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Perks
10-29-2010, 02:38 AM
Question of the day:

I just joined Goodreads. Since my manuscript is on submission and, in working with AuthorScoop, I've got lots of editor and publicist-type people on my contacts list, I feel a bit inhibited to add books that I didn't like to my lists.

Am I being silly?

Uncarved
10-29-2010, 02:46 AM
writing is an art form, of which art is highly subjective. Many love Twilight while some call it the death of literature. Don't worry, those authors that would take it to heart that you didn't like their book are few and far between. What should matter is that you READ that book.

Perks
10-29-2010, 02:47 AM
I'm less worried about the authors than about the editors!

Amarie
10-29-2010, 03:19 AM
It's one of those things you should make a decision on now, before you get further into the business, and whatever you decide, just be consistent. The topic comes up quite a bit among authors about whether or not they should review books on blogs.

Some do, because they like to do reviews, but they do it knowing they might make some people unhappy who they will end up sitting next to at conferences and book signings. I've never been interested in reviewing books, so I use Goodreads a little differently. I'll put up the books I'm reading on the currently reading list, but if I don't feel able to give them five stars by the time I'm finished, I just delete them (I delete a lot of books!). That's just me, and how I've decided to handle it.

Ken
10-29-2010, 03:30 AM
... something else I'm not in the loop about. Never heard of 'Goodreads.'

Yes, I live on an desert island, so you'd think :-(

JJ Cooper
10-29-2010, 03:30 AM
I think integrity is more important than pleasing others. Just be honest. Professional editors and authors will appreciate the feedback.

Cheers,

JJ

Toothpaste
10-29-2010, 03:41 AM
Tread carefully. Some of those books might be written by clients, and editors/agents only deal with books they themselves love. Further when blurb time rolls around fellow authors whom you have dissed in the past might not be so keen to blurb you. Possibly it makes sense to review books that are outside the genre you are writing.

I know JJ says editors and authors will appreciate the feedback but you just never know. It's a small community and people move from house to house, be careful of burning bridges. If you don't care, you don't care. And that's fine. But you seem antsy about it, and for that reason I say, be cautious.

Perks
10-29-2010, 03:46 AM
Yeah, I think my skittishness might not be entirely paranoid. I shall tread carefully.

poetinahat
10-29-2010, 03:48 AM
I don't mind differences of opinion - heck, I expect to have differences of opinion with people I like, respect and admire. If we always agree, I have to suspect their sincerity at some point.

I agree with Amarie - being consistent in your approach is essential. And the easiest way to do that is to be (a) yourself and (b) professional.

If I were one of those connections, it isn't just your favour I'd be interested in. I'd really want insight into your thought processes, your viewpoints, the consideration you put into your reviews, and how well you expressed them. ("This sucks", I'm afraid, would be no help to me at all, and I might not come back for you opinions on other books.)

My poetry colleague Dichroic has a Jane Austen quote in her sigline: She paid him the compliment of rational opposition. While I may have had my fill of Austen novels and miniseries, that's a magnificent line, and it really hits the nail on the head.

You're in a world I don't know, what with editors and agents, but I've seen you argue eloquently and tactfully. And I've seen you give a delicate compliment that leaves the criticism unstated, but nicely implied. You're good at this, and you're insightful. You can trust you.

I'd say: be candid, but be professional, specific and tactful.

Sevvy
10-29-2010, 03:49 AM
If it makes you uncomfortable, you probably shouldn't do it. I'm mostly using Goodreads for fun and the contests.

Perks
10-29-2010, 03:59 AM
Mr. Inahat, you're very kind. You can write my obituary any day. :)

I tend not to bother writing reviews of books I don't like, so I guess it might not be all that brave just to short-star a book, as long as I don't pummel it.

Toothpaste
10-29-2010, 04:02 AM
I guess for me the question is, is it a passion of yours to review books that you'd really feel like you weren't being true to yourself if you stopped? If so, then continue in a professional manner. But if not, I just don't think it's worth the risk. People can be a bit . . . weird . . . about their passions. And can take disses of their passions oddly personally. Even if they should know better.

poetinahat
10-29-2010, 04:08 AM
Thanks, you, but you know I'm not being kind.


If you didn't like my book, then, the question is which would be most likely to preserve or foster our good relationship?
low star rating, no comment
low star rating, "I thought it sucked"
low star rating, cogent couple of sentences
not adding to list (do I wonder, "has she read my book?")
For me, probably 3 or 4. Definitely not 2.
I'm nodding in agreement with both JJ and Toothpaste -- which, since they're not agreeing, tells me that I value the quality of the argument more than the position itself.

Crap. Absolutely no help!

Perks
10-29-2010, 04:25 AM
Lol! But I'm just adding books willy-nilly! I CAIN'T write 300 reviews!

Aaaaggggghhhhh!

Perks
10-29-2010, 04:27 AM
I guess for me the question is, is it a passion of yours to review books No, mostly I hate writing reviews. Nowadays, I only write a review when I really love something.

I like the Goodreads star system. That seems to satisfy the ghost OCD in me.

Amadan
10-29-2010, 04:28 AM
I'd hate to meet an author so petty that s/he carries a grudge for a bad review. Yes, I know there are many such authors out there. They wind up being snarked and laughed at a lot.

I'm sure one-star reviews sting, but seriously, how many of you would think, when sitting next to someone at a con, "Oh, this is that asshole who criticized my book! I can't wait until I get a chance to return the favor!"

Perks
10-29-2010, 04:45 AM
It's much fun going through the 'best books' list. I'm remembering reading so many books that I've given away.

I also realize I've seen a hell of a lot of movies.

Toothpaste
10-29-2010, 04:47 AM
I'd hate to meet an author so petty that s/he carries a grudge for a bad review. Yes, I know there are many such authors out there. They wind up being snarked and laughed at a lot.



Actually, no, not all of them are. You'd be surprised to learn how petty some pretty popular authors out there can be, some of whom if they blurbed your work could be extremely helpful in sales.

It's definitely a decision to be made, to stand up for your own reviewing principles and the very reasonable view that people ought not carry a grudge, or maybe realise that life isn't fair, easy or reasonable, and that if you can avoid burning bridges, then it might be wise to do so.

I'm not saying everyone should just shut up, but I am saying that you have to pick your battles, and if this is one you want to fight, go ahead. But it comes with its risks.

benbradley
10-29-2010, 05:16 AM
I've wanted to write a few reviews but is there any money in it? Reminds me I should be trying to write a publishable manuscript.

