Wednesday, 4 June 2014

To review or not to review?

It's Insecure Writer's Support Group time again. This month's insecurity is about Amazon reviews. Not about not getting them (although I really would like more) but writing them.

Usually I only post a review if I enjoyed the book. It doesn't have to be perfect, but unless I can honestly say something positive and award at lease three stars, I don't review. I mostly read fiction and generally whether or not I enjoyed the book is as much about personal preference as it is about the author's skill, so I think that's fair.

What though if the book is truly awful? What if it's just a lot of repetitive waffle that doesn't go anywhere and it's a non fiction how-to book giving dreadful advice? (I recently downloaded one of these.) Should  I say that and give it one star - or keep quiet?

Being a writer myself makes a difference, I feel. I worry that negative reviews might look like sour grapes. What do you do? Only give 'good' reviews, or a mixture, or none at all? If you don't give any, please do consider leaving them for books you've enjoyed, especially if the books hasn't already got dozens - you'll help that author feel a lot more secure.

Update I prepared this post a few days in advance. This morning I got a lovely new review for Paint Me a Picture which has brightened a wet, grey morning.

37 comments:

  1. I will only review books I like. Time is too short to finish a book I didn't like, let alone review it too.

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    1. I no longer struggle to finish a book I don't like now, Lynda and I'd feel really mean reviewing something I'd not finished reading.

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  2. I only give good reviews. If I didn't enjoy a story, I won't post a review. I'm giving up my time, and I only want that used as a force for good. hee hee

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  3. I recently reviewed a book and gave it 2 stars. I got an attack of guilt and removed the review, although I left the 2 star rating - it was Goodreads. It's so tricky though, in general, especially as we try to be supportive of other writers. But we are also readers!

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    1. I want to be supportive too Annalisa. I'm not sure a glowing 5* review for a book that doesn't warrant it really is helping anyone though. An honest 3* might be better?

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  4. That's my attitude too, Patsy - only 3* and above, and if I find any dreadful but fixable errors in a book, then I message the author privately with a constructive message to help them improve. Glad you liked my review :)

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    1. Yes, if I saw a fixable problem in a book and had a way to contact the author privately then I'd do that too.

      Thanks again for the review!

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  5. I only review books I like as well. I see nothing wrong with doing it this way. If I didn't like a book it doesn't mean it was bad or the writer sucks, I didn't connect and that's that. I'm not the audience for all books, why should I make its rating suffer because of that? Great point for a post! :)

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    1. Absolutely, SK. I've read extremely popular books that I've hated so I know my opinion is often just one of personal opinion.

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  6. I joined a site where you are given peoples' books for free in exchange for an honest review. It amazes me the amount of times I've given 3 stars on a book (yes peope tend to think 3 stars is a bad review) and had people threatening to write bad reviews on my books unless I remove my review. As an author, I'd say it's safest you don't post negative reviews.

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    1. That's dreadful, Katie! If we're not willing to accept honest reviews maybe we shouldn't ever publish anything? We certainly shouldn't request honest reviews.

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  7. I feel the same way you do - I won't review a book unless I can give it three stars or more. Of course, if it's not very good, I don't finish reading it, and I don't feel it's fair to review a book I didn't read.

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    1. Seems to be how most writers feel, Alex.

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  8. I review every book I read, not least because it reminds me what I thought of each book (i find some are very forgettable!). I also review for Amazon Vine. I try to be completely honest, but as fair as possible. Many people read the reviews - I often do, for one - to help them decide whether or not to buy a book, so the reviews are really for customers rather than authors. I very rarely give one star, but if I do, am cheered if others have given more. After all, each of us is different, with different tastes. What I find difficult are books which are really badly written. So often, bad writing ruins what might be a good plot. But I think your idea of only reviewing books you've enjoyed is a nice one!

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    1. You're right that reviews are mostly an aid to the reader, Frances. They can help the writer too of course, but they're supposed to be honest opinions, not adverts.

