Thursday, March 19, 2015

To Review or Not to Review? (I Still Haven’t Decided)

- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay

This week I finished a book that I wasn’t certain I was going to enjoy. It was a kindle freebie many moons ago, and I picked it up (because, hey, free!). Then it languished until a week or so ago, when I finally started it.

I really rather enjoyed it. Yes, there were quirks I did not love (I thought the author’s figurative language simply didn’t work in many instances; I also didn’t find the main character’s personality entirely consistent). But I found the story to be overall enjoyable and tense enough to make me nervous reading it at night (it was a thriller). My biggest beef was the ending, which I found abrupt and far too unfinished, even for being the first in the series. This ending probably knocked half a star off my enjoyment level.

Still, I figured that I could give a fairly honest, fairly positive review. I used to write scathing reviews of books I didn’t like, but now I don’t bother with a review at all unless I can honestly say that I enjoyed it well enough to merit at least 3 stars out of 5.* In my opinion, that’s pretty reasonable. Three stars says, “Hey, I liked this. I didn’t love it, but if this is a genre you enjoy, this book is worth a look.” So I clicked over to Amazon to write a review.

And then I saw the ratings.

Out of about 150 reviews, there was only one 1-star review. Every single other review was either 4 or 5 stars. This is incredibly unusual, and it made me suspicious. Out of curiosity, I clicked the 1-star review. Which is when I discovered that the 1-star reviewer had received bucketloads of comments (almost all deleted by Amazon) from either the author or the author’s friends—all because he had given a 1-star review.

Note to authors: Bullying your readers is NOT COOL, even if they don’t like your book.

In skimming through some of the other reviews, I found that the author had told someone else who didn’t like his first book that they should give the second book a try anyway—it was even better. While that might be true, I was really uncomfortable with the tone going on here: like my book or be pressured into liking my book.

Now I’m sitting on what I would have considered a positive review, torn between posting and not posting it. I’d rather not get into a fight with the author of a book I enjoyed, you know? And I’d also rather not have an indie author out there gunning for me when one day I am published. I’m a bit angry at this author’s handling of negative reviews, too. Sure, indie publishing is hard, and negative reviews can hurt; but dishonestly positive reviews feel, well, dishonest.

So I guess I’ll figure it out. Or maybe I’ll just let it all slip because I’ve got better things to do with my time. Who knows?

In the meantime, have you ever faced a situation like this (either as the reviewer or as the receiver of a negative review)? If so, how did you handle it?

* Actually, I will still write reviews of books I hated if the author is either a) dead or b) so rich and famous that my negative review is just a drop in the bucket. But they’re usually not scathing anymore.**
** Unless the book is named Wuthering Heights or Romeo and Juliet. Then all bets are off.


  1. Bullying is never appropriate or acceptable.

    I wrote a review once, that was actually a very positive review, but the first two paragraphs made it seem otherwise. I actually went back and deleted the 2nd paragraph because when I wrote it, while meant as a positive, and then read it later, it had changed somehow and seemed to be really negative. The impetus for this was the book's author, but he did so in a very non-confrontational manner.

  2. I think that as long as a review is honest, straightforward, specifically and constructively critical, and not emotionally charged then it is valid and worthwhile. If I were you, I would post the review, because I think you’d be doing the author a favor. It’s like a free critique, and even if they chafed at it, you’d better believe your words would still be in their head the next time they wrote a book.

    If it were me, I would leave the review and welcome any followup comments from the author. If you stand by your review, you should be willing and able to handle anything the author (or other commenters) might throw at you and maybe make a point to them that not all reviews are from trolls- some of them are from intelligent people who really appreciate great stories but are even more appreciative of good storytelling.

    Personally, I have discovered that the best way to craft a less-than-stellar review is to couch every negative in some positives and to be very specific with my negatives so that no one can accuse me of just being silly or mean.

    I say go for it!



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