, and while the reviewers are much harsher there, I did get a bunch of great ones and would say that it might be worth it. I did one of those group participation things where a bunch of people cover the cost, so it was WAY more affordable, and it worked out pretty well 🙂 Okay, lots of rambling, hah!

  19. I don’t ask my friends to review for these very reasons. Best of luck to you.

  20. You just have to ask. Really, it’s the only way. Type the words in an email and send it out. As writers, we are wired to please and wait, but sometimes we have to become the publicist we hired (because he’s too expensive, unless it’s a NY publisher behind us). So, I would say, just ask. I haven’t read your book, but under different circumstances I would be happy to post a review, and have done so for many of my writers friends. Maybe they forgot, or are busy, so a quick reminder helps.
    On a different note, are you part of a large critique group? I would be happy to recommend mine (a wonderful online group, totally free with published and unpublished writers giving each other feedback and eventually posting reviews for one another). It’s here: http://www.internetwritingworkshop.org/
    Best of luck.

  21. I so feel you on this one. I have trouble asking for reviews also. I have no problem giving away my book, but for some reason I feel weird asking if they’ll take a few seconds to review it.

    I think people feel awkward review friends books. I know when I’m asked, I always say I’ll give an honest review and if I don’t think I can give at least four stars I’ll email the author first.

    But as far as asking… when you figure this out let me know!!!

  22. I finally reached the point I would just ask. It’s one of those things non-writers don’t think about – telling the author they enjoyed it.

  23. I just give the thing away or send them a gift card to buy it. With the later they can feel guilty and leave me a review, works every time lmao

  24. From personal experience, I’ve learned to leave my non-writing friends/family out of anything to do with my work. They just aren’t real book lovers to begin with and have different tastes from what I write. Plus, no one likes to be put on the spot. Good luck, whatever you do. 🙂

  25. Wow, that’s a tough one. I am not there yet, as I am only on a first draft But I do know when my sister comments, “I don’t have time to read your blog.” It makes me feel bad. I always regret asking her opinions. I think I will go with Alex on this one and not ask real world friends.

  26. I’ve had the same experience as many others. Maybe you can put a form on your website with a tab for Review Copies and have a form for people to fill out. And then tweet it, facebook, etc. so the word gets out. You could also have some kind of statement about providing the free copy in exchange for a review. I did a blog tour where I did this and got a few reviews out of it also. However, I actually sent many, many more copies than I actually got reviews from even though I had the statement. – so keep that in mind. I just think that’s the way it always goes with reviews. 🙂

  27. Getting reviews is always difficult. I think the best way to do it is to just put out the general request and repeat often that any review is better than no review.
    Still, it can be difficult to get a review even from someone who legitimately loves your work. People just don’t understand.

  28. Aloha Loni,

    I would agree with those who say time is the only way you’ll find out – and I’d add don’t let it worry you too much… they’re probably not huge readers – and if one (or more) is *then I think it would be ok to ask if they had considered putting your book on their TBR list 🙂

    And if they say that you are trying to guilt them into reading your book, just eat another cookie and look at them innocently 🙂

  29. I know exactly how you feel! I will ask my writer friends to review, but I don’t feel comfortable asking friends who are just readers. I guess the best way would be just to ask them if they could with no pressure.

  30. This is a great topic.
    I always feel a bit guilty for not leaving a review when I love a book, but for me it comes down to lack of time. There is only so much of me to go around, and I’ve had to draw the line at writing reviews. So I don’t think your friends are averse to leaving a review. They might just be quite busy and they might also feel awkward about phrasing things like book reviews.
    There are, however, readers who are kind and generous with their time and words–many of whom are not writers (of fiction anyway) I’m not sure how one entices them to read your work though!
    I wish some of the booksellers like Amazon etc. would make it easier to leave a short review (maybe a star system or rating chart) so that time-challenged people like me could promote great work. 🙂

  31. I read a couple comments above and thought there was some good feedback. This is a tough question! I will probably face it one day, too, but for now I have confined my writing just to other writers.

  32. If you figure out how to actually get reviews out of them let me know. I have asked in general posts on Facebook. I get 5 people who are excited and raise their hands. I email them privately and then crickets. So… what they don’t want the book now? Well anyway the 1 out of the 5 that responded swore they would give a review. And well yeah. So now what. I have no idea. If I think of a tactful way of saying “hey, remember how you said you would leave a review?”. Either way, the way I bring it up is a generic Facebook post. OR if it somehow comes up in conversation and someone doesn’t give me that weird face of, “oh you right romance.”. Good luck.

  33. Reviews are tough to get and, as my publisher has said, the responses even from review copies is very low. I sent out about 20 review copies to people that offered to read & review it but only two of those yielded anything.

    I’ve given up expecting my family to even read my first novel. As for friends, a few close ones – mainly fellow writers or journalist colleagues (before I retired) – wrote reviews… but only about six of them. Frustrating as on Facebook I have 323 friends, most of whom are people I know well from my equestrian journalism days.

    Sensing that I need to move onto the next book and build the reviews over time and with a backlist.

    Good luck

  34. Yep, I also have never asked a friend to review my work. I would never be able to associate with them in the same way again. Also, you are putting them in a tight spot, they may feel uncomfortable being honest and your relationship will be damaged. Not a good idea.

    Better to ask acquaintances for the help.

