Getting back to writing honest — not just good — reviews
September 24, 2013 | 11:55 am
I am not talking about degrading a writer, but being critical of their work. Again, not to the point of bashing and putting someone down. But reviewing someone’s work with truthfulness whether that be good or bad.
For the second time in what feels as many weeks, a writer has said they will not review a book they do not like. They will only review a book they have enjoyed.
That feels like a half effort. The books you do not like deserve reviews as well. I understand it can be a tough world with retaliation as an issue – that’s what pen names are for – but writers deserve your honesty. Readers deserve your honestly.
If I am looking for a book to read, I scan the reviews. I skip over the over-the-top glowing reviews and horrible ones with nothing to offer. I look for reviews that have a good balance of what worked and what didn’t. Sometimes you’re going to find reviews that have nothing bad to say because that’s genuinely what the person felt about a book. However, you know the difference if you read reviews long enough.
As a writer, I want people to be honest. My writing is not going to please everyone. There will be people who don’t like the way I say things, and that’s perfectly fine. But if there are glaring problems in a book, shouldn’t you tell the author about it?
In a post by Debbie Young on ALLi, she discusses online reviews and talks to a self-published author who has done research on them. Young starts her post with this:
Like any indie author, a great review makes my day and a duff one deflates me in a flash. Knowing how good a review can make me feel, I try to post reviews, on Amazon UK at least, of every book I read. A natural optimist, I concentrate on a book’s good points and no more than hint at the bad. If the flaws in a book outweigh the fabulous, I don’t review it.
I don’t just review books to be kind to authors: I do it because examining other authors’ work will ultimately make me a better writer. Perversely, the sockpuppet scandal made me all the more determined to have my say.
So I ask this: If you are examining another author’s work and you want the reading world to get past the sockpuppet scandal, shouldn’t you review the bad with the good? One, you have admittedly examined someone’s work, so you should have an opinion on that. Two, wasn’t the sockpuppet scandal about dedicated good reviews, even for books people didn’t read? Seems counterproductive then to only leave reviews for books you liked.
There are interesting aspects to Young’s post, especially about the Amazon reviewer subculture – and for that reason, you should go read it.
Some writers will appreciate candid feedback. I believe it’s an important part of becoming a better writer.
One of the first lessons I learned as a writer was to take your ego out of the equation. I am sure ego is big part of why we write, but once your work gets into the hands of an editor, it’s time to take the ego out and start working with a fresh set of eyes. The same can be said – in some instances – for reviews.
Take the good and bad reviews. Go through them and study the ones you think are helpful. It’s important to hear it all and not just the good reviews because others are afraid to write something negative.