Critical reviews wanted in exchange for free books


I published a novel, Border Line, in December 2014. I had a party, a stall at the village Christmas Fair, a book-signing at the local farm shop café, I went to the main book shops in my city, plus a few smaller shops in nearby towns. The local paper and the city paper wrote about me and my third novel. I sold plenty of copies at these events and a respectable number (for me) of print and eBooks on Amazon.

eBook cover

And that was more or less it. To be honest, when I have finished writing a novel, I am ready to put it behind me. No book of the imagination ever reaches the original vision, so the fun is in building a new vision and having another crack at it. So, I didn’t blog, tweet or go on facebook with requests to buy Border Line (and I am not going to do so now). I got on with the next project.

This was the important task of getting my non-fiction book about Far East POWs published. This was a very different task – completed last year and published by Pen & Sword – though the research and the follow-up work goes on.

Yet now, as I return to the writing fiction at last, the old questions about what works and what doesn’t in my writing are hovering over me again. Add into this mix some interesting posts from other bloggers about positive and negative reviews, especially how useful negative reviews (see Tara Sparling’s post) are to readers.

So we come to my idea. I would like to give away (UK or Europe only) six copies of Border Line in return for critical reviews on Amazon or Goodreads – and I mean critical – I DO NOT MIND if this results in two-star reviews (or more or less). I am a perpetual student, knowing what does and doesn’t work, are both equally useful.

I already know, for instance, that the ending of Border Line splits readers. So I am looking for personal views, what you loved or hated, what niggled or irritated you. Why you would or wouldn’t recommend this book to other readers. One line would be good, five to ten would be even better, write an essay if you feel like it.

If you are interested and want more information about the book go to the Border Line page of my website

If you would like one of these free copies email me threadgoldpressAtgmailDotcom

If you are outside Europe and want to write a critical review, the eBook is not expensive.

49 thoughts on “Critical reviews wanted in exchange for free books

    • Cynthia, you are so generous to respond. When I hit the publish button this morning I thought of my husband, who reacts like a hare in the headlights when I say: I’ve got an idea! I had a feeling this was a bit of a rat sandwich idea. I really didn’t mean to be pressing friends to buy the book, I only added the note about the eBook for distant readers as a last minute thought.
      If you do review it, please, please don’t feel you need to be kind. If you read the first chapter and it’s not your cup of tea, tell me and don’t bother with the rest of it.
      … I’m great at the marketing!

      • I hear you, and I’m not surprised to hear that you want an authentic review. I will be fair, but it is my habit to talk about what works twice as much as the things that don’t work. If you think that’s being kind, too bad!

      • I’m not so brave as I tend not to review unless I love something, but I have given books on Amazon more stars than I privately felt they deserved. Whatever you find, thank you for giving it a go.

  1. I will be one of the reviewers because I just bought your book and it should be here at my doorstep between May 2nd and May 4th (2017). It was not even that bad, they only charged £6.80 for the international shipping. I tried to order “Unseen Unsung” but couldn’t move forward with it, even though they offered the book, I could never check out at Amazon.

    I am excited and will keep you posted! In your case, I make an exception and will not insist on a signed copy (that will have to wait until you are done with your new novel. 🙂

    • Oh boy, I wasn’t expecting friends who have bought copies to take up this challenge. My fear is that you will be too kind. I really want some tough love. I am still only feeling my way as a writer.
      On the subject of books on Amazon, I had a very interesting conversation with a second-hand book seller who explained that many books are advertised and are simply not there, the seller just thinks they will be able to get hold of them (and advertise them often for absurd prices).

  2. I think your idea is great! I’d appreciate receiving ‘tough love’ critiques of my work – everyone is just too nice! As I’m outside the zone and don’t yet have an ereader I won’t respond – but good luck with your quest. I’d be interested in hearing, later, how it all goes.

  3. I too wrote a review on Border Line kindle edition and gave it three stars. I find reviews on Amazon difficult to obtain. That might well be because my own books (2)don’t attract attention or, more likely, are not bought as much as I would like. I find that writing my twice weekly pieces on my blog the only way to get responses to my words and hope this leads to sales of the books.
    I have a number of followers including someone with a blog on garage doors. I try and respond to most but that takes time and innovation.

    • Shows you how little I am aware of how my books are faring. I had to go and find your review. Thank you so much.
      I think your blog is the best route to your public. I have only dipped into your memoirs and in some ways I prefer the immediacy of the blog, though there are details in the memoirs that are not in the blog posts. Something you may not be aware of is that in the memoirs the fact that English is not your first language is much more obvious. I’m guessing you didn’t bother with professional copy-editing. In some ways this adds to the charm, but it can also be confusing. Either way, none of us can expect a profit.

      • The best profit is the laughter. A wife of one customer who bought my book told me she always knew her husband was reading the book when she heard loud laughter. That to me was the best compliment I could possibly receive.
        Lived on that for many days.

  4. Any writer worth his or salt would love to have his / her book reviewed honestly. Sometimes though, I wonder how many of us are able to analyse a work critically. I also feel a book’s appeal may vary from person to person. Hope you get a great response!

    • Thank you and you are right, everyone reacts differently and most of us do not have the training for critical analysis. I am playing safe, in that this book is now in my past and I simply want to learn from people’s reactions.

  5. I read Border LIne and liked it. I have already reviewed it, though.
    Maybe with your next book you could zap a few us with the first (or second) draft
    and we could hug you with a reasoned response?

    • You did great, Rod – in fact I think you read it pre-publication – and reviewed it in your usual detailed style. At the moment the mountain looks a little high, but if I do climb it, I will zap you a draft.

