Should Authors Be Critics? The Question Of Reviews
Picture the following: you have just finished a book, and a particularly painful one at that. Perhaps the grammar was broken, or maybe the plot and characters simply didn’t work – for whatever reason, you are now unhappy. For ordinary readers, the solution is obvious: pen a long and detailed one-star review, post it everywhere you can and hope it deters others from following in your wake.
But what if you yourself happen to be a writer? What if you realise how painful such reviews can be? Should you really still do it in that case? Should you soften the review in some way? Or even say nothing at all?
Opinions on this matter vary considerably. In this influential post, Kristen Lamb argues that authors should never write such reviews, for both personal and professional reasons. Likewise, Mimi Barbour mentions in this post that she only reviews books worthy of three stars or more. Other writers take less rigid views; this, for instance, argues that bad reviews are unnecessary but also not ultimately harmful to the writers who pen them. Last but not least are writers such as Karen Myers, who argue that writers should indeed publish bad reviews when the situation calls for them.
Nowadays, I fall very much into the latter of the categories presented. And now, I’ll explain why.
First of all, an obvious point: if you’re going to write a review for a book, then you might as well be completely honest about it. There is no point in going easy on a book because it was self-published, or because it’s a debut, or because…well, whatever, really. If a book is bad, then it is bad – that simple. Books cost readers both time and money, so if a book is bad then readers ought to be able to say so – even if those readers happen to have written books themselves.
But what about simply keeping silent? This, according to Kristen Lamb, is at least as powerful as any bad review could be. While this argument works in certain cases, I feel Lamb misses something important. A five-star score from a reviewer who only gives five-star scores means very little. If that reviewer gives both good and bad ratings, however, then those five stars mean so much more.
I’ll end this on a personal note. One day, I would dearly love to be published myself. I would love even more to receive a glowing review from a fellow author. If that happened, though, then I would dearly want that praise to actually be deserved, rather than out of some misguided sense of duty.
Agree with this post? Disagree? Got any alternative opinions? Feel free to post your thoughts below.
From → Writing