Monday, November 28, 2011

On Authors Reviewing Books

Not every book is for everyone, but every book is for someone.

This mantra is always what’s in the back of my head when I sit down to write a book review.  How can I write a review in such a way that the people who are going to love this book will consider reading it (even if I personally didn’t especially like it)?  I’ve tried to be honest in a generally positive way.  I’ve resisted the snark. I encourage my readers to make up their own minds.

Via my reviewing, I’ve both learned a lot about writing as well as built up a platform with an engaged book-loving audience. But now, I may have to give it up.

You might recall the brouhaha earlier this year concerning aspiring authors vs the YA mafia. Supposedly, the YA mafia had the power to blacklist a writer who dared to write critical reviews. Not only that, mafia members could singlehandedly quash writers’ dreams of ever getting traditionally published. 

When I got my book deal this spring, lots of people used me as an example against the myth of the YA mafia, and I didn’t hear much about it on the web after that.  My publisher didn’t suggest I should stop reviewing. Most of my fellow bloggers saw no reason for me to quit. For a time, I thought maybe I could do both.

However, over the past few months, I have gotten a lot of conflicting advice from fellow authors about my reviewing:

“Stop reviewing immediately. You have to choose whether you want to be an author or a book reviewer.”

“You write constructive, thoughtful reviews, and if you want to continue, you should.”

“Authors will hold a grudge against you – some already do.”

“It would be a loss for the whole YA community if you gave up book reviewing, but I can totally understand why you would.”

I’ve kind of been agonizing over this.  Is there a way to keep reviewing without alienating authors/peers/people I might sit on panels with in the future? What if I only write positive reviews? But if I do that, will I lose my credibility with my audience – readers who expect me to be honest with them?  Maybe I should only review books whose authors are dead/technologically illiterate/too famous to care?!

Phoebe North gave me a lot of food for thought in her post On Honest Reviewing. She writes about the "utter subjectiveness of opinion" and that a "good review will be thorough enough that you should be able to get an inkling of where the reviewer’s tastes lie in relation to your own."  Many readers (and authors) extol the virtues of a well-reasoned critical review. Beth Revis even said on Twitter that there's a certain reviewer whose tastes run exactly opposite of hers, and she knows if the reviewer pans a book, she'll love it. (And no, it's not me. I asked.)

When I brought up these points with an author friend, she said she agrees that honesty and critical examination of books is 100% necessary - but that it doesn't need to come from me

One thing is certain. This blog WILL be going through some changes over the next year as I transition to being a published author.  You’ll definitely be hearing more about LEVEL 2 and CHICK-O-SAURUS REX.  I will continue to interview authors, offer giveaways, join blog tours, and spotlight books (maybe even under the heading of book reviews).

I am also starting a new feature to highlight 2012 debut books from my fellow Apocalypsies.  It’s called Apocalypsies Love and both the author and I will let you know what we think there is to love about his/her novel.

Because even if you don’t love everything about a book, there is something to love in every book.  Or at least, something that somebody will love. 

I'd love to hear what you think about authors reviewing books. Should they do it? Not? Do you as a reader put any stock in a reviewer (author or not) who never has anything critical to say about books? Do you as an author still rate books less than 5 stars - or do you feel the pressure to be publicly positive all the time?

47 comments:

Kelly J. said...

Lenore, this is such a tricky topic, and I think part of why it's tricky is that for a long time, you were a reviewer and a blogger. THAT was your identity, and it's what many people associate with you. Now that you're transitioning from that to published author, you're gaining a whole new identity.

In tackling your last question about authors and reviewing, well, it's also tricky. I know you first and foremost as a blogger/reviewer, but I know a lot of authors as authors, rather than blogger/reviewers, and I think therein is part of the difference. It's less a question of authenticity and more one of trust. I trust reviewers or authors based on precisely what you said -- "even if you don't love every book, there is something to love in each book." I trust those who I trust because of that very line there.

Will I be sad not to read your critical reviews? Obviously. But I also believe you won't post something you don't believe in, at least in some way. That's where you build trust, whatever identity you take on in your blog.

KMont said...

Whichever you decide to do - keep reviewing or not - so long as you are true to yourself and what it is YOU want, I don't see how there could be a problem with it either way. Try to forget for a minute whatever it is you've heard, any advice to continue reviewing or not (maybe even this, who knows, I'm offering advice after all lol) and consider what it is that would make you happy. If you think you'll really, really miss reviewing, keep at it for a while. If you feel other things, like your writing, have become more important and need more attention, maybe it's time to move on that that completely.

