Thoughts on book reviews

Recently I’ve seen several discussions about the value or harm of book reviews. Authors need them to help with sales and even negative reviews aren’t necessarily going to hurt sales.

 

Negative reviews Evidently, some people write negative reviews and go so far as to tag the author in them. I’m not sure why anyone thinks that’s acceptable. Bad manners are never okay.There are also many reviews I’ve seen (I only read them after reading a book) that go out of their way to be mean.

The value of reviews Feelings about reviews range from “they are important and I depend on them before I make a purchase,” to “I never read them and I don’t write them.” I weighed in on a Twitter discussion saying I only write reviews if I like a book. I read 50 books in 2017 and liked the vast majority. I don’t think that’s because I’m an “easy grader.” I believe it’s because I choose well. I ask people whose opinions I trust for recommendations and make an educated decision of what to read. Of the 50 books, I didn’t finish one because I just couldn’t get through it. I know it is a beloved book by most people who’ve read it, including people I know well. I didn’t review it because my opinion wouldn’t be helpful to someone considering reading it. I didn’t choose well when I tried reading it.

Writing community on Twitter weighs in Back to the Twitter discussion: One response argued that it’s not helpful if I only write positive feedback. Another went so far as to say, if they read something they don’t like, they feel a negative review might be helpful to the author as a way to improve in the future.

Opinions My opinion, and that’s what a review is – OPINION – is that when you are weighing in on someone’s art, your voice is only helpful to those who share your frame of reference. I occasionally read genres I don’t really care for to expand my horizons as a writer, but I wouldn’t write a negative review. Obviously I’m not the target audience and my opinion isn’t going to be meaningful to a person who likes the genre.

What are your thoughts on reviews? Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

14 thoughts on “Thoughts on book reviews

  1. That is a very interesting discussion question Laura! I just had an experience with this the other day. I ended up with our usual pile ‘o picture books from the library. I read through each one … dutifully … until one caught my eye and took my breath away! It’s called Sun and Moon by Lindsey Yankey. She is the author-illustrator. It’s beautiful. It’s poetic. I rarely LOVE and remember all of the picture books that I take home to read to my two-year old son. I read them once and a good chunk I never want to see again. But this one … I had to have it. I want to read it to myself. I want to pour over the illustrations and find something new each time. I went on to Amazon to leave a very positive review. I was shocked to see only five or so other reviews (and this book was reviewed by Kirkus – that’s a coup in and of itself!). I scrolled down and found a … 3-star review because the lady thought the book “Sun and Moon” was going to be about foxes because the cover art had some foxes in the picture. Her review went on and on about how she thought it was going to be about foxes, hence the 3 stars and not 5. I was annoyed for the author! Who does that? I even sent the author an email yesterday telling her how much I loved her book and her art. I hope that makes up for the crappy review because “Sun and Moon” wasn’t about foxes! That being said, if you are an author, you need to expect those kind of reviews and just let them go. When pitching my book to bloggers, some of them said “I will only leave a positive review or not review it at all” and others said “Beware! I might write a bad review.” It’s their prerogative. If I really detest something or it’s wholly inaccurate, I might write a review explaining why (non picture books – adult non-fiction book), but I don’t think I’ve ever written a negative review of a picture book – like you, it just wasn’t for me. Thanks for the question!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for sharing your experience. I think your example of the 3 star review based on the cover art leading her to expect a different book is more about the reviewer than the book. I haven’t seen the book, but I would assume a book titled “Sun and Moon” would be about those subjects and not foxes unless there were foxes on the cover wearing name tags “Sun” and “Moon.” In a lengthy conversation with a longtime friend who is a voracious reader and whose recommendations I appreciate, we talked about reviews being used as a vendetta or a way for the reviewer to appear to be clever and how annoying that is.
      Regarding your pitching to bloggers – yes, a blogger who does book reviews has every right to write something negative. Their followers know them and they have established a trust with their readers. I also doubt a book blogger who only writes negative reviews would have much credibility. Good luck on your picture book blog tour.

      Like

  2. First of all review is a very personal thing. Just as the book and the genre. Some like the book, some doesn’t. It is normal (even if sometimes we can’t get ‘how??? why??? it is impossible to not love thiiiiis boooook’, but IF we love it, doesn’t mean the other person will or have to).
    Agreed – only OPINION.
    Negative review hurts, true. But …I’d say so: do not feel disappointed unless 80-90% of the reviews r negative. If so – think…r u in the right place?
    I’m not reviewing each book I’m reading, and sometimes I can also abandon the book. In general I’m seeing my reviews as a work of fiction. They are probably ‘bad’ sometimes, but I’m always trying to find positive and negatives moments. In any case it is only the way I see it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You have brought up an excellent point about a negative review or two should be expected. It’s part of the game. As long as the percentages are in your favor, you are fine. I have had books I love and want the world to read only to see negative reviews posted. Sometimes the negative reviews are from someone I know and then I think, “You only give positive reviews to other genres. Your opinion on this book is as valid as mine is on historical nonfiction.”

      I have been in conference workshops where I am obligated to critique writing in a genre I don’t read and when I do, I’m not a fan. I always explain in my critique that my opinion may be less meaningful because I’m not their target audience. I still give them my full feedback, but I think of it like the breakup line, “It’s not you, it’s me.”

      Liked by 1 person

      • I never seen only negative reviews on the book. I’d be really surprised if I saw a book like this…there’s always someone who love it or maybe tooo kind lol to post a negative comment:) but sure there’re ppl also who is enjoying writing only bad reviews 🙂 in any case I agree with you, about genres. I’m personally don’t like historical fiction so u can’t trust me peeps on reviewing such kinda books haha I do read them sometimes tho
        Agreed with line “it is not you, it is me” 👋

        Liked by 1 person

      • Idk. I agree and disagree in the same time. Simply bcz I abandoned 2 books last week. I just couldn’t read them. I didn’t want to know even what’s gonna happen next. Is it bad? No. It is just me I guess. For another person it will be an awesome read (probably). All is very subjective.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Agreed! Sometimes a book just isn’t for me and I don’t believe writing a negative review will serve any purpose.
        I’m especially offended by the meanness in some reviews as if they are trying to teach the author a lesson.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes 🙂 the thing is…ppl love “mean” and the world enjoying “mean” as well. By the world I mean again society, media, ppl.
        About the lesson, yes, it is happening. I guess because we always want it to be “the perfect”/the good/or best writing, but often it isn’t in the eyes of the reviewer. Or readers. Mmm, I think readers and reviewers are different ppl 🙂
        Maybe that’s why we are getting diff kinds of reviews and not only positive.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for sharing! I rather write positive reviews, but don’t mind to read negative reviews. When I read a negative review, I try to understand the view of point carefully.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s