Should Writers Review?

The Internet is abuzz about reviews lately. I recently blogged about the importance of book reviews and how much difference they make for authors and readers alike. The concern for and from aspiring authors and even a few new ones I know is “Should WE review?” On the one hand, they want to help their friends books rise up the lists and be discovered by the masses. They also want to shout about the books they loved and want to others to love. BUT what about the ones that didn’t suit them? How about the ones they tried and vomited in before returning to the store and demanding a refund?

What. About. Those?

Well, I speak on precisely zero authority, but my OPINION is, stick it in your hat. If you don’t like it and you’re a writer….maybe skip reviewing that one. After all, there are infinite books of awesome to boast about. Why not focus on what you LIKED. We want to know what you LOVED. I for one don’t want to miss out on anything awesome! Do I want to hear a bad review? No. Not really. I mean, where does that get me? I think no reviews can speak volumes, don’t you? Also, I recently posted about rejections. Writers know what it feels like to get a scathing rejection one day and an offer for representation from an agent who love-love-loves & wants to marry their work the next.

The biz is fickle. So are we. Tastes change. I talked about this with my critty  gal Christie Koester recently. A book we can’t get to page three on one day might be a book we read in a weekend a few months later. State of mind and life changes what we enjoy or don’t enjoy. So, writers…if you hate a book, just put it down. Walk away. You can even vomit in it, but please don’t return it to the store that way.

Bottom line: Giving an awful review for something you hated isn’t worth the possible backlash on your own books or career AND unless you’re a review site, why bother? Writing reviews takes time and while I don’t mind sparing the time to write a review for something I want everyone to love with me, I just can’t spare the time I could be writing or editing to write up a review for something I didn’t even enjoy. It just doesn’t make much sense.


* Thank you Chris Schillig for suggesting a blog topic this morning when my brain had a total fail. Thanks Chris!*

16 comments to Should Writers Review?

  • I respectfully disagree. I know there could be backlash for a bad review and one shouldn’t skew a review badly for no reason. A lot of writers, when they review something, are simply stating opinion, and this is the wrong way to do it.

    Should a writer remain professional and make a point to address good elements as well as bad, then I don’t see anything wrong in a writer reviewing a book. In fact, if a writer likes a book, I think they should put together a review of it, something that might benefit both writers in the long run.

  • I agree entirely, Julie. While bad reviews are going to happen, they won’t come from me…kind of along the lines of “people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones!” :)

  • I agree – I think that writing a bad review is just opening yourself up, and it sounds like sour grapes if you’re not published yourself. Sure, we all read books and think, “Wow – this got published and I haven’t yet?” But, we have to remember that obviously *somebody* thought it was worth it -quite a few somebodies, in order for it to land an agent, get an editor’s attention, and make it through acquisitions.

  • hmmmm, this is a hard one because i’m reading a book right now that i like, but, man, could have been so much better if it had been edited differently. i don’t hate it. in its current format, i’d give it 3 out of 5 stars because the story is good but there are things that are distracting from that story. what would you do in that case?

  • Len, I actually think we are agreeing here. I think reviewing is VERY important. Everyone should be reviewing books they loved so others can fund them and seek then and love them too. :) Agree!

    Mindy & Linda! Thanks for chiming in. I know how touchy this gets.

    Spajonas, I agree. It’s tricky for sure. In your example, I’d probably give it the 3 of 5 & tell why I liked it. Books go thru the wringer to make it to print, so a lot of people thought the book was perfect when it got final approval. So, I’d be honest, and say what you love, then if you want, add the PERSONAL distractions at the end. Because reading really is personal for each of us.

    Everyone, For the record: I only disapprove of writers who review books in a zero star “This is crap smeared on pages” way because it’s simply not nice AND just an opinion – obvs not shared by all those who helped write it, sub it, approve it, vouch for it, edit it, copy edit it, etc :)

  • yeah, it turns out, after looking at other reviews on goodreads, my views are the same as a few others there. i will most likely do just what you suggest here :)

  • I won’t talk about a book I don’t enjoy either. I don’t do reveiws as such, but I do talk about books I really love. I’m not one for focusing on the negative anyway – I’d rather spend my time talking about happier things :)

  • “a lot of people thought the book was perfect” People in the marketing department who thought it was a perfect way to make a quick buck? As a reader on the “outside” I don’t know what goes on inside the publishing business, but I’ve spent money to buy books that are packaged and marketed with deceptive superlatives on the cover and what seems to be perfumed “crap smeared on pages”. This is most painful when the author is a favorite of mine and a publisher has made the discovery that money can be made selling anything written by that author. Here is where I want the help of a reviewer who will let me know that I will be disappointed by a book, not silence from a reviewer who is too polite to tell the truth.

  • My mama always said if you can’t say somethin’ good about someone don’t say anything. When people ask me about a book that I didn’t like my response is usually, “Well, of all the books I ever read, this was one of them.”

  • I think writers should do each other the professional courtesy to give any comments to each other in private.
    I myself don’t feel qualified to review another author’s book. That’s probably just me, because I can’t disconnect the reader from the writer in me.
    Sometimes when I read reviews of a book by a writer, I get the impression that what s/he’s really saying is, “I would have written this differently.” And then I have to ask: is this really fair?
    I wonder also how a non-writing-reader sees those reviews of writers, even more so when it transpires they have reviewed each other’s books.

  • John, it sounds like you are a perfect candidate for book reviewing -if you have the time and inclination because you seem frank and obviously love to read. It also sounds like you’ve had a frustrating time with a favorite author’s new tome and that stinks for sure. Been there too. Another reason reviewers are necessary.

    I do caution authors to think twice before trashing a book because we share the profession and have a vested interest in the industry. Remember, It’s a small world.

    Bo! I agree with your mama :)

  • Hi, Julie,

    Because I read and write, most often I read from the perspective of both camps. My reviews are fair and balanced. If there’s something I don’t like about a book, I’m going to say what it is, respectfully, of course.

  • I am a unpublisher writer and book reviewer. Writing was just a hobby but now I am working very hard on finding someone to publish me. Editing and submissions, whew! Since I have gotten to this point in my life, I am having a harder time reviewing. I think if this takes off and I actually publish I might have to stop reviewing. Even now with the amount of time I spend writing and editing, I don’t have nearly as much time to write.

    By the way, I saw you had a new book coming in 2012. Congrats! I am very excited for you.

  • Your comment about our changing tastes for various books is well taken. Somebody much smarter than I once said that good literature waits for us to gain the maturity and insight to understand it. We can never read the same book twice, any more than we can swim in the same river twice. Our new experiences change what we notice and what we take from it.

  • While I didn’t hate it – I never did – the circumstances around me on the day I started reading Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere were freakishly similar to the book. Nothing was going right. Technology was ignoring my presence, so were people. This was happening in the book too. I had to put it down. I picked it up six months later and loved it.

    Someone’s trash is someone else’s treasure, and all that.

    Also, mood plays a huge part in liking something. I don’t mind the odd intense, cerebral drama (film, tv, book… etc), but I have to be in the mood for it or it won’t work it’s magic on me. Sometimes you want that. Sometimes you just want to see Michael Bay’s latest explosion. :p

  • I know I’m late to the thread, but I just wanted to add, as an aspiring writer, I tend to avoid reviewing. I just can’t help thinking about Edgar Poe. He’s famous for his scathing reviews of his fellow writers, and I can’t help but think that those reviews hurt his career.

    But, of course today, writers depend on the internet and the community of writers/reviewers to get the word out about your latest book. So, I think you advice to follow a middle path is pretty wise.

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