Book Reviews: A Double-edged Sword

Recently a writer I know and respect sent out a message asking readers and friends to please review her new book on the various sites. (Goodreads, Amazon, etc.) It was all completely on the up-and-up. She didn’t ask for positive reviews, just honesty from those who’d read it, in the hopes that they might balance out some harsh ones. I haven’t read her book yet, but of course this piqued my interest to see what prompted her request.

She had a few of those scathing, rambling reviews that tell you far more about the general unhappiness of the person writing them than the actual book. Who has time to write this stuff? I mean, why not spend that time writing their own masterpieces of fiction? As a reader, those reviews mean nothing to me.

But the rest of the reviews were of the helpful variety. They gave short summaries and highlights of what they liked and what they didn’t. The points were all very similar, with above-average ratings. My problem is this: the issues they mentioned were all things that really bug me in other books. They’re things related to character development that cause me to put a book down.

I wanted to buy this book, both for my own enjoyment and to support a fellow writer. But with so many awesome releases coming out every week, what I read on these sites was enough keep my money in my pocket. The key point is that it wasn’t the terrible reviews that held me back, but the good ones. The worst thing is, at least from her perspective, that I would have bought her book if I’d never gotten that message.

Music for today: Lovesong by The Cure

2 Responses
  1. Very good post!

    I have to say, that when I have my 'reader hat' on, as opposed to my 'writer hat' and I'm checking out books to buy, I've come to love reviews in the overall, rather than the singular. Usually really bad reviews are all blatantly poor reference points. As you said, they rarely have much, if anything to do about the book in question and more to do with person writing the review. It's the good reviews that all have the same quibbles in regard to character etc. that give me the important information. And as an as-of-yet-unpublished writer, it's not the idea of terrible reviews that frighten me. It's the idea that lots of people with love my book BUT and then they all have the same 'but' in their reviews, which would make me agonize over how I might have fixed the problem if I'd only known. Which doesn't help me, as a writer, to improve myself because the book in question is already out there.

  2. Yep, I share your feelings exactly. I already know that I won't be able to read reviews of my books, because it would drive me nuts. And it's tough wearing both hats while buying books. I struggle with personal connections, reviews, and the old fashioned method of letting a cover, back copy, and the first pages guide my reading choices.

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Laurie A. Dennison

I write books for young adults. I love books with complicated relationships, traveling, and alternative and indie music.

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