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X. Round Table Reading Lounge > On Being an Author and a Reviewer

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message 1: by Alicia (last edited Feb 18, 2012 12:12PM) (new)

Alicia (writeralicia) Hello all!

Unless the moderators object, I'd like to start a discussion on how to be both an author and reviewer here on Goodreads.

As a reviewer, do you feel some responsibility to write reviews to guide others in their reading choices? Every honest review counts, in my opinion. Every review is a new perspective, and your perspective counts. Are you ever concerned that writing a bad review will make you unlikable by potential readers? For me, the answer to both of these questions is yes. But it's not easy to find a balance between being a reviewer and being an author. Does anyone else struggle with this?

I'm interested in readers' opinions on this issue too. Do you shy away from a book because the author has written negative reviews about other books?


message 2: by Dale (new)

Dale Ibitz (goodreadscomdale_ibitz) | 15 comments Being an author, I tend to look at the writing craft as well as my overall gut reaction to a book. I do think it's important to be honest in the review.

I always start my review with what I liked about a book, because there is *almost* always something to like. Then I detail the negatives, but in a way that is not nasty. Nasty doesn't help anyone, but if the critique is thoughtful and is backed up with solid examples, I believe it helps both the author and the reader.

I do not shy away from books because a particular author has written negative reviews about it; I tend to look at the reviews as a whole, because not everyone is going to love every book (though I will strongly consider a reviewer's review if I've found in the past that they tend to mirror my own thoughts/feelings about a book).

I haven't worried about not being liked because of my reviews, because I feel I'm pretty tactful.


message 3: by Karen (new)

Karen Zacharias (karenzach) | 5 comments I wish more reviewers would start with what they like. But I suppose it's a toss up -- do you end with the negative or the positive? I don't review books, instead, I often interview the authors. I like for the reader to make up their own minds based upon those interviews as to whether they want to read the book or not.


message 4: by Alicia (new)

Alicia (writeralicia) I usually try to start with an overview of my feelings and then end with the positive. My thinking is: leave the readers of my review with a positive note. But now that you say it, I do see the benefit of starting with the positive--especially for a book that I did not like.

There has been one time that my impression of a book was so negative that I could not find anything positive to say. In that case, my main issue was with the editing, and I just couldn't get past it. Luckily for me, the book was re-edited, I gave it another shot, and then I found something positive to say. But if that hadn't happened, should I have just declined to review it?

Any thoughts?


message 5: by Barbara (new)

Barbara Tarn (barbaragtarn) I'm a writer but also a reader - and I still read like a reader. Being indie, when I review other indies I am kinder (read: I overlook typos more) than with someone who has a publisher (and supposedly an editor) behind the book. Also, if I'd give the book less than 3 stars, I won't review it, if it's from an indie. You'll never know I read it! ;-) If it's with a publisher, I'll probably say what I think...
As a reader, I don't read reviews to pick a title. I go with cover and blurb, I don't even check the excerpt. I glance at the reviews only if the cover is really nice but the blurb is too cryptic - some reviews are quite plot oriented, so it helps me to pick the right book.
I decline to review books I know are not in my preferred genres, and kindly suggest the author to find someone more in his/her target audience! :-)
But I've read of authors who decided not to review anymore because it could backlash on them. And apparently some reviewers got bashed for giving only positive reviews - if you check my GR profile, you won't see anything under 3 stars... that's because I usually pick the right books for me (and if it's too badly written by an indie, you'll never know I read it, LOL!)! :-)


message 6: by Lari (new)

