Monday, March 26, 2012

Review or not to Review, Part Two

After considering whether authors should ask for a review, it seemed important to look at things on the reviewer's side of the equation. I don't mean the individual reviewer who takes the time to "Star" and comment on Amazon or GoodReads. Nor am I thinking of the paid, professional reviewer. I'm talking about about those who create blogs and webpages in order to share their opinions about books.

So Reviewers, today it's your turn...ask yourself why do you choose to spend your time reading and reviewing books?

Because you should know, Dear Blogger-Reviewer, a reader may first encounter your site because an author or friend referred them by sharing a link. Readers who come back to your site do so because they value and respect your opinion.

First, a quiz:

What is the most most appropriate reason you should start a book review blog? (Select the one most correct response)
A.) To get receive free books.
B.) For the glory of seeing my name in pixels.
C.) To receive the undying gratitude of authors and publishers.
D.) Because I am a voracious reader who loves to read and talk about books.

For the most part, review blogs and websites are written by readers - for readers. It's the reader-to-reader connection that makes a blog special and worth reading.  

I've been a reader a lot longer than I've been a writer. You can be sure that if a review site is one I regularly follow, that means the  reviewer is a like-minded reader, and I trust his or her book recommendations. I don't care how a book was acquired by the reviewer, whether it it was submitted by the author, the publisher, or selected from the reviewer's own personal collection. Because as a reader and potential purchaser, that's not relevant to me. What I want to know is whether I should buy the book.

Authors have their uses-just not on review blogs

Now let me be clear. I am speaking of the independent review site or of the "review" side of those sites created as promotion spots for blog hops, author exchanges, etc.

I'm speaking of just the review side. Or sites only built around reviews. Just reviews. Clear?

Reviews are and should be separate from promotion. Interviews are promotion. Contests are promotion. Chats are promotion. I shouldn't expect to see the author on the reviewer's website. I can go to the promotion side of the site or to the author's site if that is the interaction I seek.

Reviews should be separate from any external influence.

It may just be me, but I think it can be rather disconcerting to have the author thanking the reviewer. It raises a question. Is the reviewer being thanked for taking the time to review? For posting? For the good or bad opinion? For a free book? Just what is the connection between the reviewer and the author? 

And then there are those darn negative reviews. Have you seen the terse thank you from an author posted after a not a particularly complimentary review? Yeah...that doesn't ring true for me, either.

Disclaimer an author, I have received reviews on blogs. Sometimes at my request, sometimes through serendipity. Some have been complimentary, some not. I have posted those "Thank yous," and I have always felt awkward about doing so. After the blog explosion yesterday on this very issue of authors thanking bloggers, I have decided to go with my gut in the future. Author's posts on review sites always feel like self-promotion.

I think it's better if the author just steps back and lets the reviewer and readers make their own connections. After all, Dear Author...your job (my job) was to write the book. Now it's out of our hands and on to the readers.

So, Blogger-Reviewer, I'm tell me your opinion of a book. 

Why is this book on your review site and why am I here? What is the common connection? Do we share a taste for paranormals? Romances? Erotica? Mysteries?

So now, tell me about this book. Tell me about the plot (but good grief, don't you dare "spoil" it). Tell me if this book will make me laugh or cry or cringe. Tell me not to waste my money or tell me to buy it right now! 

What I want to know most from my favorite reviewers is why did this book work for you? That way I can make an informed opinion about whether or not the book will work for me, too.

Dear Blogger-Reviewer, somewhere along the way, I found your site, and because of your opinion...I have found a good book to read. I keep coming back to your site for more of your suggestions. Unless you suddenly start writing reviews that "Like" poorly written books or switch genres on me, I will continue to trust your opinion. 

Keep me coming back!


 I saw an interesting if semi-viral (and possibly lethal) explosion of opinions on this topic yesterday. What say you?

And be sure to drop by tomorrow for a visit with Lark and Derek from Silvia Violet's just released book, Abandoned. Phew, it's hot in here! 


  1. Great post, Laura.

    A couple of years ago, I was spending a good amount of money every month on books from Amazon - I had just bought a Kindle and tripped over "Bareback" when I did a search for "Gay Cowboys". And I discovered the M/M genre. There were so many choices and I started looking to reviews to guide me to some more good books.

    What I saw was so many what I would classify as "bad" reviews when I went fishing to find good books. Many were attacks on the writers, some were one or two word "Buy It" or "It Sucks" or "It Rocks" type of things. Not helpful.

    So I started posting my own reviews and talking with other readers about good things out there, and got pointed in some very interesting directions. But it still wasn't really what I wanted. I wanted a site that just pointed out great books the reviewer enjoyed.

