Sometimes, I’m slow on the uptake in the world of publishing. Or maybe I’m not slow, just not tuned into some things that are considered controversial because I don’t feel like they should be controversial. Out of all the things we as writers can get bent out of shape about, we pick book reviews. Not just our own book reviews but leaving book reviews for other authors.
I first realized this was a fairly controversial subject when I read Kristen Lamb’s blog where the first piece of a few posts on the subject stated (in summary) it was a social media faux pas to write a fellow author a bad review. In a follow-up post, she also notes it’s a bad idea because an author leaving a review is really giving a literary critique—that our knowledge of the writing becomes part of the review (like POV problems, pacing problems, etc.) which will ruin the magic for the reader. And in a final piece, she discusses why authors should not particularly write bad reviews for another writer. In short, the most powerful point she makes is that criticism should be done privately to the author via e-mail and not publicly.
And then there’s Amazon (oy vey!) which is a separate issue I’ll discuss briefly at the end.
I have left critical reviews for other authors—some in Christian fiction publishing circles. I’ll be the first to admit this is risky because many writers don’t take a critique as an evaluation of a product but rather a criticism of a biological child. I think Elizabeth Gilbert in her book Big Magic has a healthy way to approach reviews. She states that our only job as a writer is to put our product out there—whatever happens after that is not our responsibility (as in how people receive the product.) We have done what our passion dictates and shouldn’t get emotionally wrapped up in people’s response. They are entitled to their opinion.
When I leave a critical review, I usually say the author is a good writer, but their book wasn’t for me and here’s why. I do think there is value in offering that opinion because of my readers. People who love my books are also interested in what I read. Or if they like the books I read, they’ll probably like my novels because I write similarly to what I love to read as far as storylines and pacing.
Let’s consider a simple pro/con list on the subject.
Reasons to leave a review:
1. For readers. This can work many ways. People who like my novels might take a chance on reading a book I recommend. People who like what I read might take a risk on reading one of my books. I’m helping promote author friends to readers who aren’t known to them. I’ve actually had reader letters to this effect—they read a book specifically because of my review on Goodreads. I’ve done the same.
2. Word of mouth spread. In today’s social media environment, word of mouth spread includes how much exposure a book gets on social media. The more a book is talked about the more likely it is to be picked up by someone. I’d heard someone say a reader needs to be exposed to a book six times before they make a purchase. If I scan my Goodreads feed and everyone is listing the same book then I’ll investigate it on Amazon.
3. Reviews matter for algorithms. The more a book is reviewed (good or bad) the more likely it is to show up while searching sites like Amazon.
4. To learn. Criticisms that pan across several reviews should be taken to heart. Learn from these. Many readers commented in reviews on the ending of my first novel, Proof. And you know—they were right. I changed the way I wrote endings moving forward. Reading those negative reviews made me a better author.
Reasons not to leave a review (particularly a critical one.):1. The author will take it as a personal attack. Even though a large majority of the population wants to write a book the world of publishing is small. I could meet face to face with the person I reviewed less than favorably and they may not like me just for that reason. I personally don’t take a critical review personally in the long term. Does it sting at first glance? Sure. But so does editing. So do a lot of things in publishing. How about rejection letters? We should be able to move past it. It’s part of being a professional.
2. It hurts your career moving forward. Say you critically review a book by a particular publisher you want to work with in the future. Will it hurt your chances to publish with them? Possibly. But one, if you don’t like what they publish, are they the publisher for you?
3. It’s not nice. I think there is an adage in Christian Publishing, particularly that we just need to be nice and friendly—that it’s a safe place to be. Leaving a critical review is not what Jesus would do (I don’t know this for certain but what do you think?)
**Note: I don’t think any critical review should include profanity or tear the author down personally. That is not behaving like a professional either.**
Recently, Amazon shared some community guidelines for leaving reviews. I suggest you read them.
There is specifically this comment about leaving book reviews. “Book authors and publishers may continue to provide free or discounted copies of their books to readers, as long as the author or publisher does not require a review in exchange or attempt to influence the review.”
Keep in mind, you still need to disclose if you got a free copy of the book you are reviewing to comply with FTC guidelines.
I’m excited to hear your thoughts on this! What do you think? Should an author leave reviews? Should an author leave a critical (one or two star) review?
Be the first to know of my Jordyn's releases and win more great giveaways by subscribing to her newsletter and blog.
Leave a comment today and your name goes in the pumpkin for this grand prize Jordyn brought that includes:
1. Hand stitched (by Jordyn!) crow and pumpkin decorative pillow.
2. $10.00 Starbucks Gift Card.
3. One print copy of Fractured Memory.
4. Boo-tterscotch M&M's!
Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.
Redwood’s Medical Edge, a blog devoted to helping authors write medically accurate fiction. Her first two medical thrillers, Proof and Poison, garnered starred reviews from Library Journal. Proof was shortlisted for the 2012 ForeWord Review’s BOTY Award, 2013 INSPY Award and the 2013 Carol Award. Poison shortlisted for the 2014 INSPY Award and the 2014 Selah Award. In addition to her novels, she blogs regularly at Redwood’s Medical Edge and the WordServe Water Cooler. You can connect with Jordyn via her website at www.jordynredwood.com.
United States marshal Eli Cayne saved Julia Galloway's life once…and he's prepared to do it again. But his task would be easier if she could remember him—or the murderer who almost put her in an early grave and seems to be hunting her once more. To protect Julia from the latest threat against her life, Eli has to consider the possibility that he put an innocent man in jail. Julia has no memories of the serial killer called the Hangman, though, and no reason to trust Eli. But with the killer getting closer, she must work with Eli to confront her past—and the feelings growing between them.
FYI: The entire ebook collection of Jordyn's Bloodline Trilogy are on sale for $1.98. Yes. That's for the entire collection.