    • I wasn’t really expecting friends to a) respond or b) buy copies (see comments above). I am touched that you should be (trying) to get it. If you do read/review, I am not looking for praise, but ways to improve. I have no ambitions to write a bestseller, only to play with ideas and issues and engage readers.

      • I know Hilary. But it is only fair that I should read your book. Plus I am curious to see how you put things together. Like you, I write to entertain and explore issues. Hopefully, I also give people an occasional laugh. But mainly, I write because I enjoy writing. A best seller wouldn’t be a bad thing, however. 🙂 –Curt

      • Thank you, Curt. I remain amazed at the quality of friendship across the airwaves. You know, I think a bestseller would actually bring a lot of trouble… though if I had a good cause, like you, maybe that would be different.

  6. I agree. A less than 5 star review seems more thoughtful and authentic (and all 5 star raves looks like only your friends bothered to review it>). I only had one very negative review and it looks like Amazon took it down after a year! (At any rate I didn’t see it last time I checked.)

  7. That’s a great idea and reminds me that I want to re-read Border Line, and I would also like to review it. One of these days I’d also like to read your other fiction. Do you know what you’re going to write about next? I look forward to hearing more.

    • You are very kind – I really did mean critical reviews. Did you have a digital or a print copy? No one has taken up the free books, so I’d be happy to send you one. If you have one already you could give it to a friend or to the local library, or I could send you a copy of Unseen Unsung (my father’s favourite) instead.
      At the moment the new book is about an eccentric female musical impresario with a rather complex family background and the wheelchair-bound young man who is writing her biography… but who knows.

      • I have the print copy of Border Line and would like to re-read and then review it, but I can’t promise to be too critical because I seem to remember finding it excellent on all fronts. That’s not very helpful, I know, so I’ll try and explain what I like (or don’t like?) and why. I don’t know if I ever mentioned to you that I loved the bookmark containing details of the characters. What a brilliant idea that was, it helped a lot as I read the book to remind myself of who was who. I would be delighted to give a copy of Border Line to my local library, or to a friend. If I gave it to the library I could put a review on their website and recommend it to the library staff. As for Unseen Unsung, I would very much like to read it but I’d like to buy a copy. The new book sounds intriguing, I’m already hooked with your single sentence about it.

      • Lorna, you are so wonderfully cheering and encouraging. When people ask me about my current project I mutter unconvincingly and make it sound so uninviting! I’ll put the two books in the post.

  8. I hope it works for you. I have very few reviews even on the books I have permanently free (and I know that’s a great way to attract negative reviews too). Reading is very subjective and I’m sure a lot of people don’t care an iota for what I write but I hope some people might find it entertaining. (I’m sure I’ll get around to reading some of your fiction at some point, but I have no idea when. I’m inundated by books at the moment!)

  9. Looks like you got lots of positive responses here. How many have resulted in reviews so far? I think I will steal your idea.
    I have done this twice on Goodreads with mixed results – the first time I got authentic reviews I was pleased with (three Canadians!) – the second time no one came through.

    • The lovely people who have offered to review here are all fellow bloggers who I hold in affection. I’m not sure if this will result in the criticism I had in mind, as they may, as I do, have difficulty with posting a negative review of someone’s work, when they know the writer. Only one person has been able to take up the free copy (and they have already read it). To be honest I am not in favour of asking for reviews and this post was intended more as a piece of research and not for sales purposes. I think Border Line has probably run its mile and I want to learn from reactions to it in order to improve my writing in the next one. I wouldn’t expect new reviews just yet as I assume that everyone’s ‘to read’ book pile looks like mine, and the only new review was from a fellow blogger who had posted it a year ago in Australia. I think the best route is to write some more, but best of luck if you do this.
      …Am I being totally honest, I wonder? I think I also feel guilty because I have never really tried to sell this book except locally. Amazing to feel guilty towards your own book!

  10. I have real problems criticising negatively, I come from the school of thought that if you’ve nothing good to say don’t say it at all, my favourite book was Unseen Unsung and without the bookmark I would have struggled remembering all of the characters as I read then put books down, then a week or so later pick it up and start again. I struggled to identify with people who wanted to give up and quit life but it gave me a different perspective on how depression and negative thoughts can take over and overwhelm people. I couldn’t get over the tour organiser, was his name Daniel, terminating his life and the couple at the end. So all in all it challenged me, and made me realise I’m always looking for happy endings in my fiction 😄.

    • That is very helpful, Charlotte. Me too, I only review books I love, but with my academic hat on, I have learned to make use of criticism if it is made in a positive spirit. I guess the internet has changed us so that the distinction between a friend and a professional critic has gone and we try to inhabit two worlds. I knew I had too many characters in Border Line – hence the bookmark – and that the ending would be a challenge. My father and brothers’ favourite is Unseen Unsung, partly because of the marginally more upbeat ending.

  11. What a great idea. Being that I am WAY behind on my reading and will be spending the next month only consuming travel books (planning our SE Asia tour), I can not take you up on this generous offer, but it seems as if you have already generated a lot of interest here. I have shared your offer with my Twitter followers in hopes of soliciting additional interest.

    • You are kind to put it on Twitter – I still have five copies looking for a home. You should see my reading pile, I don’t know if I will ever catch up without being bedfast (which god forbid). If you ever go sailing in the Adriatic, Border Line is also a tour of Slovenia…

  12. I’ve done a review of Border Line, having read the free copy you kindly sent. It’s here: I’m sorry I haven’t been more critical, but I’m afraid I really enjoyed the book and greatly admired the smoothness with which it flowed from start to finish. I did wonder if reading it for the second time would make a difference, because I remembered having enjoyed it greatly first time round, but it seems my memory hadn’t put a gloss on it and it was just as good on the second read. Sorry about that. :-~

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