    Now, I had at this point befriended a few writers, and several of them urged me on, saying that a gay man's opinion on M/M would be helpful, and there was a bit of a gap in the reviewing blogs I might fill. So I started "A Bear on Books", with the intention of reviewing gay reads, but only those that I thought were good and that I could honestly recommend to other readers.

    Have writers contacted me to express their thanks for my reviews? Yes. Have I gotten advance and free copies of books to review? Yes Do I review all those books? No. Do I give "good" reviews to authors who contact me or say hi? No. HELL No.

    Why do I do it?

    As a reader, I want to know, What's good? What about the book speaks to the reviewer? Should I spend my hard earned money on this book? Will I regret wasting precious hours of my life reading this book?

    I think I have a good sense of what's good, and how to communicate that to other readers.

    That's why I do it.

    And I only read reviews from others who feel the same way.

    Sorry for taking up so much time and space, but I wanted to say "Thanks". You nailed it - only review if you have something to say TO OTHER READERS.

    If you want to be the equivalent of a jock sniffer, just be honest about it. There are plenty of writers out there who love adoring fans. Not good, not bad, it just exists.

    But count on fair treatment of a books' worth from me.

    Thanks, Laura. Delete this if it's too much rambling. LOL


  2. I guess my reason would be a variation of D. I review books when I'm excited about them and want to share knowledge of that book with someone else. That's why I only do positive reviews (unless I'm paid to do otherwise, as I sometimes am. I don't mean I'm paid to do negative ones, but paid to take what I'm given and give an honest opinion)--because if I don't like the book, I probably won't finish reading it, let alone take the time to write a thousand words or more on it (my reviews tend to be on the long side sometimes).

    There's a ton of books out there. How does a reader know what a new one is like, particularly if she's never heard of the author before? As long as the review gives reasons, rather than just a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, I like to think a review helps the reader make a decision about whether to try the book or not.

  3. Thanks, Tom...and for the record, I follow your reviews, for all of the above reasons.

  4. I review because of (D) above. I also review because I find sitting down and thinking about the book and composing my opinion about the book is reason to get my brain cells working (all two of them). It's a mental exercise. I am honest with my reviews, but not abusive. I will find the good as well as the bad. I started a review blog for myself really - to have a sort of album for all the books I have read. I am pleased that authors have stumbled across it, liked it, and requested reviews. I'm even more pleased, that after interaction with many authors over editing, for example, I have made friends too. I have no need to review to receive free books - I have 1200 free books downloaded. I am very suspicious of review sights that give nothing but 5 stars to books. I do struggle with reviews from authors I have come to know quite well if their books didn't quite hit the spot, but it doesn't stop me being honest. It's only the book I am critiquing, not them. If an author expects nothing but 5-star reviews, that's just arrogance in my book and will probably make me vow to never read their book. A little humility goes a long way.

  5. That would be *review sites*

  6. Wonderful post, Laura. Honest and to the point. I agree with you. Reviewers need to do their thing and authors need to step back and take a deep breath.

  7. As an author- I send reviews to reputable review sites and if someone on a review site specifically requests my books. I rarely, if ever, ask another author/friend to review my books- I feel this may turn into a sympathy review. Ask your author friends to be a critique of your writing- this has always worked well for both people involved.

    As a reviewer for three sites, I am harsh, will not select books from friends or authors within any of my publishing houses. *NOTE- best to use a pen name as a reviewer too*

  8. I review books because I am a voracious reader. I love books and authors. I like to talk about those things. I feel my reviews are fair, and I won't review anything I wouldn't normally read because I do not feel I could be as fair as I want to be. If it is in a genre I read and it is just so bad (IMO) then I will send it back (if a paperback at my expense) and state that it is just not for me. After all it is just my opinion and someone else may love it.

    It is also a creative outlet for me.

  9. I review because I love books. Period. I love exploring new authors, books, publishers. I love finding those hidden gems that may have been overlooked by readers and I always-no matter what- try to be polite and kind to an author in my review. I do not, in any circumstances tear an author/publisher/genre down for whatever reason. if I didn't like something in the story, I will mention why XYZ didn't work for me but ABC did.

    I have "meet" many authors/publishers with my work as a reviewer, chat person, etc and when I find a book I am passionate about, one that touched me in some way on some level, you bet I am going to tell people about it. After all what I may like, others may not. It's basically my opinion on a book. *shrugs*

  10. I review for a review site. And I suppose the reason is that I love to talk about books and share those that had an impact on me. Unlike most reviewers, I only share the books I liked; as a guest reviewer on this site, that's just my 'thing'.

    I do have authors thank me from time to time, either on comments on the site or personally by email or on FB. But I honestly can say I do not expect that nor require it.

    I will admit, though. On books where I've been asked by the author to review it? I suppose I would appreciate a thank you.

    Good posts, much appreciated.

  11. Thank you so very much to all of you for dropping in today. You have made this a much richer post by sharing your experiences.