To Review or Not to Review????

writingreviewsPlease excuse the overly used Shakespearean reference in the title, but only a few days ago, I read an interesting blog post by fellow blogger, Rebecca Bradley, where she goes on to write that Amazon isn’t, or ever should be, a reviewing website. She made some very good points, interesting too – and it got me thinking about ‘reviews’ in general. Here are my thoughts.

Ever since my early teenage years, most of my writing output was spent on reviewing. Books, films, music, even food (yep, that is true) and I feel like I have learnt a lot when it comes to reviewing, simply because I have a lot of experience doing it. Many people, including the authors whose book I’ve reviewed, have said to me that my reviews are pretty lengthy and very detailed. I suppose that for some people, when reading a review, they want a short paragraph on why they should buy that particular item. BUT, in my defense, I think writing a review should be as detailed as it can possibly be, writing the good as well as the bad and creating a balance.

But in her blog post, Rebecca makes some excellent points about how authors can get quite obsessed with checking their reviews, stars, comments etc and also of how people who haven’t even read the book, but give a positive review. As an author, I do check reviews of my work. I think as an indie author, it is really important to garner more and more reviews, because let’s face it, we need them. But I do agree with her statement about readers reviewing the book without even reading it. JK Rowling’s recent reveal as ‘Robert Galbraith’ has meant a surge in reviews; surely people aren’t that fast at reading?

But what about reviewing fellow authors’ books? What gives me the right to criticise, scruple and comment on how their book reads, when my own probably isn’t perfect? The thing is, I like reviewing books. It gives me a chance to show off what I’ve been reading, as well as helping out another author in the meantime. And with my style of reviewing, I feel my words could contribute to the customer’s decision in purchasing the book.

Writing a bad or less than satisfied review of a book can be difficult. I don’t really want to offend the author, but also I want to give an honest account on what I found didn’t work for me. It is nothing personal, it is just my opinion. I recently read Dan Brown’s Inferno and subsequently gave it just three stars. It was an enjoyable read, and entertaining in parts, but, there were also bad points to the book, which I felt let it down. And I noted that in the book review. It is so important for me to review a book honestly, and if that means I have to write bad as well as positive things, well I’m afraid so be it.

But as an author, I have plenty of writer friends. Friends who I’ve read their work and reviewed it on my blog. Now does that mean I have to try and be lenient on my friends – give a higher score than if I would if i didn’t know them? Say all positives? Give the maximum of five stars? No, most certainly not. If that is what people are after, then I’m afraid they won’t get that from me.

I read Jack Croxall’s Tethers and Sharon Sant’s Runners recently and gave them both a five star rating. But yes they are my writer friends, and I’m sure it looks as if I’ve written a fraudulent review. I gave them five star reviews because their books were five star books. Now if there was something I really didn’t like in Tethers let’s say, I’d be honest and say why i didn’t like it and downgrade that a star if important enough.

Since becoming a published author, I have thought about ceasing the review simply because It may not be right. But after a while, I thought it was my duty to review, to tell people what I thought about that particular book – even if it was a friend’s book. If that book wasn’t very good, I’d give them a star rating that matches what I think. If Runners would have been a three star book, them I’m afraid I would have given it a three star rating.

Being honest and unbiased is key to drawing back readers who may want to know what you thought. I know I read some of the reviews when I’m purchasing a book. But if the review was false (just like Rebecca Bradley reveals they do happen) it can be difficult to tell.

Do you review books as an author? Perhaps you don’t review books because you feel uncomfortable?


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10 thoughts on “To Review or Not to Review????

  1. I don’t think that becoming an author should stop anyone from reviewing books. Reviewing is not about competition and just because you review something doesn’t mean it makes your work better. Being an author makes you very close to your work so naturally you can’t catch all the negatives or things that don’t work and reviewers are there to help with that. So if you review something pointing out the bad things doesn’t make you arrogant, but (hopefully) constructive.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Rhys. I agree with you, reviewing shouldn’t stop just because you are an author. But i do know some authors who don’t review because they don’t feel they should.