Lari Don (laridon) | 5 comments This discussion is dealing perfectly with some of the concerns I have as an author, put in the position of HAVING to review other people's books. I'm enjoying goodreads so far, as I am a voracious reader, and love recommending and sharing books. But I am also an author, and very aware of how a bad or even just a middling review can hurt an author and sales. If I want to be part of goodreads (and the wider online book world) I know I have to review, but as an author I'm uncomforable about being negative about other writers' work. My compromise is similar to Barbara above. I'm not going to post about books I don't like. I read lots more than I will ever review. (I start quite a few books I don't finish too!) I will probably not even mention a book on goodreads or anywhere else if I didn't like it. (And I'm certainly not going to say I liked a book if I didn't.) I accept that this is unbalanced, and may give a skewed impression of what I read, and may also mean that I don't warn the wider world about some bad books you should probably avoid. (But then, we do all have different tastes, so maybe that novel I abandoned on Page 30 because it was just annoying me so much, would be your favourite book!) I may reassess my attitude to this when I've been on goodreads for longer, but at the moment I'm going to go with the old granny's advice - if you haven't got anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. (Rereading this before posting, I will stress that this is my personal solution to an awkward problem, and I'm in no way suggesting it for everyone else! Keep writing your honest reviews!)


message 7: by Sandra (new)

Sandra Stiles (skstiles612) | 28 comments I started out as a reviewer before I was an author. I have always been honest in my reviews. First of all I research a book as much as possible before I decided to accept it for review. In this manner I am sure I will get something that is close to my taste in books. If a book is just too horrible to review I write a personal email to the author and explain my reasons for not reviewing it. That is usually due to an extreme amount of profanity or lewd content. I'm not a prude, but I don't need step by step detail on someone's sexual exploits. I try to explain what did and didn't work and then like I tell my students, I can probably recommend it to a specific group of people. If it is just absolutely horrendous and I have no way of contacting the author I may or may not review it and point out that it was not a book I could get into, my reasons and explain that there might be someone out there for whom this book would be a good match. I make no guarantees.

On the other hand if I ask someone to review my book I want their total honesty. That is the only way I will grow as a writer. The first person I asked to read and review my book is a friend of mine here on Goodreads. She told me she couldn't get past the first 30 pages because she felt I was telling more than showing. She is right. It is something I have to work on. Maybe it is the teacher in me that wants the feedback good or bad.


message 8: by Alicia (new)

Alicia (writeralicia) I'm happy to see that other people think/worry about this too.

In case you guys are interested, there's a similar thread going on here: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/8...


message 9: by Alicia (last edited Feb 24, 2012 04:25AM) (new)

Alicia (writeralicia) Jaq wrote: "The prologue had characters that all needed a good slap and some rule breaking like starting patagraphs with 'and' or 'but'."

I object!

I strongly disagree that starting a sentence (or paragraph--which I see as being no different in this respect) with "and" or "but" is a problem. In my opinion, this an archaic grammatical "rule" that is not followed by even the Chicago Manual of Style:

"There is a widespread belief—one with no historical or grammatical foundation—that it is an error to begin a sentence with a conjunction such as and, but, or so. In fact, a substantial percentage (often as many as 10 percent) of the sentences in first-rate writing begin with conjunctions. It has been so for centuries, and even the most conservative grammarians have followed this practice."
--Chicago Manual of Style (http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/1...)


message 10: by John (new)

John Ford | 14 comments I do my best to read as a reader, not a writer. IOW, not focusing on how I would have done or not done, but on how well the story is told. It's hard, but worth the effort.

Also, there are some genres I just won't agree to review. While I am smart & well read enough to step outside my personal tastes and appreciate most genres even if they aren't my cup of tea, some genres just have too many barriers for me. Westerns & romances, for instance. Giving a poor review if a book wasn't very good is hard enough. Giving a poor review b/c it wasn't really my thing to begin with is just mean.


message 11: by Alicia (new)

Alicia (writeralicia) John wrote: "Also, there are some genres I just won't agree to review. While I am smart & well read enough to step outside my personal tastes and appreciate most genres even if they aren't my cup of tea, some genres just have too many barriers for me. Westerns & romances, for instance. Giving a poor review if a book wasn't very good is hard enough. Giving a poor review b/c it wasn't really my thing to begin with is just mean."

I'm generally on that same page.

On the other hand, if I ended up reading a romance because it was marketed as being fantasy, that will negatively affect my review. To some degree, I expect authors/publishers to find the proper market and pitch their books into the world in a way that indicates that market. If I feel tricked while I'm reading, my review is going to show it.


message 12: by L. (new)

L. Gibbs (ldgibbs) Alicia wrote: "Jaq wrote: "The prologue had characters that all needed a good slap and some rule breaking like starting patagraphs with 'and' or 'but'."

