The Best Way to Turn Down Review Requests

I was wondering if you had any suggestions or proper etiquette tips for turning down review requests. I get a lot of personal requests from authors (oftentimes self-published) and I always feel bad when I have to say no directly to THEM, rather than their publicist or publisher.

I sometimes debate if I should give a kind (albeit only somewhat truthful) reason like “I’m currently backed up with review requests and am afraid I can’t accept your request at this time.” Or should I be more honest and state the real reason: “I’m only mildly interested in reading your book,” “I don’t know if your book is one I’d be able to write a favorable review for,” or “I kinda feel your book is too long.”

Thank you for all the tips! I’ve greatly enjoyed them these past months!

Hiya! πŸ™‚ First of all, I know exactly how you feel. I always feel bad turning down requests as well.

I think it’s always best to be honest, but in a nice way. At first, I found myself going the “kind but only somewhat truthful” route. An author would request that I review their book, but I didn’t like the sound of it at all. But instead of saying that, I’d say:

Sorry but I’m really backed up right now and just don’t have the time!

But I found that this half truth led to the authors replying with something like:

I understand! I’ll just send you a copy and you can read it if you have time. πŸ™‚

And this made me feel even worse! Because now the author thought that I was interested, but I just didn’t have time. So then I had to awkwardly thank the author for the book and go away feeling horrible.

So in my experience, it’s best to just be 100% honest. But you can still be nice about it! Here are some good answers:

Thanks for the offer, but your book isn’t a genre that I review on my blog. But thanks anyway and have a great day!

Unfortunately I don’t think this book would be a good fit for me, but thanks anyway!

Answers like this convey the message that you’re not interested. But they also don’t say, “Your book sounds like shit.” I think it’s a nice way of saying that it’s just not for you.

So be honest, but be nice. In my experience with this, the author either won’t reply at all (fine by me), or they’ll reply thanking me for the response. I’ve never had an author bitch me out for nicely saying I wasn’t interested (phew!).

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  1. I should be more like you in this but I pretty much always say: “Thanks for writing but at this time I have to decline do to time constraints.” It’s just simple, doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings, and for those few authors who send the book anyways, I just don’t read them because I already said no. I can’t help if they are pushy. But I agree, your way is better, more clear.

  2. I also feel bad turning down review requests but I really have to because I’m way behind on my reviews. I always try to be nice and say something like “thanks, but I will have to respectfully decline” because of my massive review pile or if it’s something I don’t normally read I tell them that the genre isn’t something I usually read. If the book sounds like something I’d enjoy, I usually offer to feature them on the blog in another way other than a review. πŸ™‚

  3. Oh THANK YOU! This is very helpful. I feel sooo bad saying “NO”. And I’ve had some wacky review requests…a lot of the time I get away with just saying “I’m backed up with reviews etc.” But I have had the “I’ll send it anyway”. It’s very awkward. >_< At least, when it's only a PDF, I don't feel too bad. But I feel better knowing what to say now. πŸ˜‰

  4. I have to tell you Ashley this is one of my “pet peeves” of blogging — when authors ask me to review their book and it obviously does not fit my blog’s style. I know that isn’t exactly what your post is saying, but it is what makes me frustrated. So what I did was put in my review request page that if your book does not fit our blog style I WILL NOT get back to you. I just get too many of these. And if an Author can’t take 5 (or less) minutes to look at the blog, then I can’t be bothered to take hours reading and reviewing their book. Or even getting back to them. However, if it does fit the blog style but I just don’t think I’ll like it I usually say I am really backed up (which is true) AND I cannot review it EVER. Well maybe I say it more tactfully — I cannot approve your request and I’m sorry I couldn’t be of more help. But I know you have to be final with the Authors because they will reply with “well whenever you can get to it.”
    So yes I have had to learn to say NO not -> not at this time.

    Great Post!

    1. That’s a great idea! I generally say, “Thanks for reaching out, So and So, but I’ll pass on this one/title/coverage.” I might add, “Have a great evening/weekend/day!” or “Please feel free to keep me on your list, and I’ll let you know if any titles interest me,” thought I generally avoid that last because I’m not always the best at keeping track of who I’ve said it to before, and don’t want to sound canned.

      One thing I’ve done is to make it policy to never promise dates, unless it’s for a specific project (and even then I try to keep it to a range). I don’t get a lot of time to read, my interests are incredibly fickle, and with a back injury, disability, ministry obligations, and an only-child, I have to be flexible or I’ll crash and burn. Interestingly, being up front with sponsors about my “unless you need a specific date, I can’t tell you when it will be live if I choose to cover, but I’ll be in touch with any questions, and either a link when it’s live, or feedback should I choose not to cover for some reason,” has actually seen really great results, both professionally and in my stress levels. I do this on my entertainment blog, and on my lifestyle blog, and it’s working for me, at least.

