I’ve been reading a lot of reviews lately–part of it is to see what’s out there, part of it is to see how other people write reviews, and part of it is a little bit of morbid curiosity.
Now, when I’m looking for a book, I’ll always read the critical reviews. I have a certain criterion for determining which critical reviews are bunk, and which ones are actually worth something. And yes, some critical reviews are actually worth reading. They aren’t snarky, they aren’t mean-spirited. I’m totally fine with it if people have opinions, on mine, or some other author’s work
That being said, some people are just so mean.
Look, I get it: not all books are wonderful. Some are poorly written, some are poorly edited, and some are just plain weird. And I’m fine if you say that. I might not like it if you say it about my books, but I can take it.
What you aren’t entitled to? A certain lack of manners. There is a way to write reviews, and a way not to.
1. Don’t attack the writer personally. A review is a critique of a professional work. Say what you don’t like about the book, but keep your critique about the book. Don’t say she needs to take 9th grade English again–that’s not about the work itself. Don’t say, “I’m glad she kept her day job” for the very same reason. A review is a critique of that book at that moment, and nothing else.
2. Do be fair and honest in your review. People can tell when you’re blowing smoke, or tearing apart another writer’s book just because you can. Neither way is fair to the reader.
3. Don’t recommend other authors in your review. Again, a review is a critique of that book. If you want to recommend authors, there is a forum for that. It’s called Goodreads. Unless you’re in a discussion thread about a book, I think it’s impolite to mention other authors.
Not only that, but you’re probably not doing your author friends any favors, either. If you write a negative review and mention another author in that review, readers will think one of two things: 1) wow, what a bitch, and 2) I bet this was written by (insert other author name here).
If they think the latter, then you’re probably hurting two authors. If that’s your goal, then please see number one.
4. Do remember that authors are people, and most of them have put a lot of work–and I mean a lot of work–into writing the book. Be honest, be critical, but don’t completely tear their book to shreds. I have been told, “I didn’t love it. It’s not my genre, not my thing, and here’s why.” It might have stung a little, but it didn’t wound me. Honesty is good. Snark and sarcasm and totally deconstructing a book is not.
5. This is from Meggan Connors: reader. Don’t provide spoilers.
Before I ever dreamed up a story, I was a reader. What you hate about a story, I might absolutely love. But giving away the big reveal at the end, all because you didn’t like a story? That’s a low blow. It could drive people away from a book that they might otherwise like. It ruins the reading experience for other people. When you provide spoilers, you might not be changing anything for the author, but you are ruining the reading experience for other readers.
Reading is different for everyone. There is more than one way to tell a story, too. Not everyone will like every story, and that’s fine. But reviewing, like writing, is all about heart. You can go into the reviewing process with malice in your heart, with the intent to ruin the book for everyone. Or, you can keep the spoilers to yourself and review a story honestly and objectively. Your intentions are clear to the reader of the review.
Just trust me on this one.