Look What I Found In My In-Box

Joel Goldman working @ StarbucksI always enjoy hearing from readers, writers, fans and anyone else who stumbles across my books, blog or website or who think they recognize my photo on America’s Most Wanted, The Bachelor or So You Think You Can Dance. Most people are very polite and, happily, complimentary.

A few, in the interest of being helpful, point out mistakes I’ve made on matters of importance to them. Chief among these are those who are more knowledgeable and practiced in weaponry than I am (my chief qualifications on this topic being that I know a gun when I see one). I have learned a lot from these people and hope they’ll continue to be reliable fact-checkers.

Occasionally, I’ll hear from someone who has detected a political slant in an isolated bit of dialogue or narrative that offends his or her sensibilities. This usually includes a dramatic announcement that they will never beg, borrow or steal (let alone buy) another of my books even if they were the last books on earth. I always respond, as I do to everyone who emails me, explaining that it’s just a story and the world will be a better place if we all just get along.

I’ve decided to share some of these conversations with readers of this blog when I have an exchange that is interesting, funny or makes an important point. Today marks the beginning of that sharing. I don’t do this to embarrass or offend the writer and I will always keep their identity confidential.

After all the controversy last month about phony reviews on Amazon, I was surprised to have the following discussion yesterday.

Hi, Joel,

Interested in swapping a review with me?

Kind regards,

(links to book and website included)

Hi, XYZ,

Which of my books have you read?


I haven’t ready any. Pick whatever you want to promote.

Are we talking about reading each other’s books before we review them or just posting reviews of them?

Whatever suits you.

I checked out your work and it looks fine and properly formatted. If you want me to read and review it i’ll do it with five stars.

Similarly if you want me to post or reword your review I’ll do that too. What I’m after is a five star review on Amazon with as little work and as quickly as possible. I’m not asking you to read [title of book], I guess you have better things to do.

My first chapter is up there (on line), so you can judge the writing, I can post you a review to submit or reword or a synopsis to save you time.

Thanks for thinking of me, but I’ll have to pass.

Best of luck to you.

XYZ was honest. All that XYZ wanted was a five-star review from me that XYZ would even write for me to save me time. And in return, XYZ would give me a five-star review of any one of my books. Presumably, I could write the review to save XYZ the time of not only reading my book but also of writing the review.

Look, I know that it’s hard work to be a good writer and it can seem even harder to be make a commercial success of it. But professional writers have to do more than write good books. We have to be honest and ethical and this sort of thing demeans all of us.

I don’t know whether XYZ was paying attention to all the online discussions of this issue last month. If XYZ was paying attention, all I can say is “really?”

12 Responses to “Look What I Found In My In-Box”

  1. Lee Goldberg

    How did she respond to your unbelievably polite rejection?

  2. Steve Vernon

    I give this blog entry five stars.

    Now I need to go back and read it…

  3. Sherry D. Ramsey

    My goodness, all I need for five-star reviews is good formatting? And here I've been sweating over plot and characters and all that other stuff… 😉

    • Joel Goldman

      Sherry, so glad I could clear that up for you. Reminds me of the old Steve Martin joke about how easy it is to become a millionaire – all you need is a million dollars.

    • Joel Goldman

      Bob, great to hear from you. Glad you are checking out my blog. Not even lawyers are as loose with their praise as this person was.

  4. Linda Rodriguez

    I've had some of these offers myself (that I politely refused), but yours takes the cake with its focus on good formatting and the offer to write or draft the review for you. I suppose, not having read anything you'd written, s/he may have been uncertain you could actually compose a review. I haven't seen anything quite this unethical and downright silly.

  5. Tonya

    Hey, Joel! WOW! I cannot believe someone did that. I myself was honestly shocked to learn that people will PAY for reviews from hundreds of people just to make their books look good and that was disgusting enough for me, but for someone to make an offer such as this? The levels people stoop to will never cease to amaze me.

    To answer your question from twitter though, no, this hasn’t happened to me. But if it ever did I can only hope I will handle it as politely and professionally as you did!

    • Joel Goldman

      Thanks, Tonya. People are an endless source of amazement, which is a good thing because there’s always someone new to write about.