Don't let fear of alienating people sway you, though. It doesn't really matter what others think. What's most important is that you are the one to make the change, not others for you.

It's true that critical examination of books doesn't have to come from you - it doesn't have to come from anyone with that logic, though. BUT, if you feel you still have a voice that wants to be heard reviewing-wise, then yes, it should come from you still. It should matter, in my opinion, whether you're an author or not. Plenty of authors review books and it doesn't seem to be hurting their careers.

KMont said...

I meant to write that it should NOT matter whether you're an author or not, in that last paragraph. I need tons more sleep.

Angel @ Mermaid Vision Books said...

I don't put any stock in a reviewer who only ever gives 4 or 5 stars. It's impossible (and a little silly) to love every book, and if the reviewer doesn't state (in some part of his/her blog) that they only review books they actually enjoyed, then I am less likely to believe them. I can understand how some reviewers choose not to finish books they aren't enjoying, but I appreciate critical reviews more than glowing ones.

As an aspiring novelist myself, I would want to know what I can improve upon, because no author is perfect. Constructive criticism helps both the author and the reviewer (especially if they also want to write stories) to grow as readers.

Erin Bowman said...

Lenore, I completely hear where you are coming from. I recently posted on my own blog about my personal issues with "star" based ratings. As a result, I've switched to just reviews. I still share my opinions, but without the star attached. (the post is here if you're interested)

I think everyone is entitled to an opinion, and while we are "authors" we are also still "readers." When I pick up a book I am just like anyone else, delving into a new world. And I truthfully LOVE discussing how I feel at the end of each read. For this reason, I've decided to continue reviewing novels despite the fact that I've recently inherited the title of "author." I pride myself on being honest with my reviews. Sure, I feel the pressure sometimes to only say only nice things, but as you've pointed out so well, a book that is not for one person, is certainly for someone else. I think a constructive review helps communicate personal feelings at a level a reader can digest -- meaning they can decide for themselves if they want to pick up a book or pass on it.

At the end of the day, I think this will be an endless debate among authors. But I'm in the camp that you do what makes you happy. People suggest that not all authors should feel obligated to blog. They suggest doing it only if it makes them happy. I think the same is true about reviewing. If you love it, keep doing it. If you are respectful, constructive, and insightful with your reviews (which I believe you always are), I hope that an author would respect that review as your personal opinion as a READER. I know I would.

Sorry for hogging the comments and writing a small book in response. As you can tell, I have some things to say on this subject ;)

Allie said...

At The Greenists, our official review policy is that if we don't have anything nice to say, we don't say anything at all. We only do positive reviews, which doesn't mean we go easy on products. It just means we never mention the ones we try and don't like. I take the same policy with reviews as an author. I love supporting the books I love, but I also know how a bad or even just lukewarm review can hit hard on a bad day, so I keep those to myself. But I was never a book blogger. It's different to mention books from time to time. Do what feels right to you. And you can always change things up if your feelings about it change.

Mary De Bastos said...

I don't think it matters one way or the other. It is whatever YOU want. I wouldn't let others opinion or advice sway you. There will always be conflicting advice.

I personally like it when an author has a list of her favorite books on her website, or something she/he is reading at the moment and enjoying. If I like the author's writing I know I will like what they are reading. That points me in the direction to good books. Isn't that the point of reviewing anyway? Sharing good books!

Whatever you choose to do will be the right decision. But, don't make it because of what others have said. Do what You want. If you choose not to do reviews, it would still be nice to know what you're reading and enjoying. Even without a review. You were a blogger for a long time, and now you are an author. You are evolving, shouldn't we all be?

Just don't go away. I still enjoy your blog. Whatever you want to write, I'll read.

Lenore Appelhans said...

Thanks Kelly and KMont :)

Angel - Ratings are a whole different topic! I've shied away from those since I started my blog. One person's 3 may mean solid, good read and another's may mean "why did I read this?". It's always so hard to tell at a glance.

Erin - I did read that post! I am also in the process of deleting most of my star ratings on GoodReads. I have the same issues as you do with them.

Lenore Appelhans said...

