Reviewer Quandaries & Other Scribe Things

Posted: August 7, 2012 in Inkspots, Scribe Scribbles
Tags: , , , , , ,

I’ve not been a book reviewer long (a little over a month) and all ready I’ve gotten a bit of a rep as a “hard-nosed” one. That was something that I wasn’t expecting.  I mean I am a bit of a marshmallow/people pleaser. I want people to like me. As a writer I understand the time, and struggle that goes into a story. I expected to be one of the reviewers that were giving four and five-star reviews all the time. In fact, when I first applied for the position at The Christian Manifesto my editor asked me to do a “negative” review so they could see that I was capable of writing one.  I  surprised  when I wrote it, at how ardent I became as I pointed out flaws and disappointments in the work.   Looking back, I can see hints of what I am experiencing now; disappointment in a book feels like betrayal.

Maybe that’s at the heart of it, the reader  part of me feels betrayed when a book doesn’t live up to its hype or promise.

Even if this is the truth, I don’t want to hurt or damage the authors who have produced less than what was promised. I also don’t want people spending their hard-earned money and valuable time on a read that isn’t going to satisfy them.  What I need to do, is find a good balance between sharing my opinion of a book, and respecting the investment of time and talent the author has put into the work.

So, how do I do that?  I’m looking at you Millard, and you Kaleb and  you  Noah.  All of you who run blogs for book reviews and have reviewed for several years (or at least longer than I have been reviewing books) give me some tips and tricks. They are greatly appreciated.

  1. Kerry Nietz says:

    As a writer, I know negative reviews hurt. It is like someone kicking my kids. That said, if I’m honest with myself, I can’t expect everyone to love everything I’ve written. I don’t love everything I read, even if it is something that 90% of readers DO love. People have different tastes and different expectations. People that live and breath Amish romances are probably not going to love, or even understand, the books I write. That’s okay.

    Just be honest in your reviews, and fair. How did the book make you feel and think? What was good, and what could be better? You can be constructive without being mean. It is just an opinion, after all.

    One thing to be aware of, though, is that aspiring writers have a tendancy to be extra critical of those that have gotten their name on a cover. It is a form of covert jealosy, and should be guarded against. I haven’t sensed that in your reviews, BTW, but I know it is something I have to guard against too: “What? This book sold a million copies? But there is, like, no ending…it just stops…how is that fair?”

    • Thanks Kerry. I’ve feeling some trepidation on that front. I don’t want to rate out of emotions (but they get in there, have to be honest they get in there, including jealousy. Ouch) I want to stick to the merit or failing of the book. At the same time I’ve had three books covered in rave reviews by published authors I read and admire, and then as I begin to read I wonder “What is wrong with me that I hate this and that they adored it? They know this craft better than I do, so why am I seeing glaring flaws and holes and they didn’t?”

      Several times I’ve gone and dug around on Good Reads and found that my feelings are shared among other readers. That helps take away the “I must be nuts because three NYT’s bestselling authors I respect have stamped their approval on this book (and I learned quickly that an endorsement of an author isn’t the same thing as endorsing a particular work)

      This issue of reviewer integrity has been bouncing around in my head because people have been reading what I think. I mean it’s one thing to tell someone in the bookstore “No don’t buy that you’ll be disappointed” and another thing entirely to post my opinion on a review blog where people will possibly decide not to buy a book because I told them it was poorly written.

      There’a a larger audience there. Hypothetically, I can do more damage to a book now. Before I was flinging pebbles. Now I’m flinging. ..HANDFULS of pebbles.

  2. Jake says:

    I dislike writing negative reviews as well, but I can’t afford to sugarcoat things I know are examples of bad writing. What I usually do for negative reviews is this:

    1) I balance out the bad with the good – usually here’s SOME kind of good in the story. If I have critique, I keep it brief. If it’s a non-Christian book I may wax a little more on the negative side – assuming I didn’t like the book in the first place, of course.

    2) I point out that some readers may enjoy this book. Some readers have different tastes than me. It’s hard not to be sarcastic at times, though. 😉 “Readers who enjoy godless fiction with the writing quality of a two-year old should like this” – lol, that’s a big no-no. 😉


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