This post is inspired by a post from Don’t Let Reviewers Hold You Hostage.
Unpublished authors imagine that once they are published, life will be glorious. That’s because they haven’t thought much about bad reviews. Every author gets them, and sometimes they’re agonizing. – Lev Raphael
In order to be an published author, you have to have a mandate of some degree from a publisher or your readers. Sure, you could self-publish a work that no one else would read, but I am not sure that counts. Traditionally an author either works with a publisher who has approved their story or the author chooses to publish the story themselves. Self-published works generally have a network of support in order to get the word out and be successful.
As an amateur reviewer, there was no mandate for my contribution to the book world. I looked up blog hosting sites, picked a name and was up and running in less then an hour. The majority of blogs are small potatoes in terms of reach and audience when compared to the influence of a review on Amazon or Goodreads. A person with no training and no experience can post their influential opinions to a wide audience with little to no supervision. And no guarantee that the review is fair or even true.
If I want my blog to be successful it makes sense that I would post in a timely and consistent manner and make sure that I post quality content. As much as I want my blog to be successful, it is still a hobby – a great way to make new friends and share my thoughts. At the end of the day, my blog begins and ends with the enjoyment I get from writing about books and my other interests. When blogging isn’t fun anymore, I will probably stop. I don’t make any money on my reviews and my livelihood is in no way impacted by the success of my blog. It is quite easy for me to spread my thoughts on the internet and just as easily leave them behind and move on with my life without a second thought. An author isn’t as loosely attached to their work.
The relationship between an author and a reviewer is essential. Books that would have remained obscure without an enthusiastic audience have eventually sold thousands of copies and have been made into movies. (think The Martian) I spend a lot of time looking at book reviews before I make a purchase and am immediately taken aback if there aren’t any reviews listed or if there are just a few that appear to be from over enthusiastic friends or family. A highly ranked review that is well thought out makes all the difference to me. But what do you do when you didn’t like a book? Is it ever okay to leave a brutal review that may lead to the death of a book an author has spent years pouring their life into?
Okay, the idea that just one bad review could kill a book is a little dramatic. It really depends on where a book is in it’s publishing life. If a brand new book that has been self-published only has three bad reviews, I am not buying it. Bad reviews make a difference to me when they appear to be consistent across the represented opinions or if they make up at least 30% of all reviews. I have been prompted to write bad reviews for a couple of reasons – I either found the book boring, poorly written, or maddening. Why in the world would a book make me mad? I have read a few blog posts that suggest that it is impossible to truly hate a book if you call yourself a book lover. I completely disagree with this assertion. I LOVE books, but there are some books that I can say I hate. Does that give me the right to write a scathing review just because of a difference in opinion with the author? There are some books I find dreadfully boring that the rest of the world seems to love…The Great Gatsby, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The 100…
“Reviewers are like snipers, aren’t they? Not responsible for the emotional carnage of a quick shot in the dark. Reviewers, writing a really negative review, are not at all like doctors cutting away gangrenous flesh — they are flies, buzzing cheerfully as they try to lay their little eggs in stinking piles.” – Greg Bear
Reviews of books are important! My trepidation stems from the fact that I do not consider my self an author. I haven’t published anything. I haven’t even written a story longer than 10,000 words. How can I presume to critique an author’s work when I can’t speak from a place of experience? Who am I to bash a book that represents work that – no matter how inferior I feel it is – is better than anything I have ever produced? How arrogant is that?
The responsibility of the review is firmly planted in truth and in fairness. You don’t like a book? Okay, why? Is it just a difference of theology or preference? Yes, critique the work but don’t reach beyond that. Don’t make an inference about the author’s intent beyond what is provided for you in the story. I will keep reviewing books because I believe it is important to contribute to the book community. Life is short and you can only read so many books! I have let my emotions influence my review of books before and I am challenging myself to try to do better in the future. That is my challenge to all book reviewers who read my blog. We have a duty to be fair to both authors and readers. So, let’s move foward and try to do better! You better believe that if I love a book I will sing it from the rooftops, and if I don’t I will let you know that as well. Just without emotion and with truth!