Yesterday I asked my Facebook and Twitter followers what they would like me to blog about.  I got only a few responses.  This one, on twitter, caught my eye:

Peter Snede (@Petersnede) wrote: “@Richard_Flores4 I’m interested in a post on authors writing book reviews. Are neg reviews advisable? Do they help them connect w/others?”

I had never really given it much thought.  I’ve written a number of reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.  I’ve even written a couple of them on here.  But, I never gave much thought  if I was doing a good thing or a bad thing.  I just did it to help out fellow Authors and to help out readers.  So I spent yesterday at work thinking things over on this topic.

We all know that when you get your book ready to sell, you hope to get some reviews.  Whether that be on Amazon, Goodreads, or a blog post.  Generating buzz around your book (positive buzz) will only help you sell more books.  But, what is the benefit in reviewing other author’s books?  Here are some of them:

  • You can hope that the favor is returned.  Perhaps you review their book and they will do the same for you.  If not them directly, then you can hope that your generosity will be rewarded through Karma, fate, good vibes, or whatever you want to call it.
  • Since almost every way you can do a review, you can create a profile that has a link to your site.  You might generate traffic to your website.  If you are reviewing the books on your website or blog, they will find your website when they search for that book.
  • Perhaps your Blog audience enjoys your reviews.  That will certainly help you get more visitors, and get your name out there when you are selling your books.  Chances are if your reviews entertained them, they might take chance on your book.
  • The Author may publicly recognize your review and post it to Twitter, Facebook, or to their own site.  Hopefully that helps you.
  • If you review enough books, name recognition is certainly possible.

The reason I do it is simple:  I enjoyed the book enough that I thought my blog audience would enjoy it as well.  After all a review is my opinion, and for the most part I think my blog audience enjoys my opinion.  I write all these blog posts for my blog audience, not so much for myself.  So, I never gave much thought to all the above benefits as well.  The reason I write reviews on Goodreads and Amazon is to help out fellow authors by increasing their reviews and for the benefit of the buyer who is trying to decide if this book is right for them.

But, Peter asks an important question:  Are negative reviews a good idea?  Well, that was a very tough one for me the first time I had to face a book I didn’t much care for.  When it comes to my blog I only share books I enjoyed.  The reason for that is simple, I want to help my blog audience find the next book they will enjoy.  For me, writing a negative review on my blog serves no purpose to my blog audience, and since my blog is not book review blog anyway, I just don’t do it.

But, when it comes to Amazon or Goodreads, I review books that I don’t like too.  Simply because those are public resources that people come to looking for their next purchase.

But back to the topic:  My moral tough spot.  I had read a book, or rather a collection, that started off horribly.  I even debated putting it down and not reading it anymore.  The problem was, I was given this book for the sole reason of writing an Amazon review.  The even bigger problem was I know the author.  He is a good Author and person.  I talked to my friend and fellow writer about my issue.  He made a good suggestion:  Write the Author and tell them you don’t like it.  Tell them that if you wrote an honest review it would be a bad one.  And explain to them why you don’t like it.  If he insists you still review it, then do so.  If he says well thank you, then you don’t have to review it.

I reviewed it, because it also got a lot better.  I gave it an honest rating and an honest review.  But what if it hadn’t gotten better.  Well, the way I see it that is up to you.  If you are only writing reviews for the benefit of you audience finding books that they will like, then only review books you think are good.  If you run a book review website, you are in a tough spot.  If you are given, and agree to, review a book for your blog.  Then you have to review it.  You could contact the Author and warn them.  Or you could just write the review.

If you are just doing reviews on Goodreads or Amazon you have another option.  If I don’t enjoy a book, I simply rate it.  I don’t write a full review.  I just give it a star rating at leave it at that.

Frankly, unless you are a critic, I don’t think writing a full on bad review does anyone any good.  You won’t change the book, it is already published.  And if you are trying to aspire to be a good Author, then you want to build a positive network of authors.  So, I suggest you follow the “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” rule.  Remember a review is way different then the test reading process.  This book has already been published.

Will writing bad reviews end your career?  I don’t think so.  But it won’t boost it either.  However, if you plan to start a blog that reviews books, plan to be an honest book critic (the Siskel & Ebert of books) then you need to take a different approach.  And, I’m not really qualified to give you some guidance on that.

You will notice that I have never once said you should give a false review to a book.  Friend or not, the moment you start writing false reviews you destroy your credibility as an Author and a Reviewer.  Boosting egos won’t work.  If it is a friend, tell them the book is not your style.  If you are not comfortable writing a bad review, don’t do it.  Once of the best things about reviewing is you get to choose what you review.

In summary:  I do recommend that Authors review books.  I don’t think you need to write bad reviews.  And, writing reviews will help you connect with other authors, and with a audience all your own.

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3 thoughts on “Should Authors Write Book Reviews?

  1. Good post. I struggle with credibility vs. being positive. I notice a lot of people do reviews without ranking them — probably for that reason. But ranking is purely subjective and not indicative of the actual quality of a book. Rather, it tells of one person’s reaction after reading it. And everyone’s reading tastes are different.

    At the same time, I agree it doesn’t serve a whole lot of purpose to tear someone’s work apart with a completely negative review. I don’t think I would ever get to that point because if I disliked it so much, I would stop reading it and thus not write a review.

    1. You are right about ranking. It is very much subjective, but so is any review really. Books are something that can only be judged and viewed subjectively because, as you said, tastes are different. Thanks for the tweet to get this post started.

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