The Delicate Art of Reviewing

Elsewhere in this blog I’ve taken a stab at book reviews — both writing a few myself and opining on the reviewing process. I’m returning to the topic today because I’ve recently wrestled with the matter of writing a negative review.

When I became a member of the Smashwords community in 2010, I resolved to contribute a review of every piece of writing I acquired from that source. I also came up with some Rules for Responsible Reviewing, which I think I have adhered to:  1) Always read the entire book before reviewing. 2) Don’t indulge in gratuitous nastiness. 3) Don’t indulge in mindless cheerleading. 4) Hardly ever give five star or one star ratings. Save them for the absolutely wonderful and the truly abysmal.

So what do you do when you get that sinking feeling while reading a book that’s decent but not really good? The best choice might just be — do nothing at all. Stop reading and move on. Otherwise, it’s too easy to point out every fault, creating a torrent of negativity. People do that all the time on Amazon; I actually enjoy reading some of those diatribes. But excessively brutal honesty isn’t very helpful to an author. How would I feel if I read something like that about one of my books?

That’s the difference between reviews written by consumers and those by fellow writers. Because I joined Smashwords in order to publish my own writings, all my reviewing there is done in the spirit of being helpful to other writers, much the same as comments made in a critique group. I belong to several such groups and have witnessed the devastation that can be inflicted by critical comments delivered in an inconsiderate way.

Besides, in this connected world, anything you write may be used against you. Just Google “Greek Seaman.”

One comment

  1. That is an excellent point. Ever since I decided to self-publish, I’ve been wary about what I post, because if I ever make it to the big-time, people will start Googling me, and I don’t want them to find anything that I’m not proud of.


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