  5. I always used to worry that if I said no they’d bitch at me, but usually they never respond.
    I used to not even reply at all before, but I had an incident where an author signed me up for newsletters for his “fans” (at least two from different emails) without permission and pretty much said it was my fault because I never responded and then insulted me.
    I’ve gone the too busy route because it was actually true at the time, and the author has kept emailing me requests for tours and reviews for that next week, when I schedule long in advance and have it stated on the blog.
    For the moment I’ve had to turn off accepting requests so I can catch up on my own stuff. But it can be really hard to turn them down properly, so I’m glad you mentioned this!

    Kelsey recently posted: Review: Unbreakable by Kami Garcia
  6. I started out just like you and found that the authors would send me the book anyway with a ‘when you have time’. So I started just being honest as well. It’s a lot better than having them think that I am going to review there book when I never do. I just say it’s not a book that I think would be a good fit for me just like you do. I feel less stressed that way. πŸ™‚

    Stormi recently posted: Movie Review: Gimme Shelter
  7. Ahh I really should respond to the emails. But I feel awkward because a lot of the times the request I get are so obviously copied and pasted that I just ignore them. If they’re personalized I think I’m going to start responding (either to decline or to accept) but I always feel weird not responding to certain requests >.< Thanks for sharing, Ashley! <33

    Eileen @ Singing and Reading in the Rain recently posted: Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi
  8. I clearly state in my review policy page what sorts of books I read, but I’m still amazed at the number of requests I get for books that have nothing to do with my blog! And I don’t read indies at all anymore which I also state in my blog, and I still get requests from indie authors. I figure both of these types are lazy writers who don’t do their research and read my review policy. But I do email back everyone. I figure I can be professional even when the author isn’t.

    Tammy @ Books Bones & Buffy recently posted: Waiting on Wednesday (86) EXTRACTION by Stephanie Diaz
    1. Yeah I’ve stated in my review policy that I’m not accepting ANY requests, and I still receive a ton of them. πŸ™

  9. Okay so I revised my policy slightly about six weeks ago. I flat out had to state on my blog, that if I am not interested in your book, that I would not be responding. I would frequently be getting emails about reviewing books that were either erotica or children’s/MG books. I have an eclectic taste in books but MG is just not my thing and right now, neither is erotica. It may be rude, it may be passive/aggressive which I normally am not but this just works for me.

    Alexia @ Adventures in Reading recently posted: Review: The Moment Before by Suzy Vitello
  10. Sometimes I don’t even reply to them.. I’ve had quite some offers that clearly shows that a) it’s a general mail and b) they haven’t read my review policy. If they don’t take the time to show interest in my blog and what it stands for, then I don’t have the time to reply to them.. And when I turn them down because they did their research and make it sound personal, I also go for being honest. Saying that ‘the book doesn’t sound like something I would enjoy, but I’m sure there are others out there who will appreciate it!’

    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted: Fairytale News 24. The hard life of a reader (6)
  11. My method is different. In my policy, I basically state that I will respond if I am interested. It is not as professional per say, but man, it helps me a whole lot. Maybe I should just do an auto-response for denied requests. Hmm. Something just as vague as an Edelweiss turn-down.

    Christine @ Oh, Chrys! recently posted: Oh, Chrys!, You’ve Changed!
  12. This is going to sound truly horrible, but unless I know the author/worked with them in the past I no longer respond to requests and it says so in my review contact form. I use to respond with all of the reasons you mentioned but if I said for example I do not review erotica..the author would respond well it’s listed as erotica but really it isn’t or if I said I was booked at the moment they sent the book and if I said this wasn’t a genre that appealed to me well they tried to convince me it was or sent it along anyway. So for me the simplest way is to only respond if I am in fact interested. This has turned out to be a good decision since I now get upwards of ten to twelve requests a day even though my review form states I am currently not accepting review requests unless I have previously worked with you..LOL Great post Ashley!

    kimbacaffeinate recently posted: Uninvited by Sophie Jordan
  13. I get 2-3 emails a day, and responding to every one is just too overwhelming. I tend to file them all in an email folder and go through it once every 2-3 months and only respond to requests that interest me. I haven’t done it since the end of Nov, so the folder is way out of control. Must get to that one day soon…

  14. That’s a really great way to say you’re not interested in a book. I usually say the “Sorry I don’t have time” reason or the “I’m not accepting review requests right now” but then one of the authors said that she’ll still give me the book and can read it when I open back my review request, and I’m like oooohh but I said no…. So yeah, I had to tell her I’m not open therefore I’m not accepting any reviews right now.

