To Review or Not to Review…

That is the conundrum.

More specifically, the conundrum is should authors review or not.

I’ve been meaning to write about this topic for a while now…

At least ever since reading back at the end of June horror author sensation Ania Ahlborn’s excellently articulated post I Won’t Pan Your Crummy Book. I’m Not That Type of Gal.

And then even more so after having an interesting Goodreads discussion with my internet buddy Author Joy Pixley about it (I know, I know… Goodreads, ugh!).

Fortunately, during my recent meanderings I found the excellent post Should Authors Review Books? by Author Raven Blackwood — an author and Navy vet! which makes her a lifelong shipmate of mine — that I’ve reblogged down below for your entertainment and instruction, and which sums up the issues nicely regarding reviews.

But as far as Ahlborn is concerned, in her post mentioned above, as well as her subsequent post, she comes down strongly against authors reviewing books.

And she particularly takes Indie Authors to task for it.

One should remember that after hitting the big times as an Indie herself and subsequently getting drafted by the Trades into the Big League, Ahlborn has returned to her roots and has gone Indie once again with her latest novel IF YOU SEE HER [about].

Which is very cool thing for her to do… and very profitable one I’m sure.

Both of which I admire (read: envy) greatly.

But I don’t necessarily agree with her position regarding reviews.

Indie Authors such as myself, those down closer, much closer, to the lower rungs of the authorial success ladder, need to do just about anything they can to expose their literary flare.

Showcasing the fact that they are not just well-read, but understand what they read and that they can articulate why they do or do not appreciate what they read can, in my estimation, go a long way toward proving their own writing chops…

Or lack thereof.

And when it comes to reviewing well-established authors backed by the highfalutin publishing industry, I’m all for being brutally honest in regards to how one feels about their work.

Meaning all is fair: from one-star reviews to five; as is even making note of the fact that a book of theirs had to be DNF’d…

As can be witnessed by those DNFs found on my sidebar.

But, as an Indie Author who understands that this writing gig is a tough one, I do believe we Indie Authors need to find ways to uplift and showcase each other’s work…

And providing positive reviews for each other is one way to do that.

I didn’t always believe this.

Back when I first started this Indie thing a decade or so ago, I wrote a few rough reviews of other Indie Authors’ work.

And I still feel guilty about it.

And I won’t do it anymore.

But that doesn’t mean I’m going to be dishonest with my Indie Author reviews.

It just means I will look harder for the positive when reviewing them than I probably would for non-Indies.

And if I can’t find enough positive in an Indie’s book to at least write a decent three-star review?

Then I won’t review it.

And if it’s so bad I have to DNF it, gawd forbid — let’s be honest, there are a lot of less than good books out there, especially by Indie Authors I’m sorry to say…

Then I will do it without mention or fanfare.

Which means, if you are an Indie Author and if one day you find your book on my Currently Reading list and then the next day it disappears from the sidebar altogether, never making it to either the Recent Reads or Recent 5-Star Reads lists where all books are rated and (some are) reviewed…

Well then I apologize in advance, for, with my particular literary sensibilities being the way they are, I just couldn’t stick with your book to the end.

But so what, right?

I mean, my opinion about a book is just that…

An opinion.

And we all know what that means, right?

Yeah…

Exactly.

Now do yourself a favor by disregarding this extremely long opinion of mine and go read Raven’s most excellent one on the matter!

TL:DR: Some think it’s okay for authors to review other authors’ books, some don’t. Yours truly here thinks it’s okay… albeit with some provisos attached.

Raven Blakewood

Reviewing books can be difficult, especially as an author. You don’t want to hinder future working relationships by one staring an author’s work, but you don’t think it’s right to dismiss the book’s pitfalls.

I’ve had my share of time as both author and reviewer, sometimes both. I’ve interviewed authors I’ve given negative reviews to. It is awkward, especially if they are the author who publicly gets all whoa is me when someone doesn’t give their book 5 stars.

