It has come to my attention in the last few months that not everyone abides by the same set of rules when reviewing a book. While I thought that the term ‘”honest review” was fairly straight forward, it appears to have grown some shades of gray in recent years. That this has grown in direct relation to the number of independent authors who both write and review, I have no doubt.
Being one such creature myself, I thought I knew what I was getting into. I was wrong.
Therefore, allow me to explain to you my personal code of conduct with regard to reviewing independently published books, in the hopes of clearing up future misunderstandings and hard feelings. This code of conduct remains the same whether I am reviewing a book I’ve received for free, with the request to review, or a book that I pick up on my own and decide to review.
First, it must be made abundantly clear for whom I write my reviews. There seems to be a popular myth that reviews are written for the Author. This could not be further from the truth. Reviews, at their very heart and conception, have always been for the Reader. They are to tell a reader what they may expect from a book in order to better help them determine if it’s a read that they would like to spend their very valuable time and money on.
It is true that the quantity of reviews an author, most especially an independent author, has is beneficial in being more visible on sites such as Amazon and other retailers.
It is patently false that a critical review will make a book sell poorly. (One need only look at wildly popular yet universally panned books to know that this is true.)
But! I hear you argue, independent authors have so few reviews, and so little chance to reach new readers, shouldn’t we cut them some slack?
In short, abso-freaking-lutely not. This is wrong on so many levels I’m not even sure where to start. Many readers seek out both positive and critical reviews before making a decision whether to buy. Personally, I like to know what the main complaints are with a book before I invest in it. I will then decide if those complaints are something that would bug me as a reader. There have been plenty of times when another person’s complaint about a book has actually convinced me to buy and read it.
Now for the harsh truth; there is, and likely always will be, a subset of the publishing and reading industry that believe independent authors choose not to traditionally publish because they can’t make it in the traditional pools. This erroneous mindset can only be spurred on by the reviewers of independent books ‘going easy’ or only posting positive reviews. Readers need to know.
Some books, both independently and traditionally published, are schlock. I am sorry, but it is true. Some books should have had more time with the editor. Some books are just not for everyone.
There seem to be a set of independent authors who believe in both giving and receiving only positive reviews. To them, I say, you’re selling yourself short. Not only are you expecting your reviewers to lie to you, — whether by omission or directly — not only are you depriving your future readers of the truth; you are denying yourself the chance to evolve and learn and grow as a writer.
Every single writer in the world will receive critical reviews. Every single one of us. Who would you rather receive a critical review from? A stranger who doesn’t care one whit about your feelings or your story? Or another writer, possibly a friend, who cares deeply about nurturing your craft, and helping you be the best you can?
Not only that, are you really comfortable with having everyone lie to you about what they think? Is that what you want? A bunch of slavering, sycofantic, mockingjays who only tell you what you want to hear?
Now, I hope you’ll notice I’ve been very careful to use the word “critical” as opposed to “negative” when discussing anything less than a positive review. A critical review will point out issues with plot, characterization, craft, and execution in a matter-of-fact and/or helpful way. A negative review seeks to tear down the Author and dissuade future Readers on the basis of personal attacks.
I do not, under any circumstances, condone negative reviews. They are not necessary, and do more harm than good. A review should not try and dissuade readers. It should simply state what is within a book and determine whether or not that element was well written, in the reviewer’s opinion.
With all this in mind, I will now lay out for you the short and simple standards I hold myself to as a reviewer:
- I will read with an open mind.
- I will be honest about elements that did not work for me as a Reader, acknowledging when personal bias plays a part. Just because I am critical of elements of a book, doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it.
- If I love something I will unapologetically fangirl about it.
- I will never, ever, seek to tear down a fellow Author with my reviews.
In addition, I would also point out that books I select on my own may only be featured on my blog if I have truly enjoyed them. But if I receive a blog review request and end up not enjoying the book, I will still post it to the blog.
All of my reviews will be posted on Amazon and Goodreads.
If you’ve read this far and you still want me to read and review your book, good for you. But I’ll understand if you decide I’m not the reviewer for you based on this policy. I just ask that you always remember who the review is for.
P.S. I would hope it is obvious, but just in case: I expect those who read & review my own novels to behave in the same courteous & honest fashion. Don’t lie to save my feelings, I’m a big girl.
You may now head over to the “Contact” page to learn how to request a review.