10 Ways You Could Get on a Publisher’s Bad Side (But Please Don’t)

Okay, readers. Let’s talk publisher pet peeves.

Now, I know none of you reading this are the sort of readers I’m going to talk about, because you all love authors. I’ve met many of you in person and enjoy watching your enthusiasm for all things books, so no worries, your names are written firmly in the book of “Bethany House’s Favorite Fans.” Still, I thought I’d share in case you ever see discussions about some of these topics online. You can now contribute with authority on some of the major no-nos for interacting with authors and publishers.

Harassing Authors Online

Maybe “harassing” is a strong word, because I’m including not just spammers and stalkers, but also people who find the need to go directly to an author to air their various grievances. These include, but are not limited to: why charging for an ebook is highway robbery, why the author’s latest Facebook post was SUPER OFFENSIVE, and how they are unsure about the state of the author’s soul/eternal destiny because of what was written on the fifth page of chapter 17. Authors tend to be a sensitive lot, and messages like this can send them into an existential crisis, so I’d recommend ranting to your friends instead and only messaging authors when you can say encouraging things.


You know when I like pirates? When they are animatronic and part of a Disney World ride. That’s basically the only scenario. Frequenting sites that rip off authors by giving away their books for free is not only illegal, it’s maddeningly unethical. If you like books, logically you should want to support their authors so they can write more books. (Also, libraries exist and are totally legal ways of reading free books. Because we all know buying all the books we want would cost our annual salary and turn our homes into the library from Beauty and the Beast. Which, come to think of it, wouldn’t be all bad.)

Missing the Point

This one may be personal, but when I see a Facebook comment or blog post that argues something I feel is hopelessly off-base—like saying that literary fiction is the only sort with value or all romance novels are emotional pornography or that a particular book affirmed something that it really didn’t or that the fantasy genre was probably started by the actual devil—I get really sad. Like, I just want to sit down and have coffee with that person and ask questions and calmly exchange opinions and circle all of their logical fallacies with a big red pen that I stole from editorial.

Pitching Your Book to Us Online

So, clarification: I never mind when readers politely ask on our Facebook page if our editors will be at a particular conference or whether we accept unsolicited submissions (no) or if we publish picture books (not at the moment), and so on, even if a bit of research would have given them the answer.

But don’t be that person who, after being sent a link to our submission guidelines, chooses to tag Bethany House on Twitter, link to the whole manuscript in a Facebook message with an attention-grabbing graphic, calls our receptionist multiple days in a row, etc. It won’t work. We still won’t look at the manuscript if you don’t follow the rules, and it only makes a bad impression.

Although I do have a file of hilarious typos from pitches sent to me via social media. Like the novel I was sure was the Christian version of Jurassic Park when it turned out that the “book about the army after the raptor” was actually supposed to the be “the army after the Rapture.” Disappointing. Very disappointing.

Being Entitled

Sometimes, due to trying to use the marketing budget or my time wisely, I just can’t open up a giveaway of expensive-to-ship items to international readers or send your book club autographed postcards or guarantee Dee Henderson’s latest novel will be published in Portuguese. If I say no, that really means I can’t, because I love saying yes, so please have pity on my people-pleasing little heart by being gracious and not telling me you’ll never buy another Bethany House book again. (Yes, that’s happened.)

Specifically on turning down requests for free books: trust me, if it was up to me, I’d be on a parade float shoveling out copies of our books to the waiting masses like they were literary confetti. I love readers and giving away books. But…I also love authors, which tempers my love for giving away books, because if I want them to make money and keep writing those books.

Burning Down a Library

Oddly specific? Yes. But on the last book tour, we stopped at a library where this had actually happened, and it made me so mad that I was almost shooting flames myself. (But not at the books in their temporary location.) Say no to arson!


That’s it for general readers. If you happen to review books (either professionally on a blog or informally on retail sites like Amazon or Goodreads), these next ones might sound familiar. Most of them apply with an extra exclamation point for those who are receiving review copies for free from the publisher or author.