That’s only the beginning of the dilemma. The one I tend to suffer from is how should I review. I’ve gone from short and snappy to 1,600 words. That isn’t even a joke. I once wrote a 500 word review on a one-word poem an author was charging $0.99 for. Surprisingly, the review went from a rant to a rave.

I’ve tried many styles and formats, different star rating systems. None…

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10 Replies to “To Review or Not to Review…”

  1. I was a book reviewer long before I ever even considered writing or publishing a book. Just because I did a thing doesn’t mean I’m going to stop doing reviews, though I did spend a lot of time considering that position. I do understand why some people would make that choice, but it is a choice and they are the only ones that can make the right one for them. If by some miracle, I became a Name of some sort, I may have to rethink that stance as there would be a certain level of clout attached to said name and it would hold a different meaning than some generic reader’s opinion. There is a reason so many trad author’s publishers get those quotes from other trad published authors for cover and back material.

    I also spent a lot of time thinking about the indie author part of the review process and, as harsh as it may sound, why on Earth do we think we should be held to a lower standard than a trad published author just because we are doing it on our own? If I’m willing to drop a DNF, 1 star, or 2 star review on a trad author, why would I hold back on an indie? The entire purpose of a review is for future readers to be able to get a fully rounded sense of a book before they pick it up (if they choose to read reviews). If all the reviews for a book are on the positive end when the book isn’t deserving, then it leaves a very unbalanced or even unrealistic face for future readers. It can also turn readers off if ALL the reviews are on that top end. That said, I do my absolute best to not read an indie book if I don’t think I have a higher than average change of finding some positive things about the book because I also don’t want to be an evil shrew.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, TJ, you make some great points, some I meant to articulate better in my post but the rambling beast got so long I lost the steam during review/edit.

      I go back and forth on this issue all the time. I do like what Joy said in her comment after yours about it’s cool to punch up in weight, but def not cool to punch down/sideways. And I never had the greatest of radars of consistently picking out good books, regardless the weight class. It’s always hit or miss with me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think there is a huge difference in beating the hell out of a book and just giving honest feedback (though that can vary by personality), even when you don’t like a book. When I DNF’d an indie book, I made sure to point out the reason why, not a fan of the “all tell, no show” style for example, and just left it at that. I didn’t nitpick it to death, though I easily could have. I will also be dead honest when a book obviously hasn’t even gone through the most basic levels of editing because I think that is something other readers really need to know. It is an attempt to find a balance with the honesty. I haven’t run across it yet, but I do think if I found one that I just absolutely hated, I’d be tempted to just not write a review as I don’t think I’d be able to find that balance enough not to land on the bashing side.

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  2. I totally agree with you about the distinction between panning a traditionally-published novel by a best-selling author and dissing on some poor indie writer who has barely made it out of the gate. I’ve got no problems with punching up, but punching down (er, sideways? only-slightly-up?) isn’t cool in my book.

    Raven has a point about reviewing being a serious time suck, though. I’m struggling with that at this very moment… This next review might be extremely short. (Ha, who am I kidding? When have I ever written *anything* short?)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Punching sideways… perfect. Yeah, all writing is a serious time commitment for me as none of it comes easy. Hope you don’t mind me name dropping you. I was trying to build up a little street cred by letting everyone know I have with the cool crowd. :)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I try to give the author a chance to read my review and decide if they want me to post it. I will usually post it in my blog regardless (unless it’s nothing but negative). If I can’t find something positive to say, then I just leave it with the author and hope they can learn from it. I don’t want to hurt a fledgling career; yet, by the same token, if you’re going to be a writer/author, you have to learn to take criticism–even if it is just one person’s opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Really interesting post and thread here. Yes I do review books, yes I am (a very little known) author. I try to be honest. I’m upbeat with fellow Indie authors’ work, and if I don’t like or can’t finish a book by an Indie author, like you Kurt, I simply let it quietly disappear from my Goodreads list.

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