I object!

I strongly disagree that starting a sentence (o..."


I am a creative writing teacher. Conjunctions are like articles (a, an, the), they do not attract attention except in subtle ways. Accepted rule these days is that it is absolutely correct to use a conjunction to start a sentence; however, keep in mind it creates a change in tone, one of emphasis. If that is what the writer wants, use that conjunction!

Elldee


message 13: by Virginia (new)

Virginia Ripple (virginiaripple) | 7 comments Jaq wrote: "That book I was reading is going to get 5 stars, screw the rules. I've been neglecting other things to finish reading it over the past 2 days. And it's not a genre I normally read!"

When a book is that good you just have to give it 5 stars. :)


message 14: by Virginia (new)

Virginia Ripple (virginiaripple) | 7 comments John wrote: "I do my best to read as a reader, not a writer. IOW, not focusing on how I would have done or not done, but on how well the story is told. It's hard, but worth the effort.

Also, there are some g..."


I agree. I'm attempting to finish a romance right now because the author personally asked me to review it. I really wish I'd said no. It's not a bad book, but it's not a genre I enjoy so I get bored with it. This is a review that will be difficult to write.


message 15: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Cotterill (rachelcotterill) I always read the free sample on my Kindle before I decide whether to buy a book (or accept one that's been offered for review), so I'm getting pretty good at screening out books I'm not going to enjoy. As much as anything else, I have limited reading time, and I want to spend that time curled up with a book I'm going to love. So I can be quite picky up-front about what I want to read :) This does have the side benefit that I tend to write mostly positive reviews, because I'm unlikely to finish a book I don't much like. The only real exceptions to this are where I'm reading a series, and one particular volume disappoints me.


message 16: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Jasper (elizabethjasper) | 20 comments Rachel wrote: "I always read the free sample on my Kindle before I decide whether to buy a book (or accept one that's been offered for review), so I'm getting pretty good at screening out books I'm not going to e..."

I do exactly the same - and it works well for me, too.


message 17: by April (new)

April R (AprilPerkins) | 14 comments My book is new and only has three reviews, i welcome them and it is avalible on kindle for 4.95 Eulogy of the Centurion by April R. Perkins you can post them on amazon, anything is appreciated. :)


message 18: by Lana Bradstream (new)

Lana Bradstream | 145 comments I know my being an author definitely has an influence on my opinions. However, I try not to be as unbiased as possible. I try to focus on the plot, character development and the message (if any) as much as possible.


message 19: by Ric (new)

Ric (ricaustria) | 7 comments Regardless of whether you write or not, it's important to always write a fair review. It's part of your online rep and record.


message 20: by Harold (new)

Harold Titus (haroldtitus) | 104 comments A writer can't help applying his standards to what he reviews. He also has to realize that they are his standards, not universal standards. As Lana says, always try to be unbiased.


message 21: by Harini (new)

Harini Gopalswami Srinivasan (harinigs) Doesn't it go without saying that the views expressed in your review are personal and not objective? I believe a reviewer should always be honest, which includes explaining any biases you may have to begin with. Especially when they have a bearing on any negative feelings you have about the book. But on Goodreads, at least, it seems to me it's much more about sharing one's individual likes and dislikes -- it's more like a discussion among friends where you say what you feel and don't bother about being diplomatic or politically correct. Naturally, this wouldn't apply to a critic in a newspaper or magazine, who has a responsibility to the writer, the reader and the book.


message 22: by Linda (new)

Linda | 18 comments I write reviews for books usually only in certain genres and if the book is one that could use a few reviews, like for new or indie authors, sometimes ARCs for more popular authors. I am picky and only take on well-written books (reading excerpts is a must for me, esp for indie authors). I tell readers what to expect (including swearing, violence, sex, etc.) and what I thought about the writing, good and bad (tactfully). Then I give my personal opinion.

