I’ve worked hard on typing up reviews for everything I read and a few that I can’t even finish. I put in quotes from the work to support my critique. I think I’ve learned a lot about writing from doing this and sometimes I can see why a book fails for me. I only read genres I like. I’m not tossing out one star reviews for things I don’t have a taste for. That’d be mean.
But it is a personal thing. I am more likely to be critical of a book where the character expresses behaviour I don’t agree with. I saw a title on Bookbub this week where the author had got the racism right upfront in the book summary. Ewww.
One time, giving a one star rating and a long review that listed just why it was so awful attracted the attention of a sock puppet who then argued with me and gave ALL my works one stars in retaliation. What a dick. [Don’t sock puppet your readers. Don’t be a dick.]
Goodreads has a star rating system. According to the site, the stars have the following values:
- 1 star - I did not like it
- 2 stars - it was OK
- 3 stars - I liked it
- 4 stars - I really liked it
- 5 stars - it was amazing.
There is one negative star. Four positive to one negative, if you want to look at it that way. I don’t give everything five stars either; that’d be equally pointless. My average rating is 3.39. I really hate the idea that you should be nice just because someone published a book. But what’s making me think about this is recently I’ve heard the same message from several different sources.
* Rachel Abbot says never give negative reviews because you always seem to run into those authors at book conferences, or trade meetings. She was talking to Joanna Penn in a video interview and she agreed.
* Dean Wesley Smith argues that every book critic is a failed writer. They turn their inability to finish and publish successfully into criticising others.
* Austin Kleon’s rule #8 was: be nice, the world is a small town.
* There was an article in the Guardian from an anon who had tried to write two books and had given up. In their letter they badmouthed female British literary writers. The next week’s opinion piece told them off for it, said the writer community supports each other, and pointed out two books was nothing. They called the anon a quitter not a failed author, and suggested they’d need a tougher hide if they really wanted to succeed. True that.
High level book reviewers get free advance review copies, publish their reviews on their own sites and (hopefully) earn some kind of return on their investment. I’d do it for free books! If I somehow managed to get through my ‘to be read’ pile first. But being a book reviewer isn’t my dream. I want to be an author.
So, maybe the issue is that if I want to be an author I can’t be a book reviewer as well? It’s like having a foot in both camps. There are a few people I follow on GR who do this but they’re in the early days of their writing career when the people listed above are all past that stage.
Plus, now Amazon owns GR, it is starting to send you a direct email with parts taken out of the reviews from people you follow for a book you just completed yourself. First off, I don’t understand this. I’ve finished the book. Why are you sending me other people’s views on it? I already saw them when I posted the review. Are we supposed to discuss it amongst ourselves? I don’t know that I want my reviews sent right to others. Some I even untick the twitter box so it doesn’t go out publicly.
I have always said that GR is for readers, but I also use GR as my ‘books I own’ record system; a failsafe so I don’t duplicate purchases. I am especially hopeless at updated covers; I see them as a new book. I can look up GR on my phone at a second hand sale and avoid that. My other book database is about to go offline and I’m looking for a replacement but not having a lot of luck so far.
I’d better keep looking.
Rachel Abbott - how to sell two million books
Dean Wesley Smith - the Essentials workshop week 2
Austin Kleon Steal like an Artist
The Guardian - you're a quitter