The Book Review Debate (and Some Announcements!)

Last Friday I did a post on writers nitpicking other writers. This post resonated with many of you and raised opposition in others. Some debating went on in the comments, which was great because I always love a good debate. And one of the topics that ended up being debated more in the comments than the actual nitpicking I was talking about was the question of whether or not writers should post negative book reviews.


Some of you choose to do this and say that a) you have a right to your opinion (you do) and that b) you do it in a constructive way (awesome) and that c) you think it provides a service to readers (it does)

However, even with all those points, I personally chose to stop reviewing books on this blog a long time ago and only talk about books online that I enjoyed. If I didn't like something, I discuss it with my friends, not publicly. I just don't mention it publicly at all. (I will never ever promote something that I didn't enjoy just to be nice for the record.)

So why did I make that decision to not post negative reviews?

1. The writing world is SMALL. 

The writer you one-star today may be the writer...sitting next to you at your next writers' meeting, may one day share an agent/editor/publisher with you, may be someone you have to do a workshop with, may be someone who's asked to blurb your book, etc. (Oh, and writers set up google alerts, so anything with their name will show up in their inbox. So don't assume some bestselling author won't read your blog.)

2. Agents and editors google you.

Say an agent or editor is on a fence about your manuscript. They decide to google you to see your web presence (because believe me, they do this, promise). Your website pops up and you have a one-star review talking about one of their client's books or one of the books they edited. You go on about plot holes and a TSTL heroine. Well, you've just told that editor that they don't know how to edit. SO, even if you were constructive in your review, do you think they're going to be as jazzed about working with you? They may think--well, our styles/visions may not mesh.

3. Usually, you don't see bestselling authors reviewing other people's books on their sites.

I take this as a here's-your-sign moment. Why aren't they doing this? It's not because they aren't reading. And it's not even because they don't have time. It's probably because they know better. You don't see other actors critiquing their fellow actors performance in a movie. There are movie critics and movie watchers to do that. It's kind of like peeing in your neighbor's backyard. It's just not wise.

4. The possible consequences do not outweigh the benefit (for me). 

If I save thirty people from buying a bad book, is that worth risking all the above stuff to do so? For me, no. There are wonderful book review sites and blogs out there. I'm a regular reader of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books; Dear Author; and RT Book Reviews. People can find out professional opinions on what someone thought of a book. There are already people providing this service and I don't need it to be me.

So if you still really, really want to do both positive and negative reviews of books online, what are some things to consider?


1. Don't say anything you wouldn't say to that author's face, to their agent, and to their editor.

And I mean REALLY think about if you were standing in front of that author and you're Ms. or Mr. Newbie Writer and they are Ms. or Mr. Successful Author or the editor you're pitching at a conference. Would you have the balls to say what you said online directly to them. If the answer is no, then don't put it online.

2. Consider a pen name.

This is an option that might solve the issue. You can write under your writer name and then have a website where you are BookGirl or something and can review as honestly as you want.

3. Make sure the benefit of what you're doing outweighs the possible consequences.

Determine what you are getting and giving by doing the reviews. Do you have a large enough platform that you are really helping readers? Are you getting good publicity for yourself by doing reviews?

Alright, so that's my take. Like I said in the comments, I have no issues with writers doing constructive, honest reviews, I'm just sharing why I personally have decided not to do them.


Now a few announcements....


  • Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of Leah Peterson's 5-minute Fiction Challenge. And I am the guest judging the entries! Prizes are involved. Go check it out and enter!
  • And, if you live in the DFW area, I will be speaking at a FREE writer's workshop in Denton, TX on Saturday June 4th. Kristen Lamb, social media guru, will also be speaking. To register, please go here. Here's my workshop description:
  • Hooks, Queries, and Closing the Deal -- Strategies on crafting a killer query, determining if your story is high concept, and what to do when you get THE CALL (after you totally freak out, of course.)

Alright, so what do you think of the whole book reviewing debate? And are any of you out there planning  attend tomorrow's 5 minute fiction or the workshop in Denton?