To Review or Not To Review

I have a bit of a dilemma that I’m sure ya’ll can help me solve. Last week, someone I admire (I once paid to take his class) recommended a book written by a former student. The premise looked fun. Reviews on Amazon gave the book five stars and awesome comments. On Goodreads, there were only three reviews, but they were four- and five- stars with nice comments. To top it off, it was just $2.99 for the e-book. I felt compelled to buy the book and read it on the Fourth of July. Yes, I read the entire thing in nearly one sitting (I had to go watch the kids blow stuff up for a few minutes in the front yard and offer the appropriate oohs and aaahs when the pretty colors lit up the night sky). 

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When I finished, I felt a major let-down. It was an okay book, but not a five-star book. I’d give it two stars.

I seriously thought about writing a review. Then I DID write the review. A whopping five-pager. Then I took out all the spoilers (that I’d used for examples) and trimmed it back to a more respectable four paragraphs. Now I face the question: Should I post the review on Goodreads, Amazon, and/or my blog?

It just so happens I read two blog posts recently about the pros and cons of book reviews. Kristen Lamb says authors shouldn’t do book reviews on other authors. We see the man behind the curtain. We know what goes into novel writing, so our critiques aren’t fair. We ruin the magic. Plus that whole “If you haven’t got something nice to say” thing, and I’m a firm believer in that one. I don’t want to offend anyone. Words are powerful, and I could easily crush someone’s spirit with gentle words that basically say “that sucked.”

To bolster the idea of Not Posting my review, another friend said, “What if that agent who’s looking at you seriously knows that author and they’re friends? Or worse, what if the would-be agent WORKS with that author?” I doubt they’re working together, but it doesn’t negate the fact that I could possibly offend the agent I want to represent my works to the publishing world. I think she’d be less inclined to sign me on if I hurt her feelings.  

On the other side, Kat Heckenbach said in her blog that reviews are for readers, so they can make informed choices on the books they purchase (or check out from the library). If five-star reviews are the only ones that get published, and those who didn’t like the book keep quiet, how can potential readers get a well-rounded review of the book? Her point is proven perfectly in this instance–there were only good reviews of this book on Amazon and Goodreads. If I’d read a few negative reviews, I might not have purchased the book. In fact, if someone had put in a spoiler or two about some of the immoral behavior in the book, I definitely would not have purchased it.

Furthermore, Kat says, how will authors know what to fix in their next book if no one points out the mistakes they made in the previous book? As an author, I know exactly what mistakes the author made in the book that made me dislike it. If I shared those in my review, she could learn from my thoughts and not do them again. But that makes me feel arrogant. She’s published and I’m not. Why should I think I have successfully identified all the errors? Maybe they’re not errors, they’re just a sign of my ignorance of the publishing field. 

So I face this dilemma. Should I put my review out there for the world to see, or keep it to myself? Please share your wisdom! 

-Sonja

 

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6 thoughts on “To Review or Not To Review

  1. If I were in your situation, I might opt for polite but vague. “I found the overall plot entertaining, and this author is excellent at making the reader fall in love with the characters from page one (or whatever random strength you found when reading). I do have to say I felt blindsided by a significant amount of graphic sexual content (or language or whatever it was that put you off) that I wasn’t expecting in this genre, and as a conservative person, I would have appreciated some warning it was coming.” Something to that effect. That way, you’re giving the warning about the content (and the lack of glowing adjectives is a good hint that it might not be the greatest book) without really stepping on toes.

    • So that’s one vote for “do it” – although modified to be as nice as possible. Thanks for your input, aggeloi.

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