Sunday, October 28, 2012

Reviews : is honesty the best policy?

     Driving the mile to work the other day, I heard on MPR the intro for a discussion on whether the anonymity of the Internet means people are more honest or more snarky. (Not how they described it, but hey, I also had to watch for road-crossing deer.)
    With my new Kindle app, I am able to read many more romances than before. Authors--sister RWA members--as well as Amazon ask me to 'like" and to post reviews. But I don't know the proper protocol. Does each of us have to create our own guidelines?
    I try to practice the "do unto others" Golden Rule. My mother preached to me any my three brothers, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." I believe in "what goes around, comes around" karma.
    Does this mean I should say only something good about the books I might review and cast aside any commentary on weaknesses or flaws? Every book has some good elements. The fact the writer finished it, submitted it or self-published it is an achievement in itself.
    If everyone only praises, does this make reviews worthless? Do reviewers need rating, too?
    I have read reviews that are critical that I agree with. If I add my chorus, will I help deter someone else from buying a novel? My opinion is only my opinion. Or can I view reviews as a big stage critique group whose feedback can help the author?
    I am sure some reviewers delight in going to extremes. Their motivation may be more to elevate, to celebrate themselves.
   Novels are verbal art. Art appreciation is subjective.
   What's your view on reviews? I really want to know.


  1. Ana,

    This is a topic I struggle with and think about a lot actually, especially because I've become friends with so many other writers. Overall, I almost always focus my reviews on the postive elements of the book - what I like - and if I do happen to point out what I didn't particularly care for, I always say that of course, this is just my opinion.

    There is almost always something positive you can say about the book - whether it's a character, the humor, the research, the settings, the dialogue, etc...

    I just wish I didn't have to assign a number - I wish I could just leave my thoughts. :) Great topic to bust open.

  2. I agree with what Mysti has said about focusing on the positive elements of the story. If there is something I didn't think worked or some aspect of the story I didn't like, then I may include this in a review, but I do try to be tactful and kind - and, like Mysti, I make it clear that it's just my opinion.
    Sometimes what you omit to say in a review can be as telling as the things you actually write!
    I don't think there's any protocol for writing reviews. Some people write long, detailed ones; other write a couple of sentences. Some people can write really meaningful reviews; others do little more than repeat the blurb and/or tell too much of the plot! Personall, I don't really like writing reviews. Never liked writing them when I was at school either! My view is that you either like a story or you don't (for whatever reasons), and I read for enjoyment, not to analyse characters or plots!

  3. I think that reviews should be constructive. There is always a way to phrase your information in a nice way, even if you don't like something about the book. Not liking something doesn't mean you have to be nasty about it, and focusing on the positive and what you liked, while also discussing what you didn't, is a great way to do it.

  4. Thank you for the feedback, Misty, Paula, and Jen. It's interesting how much you all agree on how reviews should be phrased.

  5. Ana,

    Reviews are an interesting topic. I love getting reviews, and I've gotten some good ones, but I can't say whether or not those reviews have generated any sales...or even a look at the book.

    Writing reviews can be tricky. I think it's important to be honest, but not mean. Of course it gets even trickier if you're reviewing for a friend. Would your honesty hurt the friendship? Is it better in that case to just say nothing at all?

  6. Oh, and I agree with Misty. I wish there was a way to just leave a comment and not assign a number.