  2. I think you make some valid points. It is very difficult to review fellow authors, particularly when they are friends, but I am confident that your reviews have integrity (I recall Sky Song received a paltry 4 stars ;)) Jokes aside, I don’t see why authors should be denied the freedom to express their opinions about other books they read. They may be authors, but when they buy another individual’s books, they become consumers, just like everyone else who buys the book.

    1. Exactly 🙂 I think it’s really important to review honestly, especially for indie authors.

  3. Have read Rebecca’s piece – its such an interesting discussion! I’ll copy my comment from her post in a minute but first – it must be hard for authors to review the work of friends. Always open to accusations of favouritism I guess a bit like favouring one of your children over another! Anyway – here is what I had to say about the whole Amazon thing 🙂 And hi sharon thanks for the link!

    Great article! Personally I review onto Amazon whether I’ve purchased the book there or not because quite often thats where people go to BUY books and if I want to support an author then I support them all over the shoot. I also review to my website and on Goodreads. Amazon is definitely NOT a review site – but I personally think only allowing books that are purchased from there to be reviewed may be bad for Indie authors especially when it comes to book bloggers. Indie authors often send me their books to review – and if Amazon prevented me from reviewing there because I hadnt PURCHASED it there then surely that wouldnt be very good – people who DO go to Amazon to purchase an Indie Authors book would not be able to see my review! Of course the downside is the fact that there are some what I call “nefarious” reviews on there – but I’m not sure how you would stamp down on it – I mean so many books are on offer, some people would still review without reading – if they are determined 77p isnt a huge price to pay! What Amazon DO have now is the “amazon verified purchase” tag. If you buy a book there, then review it, that tag is automatically attached to the review. So at least you can tell. And of course us bloggers and reviewers with integrity will always state if they have been sent the book for review. Oh dear I seem to have rabbited on a bit. Its an interesting discussion!

    1. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there, Lizzy. When I review, I often post it to all the sites that stock that book. If I’ve received an ARC, and Amazon refuse you the right to review simply because I didn’t purchase the book from there, then I think it makes the ARC a little pointless as, you so rightly point out, most people do buy from Amazon.

    2. I agree with you and Dan, that in an ideal world only books bought from amazon would be reviewed there, but that it would reduce the reach of indie authors significantly if that were the case. I can also see Rebecca’s point too. Personally I’m incredibly grateful for amazon reviews, particularly as many book sites like BookBub won’t even consider featuring an author until they have a minimum no. of amazon reviews. It says a lot for the power of amazon when that is the case.

  4. Good post, and a very good topic.

    When I moved from avid reader/aspiring writer to avid reader/published author I had to change my own guidelines. For me, the publishing industry is a business, and sometimes throwing your unfiltered opinions can be a trap. For example, if I were to write a horrendous review on a book I absolutely hated, the author or editor may throw me into some black books.

    It’s not that I think authors shouldn’t be allowed to be honest and uncensored, I just think that once you turn hybrid, a regulated review process can help you out in the long run and let you remain professional.

    My basic rule is that if I didn’t like the book, I don’t review it. There are plenty of readers out there that will post their own thoughts. I would rather spend my time promoting a book I love than hating on a book that didn’t speak to me. Plus, there is that thing called writing that I should get to from here to there 😉

    But I think my overall philosophy is to help out authors as much as possible, promote books I love, and provide a source for great Indie books. I’m not a professional critic or reviewer. I don’t get paid.I’m honest with books I like, and as for the ones I don’t, I just leave them to the review pros. After all, it’s all subjective.

    Thanks for posting!

    1. What a great comment, Lindsay. I completely understand where you are coming from, and it will probably be something I have to take on board in the future.

      Thanks for stopping by.

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