It's just dawned on me I could write a lot of, uh, "Singularity" reviews. Many such books are very good, but James Glieck's "Faster" - I've very much enjoyed earlier books "Chaos" and "Genius," but this one - it's great a page at a time, he writes about interesting, geeky things (remember the Armitron tuning fork watch, or at least the ads for it?), how we all got new cellphones and other gadgets and how technologically life is changing at an accelerating pace ... but overall, it's just a collection of observiations - he doesn't actually SAY anything. C'mon, dude, I WANTED to really like this book - it would have been better if you'd have somehow stuck your neck out, maybe made some forward-thinking predictions, even if they turned out to be flat-out wrong...

Okay, I had that one in me for a few years now (he might have even predicted something in the book, but if so it was so lame I forgot), maybe I should copy/paste over on Amazon...

Ben, aspiring singularity (among other things) writer.

Perks
10-29-2010, 05:20 AM
Okay, I had that one in me for a few years now (he might have even predicted something in the book, but if so it was so lame I forgot), maybe I should copy/paste over on Amazon...

You utterly should. Then we'll go for tapas.

ishtar'sgate
10-29-2010, 06:28 AM
Question of the day:

I just joined Goodreads. Since my manuscript is on submission and, in working with AuthorScoop, I've got lots of editor and publicist-type people on my contacts list, I feel a bit inhibited to add books that I didn't like to my lists.

Am I being silly?

My novel's on there. Feel free to ignore it.:D

SPMiller
10-29-2010, 06:39 AM
I prefer to burn bridges where possible. But then, we've established my personality is less than ideal, to say the least.

Perks
10-29-2010, 06:39 AM
My novel's on there. Feel free to ignore it.:D
Well, I don't know your book yet, so we're safe for now, ;) Either way, congratulations, you. It's a long road you've gone.

KTC
10-29-2010, 01:23 PM
Question of the day:

I just joined Goodreads. Since my manuscript is on submission and, in working with AuthorScoop, I've got lots of editor and publicist-type people on my contacts list, I feel a bit inhibited to add books that I didn't like to my lists.

Am I being silly?

yes.


although, i am more inclined to ONLY add the ones i did like. i think i added one that i absolutely hated and didn't finish...just so that i could give it the lowest rating. but i didn't review it or anything. i just felt absolutely ripped off about having bought it. it was terrible.

i don't think we have to publicly bash the books we didn't like...but i don't feel bad or unprofessional giving them a low rating.

btw...you sent me a link and it didn't work. i'll log into goodreads and find you...sometime today.

K

Irysangel
10-29-2010, 04:40 PM
I have to side with Toothpaste on this one. You're not looking at pacifying authors -- you're looking at a potential relationship with editors or agents. It's up to you how strongly you feel about Goodreads, but you need to stick to your guns.

Let's say your agent had a goodreads account (I've seen agents that do) and they five-starred and LOVED/GUSHED over things you hate and think are stupid. And things that you think are comparable to your book get eviscerated. Plotlines that will show up in your sequel are said to be "SO STUPID" by the agent. Would you be concerned? Would you start worrying about your taste meshing with hers?

Don't you think this table can be flipped?

My goodreads ratings are almost universally cheerfully positive, but I also decided long ago that I'd only rate things that I finish, and I only finish things I enjoy. The books I end up hating never get mentioned because I don't finish them. It's what I'm comfortable with, and I put a disclaimer on my author profile. People can see my reviews as useless if they choose, but it's how I've decided I'm going to run my account.

You have to decide how you're going to run yours. :)


PS - The first agent I ever got a call from, he said to me, "You're the Jill Myles that reviews on Amazon?" I was shocked, but sure enough, it was the first thing that pulled up when you googled my name. So I went on Amazon, and all my reviews were one star. Erm. I deleted them. ;) That was not the side I wanted to present to agents/editors. YMMV.

poetinahat
10-29-2010, 04:49 PM
Well, it *is* called "Goodreads", I guess...

aruna
10-29-2010, 05:08 PM
Great minds think alike, Jamie! I joined Goodreads just a few days ago. I'm probably not going to review, but I enjoy reading reader reviews of books I've read. Helps me consolidate my opinions. I was surprised to see my books on there - surprised, because it's a US site and my books weren't published in the US.

thethinker42
10-29-2010, 05:14 PM
I admit it, I'm a wimp: I'm scared to go on Goodreads because I'm afraid to see what people have said about my books.

THERE. I SAID IT.

*hangs head in shame*

ether
10-29-2010, 05:22 PM
I'm of the opinion that on sites like Amazon, GoodReads and my own blog, I'm entitled to... well, my opinion. And if that means giving a less-than-five-star rating to a book, then I will. But, I would never be mean about it and I try to point out specific things I loved, and what I didn't love in specifics. Something I might find as a problem, someone else might like, after all.

Like a few others have said, though, if I thought it was a terrible book and I didn't even want to finish it, I wouldn't bother doing a review for it anyway. I'd rather people who see my reviews come away wanting to buy the book, not burn it.

Jamesaritchie
10-29-2010, 07:05 PM
Life is far too short to spend a second of it blasting books you don't like. It says more about you than it does about the writer or the book.

Life is also far too short to spend any of it finishing a book you don't like.

There are thousands of good books you can praise. This also says more about you than about the book or the writer.

Pretty much every writer out there is not only doing the best they can do, the worst of them are doing better than the barking dogs.

BenPanced
10-29-2010, 07:14 PM
I'm of the opinion that on sites like Amazon, GoodReads and my own blog, I'm entitled to... well, my opinion. And if that means giving a less-than-five-star rating to a book, then I will. But, I would never be mean about it and I try to point out specific things I loved, and what I didn't love in specifics. Something I might find as a problem, someone else might like, after all.

Like a few others have said, though, if I thought it was a terrible book and I didn't even want to finish it, I wouldn't bother doing a review for it anyway. I'd rather people who see my reviews come away wanting to buy the book, not burn it.
Same here. I'd rather read a critique of a book that points out specifics ("I liked it because...", "I didn't like it because..."), rather than vague generalities ("I didn't like it because it was stoopid") or just plain nastiness ("I didn't like it because the author's an idiot").

Kate Thornton
10-29-2010, 07:46 PM
I just joined, too - but I will only review books I find interesting, as it serves me no purpose to tell you why I didn't like something. I can be very specific about what I do like, but when it comes to bad vibes, boredom or any other negative thing about a book - sometimes my opinion isn't separable from my general malaise, so what good would it do anyone else?


.

cwfgal
10-29-2010, 10:18 PM
I confess I check my Goodreads ratings pretty regularly. So far the two latest books I have out have done well though there are some negative comments. I look for trends in those negative comments, and in other reviews, rather than taking each one on its own merits because I know tastes vary.

As for books I have rated there, there haven't been many and I only rate the ones that I'm truly impressed with. That's probably the empathetic author in me coming out.

