I have a policy myself to never leave a bad review. This is a fairly new policy which I only implemented about 12 months ago. It was after an indie author asked me to review their book, which was awful and I couldn’t finish it, and I’m ashamed to say that at the time, when I was still very new to reviewing I wanted to give it a good bashing because I felt like I hated it so much. It was poorly put together, the main character was abhorrent and the plot was pathetic. But I was wrong to do what I did. I should never have gone in for a ‘book bashing’ and since then I never have. I may leave a comment or too on a review that says what I was unhappy with but that’s if say we’re talking about a 3*. If I’d rate it lower than 3* then I don’t leave the review in the first place.
One of the reasons that as a new reviewer I thought it was acceptable to do this, was because I was following another reviewer on Goodreads who I thought was the ideal person to copy. That is until I realised that this person pretty much slanders every book they read. I’ve been reminded of this tonight when I got yet another notification to say someone else had commented on their review of a certain book and I was driven back to read it again. And it got me thinking about the darker side of reviewing and how counterproductive it is for both readers, and authors.
Being a reviewer is definitely about giving an honest opinion, don’t get me wrong. I don’t expect anyone to hide that they didn’t enjoy a book or lie and pretend they did. But I think sometimes a little understanding and compassion is needed. Many of us review because we love books, we love reading and some of us would like to be writers too. For me, reviewing is as much about promoting reading to others as anything else. I want people who don’t read, or don’t read widely to join in the fun that can come from reading a book. Boasting nearly 3,000 books on your ‘read’ list doesn’t really count if Over 1,000 are on the dnf list and you’re mostly well known for reading books apart.
Because of this darker side of reviewing, I no longer read reviews before reading books. Which is a shame as most reviews should be there to promote books we love and want to share with others. Not aplace to put your personal opinions about whether you agree with points raised etc. One prime example being many of the reviews of Carve the Mark stating it had connotations of racism. Yet for me, reading the book before the reviews, this never crossed my mind. But had a I read some of the abuse this book got before I read the actual book, I doubt I’d have enjoyed it half as much.
This is all just me getting my thoughts down on paper but I think a book should stand on its own merit and we should consider keeping it short and sweet when it comes to a book we didn’t enjoy. A rating out of 5, a ‘dnf’ message and perhaps if really necessary a short review with conscientious points.
If we’re comfortable writing ‘the writing style was excellent.’ Why are we not comfortable saying ‘I didn’t get on with the writing style’ instead of tearing it apart?
Maybe it’s time to spread a little more love and stop authors fearing reviewers. After all, without them where would we be?