Allie - That's a policy that I've seen some adapt successfully. But someone also pointed out to me the power of what you don't say. Like if you say you're reading a book and then you never mention it again, the assumption is that you must have hated it...

Mary - Thank you! Definitely not going away ... you're stuck with me ;)

Zibilee said...

Lenore,

I think it's sad that others are making you question your writing of reviews. I don't think it matters if you are an author or a blogger, a well written and thoughtful review of a book is always welcome to my eyes. The bottom line is that you need to do what is right for you, not the YA mafia, or other authors, or anyone else. If you have moved beyond reviewing books as a blogger, and want to concentrate on writing books, then go for it! But don't get out of reviewing because other people are putting pressure on you. I know that is easy for me to say, because I am not an author, but I do believe that you are a very honest and pragmatic person, and that your reviews are never harsh or mean-spirited. I don't see why you couldn't have credibility in both circles. Just my thoughts. What I most want for you is to be happy and fulfilled, and to do the things you want to be doing, whatever they may be.

Memory said...

I worry about this, too. I don't have an agent yet, let alone a book deal, but I hope it'll happen someday--and I'm concerned as to the effect my negative reviews may have on my relationships with other writers. Even now, I worry I've earned peoples' everlasting wrath by writing reviews that aren't glowingly positive. (Though, to be fair, I worry too much as a general rule and might be imagining things. I almost always say something positive, even if the book didn't work for me. Like you said, every book is for someone.)

I know some authors, like Justine Larbalestier, make a point of writing only positive things about living authors' books. I think that's a sensitive and politic thing to do; but, as you mentioned, it does raise questions about credibility if one switches from a variety of reviews to nothing but positive opinions. And to be honest, I'm halfway jealous and halfway dubious of bloggers who love everything they read, regardless of whether or not they're published authors.

I'm not sure I could stick to solely positive reviews, myself. I like most of what I read, but I don't love very much. If I limited myself to completely uncritical reviews, or to books I gave 4.5 or 5 stars, I'd post so seldom that I might as well quit.

I want to say I'll keep keep posting reviews once I have a book contract, since the damage is already done. My archives are there for anyone who wants to look at 'em, negative reviews and all, and I figure it would be dishonest to take them all down. I'm not sure I'll feel the same when the time comes, though. I suspect the whole situation may make me so uncomfortable that I'll bow out of the reviewing schtick and just post authorish things or general musings.

Basically, I don't have a concrete answer. I hope you'll continue to review, but I'll understand if you decide to back away and focus solely on other bookish topics. Your new feature sounds great, and I'm glad you'll continue to conduct author interviews.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Tough subject. If you decide to keep posting reviews, you have to stay true to yourself, that is for sure. That is why we love you and trust you. But if you asked me to name five authors that write reviews, I couldn't come up with a list. And that must mean something. Authors have great blogs, but they do more self-promotion and sharing of thoughts, that let us get to know them, they give a shout out about their author friends new books, do giveaways, etc.

Of course, my old favorite Stephen King does put out his list of year-end recommendations, so there is that. Not a review per se, but instead a very positive "this totally rocks" kind of thing.

Whatever you decide to do, we will understand, accept and still love you.

Fran said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fran said...

From the point of view of an author I have no clue nor will I ever have a clue. However the points you make are entirely valid and certainly made me think.

As a book blogger, however new I am to this whole community, I believe you should be able to express your opinion about a book freely and honestly. I know some people only like to write positive reviews and that's fine if that's their preference. But if not, as a book blogger you shouldn't change just because some people believe you should, just because you're also an author. Life is way too short to be worrying constantly about whether you offend someone, because you will, either way.

I don't know if you remember but in my book bloggers I'm thankful for post, when I mentioned you I said you were a triple threat. (An amazing person),a book blogger AND an author. In my post it was evident that I found what you do admirable, arguably even more note-worthy than being a book blogger alone simply because being an author and being a book blogger are on the opposite ends of the spectrum. To have both skills, which you do, is fantastic.

If you stop reviewing books, I know I personally will find it to be a loss to the book blogging community. At the same time if you feel it is necessary to do so in order to be an author then I know that you will be an asset to YA authors as a whole, too. If you think the two are mutually exclusive then obviously being an author comes first. I think what I'm trying to say is do what you WANT to do. BUT it will be sad to see your reviews go, but I do believe Level Two will console the Lenore-shaped hole in my heart:P

Brooke said...

