Give me a book I don’t like and I’ll quietly slide it to the side.
Show me a bashing review on Amazon for the same book and my hackles lift like a Doberman Pincher.
There is nothing that frustrates me more than a hateful book review. It is inevitable that not every book is for every reader. Any author knows that there will be readers who won’t enjoy their book. But dislike, in no way, calls for a hateful review.
I’ve seen reviews bash the author’s marriage, label the author inappropriate descriptions, state the author can’t write and on the list goes.
Notice the pattern? It all focuses on what the author can’t do. But the book isn’t about the author. Yes, there is a person behind the words you’re reading, but what about the editor that first requested the book? Or the pub board that decided to publish it? Or the line and copy editors that made sure that the book was shiny before final printing? Are those reviews going to slander those peoples’ marriages too? Once that book is sold to a publisher, it’s not just that author’s investment, though those reviews are going to hurt the author the most.
Once a book is published, it is no longer about the author and all about the story. There was a motivation and drive for that author to write this story—whatever that might be—which should be reason enough to respect that author. They have crossed tremendous barriers and risen against dominating odds. That doesn’t mean that we’ll like their book. I’ve disliked many New York Times bestsellers and titles recommended to me in frenzied excitement. And I’ve had to write some reviews for those books.
I hope to encourage you as reviewers and readers of reviews, to never purposefully harm the author. There is truly nothing to be gained from using our words as knives. Once a book is released from the author’s hands out into the world, it is no longer about that author. It’s about the story and how readers like the story.
The best way to make it only about the story in your reviews? Don’t mention the author. Not the author’s name or even the phrase “the author”. Say why you did or did not like the story. That is what needs to stand on its own spine, not the ability (or lack thereof) of the author.
I do admit to holding a very strong opinion to this topic. (can’t you tell? ;-) I think there are so many ways to avoid defaming the author while also stating in simple (and gentle) terms why you did not like a book.
Because when it comes down to it, there is still an author on the other side of the story. I encourage you to take a second look at those reviews that while being honest, can also be kind without jeopardizing the review’s integrity.
What are your best review writing suggestions?