Beth

Amadan
10-29-2010, 10:29 PM
Life is far too short to spend a second of it blasting books you don't like. It says more about you than it does about the writer or the book.

Life is also far too short to spend any of it finishing a book you don't like.

There are thousands of good books you can praise. This also says more about you than about the book or the writer.

Pretty much every writer out there is not only doing the best they can do, the worst of them are doing better than the barking dogs.


A negative review isn't necessarily "blasting," or an untalented hack exercising a grudge against some poor sensitive writer.

Seriously, you think all reviews should be positive and nobody should ever be critical?

I often read the one-star reviews first on Amazon and Goodreads, even for books I like. Obviously, the ones that just say "BOOORING!" or "This sucked!" aren't very informative or useful, but I've found some exceptionally well-written critiques even of books that I really enjoyed.

aadams73
10-29-2010, 10:51 PM
A negative review isn't necessarily "blasting," or an untalented hack exercising a grudge against some poor sensitive writer.

Seriously, you think all reviews should be positive and nobody should ever be critical?

Far from it. However, it's something somebody who writes with an eye towards publication needs to think twice about. You're not just the average Joe reader at that point.

Editors Google. Agents Google. These are people who are so often incredibly passionate about their projects, and where there's that much passion, well, there can be a certain sting if you didn't like one of "their" books. At the same time, they're delighted if you really loved one of their projects. They're just as human as the rest of us, and therefore how you feel about their work holds a certain weight, whether they intend it to or not. Maybe not in all cases, but in enough that it ought to give anyone reviewing a certain pause.

It's not just about the author and their feelings. It's also about the person who might be potentially signing you to come and work with them.

It's foolish to ignore the possible implications of such actions. And so it's a smart thing to sit and think--as Perks is doing--beyond the end of one's nose.

YMMV, of course.

Medievalist
10-29-2010, 11:10 PM
I'd add books you read but didn't particularly like to your list--but neither rate nor comment.

I used to do both--but while I don't want to encourage the delicate flower/speshul snowflake phenom, I've seen really good writer friends be devastated by what, to me, seems a casual sort of "meh" thing.

I've changed my review policy as well; I'll still be very specific and even harsh about purportedly scholarly non-fiction books in my fields of expertise that are badly written/researched, but I'm not going to do reviews of fiction I can't say "hey, it doesn't suck," at the very least.

This article by David Hartwell, a smart guy and SF editor, helped me decide to change my practices: Blooming (On negative reviewing as performance) (http://www.nyrsf.com/2004/07/nyrsf-editorial-192-blooming-on-negative-reviwing-as-performance.html).

Online reviews are more likely to have comments/responses, and there's a tendency to deliberately be negative and overly harsh in order to drive traffic. I've never done that on purpose--but I've seen it happen to reviews I've written as well as to those by others.

seun
10-30-2010, 06:25 PM
Life is far too short to spend a second of it blasting books you don't like. It says more about you than it does about the writer or the book.


Yeah. God forbid anyone expresses an informed view.

aruna
10-30-2010, 06:42 PM
On amazon I once read the comment of an agent I was subbing to, defending a bad review of a book she repped.She seemed to feel pretty strongly about the book,and I hated it.
Generally, if I write a bad review it will be to point out factual errors, plot holes I feel are inexcusable, but only in books whcih seem to be doing well on the market, shortlisted for prizes, etc. I've read several of those lately; what's going on? On the whole, I wouldn't write a negative review of a book by a first-time author struggling to make it ini a crowded market -- no matter how much I hated that book. There are exceptions to that rule -- most recently, a book that made the Orange Prize shortlist which I felt was objectively far below the standard for that prize.

Amadan
10-30-2010, 09:17 PM
Reviews are not concrit for the benefit of the author. They're opinions for the benefit of other readers.

ChaosTitan
11-02-2010, 07:11 PM
I'm going to go with Toothpaste and Irysangel on this one. My agent advised me a long time ago to be careful how I publicly review other books for the same reasons they both stated--potential future relationships. You do have to consider that you may be working with these authors/editors in the future in some capacity.

Mostly when I rate books, I also post a few lines about what I liked or didn't like. Sometimes I've rated books higher than I thought they deserved, solely because I didn't want to come across badly. Some folks seen to post negative reviews with glee, but I hate having to say bad things about books because I know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of a scathing review.

As an author, if a review is honest and analytical, rather than a full blown rant, I don't care if it's positive or negative. But it's frustrating when people on Goodreads go through and simply post 1-stars all over the place without any sort of written review to go along with it (especially when they rate the book 6 months before release and there's no freaking way they were able to actually read it).

Amadan
11-02-2010, 10:44 PM
Mostly when I rate books, I also post a few lines about what I liked or didn't like. Sometimes I've rated books higher than I thought they deserved, solely because I didn't want to come across badly.

That boggles me.


Some folks seen to post negative reviews with glee, but I hate having to say bad things about books because I know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of a scathing review.

There's not an author alive or dead who doesn't have scathing one-star reviews on Amazon. (Not if they have more than a handful of reviews to begin with, that is.)

Look, I get that saying "OMG this book sucks, this author should have her fingers broken so she can never write again!" would be impolitic if you're in the business.

But an honest "This is a bad book and I hated it and here's why"? I sure hope the notion that posting such reviews is bad, mean, unprofessional, or makes you a "barking dog" never becomes widespread.

I am reminded of two authorial reactions from the opposite ends of the spectrum. First there is Oh John Ringo No (http://hradzka.livejournal.com/194753.html), a (rightfully) scathing review by David Hines of John Ringo's Paladin of Shadows series. John Ringo responded with amazing good humor (http://hradzka.livejournal.com/199220.html).

Then there was this snarky but intelligent review (http://ceilidh-ann.livejournal.com/71585.html) of Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver. And Ms. Stiefvater showed up in the comments (http://ceilidh-ann.livejournal.com/71585.html?thread=613025#t613025) to imply that the author of the review could be damaging her own prospects of being published by being so mean.

Based on the above reviews, I'm unlikely to read either Ringo or Stiefvater's books, but I can tell you which one came off as a professional and which one came off as a complete and utter tool.

ishtar'sgate
11-02-2010, 11:19 PM
There's not an author alive or dead who doesn't have scathing one-star reviews on Amazon. (Not if they have more than a handful of reviews to begin with, that is.)



True. But I just can't bring myself to do it to another author. As writers we're in the unique position of knowing just how much darned time, effort and frustration goes into bringing a story from that first vague idea all the way to publication. It's a hard road - at least for many of us.

