Please 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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