One issue I have: I don't drop 5-stars everywhere because that must mean it's as great as a Harry Potter or Joan Didion. And I don't think 3 stars is bad, esp for a new author. Some of my less-than-5-star reviews get thumbs-downs from Amazon readers, which amazes me because I always say something nice. How do others here feel about these star ratings?


message 23: by Lana Bradstream (new)

Lana Bradstream | 145 comments For me, 5 stars is one of my favorite books! Unfortunately, that does not include very many. 4 = Excellent, will read again. 3 = Good, but not a reread. 2 = Painful to get through. 1 = Could not finish it. RUN! RUN AWAY NOW!

That is my rating system, anyway. Needless to say, a lot of 3's.


message 24: by Thea (new)

Thea Landen (thealanden) | 9 comments This is where I out myself as a cynical baby. I don't know what the average age of internet users is. The average mental age is probably somewhere around 13. ;) If I truly hated something, I'll usually keep my mouth shut (though maybe quietly give it a low rating) because when I was involved in some just-for-fun writing groups in the past, there were several occasions of, "You left me a bad review! I'm going to do the same on your story!" regardless of how much I tried to be constructive or even sugar-coat. So these days, I tend to save my reviewing for things I liked. Anything even remotely negative tries to be all dressed up with phrases like, "This is just my opinion, but..." and "This was a great story, but it could have been even better if..." *shrug*


message 25: by Matt (new)

Matt Larkin (mattlarkin) | 26 comments If I'm not enjoying a book, I rarely want to take the time to finish. I certainly wouldn't take the time to review, and obviously could not, in fairness, write a review if I didn't finish the book.

Meaning, I tend to mostly leave positive reviews, though I may point out things that irked me or felt off.


message 26: by Laekan (new)

Laekan Kemp (laekanzeakemp) | 21 comments Thea wrote: "This is where I out myself as a cynical baby. I don't know what the average age of internet users is. The average mental age is probably somewhere around 13. ;) If I truly hated something, I'll usu..."

I tend to follow the same philosphy. I like to read and review indie books just because I know they need the exposure but I can usually tell within the first couple of pages if it's going to be something worth my time. If I can already tell that it's not well written and that I'm not going to enjoy reading it then I'll just abandon it all together that way I end up only reviewing things that I actually liked. Indie books that are poorly written don't need a negative review from me, the lack of a review at all will have the same effect, I think.


message 27: by Diane (new)

Diane McGyver (dianelynnmcgyver) | 22 comments Like others who commented here, I find the five star system a little limiting. To me, five stars is excellent, wow, I've got to keep this book! Four stars means very good. I may read this again. Three stars is good, and I would still recommend it to a friend. Two stars is, well, I finished it, but it took me a long time. One star means I didn't finish it.

When I started reviewing books on my blog, I decided to create my own system, one I understand. It's out of 100%. I don't pick a random number, I critique various aspects of the book, including the cover. Each criteria earns a certain number of points. In the end, I add them up, and that's the percentage. For readers used to the five-star rating system, I translate the percentage and include one decimal point. The first review I posted this week earned a 3.4 out of a possible 5 stars.

I hand-pick all books I review, so I'm almost certain I'll like it; if I don't I'll still review it. Reviews must be balanced to be respected.

You can read my first review here: http://dianetibert.com/2012/06/06/boo...


message 28: by Michele (new)

Michele Brenton (banana_the_poet) | 64 comments Alicia wrote: "As a reviewer, do you feel some responsibility to write reviews to guide others in their reading choices?.....Are you ever concerned that writing a bad review will make you unlikable by potential readers? "

When I review I am only doing it to share my honest opinion of the book in question and I am only doing that to give others some information to help them decide if it might be something they would also like (or not) to read.

I am not in the slightest concerned that will make me unlikable to other readers. This is because if I don't like something about a book - I will say exactly what I didn't like - and it will have reasoning to back it up.

When I choose a film to watch I always read reviews first. Hundreds of negative reviews won't put me off - if the reasoning behind the negativity shows the reviewers didn't 'get' the concept or they thought it was complicated. In fact that type of dislike will make me want to watch it all the more.

If a film is slated for bad acting and a predictable storyline and for having nothing happening in it - then I won't watch it.

I think that is the key to how book reviews are taken by readers. A negative review may well encourage another reader to read it.