It is tricky but I agree with Angel - if I find a reviewer that only ever say good things about ALL the books s/he reads I cannot really trust his/her opinion much. Book reviewing is largely subjective though. There are so many different tastes to account for that it really becomes a non-issue. Like you mentioned, sometimes we actually know that we will like a book because of a critical review from a specific person.

I say keep up the good work and you will likely find that most of your regulars appreciate the honesty of your reviews. Especially since they already know how their own taste in books match up with yours.

In any case, good luck with a thorny issue!

Book-loving bloggers tune into The Book Report - a fun, fast-moving, fact-filled weekly radio show. Check out http://bookreportradio.com for stations and schedules.

Amy said...

Personally I don't see anything wrong with just recommending books you love. Sure people will wonder if you don't like a book if you don't talk about it, but I think that's way better than promoting books you personally have no feeling for. I can learn about books anywhere, I can only learn about what you think about a book here.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

I feel for you, Lenore. There are so many things I could say, but I'll leave it at this: do what you are ultimately comfortable with, and things will fall into place.
Caroline xo

Nymeth said...

First of all, I absolutely love the mantra you opened this post with. I try to keep that in mind myself, and I'm really not a fan of reviews that go, "I can't imagine anyone enjoying this" or "I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone". We're all different, so how can anyone possibly know?

I don't have a clear answer to offer, but I think that if you decided to only review books you enjoyed you wouldn't lose necessarily credibility - not if it was clear to readers that this was what you were doing. Then you wouldn't come across as someone with no discernment who loves absolutely everything - just as someone who has made a deliberate decision to focus on books they'd like to recommend.

Whatever you decide, I hope you'll stick around in some capacity or other. We'd absolutely hate to lose you! And of course, Cat Tuesday must never, ever go away ;)

Jess (The Cozy Reader) said...

I think you should review any book you deem worthy of your time to write something down.

I especially want to hear about any book you've read and found it enjoyable.

I can't wait to hear more about your LEVEL 2! :)

bermudaonion said...

I can see where this would be a problem for you, and I'm not sure what I would do if I were in your position.

I do appreciate honesty in reviews, but I don't mind when someone only features positive reviews if I know up front that they chose not to review the books they don't care for.

I agree that there is someone for every book.

Michelle said...

I can't possibly add more value to this conversation than what has already been said. I will simply echo that you should stay true to your heart and go with what you feel most passionate about.

Beth S. said...

I understand your trepidation at moving forward with writing reviews, but I just had to throw in my two cents that it will be a heavy loss for the book blogosphere if you stop writing reviews. There are a handful of book bloggers whose reviews I never pass by, and you are one of those bloggers. You have always written well-crafted, thoughtful reviews that go beneath the surface-level and really get into the nooks and crannies of what makes a book great or not work for you.

You are the sole reason I read Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I am not a fan of paranormal romance, but after I read your review, I was completely convinced I had to read it.

And even when I read a review of yours of a book I didn't particularly care for, I have always greatly respected your opinion because your thoughts are always so well-written and thoroughly crafted. I can tell you really care about your writing when I read your reviews.

I understand your dilemma and know that whatever you decide, it's in the best interest of your career, but just know that if you do decide to stop reviewing, it will be a great loss to the book blogging community.

But the blogging community's loss is the publishing industry's gain, so you do what you need to do in order to make your career as successful as it can be and we will all stand behind you. To see a blogger turned published author is hugely exciting.

Ann Kingman said...

This puzzles me. Most of the reviews in the New York Times Book Reviews are written by authors. The editors assign books specifically to authors that they feel will bring an interesting perspective to a review (i.e., Glen Duncan reviewing Colson Whitehead's ZONE ONE). There has certainly been some "feuding" and bickering about a poor review given, but overall, it is remarkably civilized.

Pam said...

Sweetie I am going through the same thing. I thought I would quit but I was urged not to. Apparently its part of my charm. I have for four years tried to be analytical and also not burn bridges and I think I have done that, and I will continue to do it. I will have less time for my blog now - but I plan on keeping it. You have to do what feels best for you - and only that.

Uomo di Speranza said...

There's good business in being a rebel.

bookmagic said...

