I recently signed up with Goodreads at the invitation of a friend. Yeah, I’m a bit behind the curve – again. (For those of you that use Goodreads, my author profile is online here.) Feel free to add me as a friend and, as a newb, any advice on how to best use the site would be much appreciated!
The new account got me thinking about a sometimes sticky subject with writers – reviews.
As a Goodreads reader, do I review books? As an author, do I? What about books I don’t like, do I tell people?
I’ve heard a lot of views, read blogs, had discussion all centered on this topic. The conventional wisdom says this – as an author, you either don’t review books or you don’t post negative reviews of books you’ve read.
I’ve given that a lot of thought and I’m not so sure it’s fair for anyone involved.
I’m a reader. I read books. It’s why I write.
As long as I am giving a solid review, without attacking anyone and clearly stating a well-reasoned opinion, I’m not sure why I shouldn’t post my thoughts. Because I write, I shouldn’t have an opinion? I should fear what? Authors seeking revenge?
Here’s my biggest problem with most crowd-sourced reviews on most sites – mainly only people that like the books will bother to review them. Further, if it is an established author, they will develop a fanbase that permanently skews the reviews and often attacks even reasonable critique.
Also, the systems are so skewed by these dynamics that the reviews rarely offer any -overall- insight for comparison to other books; only comparison to itself or maybe to those in a series. Jim Butcher for example has books that out rate Huckleberry Finn. I love Jim Butcher. I’ve read more of his books than I’ve read Twain’s. But Mark Twain he ain’t.
What might help this you ask? People writing thoughtful, balanced reviews regardless any sage advice to do otherwise.
Also, I hear quite often that readers should read an entire book before having the gall to review a book. Frankly, I think that’s bullshit as well. By analogy, I don’t think as a requirement to review a restaurant I’d need to finish my meal if they delivered a maggot ridden hunk of bread to my table.
Especially with the phenomenon of self publishing, authors that are leapfrogging the gatekeepers really ought to be thankful for negative reviews because they more often than not are pointing out things that a still developing process might have missed. Sure, sometimes people are simply trolling but often readers are smart enough to figure that out. Further, if it really is overall a good book, the positive voices should be drowning out the trolls (see the above problem of generally only people that like a book will bother to review it).
What are your thoughts on this? As writers and/or readers?