How not to ask for a review

I thought this piece in today’s New York Times magazine, in The Ethicist section by Kwame Anthony Appiah, is something all of us authors should think about. My husband pointed it out to me, and I totally agree.

The Question

More and more of my friends are self-publishing books; some I purchase just to support their writers. In this new situation, a dear old friend wants me to give him a five-star review on Amazon and post it on Facebook. I’ve seen a few pages of his book, and it’s a piece of self-indulgent drivel. I don’t want to hurt my friend’s feelings, but I don’t want to sell out either. What do you suggest? Name Withheld

Appiah’s Answer

If you are such good friends, wouldn’t it be better to give him, gently, your opinion of some of the book’s weaknesses? Possibly without actually using the words “self-indulgent drivel”? Self-published books have taken a long dive since the days of Jane Austen, and the new ease of making them, in the digital era, has turned a river of putrefaction into a sea of sewage. The best way to ensure that the few worthy efforts are picked out is by authentic reviews. Please play your part and refrain from recommending your friend’s unwelcome contribution.

What do my readers think?  How do you handle requests to write reviews for books you don’t like?

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