Tag Archives: bad book reviews

Should Authors Write Book Reviews?

When searching for the next book I want to read, I always turn to book reviews. It’s gotten to the point where I specifically look for certain book reviewers I trust, and see what they rated a book before considering reading it myself. Without reading book reviews, I’d start a lot of novels I should have never picked up in the first place.

The vast majority of book reviewers are laypeople, meaning they’re your average Joe, or, for the purposes of this post, non-authors (people who haven’t gotten published). However, what happens when someone is an author? Should they post book reviews? What if they start out unpublished and post reviews, and then become published? Should they take down all their reviews or just the bad ones?

4236086905_e88cccb3ba_zAuthor Kristen Lamb posted on her blog the Three NEVERS of Social Media for Writers. In this post she talks about avoiding posting distasteful and crude online comments, including being rude on Twitter, and never writing bad book reviews. She believes that a person cannot be both an author and a reviewer.

On one hand, I agree with her. Authors should support each other and one big way to do that is by not posting bad reviews about another author’s work. And, while an author is only human, just like actors and singers and politicians, their opinion – in fact this is the case with anyone who’s looked up to – holds more weight than an anonymous person.

Not to mention that authors tend to think about point of view, character arcs, setting, plot holes, etc. a lot more in depth than most readers. Sometimes this makes enjoying a novel more challenging because authors focus on the smaller aspects of a novel that many lay readers gloss over or accept as part of the fictional world. Readers are reading for enjoyment, and if they find a novel entertaining, regardless of the plot holes or flat, stereotypic characters, they’re more likely to rate a novel favorably. Authors are more likely to get distracted with nit-picking. (An example? In a book I read, character B doesn’t own a cell phone. However, five pages later, character A texts character B. How? I have no clue, but it happened, and I ended up ranting to my friend for a few minutes about how irritating it is to find small inconsistencies like these in novels. My friend laughed and shrugged off my annoyance, telling me to just enjoy the story.)

Because authors are familiar with the craft of writing, they more readily spot problems within the text. Honestly? That kind of sucks.

But it does make a decent argument for why authors should not post bad reviews. Perhaps, authors shouldn’t post book reviews at all.

On the other hand, authors are people. And just because they’re published doesn’t mean their voices should be squashed. One of the great things about authors is that they tend to be voracious readers. They devour books, and if they end up liking a book, then it usually means that book is one to put on your reading list.

I’m not attempting to state my opinion on this matter – I’m conflicted as to where I stand – but I am curious to know what others think. Should authors remain silent when it comes to reviewing books, or should they be able to express their opinions? Should they only express those opinions when their thoughts are favorable?

(Photo courtesy of jay thebooknerd.)

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Stop the Attack! Handling Negative Feedback without Losing Your Mind

writing

Writing is a personal act. In order to write well, a writer must dig within himself. This means getting attached to one’s writing, the characters, storyline, etc. This also means opening oneself up to public scrutiny. We’ve all read book reviews at some point in our lives. Some reviews are absolutely amazing, while others can be really hurtful.

With the Internet being so prevalent in our lives, it’s easy to go online and comment on authors and their writing. The anonymity makes it even easier for readers to say just what they think about someone or someone’s writing, without truly thinking through what they’re saying.

This can make it difficult for writers to want to share their work with the world, especially if they’re concerned about offending someone. In one of my stories, I had two cops get killed. It was necessary to the story that they died, but I received some very negative backlash for that story. A few individuals didn’t like that the cops died and they made it very clear how I was being un-American and how I was making police look bad. These few readers grossly misinterpreted my writing, but it still stung to read their reviews.

No matter what you write or how careful you are trying not to offend anyone, you will tick someone off. There are too many people in this world to have everyone like your writing. Look at some of the most famous works of literature. They could have sold millions of copies, but not everyone likes them.

So, how do you handle the negativity?

  1. The best thing to do is to ignore the hurtful words. That’s so much easier said than done, but when you engage with someone who wrote something nasty about you or your writing, you’ll only end up with a headache. Going back and forth with someone who isn’t thinking rationally, or who only wants to rant, isn’t a productive or healthy use of your time.
  2. Laugh off the comments. This specific example doesn’t pertain to writing, but it gets the point across of how ridiculous some comments can be. One of my friends posted a picture of herself pre-weight loss. She was slightly overweight, but still looked amazing. She got a lot of people calling her fat and fugly and all sorts of horrible things. (One even went as far as telling her to starve herself.) Then, after she reached her goal weight, she posted another picture of herself (she had spent her time training for a marathon, and had just completed it). Instead of receiving an overwhelming amount of positive feedback, there were some people who told her she was too skinny, that she had too much muscle, and that she looked too manly and so was ugly. Then, there were still a few people who said she was fat. No matter what happens there are people in this world who strive to put other people down. Most times their comments make no sense, so laugh them off. Who knows, maybe those individuals giving negative feedback are doing so because they’re unhappy with their lives and are displacing their anger and disappointment at themselves onto you.
  3. Embrace the fact that people are reacting to your writing. Whether good or bad, comments are feedback. When people take time out of their busy schedules to comment on something you wrote, you’ve struck a chord with them. You’ve influenced them in some way. At the end of the day that’s what writers hope to accomplish: creating an impact on peoples’ lives. Look at Fifty Shades of Grey. This was a book that many people hated, and they made their feelings well known. However, if readers hadn’t been so boisterous in their ranting, this novel wouldn’t have been nearly as financially successful as it was.

How do you go about handling negative feedback?

(Photo courtesy of ChristaBanister.)

Getting Your Review On

book-reviewI’ve always wondered about how people review books. From The Guardian and The New York Times to Amazon and Goodreads (which is owned by Amazon but has separate reviews from it) reviews of novels are prevalent.

How do people go about rating a book or writing a review of it? I’ve seen reviews that are thorough and go through both the positives and negatives of novels, reviews that are no more than giant rants or superfluous praise, and reviews that are either so skeletal that they provide nothing constructive or have nothing to do with the novel.

When I review books, I find that I have two parts of myself: the writer half and the reader half. The writer half is a harsh critic. It nitpicks, deconstructing the novel and examining it on a more academic level. Is the writing good? Are there plot holes? Are the characters flat, stereotypical, believable, etc.? Is there sentence variety, correct punctuation and spelling, metaphors?

The writer half of me will rant about books that are poorly written and go off on tangents about how books like such and such should have never been published because they are everything agents and editors say they don’t want.

However, the reader half of me will look at those same books and love them. Because although they may be stereotypical, have poor world building, have characters you want to smack for either their (1) lack of intelligent decision making skills, (2) jerk behavior, or (3) some combination of (1) and (2), and are overall horribly written, I still get pulled into the story. I find myself laughing or rooting for the characters. I want to know what happens next.

pile-of-booksIf I didn’t have these two parts of myself, my reviews would be quite different. If only the writer half existed, I would have a lot more one and two star reviews (one being absolutely atrocious and five being one of the best books I’ve ever read). If only the reader half was there, I’d have a ton of five star reviews. The writer and reader parts of myself balance each other out. I have very few five star reviews and even fewer one star reviews. The vast majority of my reviews are either three or four stars, and then I get into the meat of why I’ve rated a book what I’ve rated it.

How do you go about reviewing books? You don’t have to place your reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, blogs, or other review sites to appraise a book. Every novel you read you form an opinion about. How do you mold the opinion you have?

(Photo courtesy of inkspand and pinterest.)