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Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Do you Write Balanced Reviews?

I touched on the subject of receiving reviews and how beneficial they potentially are back in the summer. As authors, we think about receiving reviews and worry if we don't. To us, they're a very important matter, and I know I worry sometimes just how my reviews and potential reviews are affecting the sale of my book.

But in this post I am going to talk about something a little different but it's still connected to the issue of reviews. We know we like good reviews, we should all love balanced reviews, and most of us probably hate nasty/bad reviews.

So, as writers reading other authors books, does this affect your ability to write reviews yourself?

I don't write that many reviews at the moment because I am trying to focus on getting my second book finished and at three quarters of the way through, I'm almost there. But since becoming a writer myself I am almost scared of writing any review. Will my review affect the authors sales in a good way or in a negative sense, and do I want to have this responsibility of potentially affecting things this much? Thinking these thoughts has now made me a better person because I am always conscious of how everyone else will read what I have written.

Now I am not saying because of this fear I will only write glowing reviews despite me thinking a five year old could have written something better. Where possible I try to make all my reviews balanced and written in a fair way. I will never leave a review which is totally nasty and personal though as I don't think this is a very professional way to be. Online you have always got to consider how you want to come across and remember that at a click of a button, anyone can read what you say. And usually if you say something bad it will probably come back to haunt you as there's a good chance it will remain there forever, unless someone in power has the ability to take it down.

I know some people love to leave nasty reviews (I'm not saying these people are other writers, although some may be) but I don't think I could ever be one of them. If I really don't like something then I will say so but there are certain ways you can do this and still be fair. To me it doesn't ever pay to be nasty. I try to follow Sibel Hodge's philosophy: 'Treat others how you would like to be treated.'

So before you write that next review, think how you're likely to come across. And if you're ever nasty, be prepared for the consequences. Remember you're likely to turn people against you, lose readers, and be the potential target for revenge.

How important do you think it is to maintain a professional online presence? Have I missed something vital out or do you agree with most things I say?

Merry Christmas to you all.


  1. Cool post. I agree with Sibel's quote too. I could never post a nasty review either. It's good to write an honest one, but what if you hate the book? It's a toughie. If I don't like it, I don't write a review. That way I think I can't offend anyone. I may be chicken, but I only review books I like :)

  2. Okay, I have no idea who Sibel Hodge is but I think she’s paraphrasing the Golden Rule here, i.e., Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Or as Confucius put it, a little negatively, "Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself." We’re talking here of the ethic of reciprocity and loads of people have said something similar over the years. I prefer my wife’s take on it: “What goes around comes around.” Why I like hers is that it’s not so obvious. I review your book and say something nice about it and then six months later I send you a copy of mine and woe betide you if you don’t reciprocate. On the whole I don’t review books by people I know if I can avoid it but when I have done I have been honest. You have to be. There are ways of being honest though and quite often I’ll present a pros and cons case. A good example of that was my review of The Road which is one of those books that seems to polarise audiences.

    There is a certain breed of commentator—you see them on TV all the time—who feel it is their job to entertain people by the use of eloquent vitriol and I have little time for them. The problem is in the name—critic—which implies that to be one you need to criticise and that need not be the case. I prefer to term ‘reviewer’ myself although ‘opinionator’ would be better I think because that’s all any of us have be it an educated or an informed one or not.

    I watch the comments made on Facebook in the two writers groups I frequent and they have a few things mixed up. They act as if, because they’re being reviewed by their peers who know what it’s like they’ll get cut some slack—typos won’t be mentioned or amateurish cover art—and that will continue to be the case as long as people kowtow to their demands. On my blog I don’t distinguish between ebooks, independently published or traditionally published. The review that’s going up tonight is for Jonathan Gould’s two books; the one I’m working on is for Solzhenitsyn’s last book and the way I’m feeling at the moment is non to charitable toward the Russian. Gould, on the other hand, get’s fair treatment: I never found a spelling mistake or a typo in either book, his grammar and punctuation looked okay, the presentation was fine, the covers professional. The only thing I didn’t like—and I said so—was the title of the first book; I can understand his attachment to it but it’s not a good title.

    If I really really don’t like a book then I don’t review it. The only one recently I can think of was Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground. and it’s not like my piddling little review is going to alter the view of the cognoscenti. If you only say nice things then you may make a lot of ‘friends’ but who will really respect your opinion? When I say something positive on my blog then people trust me and that’s important.

  3. Hi Vickie,

    I don't think that's chicken at all - I know several successful authors who operate by that same policy. Joanna Penn will never write a review on a book she couldn't stand - I don't think that's such a bad thing at all. It's one thing to write a negative review on a poorly written and edited book, but if the book wasn't your cup of tea and you blast the book for all the wrong reasons, that's something else entirely. I don't think I could write a review on anything sci-fi as I do not like that genre and don't see why the author should suffer the bad review just because the book wasn't to my taste.

  4. Hi Jim,

    Sorry for not introducing Sibel Hodge properly; I sometimes forget people do actually read my blog and I'm not just writing this for myself!
    She's a chick lit author who is more or less on the same level as J.A. Konrath - aka the God of self publishing. Although I've yet to read all her books, I do very much admire her attitude. And as she's so successful, it's obviously done her some good. I do wonder, however, if she didn't present herself as such a nice person would she still have such a huge fan base? I do know this though, I only tend to buy books off people who are genuinely nice and civil towards other people. I'm a fan of her genre and if she wasn't so professional with her attitude, I would quite simply go and find another chick lit author who was.
    If writers get off on bad mouthing other writers, I will simply have little to do with them. You've also got to think of how other people will view you through your connections.

    On the matter of dishing out reviews, we seem to work with the same philosophy in mind :)