Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Great Review Debate

Ah, the power of a review. We rely on reviews quite a bit in the internet age. Whether buying an appliance or deciding which movie to see, the opinions of others often play heavily into our decisions. Books are no different. We have to hear about it one way or another. Friends, relatives, television, forums--they all provide reviews of a form.

Lately, I've seen a lot of people say that a writer can't honestly review another writer. My question is "Why?" All writers first started out as readers. You can't be a writer unless you read. My favorite phrase to describe myself is "Reader by nature, writer by choice." I was born to read. While I enjoy writing, I can do without it if I have to. I can't go for very long without reading. It's too important a part of my life.

So why shouldn't I review the books I really liked (or really hated)? Just because I may have chatted with the author through Kindleboards or Twitter, it doesn't mean I view their books any differently than I would have had I found them through a friend or in a bookstore. Reviews are important. They're not meant to boost a writer's ego or tear them down. They're meant to inform the readers whether a book is worth their precious time. When I write reviews, it's from a reader's perspective. And that's the way most writer/reader/reviewers work. Just because someone wrote a book, it doesn't mean they have an ulterior motive in doing so. And if they do, they're abusing the review system and should be dragged out into the street and drowned in their own pudding.

On a side note: I'll rarely review a book if I can't give it at least 3 stars. First, I have a horrible powerful guilty conscience that won't let me be that mean to someone unless the book is really really awful and I feel I have to warn the public. Second, if I rate a book a 1 or 2, I likely either didn't finish it, or I remember so little about it that I can't rightly justify giving an opinion. 

How heavily do reviews play into your book-purchasing decisions? And do you take a review less seriously if you know it was written by an author?


  1. Reviews do play into my decision of whether to purchase/read a book. Often, the content of a review plays into my decision more than the actual rating.

    I don't take writers' reviews any less seriously, UNLESS their review has some very serious discrepancies from the tenor of the rest of the reviews.
    I HAVE seen a book or two where many of the reviews were AWFUL (and a quick look inside the first few pages was appalling), and yet there are several 5 star reviews gushing about how wonderful it is (with no specific details about what's so wonderful), and the reviewer is listed as an author of some sort.

    I think there is abuse of the reviewing system, and it makes me sad, because in my mind someone is attempting to defraud a reader that way. If you have so little confidence in your writing that you're paying or trading for positive reviews to overshadow the honest bad ones, well ...

  2. I totally agree. I find it appalling that people pay for reviews...and that people accept payment for reviews. The only real payment should be the book (if a free copy has been agreed upon). And authors shouldn't expect a glowing review just because they sent someone a copy. Bad and mediocre reviews are as useful as good reviews (such as the recent 3-star reviews I've received for Vampire Assassin. Their feedback let me know that I need to emphasize that the books are a novella series and not standalone in the description so people don't feel cheated when they reach the end of the first book and the story is just getting started).

    I'm ok with trading reviews in a sense (I've read and reviewed books by people who have read and reviewed me simply because I wanted to read their books), but not the "I'll give you a good review if and only if you give me a good review."


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