Generally though, my peeve isn't with the writer if I feel like posting a negative review but with the promotion of books that are touted as one thing and turn out to be something else or fall far far short of the hype. That ticks me off. I think we should be able to review a promoter's reliability because for me they do a lot of damage. I often won't buy books by that author any longer. Once stung, twice shy and all that.

dawinsor
11-02-2010, 11:30 PM
I don't see the point of writing negative reviews, and I do see the potential problems. If I can recommend good books, I'll do that enthusiastically, and I appreciate it when other people recommend good books to me.

backslashbaby
11-02-2010, 11:32 PM
One problem I see with being too kind is that I look at the reviews an author gives of other work as one way of deciding how much our tastes may match. So if you were too kind with a book I thought was clearly crap (to me), I'd bump your work down on my list, assuming you might like to write that way, too.

That 'you' isn't for Perks, though, because I've read her work and she rocks :D

ChaosTitan
11-02-2010, 11:37 PM
There's not an author alive or dead who doesn't have scathing one-star reviews on Amazon. (Not if they have more than a handful of reviews to begin with, that is.)

And that's the amazing thing about this business: one person's one-star stinker is another person's five star favorite.



But an honest "This is a bad book and I hated it and here's why"? I sure hope the notion that posting such reviews is bad, mean, unprofessional, or makes you a "barking dog" never becomes widespread.

Thing is, there are book reviewers whose job and/or passion is it to post those kinds of reviews. Whether print reviewers or bloggers, they review books they loved, hated, or were 'meh' about. And the vast majority of those who post them do so in a professional manner.

But the OP was asking about posting public negative reviews on books written by people who may one day be her peers. People she might work with. That's not the same as Joe the Reader who posts his reviews on Goodreads. As several of us have pointed out, the perspective from within the industry is a little different. Publishing isn't so large that someone won't remember your scathing review of X's latest when it comes to picking authors to, for example, invite to submit to an anthology.

There are always times and venues for honest, negative reviews. But it isn't always up to other authors to provide them.

*shrug* YMMV

rugcat
11-03-2010, 12:12 AM
There are always times and venues for honest, negative reviews. But it isn't always up to other authors to provide them. Could not agree more. Don't you remember what your Mom said? "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

Being a professional reviewer is one thing, and carries certain obligations. I see no point whatsoever in posting a review as a reader to let everyone just how much you disliked a certain book.

I've had reviews with some negative bits that I thought were fair -- I saw the reviewers point, even if I disagreed with it. I've even agreed with reviewers who've pointed out some weaknesses.

I've also seen bloggers etc who were unbelievably nasty. One said he'd only read to page fifteen before throwing the book across the room and wanted his money back.(Fat chance.)

But my favorite is a one star review from Amazon for Dog Days. Here it is, in toto:

"This book stinks on ice. From the book cover, I thought this was a book about a radioactive dog, but it was nothing of the sort! "

Brindle Chase
11-03-2010, 01:38 AM
And that's the amazing thing about this business: one person's one-star stinker is another person's five star favorite.


QFT... I think every author needs to be conscience of how they present themselves, particularly in how they "criticize" Keeping in mind what Chaos points out here reminds us to think about how dissing on someone elses work might reflect on another's impression on our own.

If you want to be known as an author who loves to tee off on other authors... continue at your own risk.

PhoebeNorth
11-03-2010, 08:43 AM
Being a professional reviewer is one thing, and carries certain obligations. I see no point whatsoever in posting a review as a reader to let everyone just how much you disliked a certain book.

What if an author wants to be both? It's not unheard of, particularly in certain genres (adult SF/F and literary fiction are two--what about all those authors who review for the NYTimes Review of Books?).

I write carefully considered and honest reviews on GoodReads of every book that I've finished. They tend to be fairly long and range from one to five stars. I always try to explain the context of my opinions and my reasoning--because anything less is not useful for readers, who are always the intended audience for a review. Sometimes I can get a bit passionate in tone in either positive or negative reviews, though I try not to be mean--but these discussions always make it clear to me how writers and editors and agents are special snowflakes and may interpret well-intentioned and thoughtful criticism as "snark."

I have a fair number of followers on GoodReads and have forged invaluable relationships on there, connecting both as a reader, and a writer. And I really feel like I retain my right to be both--after all, who is more qualified to talk about and evaluate writing than other writers, who read all the time and tend to be pretty passionate about it? I do realize that this behavior might necessarily someday shift as I move into the professional sphere, but I'm pretty dedicated to never giving dishonest reviews, which I find highly unethical, and I hope that I'll always be allowed by my handlers to talk honestly about the full spectrum of my opinions, because I think blanket policies of all-positive reviews genuinely makes a writer seem less honest, even if it's not the case.

Honestly, when I've come across, say, agents who have sold multiple books that I really don't like, it makes me feel less inclined to submit to them. In an ideal world, we're supposed to want agents and publishers who understand us and our sensibilities on some fundamental level, right? At the very least, I'd think that sort of pattern might indicate wildly disparate tastes.

Perks
11-03-2010, 04:29 PM
But the OP was asking about posting public negative reviews on books written by people who may one day be her peers. People she might work with.

I'm really enjoying this discussion. The topic is quite loaded. I just wanted to be clear that in the OP, I was actually talking about adding books that I only rate with one star. I rarely write reviews at all and if I'm going to make the effort, it's only going to be on a book I really enjoyed and recommend.

Personally, I find a simple star system helpful, even without a few lines supporting the rating, but it's very interesting to see here how many people find that objectionable.

I've seen a few authors on Goodreads who 5-star every single book on their list. If anyone does that, I flat out don't believe them. For me, that's when the rating system becomes useless.

Namatu
11-03-2010, 05:29 PM
I'm going to go with Toothpaste and Irysangel on this one. As will I, for all the reasons they and others have already stated.

ChaosTitan
11-03-2010, 05:53 PM
I'm really enjoying this discussion. The topic is quite loaded. I just wanted to be clear that in the OP, I was actually talking about adding books that I only rate with one star. I rarely write reviews at all and if I'm going to make the effort, it's only going to be on a book I really enjoyed and recommend.

Ah. Gotcha.


Personally, I find a simple star system helpful, even without a few lines supporting the rating, but it's very interesting to see here how many people find that objectionable.

I suppose I don't like simply starring a book for the same reason I stated above: one person's crap-pile is another person's favorite book. Giving a book a star rating without any explanation does nothing to tell me why they disliked it, or why they loved it. Some books I've really liked have gotten one and two star reviews there, and if I'd gone by those stars only, I'd have probably never read the book. :)

scarletpeaches
11-03-2010, 05:56 PM
One man's meat may be another man's poison as the saying goes, but that doesn't mean those who vote "Poison!" have less of a right to voice their opinion.

If someone solicits my opinion, they better be sure they can handle the answer.

Site likes Goodreads for instance? I can see both sides of the argument. There's a part of me that thinks it dishonest to hide one's opinion for fear of "I may have to work with this person some day," though. It feels like too much of a compromise to me. That said...it's a difficult situation to be in.

