It’s not a surprise that reviews are frequently discussed on writing websites. Negative reviews can decrease sales and reputations. Positive reviews can increase them. There are more books coming out than anyone can read. Marketing and advertising, by publishers who do it at all, are generally reserved for books publishers believe have the potential to sell millions of copies.
I respect authors who reach the level of fame and success that readers will buy the next (fill in the name of the author.) I doubt I will ever be a member of that select group.
The rest of us depend on ourselves and on our readers for promotion. Reviewing books honestly and fairly leads indirectly to an atmosphere where all books, including mine, are more likely to be honestly and fairly reviewed.
I’ve been reading that reviews are for sale from certain sources. I’ve read reviews where the reviewer noted the excellence of the book and then rated it one out of a possible five stars, possibly misreading the instructions for rating. I’ve read scathing reviews where a reviewer “flames” an author.
None of that has happened to me but one reviewer described my Murder Manhattan Style title as “misleading” apparently because based on the title she imagined a different setting for the book. If you, “Can’t judge a book by its cover?” Should you judge it before reading it by its title? The review itself was quite positive, even flattering but it was down-rated due to the title.
All of this makes writing and receiving honest review even more crucial.
I’ve been working to improve my skill at reviewing. Here are a few observations.
Like anyone else I have my biases. Although I’ve read and truly enjoyed some romance and horror novels, they are not my favorite genres. Mix in strong elements of mystery and suspense and I’m more solidly in my comfort zone. I don’t personally refuse to review books outside my particular preferences, but in an effort to be fair to writer and reader I do concentrate on reviewing elements of the books I have more knowledge about and familiarity with.
As a mystery writer I am well aware of how hard it is to hide clues in plain sight, drag red herrings across the trail of the investigation and offer plausible but innocent suspects as alternates to the actual criminal. So when I write reviews I take particular care to leave clues, surprises and unexpected character traits unmentioned out of respect for the writer’s hard work and to enhance the reader’s enjoyment. It’s surprisingly easy to get enthused and to reveal information that would detract from the reader’s experience.
As a reviewer I am writing more to readers, than writers. Often in my blogs it is the other way around. I try to write less about techniques and more about the emotion the writing evoked. I try to give a sense of the story without telling a step-by-step synopsis.
As I learn more I hope to write more about it.
Do you write reviews? If so what do you try to do?