As long as a review is logical, polite and well explained - I don't think any reader is going to dislike the reviewer.


message 29: by Sandra (new)

Sandra Stiles (skstiles612) | 28 comments I agree with what you have said. I've read many highly rated reviews of a book and then found I didn't like it. The reverse is true as well. I've read bad reviews of books that I absolutely loved. I think a lot depends on what we were looking for in a book. Those may be two different views.


message 30: by Sherri (new)

Sherri Moorer (sherrithewriter) | 144 comments Reviewing is a tricky thing, especially if you didn't enjoy the book as much as you thought you would. Of course, there's never a reason to lambast a book and I think that if you give a book a bad review then you owe it to others to explain why you didn't like it. Because what irks, annoys or spoils a book for you may be no big deal to another reader.
As a writer, I also try to be careful and especially strive to find some merit in everything I read. Because if it were truely that bad, then I probably wouldn't finish it and definitely wouldn't review it at all.


message 31: by Karen (new)

Karen A. Wyle (kawyle) | 253 comments As both a reviewer and an author, I find the five-star system problematic simply because the definitions of the reviewer and the reader don't necessarily match. Many people seem to translate 3 stars as "meh" or mediocre, while at least some reviewers obviously mean it as a somewhat positive rating. . . . Does either Amazon or Goodreads actually state anywhere what the various star ratings are supposed to mean?

Diane wrote: "Like others who commented here, I find the five star system a little limiting. To me, five stars is excellent, wow, I've got to keep this book! Four stars means very good. I may read this again. Th..."


message 32: by Darlene (last edited Jun 11, 2012 10:57AM) (new)

Darlene Jones (darlene_jones) | 152 comments Just so you know, I'm an author and I always appreciate reviews. The 5 star rating is confusing to me too. I've had 3 stars which I thought was not so good, but the reviewer went on to say great things about the book. When I do reviews, I feel that if I like the book, I have to give it at least 4 stars for others to see my review as positive. I often qualify my star rating in the review by specifying, for example, that it's "5 stars in the genre."


message 33: by Jade (new)

Jade Varden (jadevarden) | 42 comments Yes it does state the meaning of the stars on both Amazon and Goodreads. It tells you when you go to write a new review; hover your mouse over the stars and it should appear. I believe 3 stars means "liked it."


message 34: by Justin (new)

Justin (justinbienvenue) | 2165 comments I find that for myself they don't conflict with each other. Being an author people see what I have to say about my work, blogs and book and take it however they like, whereas as a reviewer I am reviewing the book and giving my honest opinion, when I read a book I always feel the need to review it its just something I've come to do I feel the need to do so. While I have read a few fellow authors on here I have given my honest review nothing bad or critical straight forward. Now It is true that I had an issue with a review someone posted about my book but all has been resolved and I have no issues whatsoever as long as the person doesn't go back and forth between liking it and not liking it.


message 35: by Steve (new)

Steve (sefccw) | 37 comments Jaq wrote: "I save 5 stars for books with the wow factor, things I might read again. 4 stars is really good, something I've enjoyed. 3 stars for something I could take or leave but someone else might enjoy."

My ratings follow about the same. I rarely review something I can't get into, or is in a genre I don't care for.


message 36: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Lawston (andrewlawston) | 227 comments If everyone's being grown-up, there should never be a problem with giving honest reviews of another author's work. If one of the parties is not being a grown-up, it's usually pretty clear which.


message 37: by Horace (new)

Horace Ponii (horacetponii) Honesty is fine, but I can't bring myself to give a bad public review to new authors. If I can't give them 4 or 5 stars, I'll send them the review privately. It will be honest, just private. If they want me to post it after that, I will.


message 38: by Sharon (new)

Sharon (fiona64) It's easy to see that everyone has a different idea of how they review books, and I'm no different. I wrote a blog post last year about that very thing: http://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_... . In it, I outline what I look for as I read, and what influences my scoring methodology.

Full disclosure: I am also a judge in this year's Global eBook Awards. I was given a specific set of objective criteria to apply *in addition to* what I outline above. It was very interesting, and actually made it a little easier to give accurate star ratings. I'm likely to incorporate some of that methodology in future reviews as a result.


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