What’s a Reviewer to Do?

review-books

I started Writing to be Read to promote my own writing and to help other authors, through writing reflections and reviews. We’re all in the same situation. Marketing and promotion are a big part of writing these days, and authors are expected to self-promote to some extent, even if they are traditionally published. The way that books are being rated now, in many places, including Amazon, by the reviews they receive. I post partial reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads for this reason, and have even taken the time to post on Smashwords and Barnes and Nobles upon request from the author.

But, what is a reviewer to do when a book she’s reviewing falls short of all expect a film, like my review of Angel Falls Texas on Friday? Every review I publish has an end note at the bottom which reads like this:

“Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.”

I don’t believe in charging for a review because I don’t believe in paying for a review. And I don’t believe in that because I don’t think you can get an honest review when it is paid for. And I do believe a review should be honest. While I amin favor of promoting other authors with my reviews, I don’t believe in hyping up a work when it is not deserved.

Too many authors get their books on the best sellers list simply by having great reviews posted by those who love the author, but don’t honestly reflect the quality of their book. It’s sad but true. (To learn more about what that best seller label really means, check out this article by Brent Underwood.)

As I shared my post for my review of Angel Falls Texas last Friday, I reacted with a sad on each one, because I hated having to publish such a negative review. It’s certainly not going to help the author sell books, which is usually my goal. In this case, to post a review to encourage sales would have made me feel dishonest to my own readers.

I do both solicited and unsolicited reviews. Those that are unsolicited are from books I purchased on my own and I use them as fill in posts when I don’t have any solicited reviews to publish. With reviews that have been solicited by the author or I have requested an ARC from the author, which don’t rate at least three quills, I usually contact the author, tell them my assessment, and offer them the chance to not have the review published. Most authors, like my author friend Chris Tucker, opt to publish the review and take their licks, but there have been a few who have requested that I hold off publication. These authors, hopefully, then go and make revisions to improve their book and then have me give it another chance. I’d rather do that than post a review that may hurt sales.

I try to be fair in my reviews. If a book is one of a genre that is not one of my favorites, I will state that in the review, being upfront about anything that may have influenced the my opinion. But honestly, as authors who are putting their work out there, we all take the chance that someone out there will not like our work, for whatever reason, and will post an unfavorable review. After all, we are only human, and we are never going to please everyone.

As a reviewer, I know I’m not going to love every book that I review. There will be times when my reviews will be less than shining, but I have to be true to myself and to you, my readers, and publish how I honestly feel. All I can do is try and be specific about what I didn’t like in the hope that the author will take it like a critique and find something useful from my feedback to help to improve their writing or the value of the product they put out.

I think the number one thing we, as writers, can do is remember what one of my Creative Writing professors, Russell Davis, said when talking about receiving critiques from our cohorts,

“Remember, it’s not about you. It’s not personal. It’s all about the writing.”

 

Like this post? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted.

Advertisements

4 Comments on “What’s a Reviewer to Do?”

  1. nesaauthor says:

    I’m ok with taking my licks. Not everyone is going to like my books, and that’s okay. I appreciate you reading my books and reviewing them. As with any reviewer or reader, I take reviews – positive or critical – to heart. This doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll change the content, but it does mean I’ll go back and look at things to see if there’s something I can do to make it better. Sometimes I’ll agree, sometimes I won’t. That’s just the nature of this game. The problem is the author who just puts out every random thought they have in their head and then publishes it without any editing or proofreading of any sort. Then they ask for an honest review and get butt-hurt when someone tries to tell them how to make their book better and how to appeal to a bigger market. I went back and did a MAJOR re-edit on my first novel. I was blinded by the fact that it wasn’t perfect because it was my first novel. While I was hearing what certain people were saying, I wasn’t really listening. I finally realized it needed to be revamped, and after going through it with a new editor, the book was a million times better. There are still people who won’t like my books for whatever reason, but I’ve learned a lot along the way about how to make sure I put out the very best product I can the first time.

    • Thank you for the candid reply. And you are right. A professional attitude is not guaranteed, especially in new authors. I think we all tend to get attached to our work. We pour our hearts and souls into our stories. We get to know our characters and they feel like old friends to us, because we’ve been inside their heads. We need to distance ourselves from them as we do with our children when they leave the nest.
      Still, no one likes delivering bad news. Beside the fact that the recipient might kill the messenger, it’s simply not a pleasant task, especially if the author is someone you have developed a professional relationship with, because a poor review, if taken personal, could destroy what you have worked to build. It’s a risk taken as a reviewer. You won’t like everything you read. That is why I always talk to the author before posting the review, and I give them the option to have me not post it at all. My intention is to help my fellow authors, not harm them, and reviews do make a difference. I also post abbreviated versions on Goodreads and Amazon, as well.
      Many authors, like you, have a professional attitude, realizing that the review pertains to the book, not the author, and it is about the writing. Writing is a business. We have to treat it like one, and not take it personal.

  2. […] I’ve also pointed out, this often makes it difficult for authors to get good honest reviews when a book is riddled with typos and grammatical errors, which it goes to follow, also effects […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s