Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Reviewer Etiquette Controversy

There seems to be a lot of talk lately on Goodreads about book reviewers and etiquette for reviews.

I am not a professional blogger or reviewer. I blog only about books or book-related things. I don't claim to be an expert of any kind. My reviews are just my opinion. Therefore when I review a book I say what I liked and/or disliked about a book whether it is writing-style, concept, plot, dialogue, sex scenes, characters or technical issues.

Some people say that reviews shouldn't have negative things said about the book. Some people say that technical issues shouldn't be included. Why the hell not? As a potential reader I want to know these things and make the decision for myself whether to go ahead anyway or skip it. Believe me, I have seen a bad review (or reviews) and read a book anyway simply because it looked interesting. One person’s pile of shit might be another person’s compost pile, so I never take someone’s word as gospel and mine shouldn’t be taken that way either. Way back in 1985, my very first boss, Jim Verioti, said to me, ‘Opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one.’ I can’t remember what or who we were talking about, but that saying has stuck with me all these years.

I have seen some very malicious and spiteful reviews and I have seen some very sycophantic reviews. Neither of those types of reviews help the author nor do they help potential readers decide on whether to read a book. At least, they don't for me. Malicious ranting reviews are ridiculous and make the reviewer look like a raving lunatic. When I run across a review by someone like that I never read another review by that person. The same goes for sycophantic reviews. Long detailed ass kissing has no place in a review.

I am not a person who picks apart technical issues. If I were then I wouldn’t agree to review Uncorrected Proofs, but I do read them. There are many editorial issues I can overlook, but if the errors occur continually throughout the entire book then there is something wrong. When a book goes to the final print and out to the public and it isn’t as shipshape as it should be then I will mention it. Why? Because it detracts from the enjoyment of the story and sours my reading experience. Many of my reader friends don’t like being ‘pulled out’ of a story by technical issues, so that’s something they’ll want to know. Some friends are like me and aren’t bothered by most issues, but some friends don’t like any technical issues at all. It’s up to me to give the info and up to them to decide whether to proceed.

I am one person amongst 7 billion+ people on this planet. My opinion is not all that important in the grand scheme of things. I know this and you should, too. For those who follow my blog/reviews and like the same types of books as I do then I suppose I can influence them. However, I’m not out to influence anyone. Really, I’m not. Unless I expressly say, ‘You HAVE to read this book! It is the most awesome example of literature out there!’ then my reviews are just my thoughts and opinion. By the way, I would never write those two sentences even if I thought the book was awesome. I can be most enthusiastic about a book I found excellent, but that doesn’t mean anyone else will find it as awesome-sauce as I did. That’s why my blog header says to pick up a book I’ve read and judge it for yourself. I pick up books I think are interesting. Unfortunately, I don’t love everything I read. I know! It disappoints me, too.

Now that I’ve stirred the hornet’s nest I’m going back to one of the things I do best: Reading.



  1. I think you have the right of it. I read reviews to get a feel for the book--both good and bad. I want to know if it rife with formatting or grammar problems (no, not the occasional typo. I see those too and we don't have to be grammar police over it.)

    Mostly what I want to know is "Was the book a worthwhile read?"

    But I don't think your column here will solve the age-old argument...nice try. And I really like the line about shit versus compost. I'm a gardener so that made me smile!!!

  2. Lovely post and I agree. We are all different and perceive books differently. A lot of outside influences and personal preferences can and do influence our perception of a book. I share my opinions, in as professional a way as possible. They are my honest opinions and hopefully offer a little insight into a novel. It may be your cup of tea it may not and that's ok

  3. Thanks, Maria. :) I agree my post won't solve the argument. I just wanted to get it off my chest.

    Thanks, kimba. :) Exactly. We're all different and even if we have similar tastes in books (or anything for that matter) that doesn't mean we'll like the exact same things. Variety is the spice of life.

  4. I like reading intelligent, thoughtful posts on this subject (like yours) as I try to figure out where I fall on this. As a reader, I like reviews that tell me WHY someone liked or disliked a book, because that helps me make up my mind as to whether or not I might like it. And I've rated books 1 or 2 stars myself that weren't *bad* books - just not right for me (and I've shredded a few that really were not fully cooked before they were released). As a reader, I don't necessarily equate a low star ratiing with a "negative" review. A negative review (to me) is one in which the reviewer can cite a lot of technical failings in a book - wooden dialogue, unbelievable plot, cardboard characters, etc. etc.

    As a *writer* however, well....LOL! Of course any review site that says they only promote books they like/can recommend (and therefore don't post any "negative" reviews) appeal to me :-) No author *wants* to see bad reviews or hear that he/she disappointed a reader. We put our work out there specifically for readers - if we didn't care what readers thought, we'd just continue to write for ourselves and be unpublished :-) Sometimes I think readers can forget that a book is like the author's baby/child - it might be true that it has flaws, but it still stings to hear it ;-)

  5. Thanks, Terri! You do have a dilemma, as a reader and a writer. lol I see your point from both sides, but as a writer, as much as you want everyone to love or at least like your book, it's not practical. Not everyone likes, loves or hates the same things. But I do get what you're talking about. :)

    I pick up books because they sound interesting to me, so my reviews are almost always favorable. However, sometimes they aren't a hit with me. It's not anyone's fault if I don't like a book unless it's so poorly written I can't believe it even got published, but I've only had one of those so far. Thank goodness.

    My reviews are honest, even if they might sting. But I'm just one opinion, so I hope authors will take it in stride.

  6. LOL - definately not everyone has similar tastes. Just read a great article recently of famous authors critiqueing/commenting on other famous authors' works and they were all scathing :-) Sometimes we can't even get love from our peers, let alone readers :-)