Articles & Discussions

Respect the Reviewer: Should Book Reviewers be Respected

Ok, as a precursor to the blog post I am going to share very soon I want to add this one to my blog.  Originally posted on My Trending Stories it was written a while ago and was about one particular experience I had with a particular author.  It is the first of all my Respect the Reviewer posts., the second one can be read here.   It has had almost 800 views there so take a look at that post if you haven’t seen it by clicking here .(there are comments to read there)  Or read it below if you’d like to comment.  If you’ve read it before ignore this post but stay tuned for part 3 later today!

Respect the Reviewer:  Should Book Reviewers be Respected

respect cat

Reviews are important. Most of us probably read reviews for items, books, films etc. They help us decide whether we’re going to like something, find something useful or whether we should avoid it like the plague. For authors, especially indie authors, reviews of their books are important. They not only help the public decide whether to buy a book but when it comes to books on Amazon ranking, the more positive reviews the higher the book will appear on searches and lists. Of course no author wants to receive a negative review, but how negative does a review have to be to seen as bad? And is it worth losing a friendship over those negative words?

The following is a personal story I’ve experienced which I hope will lead to some discussion. Although I started by reviewing items on amazon, the moment I read and reviewed a book, I rediscovered my love of reading and I firmly moved the majority of all my reviewing time into books. Since moving into this path and blogging my book reviews, I’ve been approached by many indie authors wanting an honest review of their books. I never get paid for these reviews, just receive a free copy of their work and inevitably, after reviewing their books, I’ve become good friends with a lot of them.

Many of these authors have since asked me to review their next book and while we are good friends they trust that I’ll be honest in my review and won’t give a favourable one based on our friendship. People say you should never get your friends to read your work or in this case write a review and in some cases this is true. For starters, amazon is not keen on friend reviews and will delete them if they realise a link between authors and friends, however I’m very professional in my approach to reviews and in any case, these authors ask me for my opinion on their books, either way.

So, when one author I had become friends with asked me to review their new book and even stated ‘Whether you do or don’t like it, I’d still like to know what you think’ I was more than happy to read their latest work. Throughout the time I was friends with them and reading their work they were keen to know what I thought and even reassured me that they wouldn’t mind whatever I told them. So I did just that. Was it bad? No. Would I write a negative review? No. I simply said the book wasn’t as good as their previous one. So why on earth would they suddenly drop a friendship over what I’d said?

The book was good but not great. I told them that to me it was a 4 out of 5 star book and that’s what I’d review it as. The book had something missing which made it 4 stars but that didn’t mean the book was a failure, in fact I thought the author might take the slight criticism as a positive and improve that part of their book, especially as this was a new release. But they didn’t take this news well, not at all! They broke all contact with me, ignored me, blocked my communications and to this day they pretend I don’t exist!

At the time I felt hurt, pretty badly as this person had become a very good friend. Now as more and more weeks have passed I look back and just think ‘What a pathetic end to lovely friendship’. Of course I’d still like to hear back from this author, I deserve to know why such hostile measures were taken against a positive-but-not-perfect review, but I doubt I ever will. I realised through this experience that I deserve respect for what I do. Afterall, I take my own spare time to read somebody’s book and then write a review. The review writing process takes me between half to one hour from start to finish. I take time to write my reviews and they are done for free so shouldn’t I be treated with a little respect? At least enough respect to say ‘Goodbye, I don’t like you reviewing my books, I don’t want to be friends’?

What do you think? Should book reviewers be treated with respect given that most of them do this for free? Are you an indie author, would you treat a reviewer with respect even if they gave your work some criticism? At what point does a review with criticisms become a negative review? As a reader do you welcome criticisms in reviews, or do you prefer to hear just how great a book is? Any views on this topic are most welcome so please comment. If you are unable to comment due to website issues please follow the link to my blog and comment there. – All comments welcome you don’t need to log in to comment.

To view the blog post that inspired this article: When Constructive Criticism = Lost Friendship – A Sad but True Story

To read part two: Respect the Reviewer 2: How to Contact and Stay on the Good Side of Reviewers

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14 thoughts on “Respect the Reviewer: Should Book Reviewers be Respected