    Leigh @ Little Book Star recently posted: Review: Elusion by Claudia Gabel and Cheryl Klam
  15. I actually have in my review policy page that I will only respond to review requests if I accept it. Otherwise I don’t reply. Not that I want to be mean, but I get 5-7 review requests a day and with a job and a toddler I don’t have time to think of a polite refusal for all of them (I very rarely find any to my liking). Plus, when I used to email a refusal 2 out of 3 times the author would reply back with a way to get to me accept. Like if I said I didn’t have time they would reply with “I’m in no hurry so here is your copy and if it takes a year that’s fine!” Ugh. So I decided to make it a part of my policy so they know to only expect a reply if I want to read/review it. I know a few other bloggers who do this too and I think it’s a great way to save some time. Especially if you get them daily. And if it’s stated in your review policy page I don’t find it’s mean at all.

    Giselle recently posted: Review: Red Rising by Pierce Brown
    1. I’ve been considering doing that (adding it to my review policy that I’ll only reply to pitches that interest me), and reading this, I’m definitely going to do it, now. I get 10-30 book pitches every single day, and say no to probably 90% of them right now. It’s unreal!! The only ones I say yes to more frequently are kids books, because I do a weekly feature with “other books of note”, and my toddler eats them up. I was worried that it might be rude not to reply to all of them, but it’s so overwhelming I end up some days ONLY doing email, and them I haven’t read any of the books I did request, and I didn’t do any writing. #headdesk

  16. Great advice! I always feel bad when I have to say no but I’m not going to read something I’m not interested in. I also have a policy that if they don’t address me by something besides a generic “Dear Blogger”, or submit something to me that it outside of my review genre, which is clearly stated in my Review Policy, I just ignore them. If they can’t take the time to review my policies then I have no interest in doing business with them.

    Ashley @ Dr. Pepper Diva recently posted: *Wishlist Wednesday* Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes
  17. I don’t even answer! I’m already busy enough without taking the time to reply a polite no to every request I get, and I state right in my blog’s policy (for the ones that actually bother to read it) that I won’t reply unless I’m interested in reviewing it. Then I don’t have to worry about tact, which is so not one of my strong points haha πŸ˜‰

    Jessi @ Novel Heartbeat recently posted: Love for Books Readathon Sign Ups!
  18. I don’t even notice that I do the whole “I’m busy BS” until I read this post. For me, I don’t get a lot of review requests. And that’s okay because I’ve got over 50 books in physical TBR *FAIL*

    But this is really helpful and I think that I might use it when the next request comes πŸ˜€

    Nova Lee @ Out of Time recently posted: ARC Review: Landry Park - Bethany Hagen
  19. I state on my review policy that I’m not accepting review requests, but I still get them and it’s honestly starting to frustrate me a little bit – especially because many of the authors have clearly not read it at all as the genre tends to be the total opposite of what I’m into.

    When I first started out I accepted EVERYTHING because it was so exciting. Then I realised I wouldn’t have time to read all these books, so I told authors I was backed up. And, like you said, they offered to send me a copy anyway and I could get to it if I had time. So then I actually started telling them if the genre didn’t appeal… pretty much following your post to the word!

    Now I have to admit that I just ignore the emails =/

  20. I used to get quite a few book requests, but since stating on my review policy I don’t accept reviews from self-published authors, I’ve gotten less.
    Still though, every now and again someone will send a review request and I REALLY won’t be interested. Recently I figured I’d go the truth route and told one author that I was sorry, but I didn’t think their book would be a good fit for my blog, but that I wished them luck etc. … they replied saying thanks and then asking WHY it wasn’t a good fit and if the description was off-putting and what I would change. I was like o.O lol.

    Allie @ Little Birdie Books recently posted: Review: The Darkest Minds {Alexandra Bracken}
  21. Is it awful that I just don’t reply to the requests I’m not interested in? I’ve got it listed in my review policy that a non-reply after a few days should be considered as a politely declined request, but I still feel like an ass sometimes.

    Then I’ll get the same person emailing “Dear Blogger” over and over, and I remember why I choose to just ignore the ones I’m not interested in! Haha

    Kelly recently posted: Guess Who’s Back, Back Again!
  22. If I get a pitch for a book that is clearly outside of the genres I say I’ll review in my policy, I don’t reply. If the author/publicist can’t take the time to read my review policy, I’m not going to take the time to email back.