If you like reviewing books, you should continue to do so. Lots of well-known authors review books for the NYT and such. Credibility comes from what kind of person you are, not whether you are an author reviewing other authors. There are plenty of bloggers (non-authors) who have lost credibility with me because they don't come off as honest or seem to have another agenda and plenty of authors whose reviews I respect. If you felt more comfortable, you could review books that aren't similar to yours or only by authors you don't have a relationship with. I would stay away from only positive reviews because that could be awkward if someone knows you read their book and then no review.

Those that enjoy your reviews now, will continue to do so. Those that are critical will be so no matter what you do.

Isobel Carr said...

I hate to say it, but no one ever tells Neil Gaimen or Stephen King they shouldn’t review their peers…this is some kind of girl club crap that ticks me off. It’s probably not a great idea to snark a fellow author to death, but writing an honest, thoughtful review of books in your own genre is a normal thing for almost every genre except Romance (and the romancy subset of YA). It’s part of why I think we don’t get taken seriously. We have special Mrs. Rabbit rules that preclude honest discourse.

Danny said...

You know what? Do whatever you please. I'm going to start a review site where I review people's personalities. That shouldn't offend anyone, should it?

Eileen said...

Hard decision. As an author I've made the decision to share on Goodreads only the books I've enjoyed. That's what works for me.

One thing I know for sure is that either way you go, there will people who disagree with your choice. If you stop reviewing people will think you've "wimped" out. If you do reviews, you run the risk that someone will get their feelings hurt. I can almost promise someone will say you gave a particular book a bad review because you wanted your book to look better in comparison. (for clarity- I'm not saying that)

In the end you will have to decide what makes you feel good and what makes you happy in this process.

Either way- congrats on your book!

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

Lenore, one thing to think about is that as you move more fully into the world of being a published author, you'll find that more and more of your time and energy is devoted to all the tasks that go along with that, not least of which will be writing your next great book! Since there really are only so many hours in the day, you'll naturally have to decide how best you want to spend what little time you have left over. For a whole catalog of good - not wimpy! - reasons, you may decide you don't want to spend a lot of time/energy talking about books that didn't please you. You may not want to review books every single day, but rather, have different days that address specific reading/writing topics that are of interest to you, reserving one day a week for reviews.

I read several books a week. When I was regularly blogging, I had a once-a-week feature called "Book of the Week" in which I'd review the book that had pleased me most in the past seven days. It wasn't a matter of selling out; it was a matter of having limited time and knowing that what I wanted to do with mine was direct people toward books I knew they'd love.

Just my two cents. Actually, I could probably donate a whole dollar on this issue - using my perspective as a former independent bookseller, former PW reviewer and current author - but that might be TMI by about 98 cents!

Lenore Appelhans said...

Thank you everyone for weighing in on this! You've given me a lot to think about going forward. I've definitely already seen the effect of having too little time, as Lauren says ... so I have to decide whether I want to make reviewing a priority or if it's really time to move on.

Jessica Spotswood said...

Oh, *hugs*. This must be really difficult. As a reader, I've read and enjoyed your reviews for years now, and I think you write thoughtful, smart posts that are never mean. But as an author, I understand the uncomfortableness of reviewing colleagues, especially as we head into 2012. I've taken the tactic of only mentioning books on my blog that I love, and only reviewing 5-star reads on GR & LibraryThing. Yet I still feel a little guilty that I don't love/praise/rec all the Apocs books the same -- but it wouldn't be honest to pretend that I do just for fear of hurting someone's feelings, either, and I want readers to know that I mean it when I say I love something. Ack! I hope you're able to make a decision that you're happy with, either way!

Petra @ Safari Poet said...

That is a tough question to answer. Not too long ago an author made some negative comments (that she later said were meant to be sarcastic) about the Twilight Saga and ended up deleting her twitter account because of the backlash. I think you should be able to tell everybody what you really think of a book you've read, but doubt some people won't react negatively.

If you've had something negative to say in the past, it never came across as an attack like some negative reviews tend to. It felt like your honest opinion, which is rarer than it should be.
I'm starting to question whether a lot of bloggers are giving an honest review or a review that will keep the ARCs coming.

Do whatever feels right to you because you're the one that will have to live with the outcome either way.

Kristen M. said...

I don't think there's anyone here who won't support you in any direction you decide to go. No matter what the forum, you are putting worthwhile things out into the world! Maybe you should just change this to a cat photo blog? ;)

Carla said...

Reviewing books is incredibly subjective – I have very specific tastes; I’m picky, I know that I am.