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  9. I'm another who prefers to only review books I like.
    I tend not to bother reviewing books on Amazon if they've already got hundreds of reviews, but always review thsoe which have few reviews or are recently published.
    I do a brief write-up of all books I've read on my womagsbriefbooks blog as well, though that's more for my own benefit as I forget what I've read and what I thought of it!

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    1. I don't bother reviewing classics or other books with hundreds of reviws either, Kath. I do make an effort for friends books and those independently published though, if I have something positive to say.

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  10. I also don't post a review if I don't like the book. I like to be able to say something nice about it. Although, I must admit, I don't usually give books 1 or 2 stars. I guess it's the writer in me that feels bad about giving low ratings, and maybe I just haven't come across one I really disliked.

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    1. I can understand not wanting to give a low writing, Chrys. We can't help thinking how we'd feel.

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  11. I worry about reviews, especially for other indie authors. I don't want to hurt them, since I'm in the same boat. But what if you really can't recommend the book to other people? It's such a dilemma. I guess the old saying of "if you can't say anything nice..." still has its hold on me.

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    1. Better to stay quiet than say something untrue I think, Loni. I can't imagine false reviews doing anyone a lot of good.

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  12. "If you can't say nuffing nice don't say nuffing at all!"
    Is that really the way to do things! I suppose if that's the accepted norm, then it is. Happy for you that you got a good one.

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    1. I don't think we should be bound by this 'rule', Lizy. If we don't like a book, or think it has faults then it's fine to say so in a review. I just find that a difficult thing to do.

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  13. Like many here, I only review books I like. If I can't give a book 3 or more stars, I won't review it. Most of the times I won't even finish it. It might be that the book is not bad, just not for me. As a writer, I want to be treated with kindness, so as a reviewer, I offer the same attitude to other writers. Sometimes (rarely), my critique is cutting, but it only extends to books by classic, dead writers, the ones who can't be hurt by my harsh words.

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    1. It's sometimes hard to know if a book is good when we don't persnally like it, isn't it, Olga?

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  14. This can be a tough problem, I have been sent free books with the author asking for a review. Often the books were fair at best, I like many others skip if I can't go three stars. I once changed a two star to three because I felt bad, free book and all. I tossed the book, not good enough to pass on, probably need a single star.

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    1. I think if I was in that position I'd tell the author what I thought of the book and ask them if they still wanted a review. That's still awkward at best though.

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  15. I do a private review on every book I read. That way I can be very honest. But my views don't necessarily represent the majority. Someone was on the BBC having just received an award for her book, written from a baby's point of view in the womb and on into adulthood. She said it looked odd on the page with some sentences ending in 'the'. I was put off straight away and wouldn't read it. Yet it won an award. I am baffled by some peoples idea of a good book.

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    1. Just shows how much tastes vary, Maggie.

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  16. If I really don't like a book, I don't finish it, in which case it's not fair to review. In most cases, I'm able to give good reviews. I'm careful about what I pick to read and review. Sometimes I have to give something a three-star. I don't like it, but you have to be honest.

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    1. Only picking books to read that you're likely to enjoy is a valuable skill, Jeff.

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  17. I only review books I enjoy, but that's because I also mainly read fiction. And like you said, it's subjective. If it was a non-fiction book that you didn't find informative/helpful, I think there's a nice way to state that in a review. Good luck! :)

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    1. I think it would be easier to give a critical review for a non fiction book, Rachel.

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  18. I've stopped reviewing completely. There are so many bookish blogs with review policies clearly posted that I'm not worried. The other bit of good news is that trolls no longer accuse me of ''sour grapes"or "promoting a friend".

    Anna from Shout with Emaginette

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    1. It's a shame that we have to worry about being accused of having ulterior motives if we post reviews, Anna. It seems Amazon hold that view as they sometimes remove reviews just because they think the author and reviewer might know each other.

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  19. Hi Patsy - we reap what we sow. Well you should know that from Patsy's Plot!! But you're so right ... and what good news you've had an excellent review for Paint Me a Picture .. they are delightful stories ..

    Cheers Hilary

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Thanks so much for commenting!