  35. Oh, my dear, no I don’t ask my friends to read my book and give a review. If they want to read it, fine, but review? Doubtful. My DH does not even read my book. sigh

  36. I may be in the minority for saying this, but I think friends and family aren’t the best people to read your book (unless they ask). They likely aren’t going to give you an honest opinion and if they say bad things, it could harm your future relationship with them. It’s just such a personal thing. I think you’d be better off finding beta readers within your target market–probably through online groups that specialize in such things.

  37. I hate pushing things on people, even my friends. With that said, all I did was announce that I was publishing my first book last year in *hopes* that my friends would take the clue and buy it. Some did (not many) and I wasn’t sure how many of them actually bothered reading it. In fact, I’m pretty sure that number is close to zilch because I only had one close friend actually tell me she planned on reading it but didn’t have time at the moment (a mother of two babies, she did end up reading both earlier this year). I think the hard thing to remember is that while many of your friends support you, they may not be readers. Believe me, I understand wanting to shake them and say “I held your hair back when you were vomitting! Read this damnit!” But you can’t. It sucks and it’s awkward and you wish it worked a different way. Maybe just keep talking about this passion you have and how much you’re working at it and they’ll pick up on the clues. If not, well you have a whole world of readers looking for their next obession.

  38. I don’t ask friends to buy or review my book. I want a different kind of audience, and the friends I keep are not “into” the same things I am.

  39. I don’t ask my regular day-to-day friends to review my books because, well, few of them are readers and even less like the kind of stories I write. I also doubt any of them have written a review in their lives.

  40. I’ve been really casual about asking people I know to read the short pieces I’ve published. I always accompany it with “feel free to leave a review” and not many have. Beyond that, I don’t mention it again. For the most part, I know most of them aren’t going to anyway. Does anyone in my family even read books is the better question…

  41. Hi, Loni,

    That is tough…. Your best bet is to have respected blogger read your work. WE will give you an honest opinion because that is what we want from our readers….

    But I also think that if you approach your friend in a way explaining to them that an honest opinion is appreciated and that it has nothing to do about feelings, you need to know so that you can learn if something is off in your writing.

  42. I’m going back into all my books, short stories and compilations and at the end of the book I’m adding a page that thanks them for reading the book and asking for a review if they enjoyed it. Putting in a link to the Amazon review page for the book.

    Then I’m offering a free copy of one of my short stories or compilations if they sign up for my newsletter.

    Both tips passed to my by other authors using this approach.

  43. I’m a little late to this party but I agree with what many others have said — just sweep that anxiety away and unless a personal contact initiates a conversation about your book and tells you how much he/she enjoyed it, don’t even worry about asking for reviews. It’s nice to get a few extra reveiws up there, but in reality they won’t make or break your book sales.

  44. I don’t have an answer for this. I shudder to think of the reviews my friends and family would write. I’m fortunate to work at a bookstore where my co-workers write staff reviews from time to time.

  45. I was part of an online “collective” for a while — 5 SF writers who would critique each other’s work and post reviews on Amazon/Goodreads. That’s since fizzled out, but it was fun while it lasted. I don’t have time to submit my work to reviewers, and I know better than to ask friends/family to review my work. Not many SF readers among them. I’ve adopted this approach: My work has to sink or swim on its own. In the meantime, I’m getting as much new material out into the world as I possibly can.

  46. I would have a hard time with that one, too. As much as I want to know what they thought of my book, I wouldn’t ask, because I figure if they really liked it, they would have let me know. If they didn’t like it and that’s why they’re not saying anything, I’d rather not know. I do like the idea of including at the end of the book a request for reviews from those who enjoyed it, but I have to agree with the others who have said it is best to leave reviews to professional reviewers who don’t know you.

  47. Loni, I also wanted to let you know that I nominated you for the Wonderful Team Member Readership Award! The details are at http://lorilmaclaughlin.com/2014/08/10/wonderful-team-member-readership-award. Thanks so much for supporting my blog!

  48. Send out a big, BC’d update email—addressing your friends mass style, so there’s no one-on-one pressure—with updates on your books and an open call/instructions for reviews. You could even throw in an incentive. Just make sure there’s nothing in it that requires a direct answer. 🙂

  49. I’m gonna make this easy for you…send it to other writers not friends if you can help it. friends are awesome as friends but don’t seem to understand our urgencies in knowing what we want.

  50. Thank you all for your comments. I’ve decided it’d probably be best not to ask my friends to see if they enjoyed reading my book. I’ll just sneak into their libraries and see how far the thumb marks go through the pages. 🙂

  51. Hi, Lori! I understand how it can be unnerving to ask others to review your books. Look at it this way, it comes with the territory of being an author. It really does. They won’t hate you if you ask and if they say no, then shrug and pat yourself on the back and move on…

    When someone tells me they love my book (after reading it) on FB, email, in blog comments, etc, I share my enthusiasm with them and then I simply ask them if they could please post a review on Amazon, Smashwords, or Goodreads–wherever they have an account at. I’ve done this so many times that it’s second nature.

    My problem is asking trustworthy sources/friends to *endorse* my book…now that is a huge challenge! I will post about that for September’s IWSG!


  52. “I’m a non-confrontational person who enjoys keeping friends happy and situations as minimally awkward as possible.”

    I’m the same. I wouldn’t have the courage to ask anyone for a review, let alone my friends. 🙂 Good luck!

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