And I can’t not be honest, I can’t not tell people reasons why I didn’t love a book, or issues that I had with certain aspects of it. People are never going to all love the same book, we all like different things and all look to take different things from the books that we read. And I am of the persuasion that no review is a bad review – if you articulately get your point across without getting personal, or being outright rude and mean, then I am going to respect you for expressing your opinion, author or not. That doesn’t mean I have to agree. So, I see no issue with authors writing reviews – I mean, first and foremost they are readers yes? And just because they are an author, it doesn’t mean I am going to accept or agree with their feelings on a book, anymore than I would do with a blogger.

But, this is all from just my personal point of view. I can totally understand why some authors hold grudges, because this is their craft, this is their job, their book is something that no doubt means a lot to them. And would you really want to be on a panel with another author, or at an event with them, knowing full well that they didn’t enjoy your book, knowing that other people know they didn’t like it. It’s got to be awkward, because it puts both of you in a situation that you inevitably brought on yourself. Plus, I find that a little unprofessional, because these writers are your colleagues, your peers.

Me? I won’t lie, if I ever published a book (HA!) and another author reviewed my book and didn’t like it, well, you can bet I’d be disappointed, but that would go for ANY bad review. But would I hold a grudge? Not particularly, no. Quite frankly, I’m a grown up. I would rather spend my time getting drunk than plotting revenge just because someone didn’t enjoy my work. So, I guess it comes down to what you feel comfortable doing. Either way, good luck my lovely!

Beth Kephart said...

Oh, Lenore. I have so many thoughts about this. I love books, and though I have what will be fourteen to my name, I cannot imagine not feeling the freedom to celebrate the work (of others) that I love.

I write reflections, therefore, and not reviews. And if a book doesn't show up on my blog it's because I didn't love it. It's a simple as that. I keep those opinions to myself. What is on my blog has been genuinely loved. And that way I can keep spreading the word.

A Backwards Story said...

Since I may someday be in this situation myself, I'm always careful to review books that I liked on at least a 3, though I don't star my reviews. I hate that I have to on Goodreads. I wish there was a work-around. The only one I can think of is not starring it and making it look like I gave a book 0 out of 5 stars.

I really don't know what I'll do when and if I ever become published. It's definitely tricky and will depend on my agent/publisher, I'm sure.

The fact that your reviews ARE balanced is a plus. You try to write it for people who will love the book, even if you didn't necessarily. I try to do this as well. If I can balance the review, I'll write it. If not, I won't.

It's tricky, though. Good luck!!

Beth F said...

Go back and read Ann Kingman's comment -- pretty much what I was going to say. Published authors write published reviews all the time. I don't think you have to be always positive. You don't have to be cruel either (not that you ever are).

Ultimately, it -- of course -- boils down to what *you* are comfortable with. Published authors have joined reading challenges, comment on books on Twitter, leave comments on blogs. discuss books on their own blogs, and simply love to talk about books.

It is crazy to think that once you have a book deal or are published that you can no longer publicly say anything negative. I don't know anything about the YA mafia but . . . really?

As a professional editor, I've struggled with similar issues. What if I criticize a book? That publisher is bound to be one of my clients, and so how will my review affect my career? Then I thought about it. Again, no one expects me to love everything. My perspective as an established editor is unique. I often like and dislike books for completely different reasons than other readers.

As a published author, you too will have a different perspective. Maybe you do already -- you have a clearer understanding of the part that editors, marketers, and others have in the development and publication of a book and how that book is publicized.

It's all up to you, naturally, but I'd be sad if your reviews went away or if you only said nice things. You already have an established well-loved blog. It's not like you'd suddenly enter an area that you never thought to visit until you were published.

Mary @ BookSwarm said...

As a writer, I can completely understand your dilemma. I remember reading about the whole YA mafia debacle and wondering if I should give up book blogging because it might have an impact on my writing future. But then I decided to stick with what I love, take away the rating and just write about the books (that's why I do three positives and a wish for most books).

You could just skirt the whole issue by reviewing a different genre entirely...just a thought.

Do what works for YOU. Don't worry about the mafia or other authors or even other readers. You write insightful, strong reviews and, even if you don't like a book, you approach it with a delicate touch.

Good luck with everything -- I'm looking forward to reading your novel and seeing where you go with your blog!

readanythingonce said...

