To Review or Not to Review — That is the Question

Reviews are very important. Authors need them on Amazon, Goodreads and blogs to generate interest in their books. Even mediocre reviews — ones that mention an appealing aspect of a book — are useful. “Loved the setting, but the protagonist was predictable” sounds devastating, but if the reviewer goes on to describe the vivid tour of ancient Rome provided by the writer there are plenty of readers who will be intrigued.

Getting a poor review is a very unpleasant experience, but it’s not the end of the world. (Unless it happens tomorrow — December 21, 2012 — and the Mayans turn out to be right.) For me, writing a less-than-stellar review is turning out to be a problem. I hate trashing the work of other writers. Most of the time, if a book is truly dreadful I don’t finish it and therefore don’t review it. Sometimes I do manage to finish reading the book out of some kind of literary masochism or simple curiosity.

There was an atrocious horror/fantasy novel where the characters kept stopping to drink juice. They were doing battle with creatures from another dimension — a process that involved a great deal of talking— so they were always sitting around drinking juice — never coffee, or wine, never eating — just drinking juice page after page after page… Was the writer sitting at his desk with a six-pack of juice boxes? I didn’t bother to review that one. I’m sure my juicy review would have made the story sound more interesting than it deserved.

And, as I said, I really don’t like writing bad reviews. When I first joined LinkedIn I was told (by numerous writers and book bloggers) that a “good reviews only” policy would undermine my credibility as a reviewer. They informed me that my reviewer profile was in jeopardy so I immediately posted two negative reviews of disappointing books that have been promoted to mystery readers. I honestly couldn’t figure out why one was a featured Kindle book of the day and how the other — a grotesque and mean-spirited short story by a popular author ever made it off her desk on into the Kindle single program. Yes, it was that bad. I’m cringing just thinking about it.

Still I continue to avoid giving poor reviews. I posted one earlier this week and almost deleted it. I’m a softie! I hit “publish” only because the fatal flaw was so egregious. I thought readers deserved a warning.

To review or not to review, that is the question. Most of the time, it’s best to say “yes.” Other readers rely on your opinion and writers do, too.


  1. I have only recently made a more concerted effort to bring in a review of sorts (at least on my blog). Considering that 10th Day Brewing is where I talk about my home brewing and Michigan breweries, I tend to keep most of the books I talk about there within that scope. With this in mind I also tend to spend my time talking about the books I find useful with what I do. Granted under different circumstances I could see branching into a more hard core review scenario.

    • Candy

      When I started this blog I decided not to do reviews on it. I’ll mention books, recommend books, talk about books but I’m not setting myself up to review on a regular basis. Just doing the Amazon ones is killing me … LOL…

      But, if I were to be blogging about a specific endeavor, like your home brewing and Michigan breweries, I would, like you, review books within that frame of reference. I’m imagining that there are a great many books on beer. A dear friend of mine, a conceptual artist from Berlin (although originally from near Munich) did a beer-related art event in San Francisco in June. I wish I’d been able to fly out to attend. In with the history of beer, art & film experiences, there was a silent beer room — drinking no talking — and beer from one of the oldest Breweries in Germany.

  2. I know I’m going to sound biased but… I would suffer less stress writing a poor review of a mainstream author than I would writing one for an indie. I know it’s stupid as I hold indie novels to the exact same, ‘only the best will do’ standard that I expect from mainstream authors, and yet, when an indie falls short it twists me up inside. So I generally wimp out… -sigh-

    • Candy

      I know EXACTLY how you feel. The two that I trashed, albeit with cause, after the thrashing I took on LinkedIn, would not be harmed by my bad reviews. One was by a major author and the other was selected, for reasons beyond me, as a Kindle book of the day. It was a poorly written mystery with an alcoholic detective who happened to be a Muslim investigating the murder of his niece with a group of people playing “vampire” in the mix. Sounds awful, right? Well they made it sound intriguing so I bought it. My mom did too and so did another mystery reading friend. We were all sucked in by the promotion. The sales on the that book were amazing. But… It was dreadful.

      Yes, it is harder to trash an indie with little supports and few good reviews, but…

  3. I’m a graduate from the school of wimps too. Since I only review indie books and recognise the blood , sweat and tears that have gone into it, I find negativity hard. I tend to forget those I didn’t enjoy and just put a positive review on Amazon of those I did enjoy.Maybe that’s because I’d hate to get a slamming from a negative reviewer too, and there are those who only give negative reviews. I confess I don’t look at reviews of my books often, generally when someone writes to tell me they’ve done one. I was disheartened by a negative one until I saw he was a negative reviewer but I still don’t like to discourage others. At the end of the day it’s a matter of taste very often anyway so what one likes another doesn’t.

    • Candy

      You’ve just confirmed one of the things those LinkedIn critics told me — the history of the reviewer counts. You saw how negative that reviewer was and took that into account.

      Ah, well… it’s a hard knock life.

  4. Most authors want to know the truth about their work. Sometimes it’s hard to get an honest opinion from people. If you can help them by giving them a real critique, go for it! In the end it will only make them better.

    • Candy

      In general, I think you’re right. I know that my “beta testers” are very helpful and most helpful when they have specific notes that I can use to improve the manuscript. It just smarts sometimes.

  5. I think a reviewer has to be objective but I don’t want to hurt a new author and as a reviewer, it is amazing how many good first time authors’ books I have read but if I can’t give at least three stars, I don’t post a review but email the author and tell them why, which if they think I may be right, gives them a chance to rewrite and/or republish and produce the book they desire.

    • Candy

      You sound like a kind and thoughtful reviewer.

      I spend so much time doing my freelance writing work and writing fiction and writing my blog and promoting (writing) my ebooks… I’m not sure if I have the drive to become a good reviewer on top of that. So glad you are!

  6. I agree with you Candy. I don’t generally write a review unless I really liked the book. Also, I do reblogoutstanding reviews from reviewers that I follow. I can’t read everything. I generally write nugget reviews: short and to the point. Thanks for the post.

    • Candy

      Yes, to review or not to is truly a writer’s dilemma. We know that reviews are important, but….

      Re-bloging interesting reviews is an excellent idea.

      Thanks for commenting.