Regarding one star or five - reviewers can't win. If they stick to stars-and-no-review, they're being reticent. If they give it some welly and detail why they didn't like a book, they're being snarky.

My feelings on this are, if someone despises my books, let them say so. As long as someone's opinion is honest, their own, and with reason, have at it, I say.

Irysangel
11-03-2010, 07:28 PM
I don't mind what people think of my books -- I have plenty of bad reviews and every person is completely justified to feel how they do. My stuff is not for everyone and that's just fine with me. I didn't write it for everyone.

But straddling the line between author and reviewer is hard. I think if you decide what you are going to do, you need to stick to it and own what you write about someone else's book.

I once made a snotty comment about another author's cover (back before I was published) and it is still dogging me several years down the line. It was a choice I made, but I ended up regretting it, because I cared far, far less about that author's cover than she and her friends did (heh). I forgot it, but they did not. People have long memories when they are insulted...or when they think they are.

At the end of the day, no one can tell you how you should run your authorial career. If you want to be a book reviewer and author both, that is your choice and no one should be able to tell you no. You have a right to your opinion. I think what we're trying to say is that you (as an author) have a bit more of a public identity than your average reviewer, and these things will follow you around at a business level. If you are fine with that, awesome.

That goes for both sides of the coin - I ran across an agent's Goodreads account and clicked around to see what sort of books she liked, and she wrote some nasty, scathing reviews of books I had liked. She is free to have her opinion, of course, but from a professional standpoint...it made me think differently about her. If she is this free to criticize others in her same profession, what else does she openly offer her opinions about? What do publishers think about her nasty reviews? Has she ever offended an editor that ran across it?

(Because the publicity departments do pay close attention to Goodreads.)

Perks
11-03-2010, 07:44 PM
What's prompted my question in all of this is that my manuscript was submitted to an editor who has done one of my favorite books of the last decade and then one, more recently, that I hate so much I've ranted most venomously and articulately (if I do say so) but only at the shower wall. And at the dinner table.

Given the one book (and this editor's overall reputation) I'd pretty much sacrifice an appendage to secure a deal there. But even with this high esteem, I'm feeling too inhibited to include the hated book on my list, much less post any review of it.

Obviously, my opinion and whether or not to state it is hardly a lever under the Earth's axis. It really doesn't matter and I know my relative place in the food chain. It's just an interesting little point of decorum.

I think I'm not equipped with a rigid enough backbone to be both writer and reviewer.

rugcat
11-03-2010, 08:16 PM
Another issue is whether it's worth offending readers. If you write Urban Fantasy, for example, and you post a review that gives the opinion that Jim Butcher (much beloved by fans) is a hack and a dreadful writer, you will provoke a large number of people to trash your own work. They will follow your career and savage you at every opportunity.

Now, it's nice to stick by one's principles and let the chips fall where they may, but imo it's rather foolish to stir up a hornet's nest unasked and unsolicited.

Amadan
11-03-2010, 08:24 PM
A bad review doesn't have to be nasty and venomous, you know. (Though it doesn't have to not be, either.)

This thread keeps making my jaw drop. I hope the opinions here are not representative.

Perks
11-03-2010, 08:35 PM
A bad review doesn't have to be nasty and venomous, you know. (Though it doesn't have to not be, either.)

This thread keeps making my jaw drop. I hope the opinions here are not representative.Certainly they don't have to be. I had heard stories, though, of career-skewing grudges over bad reviews and wanted to know how many others also had this impression.

My jaw has dropped a time or two in my dealings with the publishing industry. There was a discussion with a big-name agent who said that it was better to lie and say you had read a book - any book mentioned - than to admit you had not. It was recommended that I get very good at 'faking it'. It doesn't matter that there are only 24 hours in a day and that I have two children and a house to run. In certain circles, I'm supposed to have read every book out there.

PhoebeNorth
11-03-2010, 10:18 PM
Certainly they don't have to be. I had heard stories, though, of career-skewing grudges over bad reviews and wanted to know how many others also had this impression.

My jaw has dropped a time or two in my dealings with the publishing industry. There was a discussion with a big-name agent who said that it was better to lie and say you had read a book - any book mentioned - than to admit you had not. It was recommended that I get very good at 'faking it'. It doesn't matter that there are only 24 hours in a day and that I have two children and a house to run. In certain circles, I'm supposed to have read every book out there.

Well, I'm coming from the literary poetry world, which can be similarly conciliatory. However, I went to graduate school with William Logan, who is both a poet and a reviewer and frequently skewers (really, talk about snark!) other poets. And it's impacted his career in some ways (uh . . . one Pulitzer winner threatened to beat him up), but he's also had his fair share of success.

I think a lot of it boils down to personal ethics and your own comfort level. And frankly, the concept of dishonest reviewing bothers me far, far more than the idea of getting negative reviews; I feel that it violates the trust between readers, who have faith in the opinions of authors they enjoy, and the author writing a review. I wouldn't lie about what I've read, either, though. I did plenty of that in graduate school and it made me feel skeevy and insecure about my tastes and knowledge. I'd much rather have an honest, passionate discussion with an agent about what I have read lately than make something up.

And again, I realize that my honesty might work against me in this business, but if it's not a world where frank expression of one's thoughts isn't valued, I might as well go back to my desk job.

PhoebeNorth
11-03-2010, 10:20 PM
Another issue is whether it's worth offending readers. If you write Urban Fantasy, for example, and you post a review that gives the opinion that Jim Butcher (much beloved by fans) is a hack and a dreadful writer, you will provoke a large number of people to trash your own work. They will follow your career and savage you at every opportunity.

Now, it's nice to stick by one's principles and let the chips fall where they may, but imo it's rather foolish to stir up a hornet's nest unasked and unsolicited.

People on GoodReads are asking for other readers' opinions, and we're readers, too.

As for people trashing my own work, if they're talking about my work on the internet, by all means, trash away. It's better marketing than, I don't know, a book trailer. I've bought more than one book based on a negative review.

Little Red Barn
11-03-2010, 10:37 PM
[QUOTE=Irysangel;5476151]

I once made a snotty comment about another author's cover (back before I was published) and it is still dogging me several years down the line. It was a choice I made, but I ended up regretting it, because I cared far, far less about that author's cover than she and her friends did (heh). I forgot it, but they did not. People have long memories when they are insulted...or when they think they are.

QUOTE]

It's reasons like this, I no longer go there. An author has absolute no say over final cover art.