  1. That’s sad that you lost a friend over what was in fact a positive review. I don’t think that author’s behaviour was reasonable. None of us is perfect, and personally I love receiving constructive criticism of my writing because I’m always striving to improve.
    It might interest you to hear an experience of mine, however, to illustrate a writer’s viewpoint. A while ago I offered my subscribers a free copy of a new book in return for an honest review. One kind woman took up the offer and left her review at many sites, not only Amazon. The problem was that she didn’t really like the book. It clearly wasn’t the kind of thing she would normally read, and she must have ended up on my mailing list through a promotion, not through signing up at the back of one of my books.
    Not that the review was very negative (believe me, I’ve had worse!), but it was a 3 star and it said nothing particularly positive. I think in fact she didn’t like the book at all and was being kind. At the smaller book vendors, no one else left a review, so all there was for readers to see was a 3 star. Of course, this wouldn’t put EVERYONE off buying the book, but it looked worse than nothing at all. Good reviews do make a difference in selling books, which is why there’s a market for buying fake reviews.
    While I appreciated my reviewer’s efforts, I felt as though I’d made a mistake in opening out the offer to anyone and everyone at a sensitive time for the book’s success, and I would never do that again. I realised I could have ended up with a much worse result, which would have crushed potential sales for a long time. Some 1 or 2 star reviews are normal. But several 1 or 2 stars and nothing else looks very bad.
    So the short version is, I think your friend overreacted, but it might have been because she was worried anything less than a 5 star would have a big influence on the success of her book.
    Also, authors can be overly sensitive about opinions of their work. This may have been your friend’s problem. An offhand comment from a reviewer might mean a day in tears or a sleepless night for an author. For many us, our books are like our babies, and we take comments on our work very personally. We shouldn’t, but some do. So for your friend, your constructive criticism might have felt like a personal attack.
    As I said, I don’t think your friend’s reaction was reasonable. I’m just trying to put myself in her shoes to try to understand it. I so appreciate people such as yourself, C, who take the time to write thoughtful, well-considered reviews. I hope you didn’t take your friend’s reaction too much to heart.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read all this and replying. At the time it did hurt a lot. I actually have the same sensitivity as an author, I’m not published but have started writing myself so I completely understand how hard it is to hear anything bad about your work. I do think that was that authors problem, they found it hard to deal with the fact I didn’t some aspects of their book and perhaps they shouldn’t have given it to me if they weren’t prepared to hear something negative (even though I did try explaining all this to them beforehand).
      That author was over the top in their reaction though and at the time it left me very upset but I’m now in a better place and I’m trying to see the outcome as overly positive, I think having been though that I won’t let myself get so upset again and I know from the support I’ve received from others that my reviewing isn’t the problem and it was more the authors expectation of a 5 star review. I can also let you know that this author didn’t send out their work to anyone for editing before being published, which is perhaps why I picked up some flaws. Not sure why they would do that but it’s something they told me.
      I’m sorry to hear about the 3 star review. I have seen silly book reviews like that in my time on amazon. One book I reviewed which was for a computer programing book for kids was reviewed by someone who gave it 1 star and said they didn’t even know how to use a computer – this book was offered to them for free from the publisher so it makes you wonder why they accepted it for review. For me I personally am able to se the potential of books that are outside of my favourite genres. I think I like a variety of books in general but I understand some people just want to rant about what they hate. I hope that book is doing better now but if you would like me to review it let me know :).
      Thank you again for your input and for understanding everything so well. I really appreciate authors like yourself who are able to take a review’s criticisms (if there are any) with a pinch of salt and see them as comments on the book and not you as the author. Not everyone likes everybook but I do hope your books, current and future do well. 🙂

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  2. I think you were treated unfairly and that the author that behaved like that needs to mature some. I have been able to remain cordial with people that I review for, even when I gave them a less than perfect rating. If we rate on friendship then we will not be trusted by authors. I expect an unbiased review from reviewers even if that sets myself up for a low rating. I find myself speaking with authors when I review for them, but I do not base my review on if they were friendly before the review. That would be counter-productive. I hate that you were treated like that. It is immature and totally unprofessional. As I am on both sides of the coin, I find the behavior unacceptable and really you deserve a better friend than that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your support, it really means a lot <3. At the time I was rather stunned by the behaviour but it happened a while back now and I see it as their loss. I have other authors, many who want me to review for them and in getting worked up over a less than perfect review they have lost themselves both a friend and a bunch of reviews (as I was willing to review other future books too). I know who my real friends are now and I count you as one of them ❤ 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Of course, reviewers (or anyone else for that matter) should be respected, but the reality is they often aren’t. I try to be positive in my reviews, but sometimes there are flaws that I mention (hopefully done as constructive criticism). I guess I haven’t built the friendships you have with the authors you have reviewed; maybe that’s the difference. It is hard to be unbiased when friendship is involved, but then, if an author asks for a book to be reviewed, he/she should expect honesty even if something unpleasant is pointed out, especially if it is constructive criticism. Besides 4 of 5 stars is not a bad review of a book…perhaps even more of a valid review because it isn’t over-the-top gushing. Those 5/5 reviews kind of scare me, makes me a bit wary especially if that person’s reviews are either all 5/5 or 1/5 (huge swings, but nothing in the middle). Of course, this is just my opinion.
    ~nan

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree, I find a lot of books are 5 stars but I will give a 3 or 4 if there are flaws (it would take a lot for me to mark a book lower that that but it could happen). I think the whole friendship thing was the problem, that author shouldn’t have asked my opinion if they weren’t ready for it but since it’s happened I’m now in a better place and just look back on it as a wasted opportunity from their point of view. I had agreed to review all their books and now they don’t have my reviews which I hope are helpful and possibly influential to 😀

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