Thursday, November 20, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Honesty

This week’s BTT topic:
Do you think reviewers are obligated to put up a good review of a book, even if they don’t like it? Have we come to a point where reviewers *need* to put up disclaimers to (hopefully) save themselves from being harassed by unhappy authors who get negative reviews?
Interesting topic this week. Well, first of all – I think if you’re doing book reviews (or reviews of any kind of product) and putting them out there in cyberspace for the public to read, you really should be honest. So if you think a book is not worth reading, you should say that. You owe that to the people taking time to read your writing.

On the other hand, I don’t think you have to be nasty or derisive or so brutally blunt that you hurt feelings or inspire wrath. It’s perfectly possible to say that you didn’t particularly like a book without unnecessary sarcasm or ranting. Most writers (not all, I realize – but most) are willing to hear a little criticism of their work as long as it’s of the “constructive” variety, and as long as they think the critic has taken the work seriously and is really expressing a honest opinion.

Of course, I haven’t had that much experience of author reactions to my blog reviews. I’ve only heard from one author about the review I did of his work, and that was a very nice, courteous little note thanking me for my “candid” review (I had written that overall I liked the book, but there were a few things that bothered me and I said so). I’ve heard tales of authors attacking book reviewers (in print – not physically – so far, anyway) who write negative reviews, but fortunately haven’t had to deal with that myself yet. And I’m not sure what sort of “disclaimer” you could use to keep a really disgruntled author from striking back. I suppose if it happened to me, I’d just ignore it unless it got really ugly.

Personally, I rarely finish a book that I really hate. If I’m having to force myself to read a book by the halfway point, it usually gets abandoned. That’s one of the reasons I’ve cut way back on requesting or accepting ARCs. I love getting those free books, but basically I just want to read for pleasure. And that means I’m pretty selective in the titles I choose. And I suppose it also means I’m not likely to be posting any totally negative reviews. But don’t you think life is just too short to waste a lot of time reading books you don’t like? After all, there are an awful lot of really good books out there, calling my name.

But I’m going to be very interested to read what others have to say about this topic. Have you ever tangled with an author over a review you’ve written? And how did you handle it? And are you willing to name names? And if you're an author, how do you handle the frustration of reading those negative reviews? As I said - a really interesting topic.

16 comments:

  1. Thanks for stopping by. Yep. I agree -- A reviewer should be honest, but there is no need to be mean.

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  2. That was a great response! I've never not finished a book I didn't like if I was asked to read it. I agree, I have been thanked for my 'candid' comments on books I didn't love. Luckily, there haven't been many that I really didn't like.

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  3. Yes, we do think alike. I won't read what I don't enjoy either.

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  4. Seems like we're pretty much in agreement on this one!

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  5. I've been careful as I select what I want to review too.

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  6. All of the authors I've dealt with have been nice and respectful, too. I gave a lukewarm review to one book and the author thanked me for taking the time to read and review her book.

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  7. I agree with you pretty much 100%. I finish books I don't like, but I usually know what I'll like before I request or buy it - so I escape having to write really negative reviews most of the time.

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  8. Actually, you'd think authors would enjoy honest reviews... so they can learn from it and improve upon the next book.

    (Thanks for dropping by my blog!)

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  9. Thanks for stopping by.

    Nicely put. I totally agree.

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  10. I agree with your answer. What is the point in reading a book and writing a review if you can't be honest about it.

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  11. I agree completely and I would feel terrible writing good things about a book I didn't like and leading people to think that I was recommending it. I try to be careful to say what I dislike as well as what I do like about a book. I did write what I thought was a lukewarm review of a book and the author emailed me to thank me for the review!

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  12. With Google Alerts you can guarantee that the author is reading your review whether you know it or not. I think it's important to review the book and not the author. I've received more than a handful of emails or comments from authors thanking me for my review. A couple of them were even less than lukewarm reviews. One in particular, I didn't care for me I stated why others might like it. In the comments of that post somebody else called this author a name because they didn't like the book. I was contacted by the author thanking me for my review and that he welcomes both negative and positive reviews. He just wants his book out there. He did ask me to remove part of the comment about his personal character because it was more an attack on him and not the book. I gladly did this because his response was very fair and polite. And to tell you the truth, I'd review him again after my interaction with him.

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  13. I'm getting more and more selective of what I read, too. Usually books I read or review are in genres I love and know I will like. I read for pleasure and I agree - life is too short for books we don't like.

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  14. Joy - this is a great post! I agree with you 100%.

    I'm very honest in my reviews, and back-up my thoughts with excerpts from the text.

    Read the comments in my post to link to 3 examples of how I write a negative review.

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  15. I have had a few authors share their thoughts with me on my reviews and thus far they have been positive experiences even though I have not always loved the book. I don't have a disclaimer or really much of anything addressing the way I do "reviews" on my blogs and I don't even so much as think of them as reviews but rather my thoughts on book which is what I call them. If an author is irrationally offended to the point of starting blog drama I don't think any disclaimer or review policy would have helped the situation. Thankfully most authors seem to know and understand the drill.

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