One of my goals this year was to begin reviewing published books by the writers in my writing group, and writer friends, and writers I know. I have reviewed books I own on LibraryThing, where I sometimes get free books and sometimes get ARCs. The motivation to review (honestly) is to get more freebies! And, it does help organize my books and my thoughts about them.
But reviewing on Amazon and Smashwords and commenting on Weightless books can pose a bit of a conundrum.
Sometimes it is obvious that a reviewer is just putting up a positive review to help their buddy – they don’t have any other reviews. So if I’m going to review, I’d like to be a real reviewer, with helpful reviews of many books. I began by putting some reviews up that I’d done on LibraryThing, classics and books by writers I don’t know.
I came to a book I’d really not enjoyed and had put up a strong negative review on LibraryThing. Many of the other readers had also disliked the book. On Amazon, there are only positive reviews – 4 or 5 (perhaps friends?). My ethical conundrum – do I put up the negative review and one star or do I just skip reviewing that book? I feel uncomfortable because whoever this writer is, how helpful is the negative review? Clearly with so few reviews, this book is unlikely to be a big seller, so it seems that low stars would only be personally hurtful to someone I’ve never met or interacted with. Feels like anonymous aggression, I guess.
Currently my thoughts are that I would only post a review for books that I thought were 4 or 5 star, and simply not post for ones I thought were poorly written. If I dislike the book for content, perhaps, where I can speak well of the writing or some aspect, so that other readers might truly enjoy the book (ie it is just a personal taste issue) then perhaps I would post a lower star review.
I guess my goal is to give reviews that other people would believe. If all of one’s reviews are positive, do readers discount your opinion of a particular book? Would my reviews still be of value to my writer colleagues and friends?
The reviews I find to be the most helpful are the honest, balanced variety — no book is perfect, so the reviews should reflect both what worked and what didn’t. Just my two bits!
I guess I was thinking how to be helpful in terms of getting them more sales, so for the writer, a positive, 4 or 5 star review is helpful. For the reader, a “buy this 4-5 star” review vs a “don’t buy this 2-3 star” review is most helpful – yes, in both cases mentioning what did and didn’t work is good, but you have to plunk down that star. And if your star pulls a writer’s book sales down, ouch. Especially if they are not selling much.
I wouldn’t give a book I didn’t like 4-5 stars, even a friend’s or colleague’s. But I hesitate to give few stars on the selling platform when it doesn’t serve much purpose.