Friday, May 9, 2014

I Hate Your Book!

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.

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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.

But.

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?    

19 comments:

  1. A post worthy of every reviewer's time, Casey. We've all read stories we don't like, but there is not reason we can't be professional. The apostle Paul always started out with a compliment before saying anything else. We should also do this. And then...follow up with professional words void of knives and daggers. Thanks Casey!

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    1. That is definitely what I try and do, Mare. I hope to also bring awareness for this issue as well. I can't stand for bashing reviews to be posted out there!

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  2. I SO agree with this, and you. There is never any reason to be unkind or hateful when reviewing someone's book. Like you said, just choose not to review it, or I think it's appropriate to give it less starts but mention that the book/story/plot/characters weren't for you. End of story.
    Thank you for this important reminder, Casey. Hope you have a good weekend!

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    1. Sometimes we just can't get around not reviewing a book, but you're right, there are usually things we can point out that were done well. The tone of a review often speaks volumes for the true feelings of a reader. It's all in how it's written and the words we choose.

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  3. Yay Casey! I agree with you. No need to attack the author for something you don't like. Set the book aside OR just state the book wasn't for you if you have to write a review. I try to be positive in my reviews and never hurtful.

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    1. I do that frequently in books I get from publishers that I have to review. I did it recently on a title in fact. I just stated that it's no one's fault that I didn't like the book, it just wasn't for my personal taste.

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  4. Great post, Casey! I always look for the positive first before mentioning if something didn't work for me. Thankfully, I'm very selective as to which books I review, so I haven't had to write too many negative ones. Sometimes I mention the author, sometimes I don't. I try not to 'gush' over an author, though, even if they are a friend because like you said, it's about the book.

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    1. I am with you there! When I realized that I didn't have gobs of time to just sit and read all the books I wanted, I started getting more selective and that has saved me many times, I'm sure. I rarely have to write a review on a book I didn't like anyway. :)

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  5. Wow. Great post, Casey. I confess that I've probably mentioned something I didn't like in the writing from "the author" but I always try to do so in a way that isn't mean merely stating the fact that X scene or element wasn't "my thing." Though normally there are things to write about as a plus. (And I review the book whether I liked it or not if I've committed to do so - I don't like getting a book from a pub and not reviewing it because that was the "deal.") Usually the books I don't care for are getting rave reviews which means I put that dislike on me - "since I'm the 'only' girl who doesn't like this book, it must be me." ;-) That being said, I don't think there is ANY reason to be mean - people today are mean just for the "fun" of it, and while I don't think there is anything wrong with debating something in a kind way, there is no call to be cruel.

    Thanks for the food for thought.

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    1. ...and in regards to your last paragraph, honestly is my BEST policy. Honesty in a kind way. :)

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    2. I can't believe what some people will say, just for the heck of it. I personally choose to leave the author out of it, so it doesn't feel like an attack against them, and just my thoughts and opinions on the book. Because when it comes down to it, that's all they are: opinions.

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    3. Well said. And I agree. Our reviews are just opinions and from the perspective of a reader, just because I read another's review that is negative doesn't mean I'll feel the same about X book and vice versa - I simply state my case honestly and believe readers are able to make their own conclusions. The review is merely how I perceived the book. While I've never meant to be "mean" in any of my reviews (and hope I haven't), it's something to always keep in mind when writing those book reviews. :)

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  6. OH, AMEN AND AMEN!!!! Thanks SO much for speaking out on this subject, a subject I feel VERY strongly about as well ... and one that has nipped at my heels more times than I can count. :)

    Hugs,
    Julie

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    1. You were a big inspiration to this post, Julie. As I'm sure you noticed from my one comment.

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  7. I agree that an author shouldn't personally be slammed. One shouldn't be unkind or cruel. Recently, I've been seeing posts on authors' blogs exclaiming their upset over one and two star reviews that their novels have received. I have read some one and two star reviews that never should have been written. There are some, though, that I am very glad that I did read. I have a conscience and as a Christian, there are some things I don't want my mind filled with when I read a novel. I especially want clean reading in an inspirational/Christian novel. Let me clarify. The unbelievers in the novel I expect to be living sinful lives. It would be strange if they didn't and I can accept sinful behavior from them. It's when the believers don't act any different than the non-believers that bothers me. When a one or two star review lets the reader know that a Christian fiction book contains elements which go against the moral code that I believe God has put in place for believers, I want to thank them for it. This stuff doesn't get written in the synopsis provided by the publisher. Sometimes the reviewers of one and two star reviews are giving us warnings. I wouldn't want to watch a film that I thought was PG and then found out it should have been PG13. I wouldn't have chosen to watch it then. To me it's the same way with books. :)

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    1. I agree with you, Sylvia. 1-2 star reviews are never a wonderful thing for the author, but they don't have to be MEAN 1-2 reviews. I have run across too many reviews with low stars that are just plain mean. But yes, I want to know what the reviewer thinks of the item they are reviewing. Which is why I trust them to share their opinion honestly, so I can avoid or enjoy their recommendation. Good thoughts, thank you for sharing them with me here!

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  8. I advocate balanced and honest book reviews. Never attacking the author; but reading closely enough that I can comment on the strengths.. and weaknesses of a book :) This is my approach http://marriedwithfiction.wordpress.com/2013/06/27/fiction-friday-with-rachel-mcmillan-book-reviewer-and-author-extraordinaire/

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    1. Right there with you too, Rachel. :)

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