Do You Give Reviews?

Writers need and want reviews of their books, not just for their egos, but to help with sales. We know family and friends will probably buy our books (At least, we hope they will), but to sell beyond that group of people we need to interest readers who don’t know us. The blurb on the back of the cover or below the title of the book on on-line sites helps, but many book buyers also want to know what others (who bought the book) thought. They look for the reviews.

Nowadays, with so many self-published books available, reviews have become extra important. If I see a 1 star rating, I want to know why that book received that low rating. Was the book riddled with spelling errors, typos, poor grammar? Were there plot inconsistencies? Was it poor writing, or did the reader simply not like the subject matter? (That can be a personal choice.)

Another reason writers want reviews is there are some advertising venues that demand a certain number of 5 star reviews before they’ll handle a book.

I want people to write reviews of my books (and short stories), but I don’t always write reviews myself. Why? Because I don’t want to give a review to a friend that is less than a 4 star. I know how subjective critiques and reviews can be. What bothers me in a book may not bother most readers.

Oh, if a writer I know publishes a book with a lot of errors in it, I will give a low rating and post a review that states that, but most of the writers I know wouldn’t publish such a book. Most of the time my judgment is based on more subjective criteria: pacing, motivation, characterization, plot, and so on. We don’t all like the same types of stories, and just because I don’t care for something doesn’t mean it’s bad or I’m right. More than once I’ve read a book that has made the New York Times best seller’s list and wondered how the book received so many 5 star reviews when I thought it was, at best, worth 2 stars. (There were a few other reviews that agreed with my assessment, but maybe we were all off base. I don’t know.)

So what about you? Do you write reviews? Do you give poor ratings to writers you know personally? How do you handle reviews?

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20 Responses to Do You Give Reviews?

  1. Susan Payne says:

    First, I do not know how to leave a review – it seems there are many places on the internet.
    Second, I would never leave a bad review – as you say not everyone thinks alike and what may be romantic to one may be crude to someone else so I wouldn’t comment in the negative on that type of thing.
    Third, where do I get off telling others whether or not they will like or not like something.
    Fourth, reviewing for spelling and comma usage seems petty and kind of sour grapes to me. If spelling is so important to you read a dictionary.
    Fifth, if I like an author I buy more – if not…
    Sixth, I am usually too busy reading and writing and have had enough critiques to know 2 out of 3 will like it very much and the other one wasn’t paying enough attention 😉

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      Susan, I love your fourth comment. On the other hand, a few misspellings I ignore, but too many and I feel the writer didn’t care enough about the book to take the time to make sure the spelling was correct. I’m rotten at spelling, so I make sure someone else goes over my manuscript to make sure I do have the right spelling.

  2. Sharon Ervin says:

    A slow reader, I have to be discriminating about what books I finish. I read three chapters. It if holds me, I continue. If not, I put it in a box for the library book sale. Right now I am reading THE BOOK OF AIR AND SHADOWS, recommended and ordered. It’s not my usual. Neither are the books I write. If I enjoy a book, I review it. If not, I don’t.

  3. I review books I have enjoyed reading as well.

  4. Melissa Keir says:

    I used to write reviews as a job so I try to always leave a review for the author. It is only my opinion but I want them to have the review to use.

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      When it was your job, Melissa, I’m sure you had to give some reviews that were negative. Now that it’s no longer a job, do you still give negative reviews?

  5. Is it impolite to trade reviews? Sales are an impolite goal, I suppose.

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      Rohn, I think the problem/question would be, if we’re trading reviews, are you giving honest reviews? If we trade, and I give you 5 stars and you give me 1 star, will I be sending Guido to your door?

  6. I do review books because I know what a difference it can make to the author. Like you, Maris, I struggle when I feel a book only deserves three stars or fewer. If it’s simply a matter of taste, I don’t review it, but I have sent a personal message to authors if it’s due to a glaring error or other major problem. I want to support authors in any way I can. My problem is that I am a slow reader so I don’t post as many reviews as I would like.

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      Betty, I think the personal message is great, but I know it’s difficult for me to say negative things to another author, especially if she/he is a friend. The only time I would feel free to do that would be if I knew the writer was being sloppy and didn’t care what he or she published.

  7. Hi Maris! I do write reviews for the books I like so much I can give them 4 or 5 stars. Like you, just because I don’t care for a particular book doesn’t mean others won’t love it, so I don’t care to rate any work lower than a 4. I might make an exception for a pamphlet I bought recently that is full of grammar errors, has poor formatting, and contained very little useful information, but that’s an unusual case.

    If I’ve agreed to accept a free copy for review, and find I don’t like the book, I will probably send a note to the author and let them know why. In that case, I’d rather not post an unfavorable review. As a rule, I don’t accept books for review unless I’ve read the synopsis and am genuinely interested in plot or characters.

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      Patricia, it sounds like you and I approach reviews in a similar manner. I’m hesitant to accept books from people I know and like who want me to give a review. I had two experiences where I didn’t care for the writing, so I told the writers I wouldn’t give a review. That caused hurt feelings on their part. And I can’t say the books were terrible, it was simply a case that I didn’t like the writing. Others gave those writers great reviews.

  8. Diane Burton says:

    Like many who’ve replied, I only write reviews that I can give 4 or 5 stars to. If I can’t, I don’t review. I rarely, if ever, accept a book for review. I know how much work goes into a book. If it’s not to my taste, how could I tromp on someone’s baby?

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      Diane, I agree. My opinion may not be the same as thousands of other readers, so why, unless I feel there are major problems, should I rate a story less than a 4?

  9. anne schelzig says:

    Seems like we are talking about book rating here and not book reviewing. The star system may be a good way to sell books but it’s obviously not a true assessment and seems false. Wish there were a good solution. Reviews, minus stars, from respected publications are helpful, but for the lesser known author, probably not possible. Good luck getting your books out there where they can be read and enjoyed. Or not.

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      You are right, Anne; however, most review sites require a rating as well as a written review, so the two end up being tied together. The best reviews are ones that spell out what the reader considered weaknesses in the story. If those weaknesses are elements that might not bother me, I may still purchase the book. If, on the other hand, the reviewer mentions plot errors, grammar/spelling/punctuation errors, or factual errors, I’ll probably save my money. (And if those errors are mentioned about a book I have published, I’ll do my best to correct anything that is truly an error.)