Compassion, respect and kindness are human qualities common to all regardless of any faith position. In this post, I’m making a plea for these three things in the online world of books.
Recently I learned from my fellow authors of something very sad which is happening on Goodreads – which I had previously been totally unaware of. See this article by Anne Rice here.
I have been aware that the dark side of human nature does indeed find outlets for expression on the internet but I had up to now been unconscious of the fact that this affects the world of reviewing books.
In today’s publishing scene, Amazon reviews are of great importance to a writer – though I sometimes wish they weren’t. The fact remains a new review can lift an author’s spirits, and a lack of reviews can (however mistakenly) feel like rejection. But it came as a great surprise to me to learn that some people are using their membership of book review sites as an opportunity to express spite, envy and malevolence to others.
I love writing books, reading books and reviewing books.
Every book review I post online is authentic. It has never occurred to me to ever post a spurious review or a one star rating simply to hurt someone else.
My own personal rules of book reviewing are as follows:
- I never post one star reviews. If a book genuinely warrants such a rating, I would be most unlikely to even read it all the way through, and I would simply choose not to post a review at all.
- I generally give 4 or 5 star reviews and sometimes 3 star. Perhaps I’m over-generous with my star-ratings. Or perhaps it’s down to the fact that I have an instinct to choose books I know I’ll enjoy reading.
- I write reviews because I enjoy it; never to criticise, condemn or discourage.
As authors, we write for love –
- for love of expressing oneself through the written word, because we have something to say and because we feel compelled to write – regardless of worldly success
- for love of creating characters, allowing our imaginations free rein with our created world writing dialogues, entering new worlds.
So I hope that book reviewers would also write for love.
“Love”, by the way, means respect for others, authenticity and honesty: and it includes constructive criticism. It also means reading a book all the way through before writing your opinion of it on a permanent online platform like Goodreads or Amazon.
If you’re an author to whom online reviews are important, I’d love to have your comments on this subject.
17 thoughts on “Writing, Reading and Reviewing Books For Love”
I review almost everything I read. For one thing, I find it a good exercise for me, as a writer – to try and understand the nuts and bolts, to analyse what works and what doesn’t. And a good, honest review can be both helpful and encouraging for an author. However, I do strive to be honest, and that’s resulted in the occasional one or two star reviews. I’m reluctant to use that option, but there is no point in reviewing at all unless you’re honest about it. I to try not to be brutal, though.
That’s good, Paul. A balanced approach. There is a big difference between an authentic negative review by a reader with integrity, and one posted by a disingenuous person whose sole purpose is spite and malice.
Reblogged this on SpookyMrsGreen and commented:
An interesting and eye-opening account of the plight of the career author in the 21st century… How the heck do we get our books out there?
I find the whole issue of book reviews very challenging, Sheila. Indeed, I rarely check my online accounts anymore, mainly because I have given up expecting to see reviews of any kind for my hard work! There is also the element of protecting myself from unpleasant responses, although thankfully they are few and far between in my experience.
I feel compelled to reblog this post, since it eloquently explains something that is incredibly important for the career author of today.
That’s very interesting to hear you say that, because I too have recently made a resolution to stop checking reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. I enjoy posting reviews on other people’s books, but have decided to avoid my own book page – unless someone takes the trouble to alert me to the fact that they have posted a review. Constant checking is time wasted – we could be spending our time better, researching and/or writing the next novel. The most important thing is to keep moving forward.
Well said and It is very unfortunate that some people feel the need to be dishonest in their online reviews,
Thank you for your comment, Isa; and I’ve decided to give up checking on my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. It’s like waiting for a kettle to boil, and it can drive you mad! So I just let go of it and it gives me greater peace of mind. Now I feel, “What will be will be.”
Reblogged this on Lance Greenfield and commented:
I almost completely go along with Sheila’s thoughts and sentiments here.
I love to review books and I always give my honest opinion. I feel that I am helping both the potential readers and the authors. And I really am driven by love.
The only point on which we differ is her rule number one. Very occasionally, I will give a one star review. This is either because I could not finish a book, which has only happened twice, or because the book genuinely merits a single star. That means that, in my humble opinion, the book is awful. I will always give my reasons.
That’s fair enough, Lance, if the review is honest. However, I feel that if someone has actually read a book all the way through, the writer must have engaged them in some way, and therefore by default the book merits more than one star. If a book is awful I simply put it down and don’t waste my time reading it. I remember doing that with a certain memoir by a certain politician which was very scurrilous and self-indulgent and I ditched it after the first few chapters!
Really great post totally agree and I also, as an author, write reviews along the same lines as you do. It’s amazing to me also that people choose to muck around and behave with spite, dishonesty (i.e. pretending this is a serious review) and just to cause angst … yes, if I think a book is a real waste of time, badly written, or just not my kind of reading, I simply lay aside both the book itself and the idea of reviewing it. Tastes differ. And why publicly humiliate someone who can’t write well? My worst review was on Goodreads. I’d run a ‘Giveaway’. This guy who reviewed my book simply was upset that it wasn’t the kind of book he expected. You could tell. And he said, pretty much, ‘this wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.’ (I suspect he expected more sex in a book called ‘Baby, Baby’ and was disappointed that it dealt with IVF and a medical mystery, with no nudity or frolicking medics…)
Thanks for your comment Mari. Interestingly, I find some of the most negative (genuine) reviews can be from people who felt their expectations were defeated by a book – in other words they felt let down and in some way betrayed. I can understand that and I think it’s valid. Though well-targeted cover designs, genre descriptions and blurbs are supposed to guard against that kind of misunderstanding. I had a one star review on Net Galley, though the reviewer in question never put it on Goodreads or Amazon so I suppose I should be grateful for that. But it was clearly not her kind of novel, which she could have ascertained from the blurb. Personally I haven’t encountered any malicious placing of spurious reviews / low star ratings on my own book pages, but I was still shocked to discover that people do such things.
What a lovely post, Sheila. And what a lovely sentiment. You’re so right in what you’ve said. If we can’t shed light in this dark world, we’re better off keeping silent. Mixed metaphors, but you know what I mean.
Thank you for your comment Mel, and you put it very well. Sadly there are many who don’t seem to have the grace or the self-discipline to remain silent in these situations – especially on the internet. I agree that we can only do our best to “stand guard over our tongues” and speak out for truth and justice.
I think it’s really sad, too, that people use reviews to spread spite. It’s people hiding behind their computers, saying things they’d never say face to face.
Thank you for your comment, Fran. That’s very true. I’m still amazed that people don’t seem to realise what they put on the internet stays there, for anyone to see. I’m always very aware of that and take care with what I say online, on every platform.
I enjoy using Goodreads to track books I’ve read and find it sad and shocking that a few bad apples have to spoil it for others. You’re right, book reviews are extremely important to help our works get out into the world. Many of our personal fans aren’t comfortable reviewing (or in the case of children’s books are too young!) so we depend on sites like Goodreads and Amazon.
That’s very true, Marcia. I find that friends and acquaintances who’ve read my book and have a genuine opinion of it are often unwilling to post a review online – it’s not something they ever do normally. And I’ve had a number of readers say they tried to post a review on Amazon, and it would not allow them to submit (which mystifies me). I feel I can’t put too much pressure on people who’ve already gone to quite a bit of trouble, out of their comfort zone, to try and post a review. So I need to ask them to email it to me instead so I can at least still make use of it in my social media.