Perks, you're super bright, bb, I wouldn't worry. x0

Toothpaste
11-03-2010, 10:42 PM
For the record, for me the issue isn't one between lying and telling the truth. It's about speaking up in the first place. If you feel that you must give a star level to the books you list, then go for it. But I personally would not. I'm not saying I'd give five stars for a one star book, I just wouldn't give any at all. Same goes with reviews. It isn't about pretending to love something you don't, it's about simply not sharing my opinion on the subject. It's a choice I made because I don't feel like I'm giving up anything in not reviewing books, sharing my thoughts publicly about them, as I never did in the past. I think it's about public vs private. And anything on the internet is free for anyone to read. So I reiterate, if you feel you are giving part of yourself up in not reviewing books, then keep reviewing, but keep in mind all that's been said here. If, however, you could take it or leave it when it comes to reviews, then why risk possibly offending the wrong person? That's all.

It's not about lying. It's about picking your battles. And that's an individual choice.

Medievalist
11-03-2010, 10:57 PM
I do feel that as a scholar, when I review academic books, I have different obligations than when I review fiction.

That said, this review (http://www.greenmanreview.com/book/book_ohogain_celts.html) was perceived by the author as "hostile." He tried to get my editor to edit or delete it.

Perks
11-03-2010, 11:04 PM
In all fairness, that's hardly the most contentious I've seen you, Ms. Medievalist. ;)

Amadan
11-03-2010, 11:39 PM
I do feel that as a scholar, when I review academic books, I have different obligations than when I review fiction.

That said, this review (http://www.greenmanreview.com/book/book_ohogain_celts.html) was perceived by the author as "hostile." He tried to get my editor to edit or delete it.

Wow.

When you're that much of a special, special, fragile little flower, you're just begging for someone to step on you.

(Not that I think your review did any such thing.)

Brindle Chase
11-03-2010, 11:41 PM
In the end... you'll be held accountable for what you say of another's work. People will judge your words (or even stars), probably more than the book you are reviewing. Good or bad, there are consequences. If you understand and accept the consequences... have at it.


Like Toothpaste mentions. There's no harm in not commenting on something you didn't enjoy. Further, if you feel you must, and accept the possible consequences... Amadan's advice that a negative review doesn't have to be venomous... is the best advice. Why people feel they have to be cruel, snarky and/or venomous to say they didn't enjoy something... is beyond me . *shrugs*

Irysangel
11-03-2010, 11:59 PM
A bad review doesn't have to be nasty and venomous, you know. (Though it doesn't have to not be, either.)

This thread keeps making my jaw drop. I hope the opinions here are not representative.

In what way? I am curious.

And you are right, a bad review doesn't have to be unpleasant. But I rarely see reviews where they are just "It's not for me". People like to talk about what they enjoyed (or did not enjoy) in a book. Goodreads is there to engender discussion and sharing. I'm just more selective about what I share, I guess?

(Though it is also sheer laziness on my part. I won't finish something I am not enjoying. Not enough hours in the day).

I keep feeling like the impression in this thread is that people think some of us are saying "OMG GIVE EVERYTHING SHINY HAPPY REVIEWS ALWAYS" but I don't think that's what is being said?

Or maybe I have talked myself into circles? (this happens far too often) I adore Goodreads and I love chatting about books there. I think it's a lot of fun and a great tool. But I do think you have to make a business decision about how you use it if you plan on having an author profile there at some point.

(This also goes for all the spammy "Read my book!" posts that you get on Goodreads, which are a whole 'nother ball of wax)

Amadan
11-04-2010, 12:16 AM
I keep feeling like the impression in this thread is that people think some of us are saying "OMG GIVE EVERYTHING SHINY HAPPY REVIEWS ALWAYS" but I don't think that's what is being said?

No, what's being said is "Give shiny happy reviews or shut up (or else be known as a spiteful meanypants that none of the cool kids will want to sit with)."

Plus the people saying "Why would you ever give a negative review?" Seriously? Seriously? What, you think a negative review is an act of spite, and not, you know, sharing your opinion of something like a review is supposed to do? On a "Recommendations only" list, sure, that makes sense, but in a general book comm, people want to read opinions good and bad. And not just from professional reviewers.

And it seems a lot of authors aren't going to distinguish between carefully considered constructive criticism and teeing off with snark, anyway. If you say anything that's not shiny and happy about their books, you suck. Well okay then.

Perks
11-04-2010, 12:21 AM
As for me and the responders here, I don't think anyone is advancing the notion that negative views are wrong or to be avoided by most people. We're only wondering out loud if, at entry level, negative reviewing could bolt down some speed bumps in the ol' career path.

I know from my own experience (and also the benefit of others') that agents and editors do Google - and thoroughly - prospective clients and projects.

benbradley
11-04-2010, 12:37 AM
Talk about vicious reviews, there this book, it has an interesting story - famous scientist gets rich on a commercial product (Mathematica math modeling software), then spends TEN YEARS researching and writing a book. It's self-published at great expense to the author, released to great anticipation, but once people start actually reading it ... well, see for yourself:
http://www.amazon.com/New-Kind-Science-Stephen-Wolfram/dp/1579550088
A lot of the reviews are worth reading just on their own, but I presume none of these are aspiring authors...

Amadan
11-04-2010, 12:39 AM
They ain't got nothing on Mark Twain (http://www.pbs.org/marktwain/learnmore/writings_fenimore.html).

Toothpaste
11-04-2010, 01:04 AM
Amadan - I'm not sure why this is causing you to get so heated, but I do believe you've taken what we've said to the extreme. If you read what most of us warning about the dangers in speaking your mind we are saying "Beware, things could backfire, but so long as you are aware of that you need to choose what you want to do that would be the most truthful to who you are."

I believe that critique is important, and that reviewers are important as well. What I don't believe is that everyone out there has the same level of ability in writing reviews. I am not a fan of the democratisation of reviewing with everyone being an expert. When everyone is something, nobody is. There are people for whom it is their job to review books. Some of these people are authors as well. But not every author is a reviewer and not every reviewer is an author.

The latter is the point. If you are an author who enjoys reviewing, who puts the time and effort into it, then by all means continue doing so. It's worth a bit of professional risk to keep up doing a job you have cultivated. If however you are an author who might review a book now and then, who maybe doesn't even want to review books, just give them a star rating, that's when I'd suggest keeping your opinions to yourself. Why risk accidentally hurting a potential peer for the pleasure of clicking "one star" on Goodreads? That's what I don't get. It doesn't seem like the person cares that much about reviewing if all they want to do is give a star rating, and it can save a world of grief just keeping your opinions to yourself. That's the other thing, why the heck does everyone want to share their opinion with the world? Why does it matter so much to an individual to have that right to say what star they would give a work, so much so that it supercedes potential business relationships?