Being Mean

I get the dilemma here. You picked up a book that you had every reason to think you’d like (see “Should-Have-Known-Better” otherwise), but you didn’t. It was boring or confusing or just not your style, and now the review is due. What should you do?

A. If you’re on a blog tour, ask if you can post an excerpt or feature instead.
B. Summarize the plot, say a few things you liked, and graciously explain the ones that you didn’t.
C. Talk about the sort of reader who would enjoy the book even if it wasn’t for you.
D. Rant about the book’s faults, insult the writer directly, or detail what you hated in painfully vivid terms along with supporting quotes.

(Hint: There is only one wrong answer here.)


Come on, guys, we’ve known since grade school that you don’t take others’ work and pass it off as your own. At Bethany House, we’ve caught a few people who get free books from us and then copy-paste a review from another blog onto their own. Nothing makes our marketing assistant madder, and you don’t want to mess with her when she’s mad.

Making Should-Have-Known-Better Book Choices

This doesn’t always overlap with the mean review, but usually there’s a flagrant red-flag that should have told the reviewer not pick the book up. Saying, “I hate this genre, but for some reason I hoped this book would be the magical exception” or “Every other book by this author has been on my Worst Book Ever list, but I decided to request this one anyway” is a clue that maybe you should’ve passed. Sure, if a fellow reader recommends “a romance for people who don’t usually like romance,” I get it. Or if an author is clearly changing directions in a way you think you might like, fine. But otherwise, it’s seems a little unfair to read a book you’re already biased against and then roast it in a review.

Reselling Review Copies

There may be different rules out there, but here is a fairly standard list of dos and don’ts when you receive a free review copy:

Totally fine: donating the book to a friend or the church library, using your copy for a giveaway, putting the book on your keeper shelf with large warning signs that even if it looks like you have too many books that is totally false and DO NOT TOUCH THIS ONE.

Not fine: reselling the book online, burning it (unless you’re snowed in and literally have no other fuel).

Why? By receiving a street team, influencer, or review copy, you’re signing up to help the author’s sales. Even if you end up not caring for the book, making a profit off of that free copy is both stealing a sale from the author and kind of just cheating.


Okay, that was all the negative stuff. Follow the blog (by entering your email in the box to the left under the list of posts) to read next month’s post where I’ll stop ranting and talk about all the delightful things that readers can do to make a publisher happy. Thankfully, there are many, many more items on this list, and more people who fit into them.

Authors and readers, do you have any pet peeves to share? This can include: treatment of books, infuriating comments, unanswerable questions, and anything else that disturbs your writer/reader peace.

47 thoughts on “10 Ways You Could Get on a Publisher’s Bad Side (But Please Don’t)

  1. One of my pet peeves as a reader is the copious “liking” of angry/disrespectful reviews on goodreads. It’s amazing how many people click to like the reviews that slam the author and the novel. I have to wonder how many of those reviews are legitimate–they often don’t sound like the book I read. And they push the actually helpful and respectful reviews down the list.

    On a different note, I would really enjoy the Christian book about the army after the raptor (especially if they throw in a t-rex, a few unimportant prey dinosaurs, and some more raptors). I would also gladly accept a book about the raptor after the army.

    • That’s a very good point. To quote from Ratatouille, “In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.”

      And yes, I agree with all of this. Sort of. I can’t actually see it working, but it’s so amusing to think about!

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  2. This was a very informative post–I’ve heard numerous people ask what to do with ARC copies of books. And thanks for sticking up for authors here with that part about not contacting them merely to rant about things they can’t (or don’t WANT to) change about their books. I thankfully haven’t ever received a really ranty email, but I can’t imagine how utterly discouraging (and quite enraging) it would be, especially when it’s a Christian contacting a Christian author and questioning their salvation, etc. And I’m looking forward to the next post, because I truly believe I have some of the best readers in the world, and they always do the most AMAZING things, and it’s nice to give our loyal readers the props they deserve!

