Face Off Friday: Honest Reviews vs. Selective Reviews


Honesty is the best policy, right? That's what we're told when we're growing up. You won't get in trouble if your tell the truth. However, after the first time we tell our friend that the side ponytail she's rocking makes her ears look elfin (I grew up in the 80s--for my younger friends, side ponytails were the way to win friends and influence people), we learn that there are caveats to this honesty thing. Tact and good judgement have to be a part of it.
So where does this fall when doing book reviews? People read a book review because they want an honest opinion to know if they should read the book or not. If the reviewer is just saying he/she liked it because the author gave them a free ARC or they know the author or the author agreed to do an interview with them or they're afraid to insult the author, then the reviews are not honest. Therefore, the reviews on that site are unreliable. So reviewers should be completely honest then, right?
Well, maybe, but then there's karma. It may be because I am a writer, but throwing another writers work under the bus makes me feel icky. I know how much I slave over every word and I'm sure that author did the same. Telling other people not to buy their work shrouds me in guilt. Plus, I worry that if I'm ever lucky enough to get published, karma will wield her crafty hand and have reviewers or other authors lambasting me.
But if I don't like a book, what should I do? I won't lie. It's not in me. I'm the girl who created this elaborate plan to sleep at her boyfriend's house on prom night, only to call my mother at seven the next morning to admit it. (You should have seen the horrified look on my boyfriend's face as I made that call.) My mom has actually told me that I have a truth problem, that sometimes lying is necessary, lol.
So what's a girl to do? My policy thus far has been to follow the credo of "if you don't have something nice to say, don't say it at all." If a book receives less than three stars, I don't review it online. But is that the right thing to do? Here's the argument:
Brutal Honesty v. Selective Reviewing

The truth hurts, but it's the truth...
  • Honest reviews will build trust among your followers
  • You'll save people from spending hard earned money on a crappy book
  • Authors are adults and can handle a tough review. Heck, maybe it will make them better the next time if the reviews are universally bad.
  • People often enjoy debating and commenting on a negative review
If you don't have something nice to say, don't...

  • If you're a writer and eventually get published, these writers will be your peer group and the internet has a long memory
  • Agents have said they don't appreciate if they go on a site and a writer is dogging out one of their author's books
  • Karma's a bitch
  • The only thing a negative review does is cut into someone else's income
So what's your opinion? I've gone with the selective reviewing policy, but see the merits in both sides. Do you think I'm just lying by omission? What's your policy?
**Today's Theme Song**
"A Beautiful Lie" - 30 Seconds to Mars
(player in sidebar--go ahead, take a listen to the lovely Jared Leto)