Saturday, May 26, 2018

Refusing to Review

            I’ve been thinking a lot this month about book reviews, a subject near and dear (or maybe not-so-dear) to writers’ hearts. And specifically, I’ve been thinking about reviews for books you don’t like.

            What do you do when you don’t like a book? I think it’s a tough question: as writers, we know the importance of the numbers of reviews we garner for each book. It doesn’t matter if a review is a one-star or a five-star. It counts. We like to support other writers with reviews and we tout the importance of reviews to anyone and everyone who will listen.

            But what do you do when you read a book and you really don’t like it? What if, according to your personal rating scale, it rates two or three stars, or worse? What do you do then?

            My own policy, with one notable exception which I’ll share below, is to leave an online review only if I feel I can give a book four or five stars. On rare occasions, I’ve given books three stars. I struggle with the intellectual honesty of this policy of not reviewing every book I read, but in the end, it’s what I feel comfortable doing.

            Here’s my thinking: I know how much work goes into writing a book. I know how much it hurts to read a review from a person who didn’t like one of my books. I don’t want to be the person who ruins another writer’s day because I didn’t like how he or she told a story.

            When I review a book, I always state what I like about it. When I don’t feel it deserves five stars, I write what I think would make it a better book. That’s what I appreciate from reviewers, so I figure other writers might appreciate it, too.

            But here’s the caveat I noted above. When a book is written by an author of the John Grisham-JK Rowling-Lee Child-Danielle Steel caliber, I don’t mind giving it two or three stars if I really didn’t like it. My reasoning is simple—they have a monumental, worldwide fan base, and one lousy review from me isn’t going to make or break their day.

            I’m curious about other writers’ review practices. Do you review everything you read? Do you review only certain books? Are there circumstances under which you will or will not give a low rating to any book?


Charles Gramlich said...

I review everything I read on Goodreads, but typically put reviews on Amazon for particular books I like and for friends' books. I try to review as honestly as possible but I certainly choose my wording carefully when I'm reviewing books by friends. I too tend to give 3 stars or lower mostly to major releases or to books by writers who are no longer with us. I try not to be mean to living authors for sure.

Linda Thorne said...

I feel like you do, Amy. Knowing how hard it is to write a book, I have a problem giving bad reviews unless it's a famous author who will stay famous even with my bad review and, even then, I will give them all the positives. With a renown author, I can always say I liked other of his/her books better and it's probably just me and other readers may see it totally different, which is often the case. Personally, I would not mind receiving a grade 3 review from someone I know. I think getting any reviews is better than not (except for the horrid ones). If I'm going to give someone less than a 3-rating, then I'm not going to post the review.

Neil Waring said...

Like you, I will skip the review if I need to give it less than four stars. I just do not have the mean spirit to trash someones hard work. As for the big time writers, I seldom take the time to review as they already have hundreds or thousands. I also don't take the time to review some of the old books with writers long gone, although I do, on occasion, talk about old books and mega-selling books on my blogs.

Disclaimer - I am old, tired, and lazy, all of which might be the reason for my reviews or lack thereof.
Great topic - nice post.

G.B. Miller said...

I stopped the occasional review once Amazon changed its policy about reviews in general. When I did, it was mostly non-fiction, which to me is easier to develop a qualified opinion about. The only time I would do a three star review is if the writer wrote literary non-fiction/fiction.

Beyond that, I used leave four star reviews, with the occasional 4 1/2 star review.

Maggie King said...

If I can't give an author at least 4 stars, I won't review it. I know the pain of a bad review. If it's an author I know I will tell him/her privately. With kindness, of course.

Liane Spicer said...

I used to review books on Goodreads (usually by big name writers) but I got quite disillusioned with that site so I've been staying away from there for years.

I've reviewed only a handful of books on Amazon. If I can't give a 4 or 5 star review I don't review the book at all, whereas I have no problem giving 1 star to non-book products that I think deserve it. One of the reasons I don't review many books on Amazon is that I hate reviewing books by authors I know. I don't trust myself to be unbiased. Well, guess what? Amazon has been removing thousands of book reviews written by authors. If the authors are friends on social media... Poof. If they're from the same IP address, same workplace, same street, have the same last name... Poof. I know authors who have lost hundreds of reviews that they wrote on Amazon--including authors who worked for review sites.

Authors reviewing authors is a fraught business. I'm just happy now that I didn't put all that time and effort into an exercise that Amazon simply trashes on a whim.