I live on Goodreads. I’m a writer and a voracious reader. So it’s not uncommon to see my fellow writer friends reviewing their fellow writer friends’ work. I review whatever I read but I don’t solicit myself as a reviewer for other authors. I just read what I feel like reading. That being said, I’ve noticed two things–some writers review and some do not. Both have their advantages, and each option suits each writer differently. Some choose to only post reviews of work they liked, and others feel perfectly content giving 1 and 2 star reviews with blunt honesty, regardless of whether or not that particular author runs in their circle.
What Works for Me
When I write reviews, I always focus on what I liked, keeping the spin positive. That’s what works for me because I’m not just a reader and I interact daily with my writer friends and want to support them, even if I don’t personally care for their work. The way I see it, we’re all adults. We all understand we’re not going to all love each others work. But that doesn’t mean I can’t point out a few positives to support them and give them an honest review. If I talk about anything I didn’t like, it has to do with how I perceived the storytelling and that is it. I never focus on critiquing the writer’s skills. I think a book review should be that–a book review. Not your opinion on how good of a writer someone is (in terms of the technical stuff). Sure, it’s one thing to mention poor editing or the writer’s ability to evoke certain emotions, but to give a full critical analysis of the writer’s abilities? Not so much.
That Thing Called Karma
We’re all entitled to write whatever we want in reviews. We’re readers. But I bring this up as writer, seeing writers write reviews for fellow authors. I think it can really hurt you in the long run if you’re critiquing them and not their work.
Why? Because everything you say is visible. Because everything you say will come back to you–tenfold. I guarantee you that if you spend paragraphs of a review critiquing someone’s abilities, the time will come when another writer will judge your abilities just as harshly, if not worse, when it’s their turn to “review” your work. Again, I’m just talking about writers reviewing work of fellow writers here. (And for the record, I’m not referring to any authors who have reviewed my work. In fact, I can only think of two writer friends of mine who have actually read and reviewed my stuff.)
I bring this up because I think we need to lift each other up in our writing community, without blowing smoke and mirrors. If you genuinely didn’t like a work written by another author, I think it’s more helpful to forego a review all together, or if you’re going to wear the reader hat and write a review, focus on the positives instead and leave it at that. No, I don’t believe in posting false, glowing 5-star reviews just for the hell of it. I do believe in being honest. Maybe it’s just the Southern girl in me, but I think some honesty mixed with the old adage, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say it at all” rings true. It’s all about balance.
I’ve made mistakes with reviews. I’ve experimented and have said things I wish I could take back, especially as I made my transition from being a reader to a reader and a writer. But at the end of the day, I find that balancing honesty with a focus on the positives is what works best for me as an author. I think it benefits everyone.
What about you? How do you, as an author, write reviews for fellow authors? Or do you even write them at all?