We curb our actions all the time in interactions. Especially professional ones. I would be very happy to wear pajamas everywhere I went, but I know that if I'm going for an interview I need to respect the person who is interviewing me, respect the job I am applying for, to dress up a bit.

The second you enter the world of publishing as a professional, you need to take a serious step back and think about what image you want to get across to the world. Take a look at your internet footprint and make some choices. Some authors make a reputation for being acerbic saying whatever they want, some are shutins you rarely hear from. Some are super sweet, some are boring as heck.

I myself decided that since I write for kids, my blog would not have any foul language in it and if I ever discussed mature subjects - especially of a more sexual nature - there would be a warning at the top (though I rarely discuss such things). My blog is for grownups, and it's written for them but I know kids might stumble on it and I have no desire nor no need to write about certain subjects in certain fashions. I don't share religious or political beliefs on my blog at all, because that's a can of worms I don't need to get into - it isn't like my books are either political or religious in nature - but there are certain issues, women's issues, general human rights, etc that I will take a stand on. I decided that my blog would be to educate and inform people about what it's like to be an author/actress, and those are the primary topics I focus on. I don't review books (though I am a professional film reviewer), I don't critique authors I might have issues with. I don't badmouth casting directors or anyone in the industry. I will not talk about my personal life aside from the odd jokey stuff, and I definitely don't use my blog to vent about my professional life though it is very tempting (even more so on Twitter). These are all choices I made because of how I wanted to be seen professionally.

And you'd better believe the pictures I choose to be out on the net I've approved of :) .

All this is a choice. It is my choice and no one else's. I can't tell any author here what he or she should do for his or her professional image. I can only offer insight. Warnings. And make sure that whatever an author decides to do, she does it with all the facts. And the facts are that people can be petty in ANY industry. In every industry, let's be honest. There are editors, agents, authors etc who WILL react poorly to a bad review. I know you think it's silly, I know you don't approve. But that's life. People are people. And they can be irrational. Now. Whether that matters to you, is up to you. You weigh the benefits against the costs and you make an informed decision.

But don't put your fingers in your ears and sing to yourself because you don't like hearing that the profession can be petty. It's a fact. Deal with the fact however you want to. But it's a fact.

Irysangel
11-04-2010, 01:07 AM
No, what's being said is "Give shiny happy reviews or shut up (or else be known as a spiteful meanypants that none of the cool kids will want to sit with)."

I think when we caution, it's because of worst-case-scenario. Do you really want a Goodreads review of a book you disliked to be the catalyst for a negative situation? Of course not. Will it happen? Not necessarily? But it could. Like I said, I've had it thrown in my face by an agent who saw my reviews on Amazon. I've had authors get upset at me over something I said in a blog post about their book.

So it could happen. Won't necessarily - there are a lot more sane and rational people on the internet than we think - but it only takes one kneejerk reaction to start a flamewar. And I think people are cautioning in an effort to be helpful.


And it seems a lot of authors aren't going to distinguish between carefully considered constructive criticism and teeing off with snark, anyway. If you say anything that's not shiny and happy about their books, you suck. Well okay then.

Well, if an author chooses to go after you because they didn't like your review, that's a whole 'nother can of (unprofessional) worms. SHOULD it happen? No, of course not. Does it happen? Far too often. Which is uncool, but is also the nature of the internet.

Irysangel
11-04-2010, 01:10 AM
Also? I think author KT Grant runs a book review blog (kbgbabbles.blogspot.com) and has mentioned before how she struggles to maintain the line between reviewer and author. Her blog is interesting reading.

Medievalist
11-04-2010, 01:23 AM
In all fairness, that's hardly the most contentious I've seen you, Ms. Medievalist. ;)

Well, no. I mean look at this (http://digitalmedievalist.com/opinionated-celtic-faqs/pheryllt/), as a contrast.

So I'm hardly given (as one person in PM suggests) to being "mealy mouthed."

But while I'll freely excoriate a purported scholar for making shite up about the Celts (http://www.greenmanreview.com/book/book_matthews_taliesinshaman.html), I'm not in general given to reviewing for public perusal a book I didn't like--in part because I'm aware of the faux traffic negative reviews create, and in part, I think emphasizing what people SHOULD read, or what I think they'll like, is better for readers.

And as a reviewer, while I am sympathetic to authors (my current book on Amazon has a single negative review) I think I am there to help readers find the good stuff.

Perks
11-04-2010, 01:30 AM
Mealy-mouthed? If it's any consolation, I don't think Medievalist (capital 'M'; AW fixture) has ever been in the same zip code as 'mealy-mouthed'.

I'd like, on Goodreads, to freely recommend books I've really enjoyed (with or without supporting reasons) so I think perhaps I'll just keep it to a Recommended Reading List. I really don't have the time or inclination to write negative reviews, and although it might give a more honest picture of my reading tastes to include one-star rated books, Toothpaste makes a good point - who really cares what I think?

Amadan
11-04-2010, 01:34 AM
Amadan - I'm not sure why this is such a personal thing for you


I'm not taking it any more personally than you are.

I don't think your opinion in particular has been extreme. I have been boggled by the people saying that no one should ever post a negative review, that commenting negatively on a book is a waste of time (or worse, says something unsavory about your character), or that only professional reviewers should do so. (Actually, you did kind of imply that yourself.)

I think perhaps also you're conflating every type of review together. To me, there's quite a big difference between me clicking one star on Goodreads for a book I hated and writing a lengthy, vitriolic trashing of the book on my Big Professional Author Blog. Yes, I totally get that the latter would probably be inadvisable, unless you feel so strongly about the book that you're willing to take the backlash. But as far as people combing my Amazon and Goodreads reviews and giving me shit because I gave some book one or two stars? Yeah, I'm willing to take the risk that someday my dream agent will see that and take offense and I'll die lonely and semi-unpublished. That's not "sticking my fingers in my ears," it's saying that I don't think living in fear of such petty people is worth it to me. Yes, I understand that such petty people exist.

Incidentally, I do not post a lot of vitriolic reviews, and there aren't that many books that I give one or two stars. Just like everyone else, I tend to read books that I at least expect to enjoy, and consequently, there aren't that many that I've finished despite being disappointed. But when I do, I participate in various reader communities as well as Goodreads and Amazon, and I think honest reviews and ratings are a service to fellow readers. Of course no one is going to choose or not choose a book solely on its Amazon rating, let alone based solely on my review, but I've found it usually is significant when a book has a markedly higher or lower average rating than others in its genre. So adopting a "Never click less than 5 stars" policy, to me, would be not only dishonest, but subverting the purpose of ratings.

