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.