To review or not to review

Another blogger, whom I respect a great deal, does some wonderful reviews on his site. He’s got a set of rules about book reviews that I admire. He always buys the book instead of taking free copies. He says this is to help him gauge if the book was worth the cost. Another thing, he builds in a section where he mentions what he thinks could’ve been done better. This helps him avoid doing an over the top gushing review.

Last week, I’d finished reading his book, ‘American Goddesses’. I posted a review on Amazon, then sent him a private note on Twitter letting him know he could email me if he wanted a more in-depth critique. We ended up having a wonderful conversation! Not just about his book, but writing in general and the nature of reviews. One of his suggestions was for me to start posting more comprehensive reviews here.

I’m still thinking about that, and any commentary from my followers is welcome! Would this interest you? Would my opinion (for that’s all a review really is) be interesting to read?

I don’t do super-comprehensive reviews on Amazon. I see that site as a say something nice, don’t slam a book place for a review. If I can’t give it a 4-5 star rating, I won’t. Rather, I’ll contact the author privately and let them know I won’t be posting a review, inviting them to contact me directly if they want an honest reason why.

Authors are touchy people. We’re emotionally tied to our work, and we crave the praise. Hearing someone didn’t care for your ‘baby’ is hard. A bad review can, however, benefit the author as long as it’s constructive. Like any other craft, writers have to learn from their mistakes. We need to be open to what does and doesn’t work, take the criticism with the praise, and be able to separate what’s helpful from what’s just plain mean.

The reason I hesitate about writing reviews here is simple: I fear retaliation. I could review a book here, do my best to balance the good with the bad, only to have the author blast my own work in return. There are those out there who cannot take being told their work isn’t an instant classic with grace. 

So, to review or not to review? What do you think?


5 thoughts on “To review or not to review

  1. Review, most certainly. In the full year that I’ve been reviewing, I’ve had no retaliation, even from authors who didn’t agree with my reviews. If you review gently and constructively, you’ll have no problems. Just remember, there is ALWAYS something to like, and it’s as important to point out the good stuff as it is what could be improved (notice I don’t say “bad”).

    Also, I cut indies a little slack, since they don’t have the editorial resources of the big time writers. You can still enjoy a little league baseball game, but it’s not fair to expect the kids — even college kids — to play at the same level as the pros.

    And there is a crying need for reviewers of indy books. I’ve got requests piled up moon-high at my site, and so do most other reviewers. I know of at least one reviewer so swamped she’s considering just giving up. So…Help!

    Thanks for the thoughtful post on the subject, Kate. To be honest (my stock in trade), every review I post, even the glowing ones make me a little nervous, and for all the reasons you mentioned. I review anyway, as a way of giving back, and have always been pleased by the responses.

    With all you’ve got to offer in terms of skill, insight and experience, the indie community will be just that much richer should you choose to join the rolls of the reviewers.

    If you’re wondering where to start, just visit the “Submitting books for review” page at Honest Indie. PLENTY of wonderful candidates there.

  2. If you feel comfortable doing a review, do it. Most books I purchase are those recommended to me. Blogs I follow fit into that category. If a blogger gives a good review on a novel, I’m going to think about it more seriously than if I just see the book on a shelf at a bookstore.

    I personally wouldn’t post bad reviews. If you didn’t like the book, just don’t promote it.

  3. I have read a lot about Amazon removing reviews by authors to avoid false reviews (both good and bad), so there it goes that help. I’ve also read enough about trolls trashing books just for the sake to take rivals out of the way, so it seems your fear is useless. Whether you write a bad review or not, you are bound to find your book trashed at some point in the road. So I would say, write your honest reviews. Readers appreciate honesty.

  4. I know what you mean about being nervous.
    As you know, I shared my short story with a number of people before sending it off to be (hopefully) published. I received many comments, suggestions and reviews. One of the suggestions was VERY poignant to the story and I made the change (A weapon I had didn’t exist in the time period the story takes place). Most of the other reviews were positive. One review suggested I make a change to the story because it appeared to them to take place in a completely different way than I narrated. I have no idea how they misread that (it’s only 100 words in total), but I didn’t agree with their suggestion and left the story alone.
    I know this isn’t exactly what you are asking about. But the point of this post is to say that some people have good things to say and suggest (critique) other people were pretty good and shared with me that they enjoyed my tale. Then there was one who just didn’t get the story at all. I am working on a “thicker skin” and getting those comments helped as I stood my ground and said ‘no’ to changing the story to meet one persons strange view.
    Not everyone is going to “get” our work or critiques.
    If that one person who doesn’t like the critique/review/suggestions to their story, they can either get upset about it, or consider it and see if the review has merit and make a decision there. If they choose to be vengeful, well, Karma can be cruel to mean people. But Karma can also be a beautiful goddess to good people.
    When I read a review on Amazon I do look at the -stars. I will see how many 4-5 stars there are and how many 1-stars there are. Then I will read them. Not all of them (especially if there are 100 reviews. lol.) But, many times, when I read a 1-star review it usually does not say anything useful or helpful. It’s just someone spitting vitriol (or complaining about the poor service for the item, nothing to do with the story), in which case I know that the 4-5 Star reviews are probably pretty accurate and I will get the book.
    Be honest in your critiques. It helps in the long run. If you don’t want to say anything too bad about a persons writing, well, put a positive spin on it. That may be enough.
    Although I, myself, am still nervous about critiquing, as I don’t want to upset someone because I misunderstood something I read. lol.
    Namaste :-)<

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