    For personalized emails, I usually email back with a polite, “Unfortunately my review calendar is full at this time,” or “I don’t think I’m the right audience for your book.”

    Leah @ Books Speak Volumes recently posted: Jazz Age January: The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fizgerald
  23. Ashley, I am loving your blog and have already picked up a few pointers for my website so I thank you for your passion for blogging. I also saw your ‘hire me’ widget down at the bottom so your quiet advertising is working – sent you a request yesterday.

    For all you commenters: I am going to self-publish two different books so your comments were enlightening to say the least. Thank you for letting me read over your shoulders and see what it’s like on your end of the process.

    I’m not even close to asking people to review them, but I easily projected myself into the headset of being the one sending the will-you-review-my-book-pretty-please request. Ashley added one thing to both of her suggestions that really resonated for me. “… thanks anyway…” To me, that’s soft while still communicating that the conversation has now ended, time to move on.

    For those of you who sometimes you want to ask, “Have you even read my blog?!” and feel bad about not replying, I say, “Go for guilt-free living!”

    For example, asking someone who loves War Games to read my magical realism novel or my spiritually oriented guide book would be a waste of time for both of us. Plus, even if for some wild reason they did agree to read it, the review would be lukewarm at best. Now how silly would that make me?

    Guilt free living continues when you delete those emails that are addressed to ‘Dear Blogger’. If the authors haven’t taken the time to learn your name and see what you do, then why should you take the time to answer them?

    Life is too short to waste time – it’s meant for living what you love…and in Ashley’s case, also drinking hot chocolate.

  24. Thanks so much for posting about this- I got a review request that within in the realm of things I’d read for my blog, but a blogger friend DNF’d it, and I didn’t know how to word a polite refusal. I was kind of worried about saying I was “busy” for the very reason you posted.
    Awesome advice!
    ~Litha Nelle

  25. Reading through all the comments, I had an idea I may try out: I’m thinking I could do an auto responder on my email where I receive pitches, that says something about having received the email, will respond if interested, and direct them via graphic or link or something to my review policy. Thoughts?

    1. I think that could be a good idea as long as that’s the ONLY thing you use that email for, and as long as it only gets sent out after the FIRST point of contact.

      I hate it when someone has a “permanent” auto responder on their normal email thanking me for my message, and saying they’ll get back to me within x hours.

      But if it only gets sent out after their first request and other people who aren’t making requests won’t receive it, then it could work!

      I suggest you read my post on auto responders for more about what I mean. πŸ˜‰

  26. Hi there – Thank you; Thank you; Thank you!! I’ve been looking for exactly what to tell authors when they contact me for reviews. I think the first thing I need to do is update my ‘About’ so those that do read it will already know what I accept and what I don’t. All who have contacted me have been very courteous even when I say no. However, at first I was only indicating I couldn’t review theirs because I had a backlog but they would just agree to ‘wait’. πŸ™‚

    1. You’re very welcome, Diane. πŸ™‚ Updating your about page is a great idea! Or you could create a “Review Policy” page that’s completely dedicated to review requests.

  27. This post is exactly what I needed! Most of the requests I get are within the parameters I’ve set out on my Review Policy page (YA/NA), but when I look at the first few pages on Amazon or Goodreads, I find that, for whatever reason, the book just doesn’t grab me. I don’t want to change my review policy page to ‘Not currently accepting review requests’, because I’ll always find time for a book that looks truly amazing, but I’m finding that the ‘I just don’t have time at the moment’ isn’t working! Thanks for this tutorial – it’s really helped!

  28. So thankful that I found this post! As a brand new book blogger, I’m still learning the ropes and got my first request for a book that I do not have any interest in reading and was worried about how I should respond or even if I should respond at all. After reading this, I’m going to follow the advice given and reply with an honest but nice respond. Thank you!

  29. On a similar topic – what do you do if you accept a book review request because it sounds like a book you’d enjoy, but then start reading it and it’s terrible? I told someone I’d read their book but only got about 20 pages in and I know I just cannot finish it. Do you reach out to the author and tell them sorry but this is actually not a book for me? Or what? I feel terrible and would keep reading the book if I could but I know I’m just going to end up wanting to give it a 1 or 2 star out of 5 and won’t have much good to say. Even though it’s supposed to be honest that just seems mean and rude to do to the author. Please help!

    1. I would indeed contact them and say it’s not working out so you won’t be finishing it and also won’t be reviewing it. But thank them anyway for the chance!

      You’ll be happier if you stop reading a book you don’t like.
      And honestly most authors would probably prefer no review over a 1 or 2 star review anyway.

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