    • Great! I hope it’s helpful to a lot of readers. And yes, I’ve heard the rare horror story from authors, but way more often, I hear about how encouraging and wonderful they are. Don’t want to dwell on the few exceptions!

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  3. I had an author tell me once about a scathing letter she got from a reader about a horse she used in a book being the wrong “kind” – female versus male! I can’t even imagine that! Must we be so hurtful??? To pick out one small word on one page was incredibly vindictive. Talk about missing the point!

  4. I also like pirates within the pages of a good book! But the kind we despise and don’t want to ever see in the book world not only hurts the author, it’s a good way to get your identity stolen because those piracy sites are not run by people with good morals. There are so many legitimate ways to find free books: libraries, giveaways (bloggers give away a good number of books), kindle unlimited (guess that’s not really free but my monthly subscription pays for itself, and then some, every single month).

    Authors are some of the friendliest, kindest people I’ve met and I praying for them, encouraging them, and introducing new readers to them is a privilege I don’t take lightly.

    Looking forward to next months post!

    • I’ll agree on fictional pirates, Suzie. 🙂 Although I usually don’t like the pirates themselves, just the story around them. Good summary of the issues with the other sort of pirating.

      So grateful to have you encouraging authors. It matters!

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  5. Amy, I am still laughing out loud with this post. “Say no to arson!” Such sage advice we all need to hear, surely. 🙂 (I mean, I’m livid someone said yes to arson for that poor library…) Thanks for another great post.

  6. O goodness. It was only after starting JustRead have I realize some of the horrors….”entitlement” is a real thing. Goodness. Others’ I’ve known about, but just some of the responses we get are incredible. I love your humor in all this despite the atrocity of it all! (Annie)

  7. This was a great post!

    I think my biggest pet peeve is when someone admits to not having read the whole book, but still gives it a nasty review. Second to that is when someone posts a one star review because their ebook didn’t load correctly. Sigh.

    But, I will echo what Heather Day Gilbert said above, my experience has generally been that readers are the most fabulous people in the world. I so appreciate the people who spend time with what I’ve written!

    • Thanks, Susie! That’s another good (bad?) one that I don’t understand. And yes to fabulous readers! May they always overwhelmingly outnumber the irritating ones.

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  8. Great post, Amy! I cannot believe the things some people do. I’m very picky/protective about my own paperback books but when I am given an influencer copy, I am obsessed. I give away all influencer copies unless they are signed to me personally. I keep them in pristine condition.
    I do have a dilemma though. Is it considered harassment if someone “lovingly” asks/begs an author to write faster (especially when waiting for a sequel)?

    • Way to contribute to the population of encouraging readers, Andrea! As to your begging of authors…it depends on whether they’re stressed out with a deadline looming and already writing as fast as they can, ha! So I usually think it’s better to emphasize how much you love their books without adding pressure or reminding them of said deadlines. 🙂 But I think most authors take it as the compliment intended.

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

      • Of course, I always tell the author how much I love their books before asking when the next one will be ready.
        I have to tell you, I just got an email saying I could be paid up to $60 per book review from a “work from home” company. That’s a very scary thought. I marked it as spam. Sure, it would be nice to get paid for reading/reviewing a book but it would not be right.

    • I don’t mind that so much (unless it’s a negative review that says “Terrible” or something), as long as there are other longer reviews there as well to fill in details. Some readers just want to support their authors by leaving a review, but they’re not the analyzing sort. Except sometimes there are one-sentence reviews that sound like they’re for a totally different book or generated by a robot, and that’s no good!

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  9. I don’t blog, but am blessed, yes blessed to influence for over sixty authors and I love it! I have always acted with integrity towards them and their books and will continue to do so. I simply cannot imagine a reader questioning an author’s walk with God!

    • Thanks so much, Susan! Great readers like you are one of authors’ favorite things about what they do. As to questioning an author’s salvation…that has actually happened once or twice by some people with very strong opinions, but thankfully it’s not even close to normal behavior.