It's such a hard question, especially for someone who is/wants to be published like you said. Thankfully that's not me, but I still feel the pressure for positive reviews. I think that's especially true for me as a new blogger, you have all this fear that giving a negative review will blacklist you from ever getting ARCs etc. I still think it's too important that I be honest than that I be loved by all, but if I am doing a negative review I try like you said to still mention any positive points, and to link to reviewers who enjoyed the book so readers can see both sides.

Alysa said...

I DO take people seriously who only say good things about books. So I think that's a legitimate option.

As for authors holding grudges against you for your reviews, they are not the ones publishing your book, so there's that. Of course one wants to have good relationships with peers. However there will always be someone holding a grudge for something, whether it's a review or not.

You can't control other peoples' feelings and responses. Do your best to be both honest and kind, do what you feel is right and you'll be fine.

russell1200 said...

I have done a fair number of reviews, and while I am not an author, I am working within a relatively small community.

An Amazon or Good Reads review is a preference review. "I like a certain type of book, this book fell into the catagory, and I mostly liked the book" would be typical.

I think what you are striving for is informational reviewing. The original genisis of the type (as I understand it) was to allow people to get a simple grasp of current books, so that they could follow a conversation about them in polite company.

I try to give some background information, and a little sense on the themes of the book. I try to think about who would like the novel, and try to bring out those points. I note in a non-qualitative way whether the book is a "realistic" one, and whether is is an "easy" read (most thrillers are, Joyce or the KJV Bible are not).

There is very little that is said subjectively in most reviews that could not be said in an objective way, or at least kinder way.

I do bury in there, but not at the end, whether I like the book or not.

It is my experience from authors who contact me that some will appreciate the effort you went to, and others will hate you because you did not call it the second coming of the KJV Bible.

IMO, you are crazy to give up the reviews. Crazy! LOL.

It is your online presence and persona. It is what is going to bring an audience for your book. Authors with a little bit of success, and with a little effort, will eventually get an online following. But you already have one.

I do give a very

hilarygraham said...

A tough one for sure. But I think it's wonderful that you're bringing this conversation to the blogosphere. It's all about being honest--with your readers, and yourself. Hilary

Lynsey Newton said...

Lenore, obviously I am nowhere near on your level (I don't have an agent, a book deal or a book coming out soon) however I've been thinking about this very issue for some time now. Like others, I witnessed the YA MAFIA discussion and I have to say that I've heard from other authors to be careful about reviewing, especially if you are an aspiring author. Does it make me nervous? You betchya it does so I decided to stick to books I love although then you do run the risk of being the reviewer who loves everything unless you state that you only review books you love (note to self: add this to the blog). I've seen plenty of authors review other author's books but again, it's always positive because apparently there is an unwritten rule about author's bashing other author's (although that sounds incredibly harsh for a critical review).

I still really don't know what the answer is so again, I will echo other's sentiments which is to do what you feel comfortable with.

GreenBeanTeenQueen said...

I will miss it if you stop writing reviews, but I understand if you do.

I think it's tricky-you're entering the publishing world and you don't want to talk bad about a book when you may be meeting that author later. Maybe write reviews or spotlight a book and talk about what you liked? I think you've gained enough trust as a blogger that if you only post positive reviews it wouldn't hurt.

Sab H. said...

I wish you wouldn't stop. Just because you are an inspiration to me and I want to think that if I get published one day, I wouldn't stop. But I also wish authors would not feel offended or resentful when someone doesn't like their books, and that is too big of a wish to wish. I'll stop wishing now.
I would think the best option for you right now is to quietly pick up books and once you have an opinion, if it's good, talk about it.

Donna said...

I think the choice is ultimately up to you. Considering your reputation within the book blogging community, if you start posting only positive reviews, I highly doubt you'll lose credibility with people. But if you reformat your blog into something more geared towards your writing, and feature an awesome book every now and then, then that's something different. I wouldn't say you were really doing reviews anymore more than just featuring a book you liked on your writing blog.

There are pros and cons to both sides. Personally, should I finally make it, I'm going to stop reviewing in my current format. I'm not one to temper my opinion, but I'm not a fan of shooting myself in the foot either. I just don't want to put myself in a position where I'd review a book similar to mine that I didn't like and said so. That could just get too ugly. So I'd much rather just remove the temptation to do that. The format just changes, in my opinion. You cross that line from not just being a book reviewer. You're behind the curtain now so I think your expectations have changed. But that's just me.