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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