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  10. Good insights. I have often wondered why people will choose to review a book when they don’t care for a particular genre or author. I am grateful for the opportunity to help authors by posting a positiver review. Have I loved every book? No but there is usually something positive to say about a book you’ve read. I admire the authors and all the work they put into a book. To put a book out there for the world at large is like sending your first born off to school. I appreciate publishers like Bethany House when the world is so full of books I would be offended to even pick up. Thank you for your thoughtful post today.

  11. Thank you soooo much Amy. This was a great post! I think reviewers need to be more discriminating about whose books they sign up for! I, too am an influencer for some awesome writers. I thought they were awesome before I asked to be on their team! I can only think of a few books that have rubbed me the wrong way. But I honestly try to be nice because I know how hard they must work to put out the book.
    And that particular book might be an anomaly. Speak the truth in love? Thanks for all you do, Amy. You have gone the extra mile and helped me with a few issues I had in the past. Bethany fiction label seems to be the majority of the books I own! Blessings!

    • Good consideration, Paula, of the work that went into a book. That’s important! And you’re most welcome…I’m glad for the way you support and encourage authors!

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  12. I’ve got one! Though I wouldn’t be surprised if someone else has already listed it! LOL! When a “reviewer” just posts “I don’t like the book” AND THAT’S IT! That’s NOT a review! What didn’t they like!? Frustrating!

  13. I appreciate you supporting all authors. I’ve seen and heard some of these attitudes–usually not directed toward me, for which I’m thankful. Still, a little Matthew 7:12 goes a LONG way.

  14. I love this post! It’s a shame there are people out there who are doing these things. Breaks my heart. And burning down a library? Wow…..I would cry seeing that 😢

  15. I adore this post! I know I’m totally admitting to naivety, but I had NO idea people were stealing reviews and posted them as their own. It never even crossed my mind to do that. 😯
    My #1 petpeeve is meanness. I cannot handle the meanness. It’s uncalled for. And, if we’re doing this as Christian’s, it’s totally against everything Jesus stands for. There’s no reason to be mean ever.

  16. Great post! I totally enjoy your dry humor thrown in. It’s sad that basic manners and good taste as well as courtesy have to be brought up to readers and reviewers. I personally can always find something positive to say even if I’m not wildly crazy about the book. Thanks again!

    Mary Koester

    • Thanks, Mary! I think some people need a reminder, every now and then, that there’s a real author behind a book who might be hurt by readers’ strong opinions. Good for you for finding something positive in the books you read!

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  17. Amy, I love this post & agree with everything you said!
    I am a reviewer, influencer, supporter & beta reader & more for “my” many gifted authors. I keep & protect the ARC, autographed copies of the books I receive. I also share them with my 86 year-old mother (who lives next door).

    What I don’t understand is when someone who claims to be a reviewer admits that they never finished reading the book after only a few pages or a chapter, then gives a very poor review. How can that be a true, honest review if they never finished the book? I found one person who does this in 99% of the books they “read”. Plus in addition to the negative “reviews”, they tend to say unkind things about the author. I find this disturbing.


    • Thanks, Tina! I’m always perplexed by people who stop reading partway through, too. Of course, I’ve done that, but I never go on to review the book in those cases. So glad that you love the books you review and are able to share them (and discuss them) with someone you love.

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  18. Pingback: 10 Ways to Be a Publisher’s Favorite Person Ever – Bethany House Fiction

  19. Yes! Number one, especially. And also, the being mean one. I have been working on getting the patent for my Grow A Thick Skin Overnight pill for authors, but it hasn’t come through yet. And while there are a good number of authors who refuse to read their reviews, those of us that do (ahem), may still take harsh words to heart. And maybe that’s our problem for reading them in the first place, but as the saying goes, if you don’t have anything nice to say . . . 🙂 The other pet peeve I have is reviewers who somehow feel it’s their job to retell the ENTIRE STORY and then give their thoughts. Um. No. Please don’t do that. Ever.
    Thanks for this post!

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