the ask@AAR: What’s the point of an honest book review?

I had a disheartening experience this week. There’s an author AAR has reviewed 13 times in the past six years. In that time, we’ve given her work three As, three A-s, three B+s, one B, one B-, and one C. Since 2017, she has only gotten As and B+s here. She has a new book coming out next month and I reached out to her publicist to see if we could get a review copy.

At first said publisher asked where we would post our reviews. When I told her we only promise postings on our site and explained who we are, she then wrote me this:

I’m familiar with you guys and I’ve given ARCs to you before, but I’ve never given one without knowing who the reviewer is. As I’m sure you can understand, I’m not likely to give someone a free book who has generally disliked her books in the past. Can you tell me who the reviewer is?

I wrote back:

We don’t release reviewer names to publishers nor can we promise positive reviews. We are a professional, unbiased site.

I never heard from her again.

Most of the books AAR reviews come from Netgalley, Edelweiss, or publishers. I’ve never been asked before who the reviewer of a certain book might be and I’ve certainly never had it–implicitly–told to me that in order to get a book, AAR needs to have liked an author’s work in the past. Now, I’m sure publicists have wished that and that we’ve been turned down–anonymously–because we’re not a street team. But this interaction was so nakedly we only are giving out ARCs to those whom we are reasonably sure will rave about the book. (Don’t even get me started on the free book thing. We don’t charge for reviews and we never tell anyone give us your book and we’ll do it for free if you…..)

And I get it. I do. Writing a book is both an act of love and of great labor. To give your hard won words to someone who might trash them seems counter intuitive and perhaps self-defeating. Why should authors let us review their books with no guarantee?

I know what I think about that but I am curious? What do you think?

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments