Writing book reviews is tough. It doesn’t matter whether it is a couple of lines and a rating, or a well thought out essay, it takes effort for a reviewer to translate all the emotions and experiences they’ve just felt and translate it into something concise, considered and heartfelt. Many authors complain about how difficult it is to write a plot synopsis or promotional blurb, but it can be just as difficult for reviewers to condense everything they’ve experienced, complete with explanation and reasoning, into a few paragraphs. And then there is the worry about the reaction. Every author understands the anxiety of letting their work go, wondering if people will love or hate what they’ve written, but it is exactly the same for a reviewer, especially if they didn’t enjoy the work they are reviewing.
Some, lucky few, get paid to review books, but most book reviewers do it for free. And this is important for authors to remember. The vast majority of reviews are written out of a love of books.
For indie authors especially, reviews are our lifeblood. Without reviews, nobody would know we exist. Without reviews, few would take a chance on an unknown author regardless of how tempting the blurb or cover. Yet we often view reviews as an item to attain, rather than the end product of an experience. We understand the value of having multiple reviews next to our books and sometimes struggle – in our desire to obtain more – to remember that what we are really asking is for our readers to share their personal, intimate feelings to the world, readers who often have no idea where to start when it comes to writing a review.
And then there are the small number of authors who make reviewing a chore, or even worse a trial. Those authors who pester reviewers, believing reviews should be theirs by right because they have published a book. The authors who see a critique of their work as an attack on them as a person. Negative reviews can be painful but they come with the territory because nobody has written a universally popular book. Those authors who go to extreme lengths to defend their book after a bad review, their actions preventing many from posting negative reviews for fear of retribution, destroying the credibility of the review system on which the majority of us rely.
Some counter this by complaining about trolling, negative reviews written out of spite, complaining they unfairly skew a book’s rating. But these, while incredibly hurtful, aren’t common, and are balanced by the overly favourable reviews by friends in their desire to help an author out – and I’ve yet to hear an author complain about those.
The vast majority of book reviews reflect a reviewer’s honest reaction having read a book. It is the truth. A truth that is just as valid as the truth the author intended when they wrote their book. In fact it is possibly more true, because as authors we know that as much as we try, we can never truly convey the full experience we see in our heads through mere words. What the reviewer experiences, as every reader, is how well we’ve managed to do that, all through the own personal lens of what makes a good book. We don’t have to agree with the reviewer but we should always respect their opinion.
So, to anyone who reads this who has ever written a review, I thank you.
To every person who has written a glowing review, I thank you.
To anyone who took the time to write a review about a book that neither moved or disappointed them, I thank you.
To everyone who has written a review that contains criticism, whether you were pointing out small issues in a book you enjoyed, or major failings, I thank you.
To every person who has written a review to explain exactly why you detested a book, I thank you.
To everybody who overcame their discomfort and wrote a couple of lines on Amazon or Goodreads after reading a book, I thank you.
To the people who write reviews each time they finish a book, I thank you.
To the person who just wrote their first ever review, I thank you.
To authors who take the time to read and review the work of their peers, especially those who write both positive and negative reviews, overcoming their own fears of revenge reviews, I thank you.
To those who run magazines, e-zines and anyone else who gets paid to review books and promote the art you love, I thank you.
And finally, to book bloggers, who invest so much of their time to write about the thing they love, often despite experiencing the less attractive side of our industry through authors demanding a review or reacting furiously to a negative review, I thank you.
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Reblogged this on Julie Lawford and commented:
I couldn’t have put it better myself.
Thanks for reblogging this Julie, and for your kind words.
I was literally just about to write a post about the emails I have been getting from some authors who don’t even take the time to know the name of my blog, let alone my name, and who don’t even take the time to say hello. When I logged in and saw this post in my reader, I lost some of that anger.
As a book blogger/reader/indie cheerleader, I want to thank you for taking the time to write this post! 🙂
You’re more than welcome. 🙂
I think you should still write the post. I can understand that in an author’s desire to get the word out about their book, they might forget some of the social niceties, but it doesn’t excuse the behaviour or make it right. People, eh?
Thanks so much for being such a wonderful supporter of writers. It is much appreciated 🙂
Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
I’ll bet that Dylan speaks for MOST authors – Indie or Traditional 😀
Thanks so much for reblogging this, Chris, and thanks also for your continued support of us authors, both on this blog and through the reviews you give out on Goodreads and Amazon. 🙂
You’re all very welcome Dylan 😀
That’s a really nice post Dylan. I commented earlier today to someone about how irritating it is to read authors who are forever complaining about how not everyone writes reviews, or that they don’t all give five star reviews. It does the time to write something meaningful, and one thing nobody seems to mention is that in theory, Amazon doesn’t like something that has been published elsewhere, so it’s not a simple copy and paste. And then there’s GR, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, Barnes and Noble … I can easily spend an hour or two when I start doing the review ‘catch-up’.
Getting paid is luck of the draw. The site where I get paid is more of a gesture than a lucrative payment. Not all books are paid for, but each author gets the same service from me, including as well as the review, the ‘notes for authors’ with examples of errors or prose that could be tightened up.
I’m trying to cut down on reviews due to a) sheer time taken and b) I’d like to tailor the books I review on my blog to my readers’ preferences which is most definitely not romance or womens’ novels, yet those are often the areas people want to be reviewed. Plus, a bit like you, I like to read a book, and think, yes that’s good enough to write about and recommend, like your books, for example.
I know how much work it takes to pull together some of the recommendations I make on this blog, and those are by no means as detailed as many reviews. I can understand how even the ones you are paid for, unless you are a professional reviewer of a mainstream publication, they by no means cover the cost of the time taken to review. So thank you once again for supporting us authors (and for your kind words). 🙂
When I first started in journalism, I obviously did reviews of anything and everything as part of my job, so I probably still see it in that light.
Katherine raised a good point above. And that reminded me about people who visit your blog once (or not at all), send a review copy of their book, and then you never hear from them again. Do they comment on your blog? No. Do they read it? Who knows? But would they actually know when you post a review? If they don’t visit, is it really down to me to send an email saying I fulfilled my end of the bargain, here’s your review?
At least a commercial book tour author recently said thank you to bloggers and commented on blogs, and an indie author took the time to thank me today for featuring her book which is on promotion. It’s a good read incidentally, so if you want to catch it while it’s free snap it up today, last day of her offer, link to Am on my blog.
You’re not the first reviewer who’s said that to me and I find that said. I can understand an author not coming back if it’s a negative review, not because they may be upset, but because the author may be embarrassed that the book didn’t go down to well. That said, a simple thank you wouldn’t go amiss (which is something I always try to do). When you hand a book over to a reviewer, there’s no obligation on their part to like it. I’m gobsmacked when authors don’t respond if it’s a generally positive review or better, though. That’s just plain rude.
Pre-publication, we fear bad reviews. As D-Day approaches, it gets replaced by ‘What if there are NO reviews at all?’
This is very true. Then afterwards it’s about getting a certain number of reviews, or wondering why author X has more reviews than you, or – God forbid – that the only reviews you get are ‘meh’. The desire to get reviews is understandable, which is why we should treat those who review books with the upmost respect and gratitude. 🙂
Yes, very true. I like the detailed reviews, the ones which try to delve deeper than the book blurb and ‘about author’ info.
For the last year, I’ve had a disclaimer on my Book Review page stating I have put a hold on book review requests because I don’t have the time. I still get 2-3 per week asking me to make them a special case. I also state I will ignore and delete without consideration, anybody who requests as much. How many do you think write back following my lack of response asking if I got the email? At least 1/5.
I want to be honest about people’s work but I am more inclined to simply give up on a book now and not review it. Sadly, that skews the ratings even more if those who hated it simply don’t bother to finish it and write an honest review. What you’ll end up with is a lot of awful books with middling-good rating. It’s not worth the hassle to get the wailing emails about how awesome their book is and how stupid I must be not to see that it’s the greatest thing since Proust.
For those that have potential, I like to email back with a few kind words on how they can improve it. It’s surprising how many are fantastic ideas that have been poorly executed but with a little bit of work could become a cracking read.
Your first point comes back to the desperation people feel to get reviews. As I’ve said below, I understand the desire but it doesn’t excuse the behaviour. As for negative reviews, have you given up because of the effort involved, because you don’t enjoy it or because of the reaction you’ve had from the author’s affected?
A mix of all three, really. The first negative review I gave (and I was quite kind considering the amateur writing style and poor editing) led to a childish rant. The second resulted in a point by point refutation of why I was wrong in my opinion… so from there I simply stopped.
I think that’s a shame (but completely understandable). No matter how much it hurts, a negative review is just as valuable as a positive one, and just as valid. I’m very concerned about the damage we are doing to ourselves by scaring book reviewers off from writing honest reviews of all types.
I respect everyone’s right to refuse to write negative reviews – I don’t write them myself – but book bloggers especially, need to build credibility with their audience, and that includes saying what they don’t like as well as what they like. Why is this important to authors? Because if book bloggers don’t have credibility, nobody will be influenced to buy books they recommend.
I sure do wish I had access to just one person with the intent you’ve described, MG. It is sad that some feel they have to convince everyone that their own book is the greatest thing around. (I don’t want everyone to like mine, I would just like to hear why some don’t so I can try to improve a bit.)
I am a fledgling in the world of the Authors, but have posted excerpts of one of my WIPs in various places hoping someone will offer me their opinion, what works or doesn’t, just an occasional comment to let me know if I should continue or give it up. I hand out business cards asking for people to check out my writing, and please leave a comment, but have no idea if any of those readers ever make it to my site.
As for reviews, I am one of the ones who dislikes to give a bad review, too. Plus, I’m not convinced others would want to hear what I do like.
Not only am I a slow reader, I’m easily sidetracked. It could take me a month to read a novelette. Plus, I keep being told by my committee that, if no one likes my book, no one would want to hear my opinion on someone else’s writing.
All these are excuses, I know, but one cannot stop the internal committee from setting up roadblocks and destroying confidence. Not I, anyway.
As a reviewer, I know how important it is to give an honest review. My blog stresses good reviews and good books. When I receive a request to review a book that can only result in a negative review, instead of posting it, I contact the author and explain the reason(s) I am unable to review it. Authors appreciate the feedback, but don’t want it posted for everyone else to see. What I may dislike, someone else may love. After all, a review is the reviewer’s personal opinion.
I completely respect your position – especially as I don’t write negative reviews myself – and think it’s great you contact the authors directly (and that you haven’t had any negative responses to your mails). At the same time, I do think it’s important that we encourage those who write constructive, negative reviews. I read a great comment on another post along the lines of “I read a negative review, looked at all the things the reviewer hated about the book and thought, ‘hell, I love those things’ and bought the book”. Not all negative reviews are damaging.
I agree with your point, but unfortunately most of the negative reviews I’ve seen really tear the book and author apart. That’s just not the way to go.
Dylan, I’d take issue with you over this – “The vast majority of reviews are written out of a love of books.” Most reviews we all tend to get are of the one and two star variety, penned by people with an axe to grind. Fortunately the positive ones by genuine readers, more than balance out the invective of the internet trolls.
Hi Jack, I think we may have to agree to disagree about this. In my experience, most people review books because they love reading and commenting on books. There are some trolls out there, in the same way there are friend reviews which give 5 stars to anything in the belief they are being supportive, but thankfully both groups are a minority.
Lovely post, and so true too, and actually reminded of the importance of reviewing books and i shall endeavour to review everything i read from now on. I have to say though i particularly like your sign in the background!… careful or you will end up in my next novel! made me giggle.
Thanks, Sacha! The sign was a gift from some friends. They know me so well… 😉
Reblogged this on blindoggbooks and commented:
I’m sure that all authors, independent and otherwise, share Dylan’s sentiment…Thank you to everybody who writes a book review!
Thanks, Tim, for reblogging this and yes, thank you everybody who had ever written a review!
Thanks for this post Dylan. As an author I appreciate the time taken by reviewers to review my work. I always thank reviewers if I have a means of contacting them (with Amazon reviews this is not always possible). My concern revolves around those who simply leave a 1 star rating without taking the time to write a review. In such cases I do sometimes wonder whether the person leaving the rating has actually read the book. Personally, when reviewing books I always write something as, to me a rating in the absence of comments is meaningless. I do try to leave reviews for those books I finish but must confess that I don’t always get round to doing so. It is a new year’s resolution to review more of those books I read and finish. Thanks again. Kevin
Hi Kevin, thanks for your comment. I can understand your point. There are a small number of people who do this, and I’ve seen profile’s of people who only leave 1-star reviews, but most people who read reviews ignore the obvious trolls so it’s best to just ignore them.
It’s great you plan to review more book. It’s a tough ask but always rewarding, especially when you get to know some of the other authors whose work you have liked through your review.
Thanks Dylan. Yes I have met some great authors through interacting with them online, both via reviewing their books and commenting on blogs. Kevin
The unfortunate thing about authors is that they ALL believe their books is the one of the best ones ever written, and they
hate it when some reviewer PANS their book[s] is a review.
This is why when I decided to become a Book Reviewer about 6 months ago NOT to accept any requests to review a book. When I do get a request I merely reply back that I don’t accept requests and send them a blog post I did in October 2014 which describes how I go about selecting the books I review.
I have two sources for the books I review. The first is the giveaways being offered on GoodReads.com / LibraryThing,com / and all the others throughout the internet. The second are books which have been written by members of an internet support group I belong to. In both cases, I select books which seem to be interesting to me.
In the first case, once I enter a giveaway, I allow the random selection process there to “decide” if I’m to get that book. In the second, it’s a desire to read the book.
Book Reviewers too want to receive acknowledgments for their endeavors, which they receive when someone indicates their reviews has helped someone in deciding whether a book should be bought. So if anyone happens to read a review they really like, let’s say on Amazon, than say YES at the end of the review; saying NO is essentially a non-answer.
Most Book Reviewers, at least myself, read books from basically every genre imaginable, from picture books for children to erotic romance novels.
I’ve got about 85 books under my belt, and if anyone is interest any of the books I’ve reviewed here is the link to my profile on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/profile/A19QLCLVPLZH0B
Hope you will find them helpful.
Have a GREAT WEEK with whatever you do !!! 🙂 🙂 🙂
Thank you for your comment. I’m not sure it’s unfortunate authors hate having their books panned, given the amount of time and effort that goes into writing a book I think it’s understandable. What is unfortunate is when they take this disappointment out on the reviewer. As I said in my post, there is no such thing as a universally popular book. For any author who doesn’t believe me, go check the one-star reviews on some of the classics of our time (To Kill A Mockingbird is a good example).
It’s great that you’ve a review method you’re comfortable with and that you obviously enjoy reviewing. Keep up the good work and many thanks once again from us authors 🙂
I agree that no author likes seeing their book panned. I also agree that authors should never take out what may (quite understandably) be hurt feelings on the reviewer. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. One man’s meat is, as is often said another man’s poison. I do click the “no” button on “was this review helpful” if I believe that a review does not contribute to my understanding of a book. For example I recently read a review of an author’s work where a reviewer merely stated that the book was “boring” without offering an explanation for their opinion. This was a 1 star review and without an explanation for the rating I felt that clicking the “no” button was the right thing to do.
@Robin, that’s a very good point you made about the importance of indicating whether or not a review helped you determine whether or not to buy a book.
Hi Connie – Catching up in responding to posts made to my comments on the internet today, as well as to the posts I’ve already approved for my blogs.
Not only does a YES help the author, it also helps the reviewer in gaining credibility in the eyes of anyone reading a review if their name is clicked and the reader can see the other books a particular reviewer has written reviews for, their being helpful percentage and Amazon Reviewer Ranking [which is calculated regularly]
Reblogged this on mypennameonly and commented:
Here’s an interesting item for all of us who have ever reviewed a book.
Thanks so much for reblogging this. I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂
Reblogged this on The GUNDERSTONE review.
Thanks very much for the re-blog 🙂 Glad you enjoyed my post.
That hits it right on the head! 🙂
Thank you 🙂
Ah, indeed. I like this take. Where would our books be without the people who read and review them? A big thank you to them all. And I love your picture too!
Thank you, Carrie. When I look at the photo, all I see are wrinkles 🙂
Haha, and I didn’t notice any of them! Such is the way of human nature. 🙂
Reblogged this on Becky's Book Notes and commented:
Such a heartfelt post, thank you Dylan! I love reviewing but it does take a lot of time, especially since I am working on my own debut novel. I apologize for the infrequency of my posts because of this. Sometimes I do wonder if it is appreciated, because many times I never hear from the author. Thanks again! 🙂
You’re more than welcome. Good luck with you’re debut novel and thanks once again for all the reviews.
Indeed. Many thanks to all reviewers. I’ve done my share as a reader as well but what I didn’t get before publishing was how many reviews are necessary these days to establish the credibility of a book. The sheer numbers are boggling and impossible for most authors who are not well known, regardless of the quality of their work. Knowing means I try to write more reviews. As an author it often feels like an impossible wall to scale because there is no way that a normal number of readers will write the required number of reviews in order to have an advertiser like BookBub even look at your book. So, there’s a catch 22. At this time there is no theoretical way out of the slush pile.
It can seem daunting but the best way to handle the dilemma is to ignore it. I have a polite request for a review at the end of each of my books which has increased the number of reviews but the best way of gaining reviews is to write a book people enjoy reading, and be patient.
All the best of luck with your book 🙂
Reblogged this on Valerie Ormond's Thoughts On….
Thank you for the reblog 🙂
Reblogged this on Anita & Jaye Dawes and commented:
not thought about reviews and reviewers like this before…thanks Dylan!
You’re more than welcome 🙂
You’re welcome. 😉
Ah, you know I appreciated your review 🙂
personally even if an e-book(or book) is given to me for review I wouldn’t give a better review and rating if I don’t feel like it
And that’s the way it should be. A review should be a true reflection of your feelings towards the book.
Reblogged this on theowlladyblog.
Reblogged this on Author Unpublished and commented:
A great article of thanks for book reviewers — I wish I saw more of these, and I can’t begin to tell you how appreciative we book reviewers are to see posts like this from people who understand what we do, and appreciate that we do it.
You’re more than welcome. I’m glad you appreciated the post. Thank you once again for doing what you do, and the reblog 🙂
Thank you for writing this article. I can’t tell you what it means as a book reviewer to see someone understand what we book reviewers do and appreciate us for it. Often times authors treat reviewers as tools–a means to an end, and when our reviews don’t reflect the outcome they expected, they get angry, vengeful, and just plain nasty. I’ve had authors stalk my blog and leave me angry comments. More often than not, authors never bother to thank us, so to find a heartfelt article like this? Priceless. Thank you.
Reblogged this on graemecummingdotnet and commented:
Having recently had a couple of mixed reviews for Ravens Gathering (one praising it to the heavens, another less enthused – to say the least), I was reflecting on how differently people will see the work we put out there. I’ve never expected universal approval. Frankly, if a story is so bland that it offends no one, you’re probably doing something wrong.
Similarly, I don’t expect everyone to even read anything I write, let alone review it. I’ve had friends who are non-readers (I know, it’s sacrilege but they exist) saying they’re looking forward to reading my book. The thing is, I know they’re trying to be supportive, but in reality I write for people who like reading something more than the TV listings.
Against that background, reading this post from Dylan Hearn really struck a chord. Enjoy…
Thank you, Graeme. I saw my favourite ever 1-star review retweeted last night. It said, “No useful tips on how to kill a mockingbird.” Accurate but missing the point. Still, it goes to show that no books, even the best loved classics, are universally enjoyed.
Brilliant – and it seems appropriate that it was tweeted… To underline your comment, though, as someone who enjoyed Mockingbird but didn’t understand why so much fuss about it, I’d probably have given it 4 stars.
Lol. That’s funny. I doubt it was intended as a serious review.
How refreshing to read an appreciative article about reviewers.
I’ve encountered Indie authors who form alliances to trade positive reviews and “likes” and expect me to also promote their books regardless of the quality of their work. These are the authors most likely to attempt to intimidate reviewers. I understand the temptation for authors to unite and promote each other’s work, but to do so dishonestly in order to garner attention for one’s own book is self-defeating in the end.
Thank you, therefore, for committing yourself to following the Alliance of Independent Authors’ code of ethics. I’ve only begun my efforts to support Indie authors, but in that short time, I’ve learned to respect those who follow that code and support one another without misrepresentation. Although I am not an author myself, I need to follow similar guidelines if I’m to be taken seriously as a reviewer and be of any good to authors. I greatly appreciate your acknowledgment of that fact in this post.
Thank you, Connie, both for your kind words and for the work you do supporting authors.
I think you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned authors ‘trading’ reviews. This shouldn’t happen. I don’t agree with anyone (not just authors) writing misleading reviews. There is nothing wrong with authors reviewing authors, or giving a positive review for an author that has previously given a positive review for your own work, as long as it is genuine and not a quid pro quo swap. I’ve personally started writing disclaimers when I’m promoting books I like from authors that have previously reviewed one of my books – not because the review would have swayed my opinion, but so the reader has all the facts.
All the best of luck with your reviews, and I hope you discover plenty of books you enjoy!