Nor do I think you have to be an "expert" reviewer to review helpfully. People who read my reviews will decide for themselves how close their tastes are to mine. I've had a number of people react to my reviews by saying "I will read this" (or "Sounds awful, I'll give that one a pass"). Conversely, I've had people respond to reviews by saying "What you said you hated about that book is exactly the sort of thing I love, so I'm going to check it out." Cool. Do I have to be a professional reviewer to be worthy of wielding such immense reviewing power that one or two people might make a book purchasing decision based on what I post?

(P.S. I gave Alex and the Ironic Gentleman 4 stars. I hope that's not offensive. :o)

Medievalist
11-04-2010, 01:43 AM
Toothpaste makes a good point - who really cares what I think?

Well, actually--I do.

Hey! You wanna set up a private list of Books I Wished I hadn't Bought? If so, I'm interested.

I'm increasingly paying attention to reviews/comments about books, films and music by people I "know" in some way--like you--because I have very little discretionary income, and while I do use the library, I take very seriously my commitment to supporting pushers people in the arts.

So I do read reviews--and follow blogs (like Author Scoop).

And I should probably have noted that while I post reviews on sites I own or co-own, I also am Managing Editor/Webmaster for a couple of review sites.

So I take this conversation very seriously.

Toothpaste
11-04-2010, 02:01 AM
I'm not taking it any more personally than you are.

Yes, I changed that line in my post. Didn't quite think it made sense on rereading it. But you have to admit you have been using words that give the impression that you are overwhelmed with shock by some of the attitudes here, and thus makes it seem like you have a personal investment in the issue. Which you do. I didn't know you wrote Goodreads reviews until this post.



I don't think your opinion in particular has been extreme. I have been boggled by the people saying that no one should ever post a negative review, that commenting negatively on a book is a waste of time (or worse, says something unsavory about your character), or that only professional reviewers should do so. (Actually, you did kind of imply that yourself.)

:) Didn't just imply. I don't have a problem at all with blog reviewing, but I will say that I find what has happened with the democratisation of reviewing isn't altogether a good thing. Not everyone's opinions are equal, and yet many are treated as such. It's the same thing with the 24 hour news cycle, with all these "pundits", some of whom are just people with strong opinions but no expertise in the field. At any rate, I don't think it's a waste of time to critique books. And I don't think only people who work for known trades are experts. There are many bloggers who I very much respect. But this is a discussion for another thread.



I think perhaps also you're conflating every type of review together. To me, there's quite a big difference between me clicking one star on Goodreads for a book I hated and writing a lengthy, vitriolic trashing of the book on my Big Professional Author Blog. Yes, I totally get that the latter would probably be inadvisable, unless you feel so strongly about the book that you're willing to take the backlash. But as far as people combing my Amazon and Goodreads reviews and giving me shit because I gave some book one or two stars? Yeah, I'm willing to take the risk that someday my dream agent will see that and take offense and I'll die lonely and semi-unpublished. That's not "sticking my fingers in my ears," it's saying that I don't think living in fear of such petty people is worth it to me. Yes, I understand that such petty people exist.

I'm not conflating them. I am merely saying that any time a person states an opinion it is subject to criticism. From a vitriolic review, to a brilliantly sensitive critique, to a one star. And that's great that you don't live in fear of such petty people. My point, as I've said numerous times, is that it's up to each of us to choose which battles to fight. And in order to make such a decision one ought to be well informed of all sides. You have chosen to keep reviewing knowing that you'd never want to work with anyone who'd take something like that personally. I think that's a very sound reason. For me, as I've also said before, since I don't review books anyway, I don't see any sense in running the risk of offending when I don't have a need to.

But I do write film reviews, and I'm an actor. And I have chosen to stick with the film reviews despite maybe offending potential people I'd like to work with. Why film over books? I like writing film reviews and I have no desire to write book reviews. I'm willing to take a bit of a risk with something about which I have a passion, but not with something I couldn't care less about.



Incidentally, I do not post a lot of vitriolic reviews, and there aren't that many books that I give one or two stars. Just like everyone else, I tend to read books that I at least expect to enjoy, and consequently, there aren't that many that I've finished despite being disappointed. But when I do, I participate in various reader communities as well as Goodreads and Amazon, and I think honest reviews and ratings are a service to fellow readers. Of course no one is going to choose or not choose a book solely on its Amazon rating, let alone based solely on my review, but I've found it usually is significant when a book has a markedly higher or lower average rating than others in its genre. So adopting a "Never click less than 5 stars" policy, to me, would be not only dishonest, but subverting the purpose of ratings.


And like I said, for me it's not about only clicking 5 stars, it's about not bothering to click in the first place. For you you have a very specific motivation to help readers. And so you have your reasons to want to. My public persona is more to help would be writers, and as such I comment in threads like these :) .



Nor do I think you have to be an "expert" reviewer to review helpfully. People who read my reviews will decide for themselves how close their tastes are to mine. I've had a number of people react to my reviews by saying "I will read this" (or "Sounds awful, I'll give that one a pass"). Conversely, I've had people respond to reviews by saying "What you said you hated about that book is exactly the sort of thing I love, so I'm going to check it out." Cool. Do I have to be a professional reviewer to be worthy of wielding such immense reviewing power that one or two people might make a book purchasing decision based on what I post?


I don't know. Like I said, it's a very complicated issue to me, and I don't feel that only the trades should be allowed to review. I also think it's pretty obvious you read a lot, and write a lot, and thus know both of what you review and how to do it in a compelling fashion. So, in a way, you are an expert. But I can't say that I like the idea that someone can write a cruel review of my work with personal threats and their star rating contributes to the overall average my book gets. At any rate. Like I said before, this is a conversation for another thread.



(P.S. I gave Alex and the Ironic Gentleman 4 stars. I hope that's not offensive. :o)

Well I do wonder where that last star went . . . ;) . (seriously though, that's lovely of you to do so, thank you)

Look I'm not "offended" by reviews. I can be hurt by truly thoughtless ones, but at the same time I discard them because clearly the reviewer is crazy. I'm not one of the authors you need to worry about, though I will say that if say you had given me a bad review and then asked me to blurb your work, I'm not entirely sure how I'd feel about that :) . I'd like to think I'd set the review aside and read your work and judge it based on its own merit, but if you'd written one of those scathing reviews? One of the ones that got personal with attacks on the author herself? Chances are I wouldn't want to blurb someone I didn't respect. But there are other authors out there who ARE petty. And agents. And editors. And you don't care and that's awesome. I'm not trying to convince you to care. I am trying to make sure everyone is aware of all sides to the argument so that they can make informed choices. I don't, personally, think there is a right or wrong to the question. I truly don't. I'm just trying to help and offer some insight.

ChaosTitan
11-04-2010, 02:30 AM
No, what's being said is "Give shiny happy reviews or shut up (or else be known as a spiteful meanypants that none of the cool kids will want to sit with)."

Who is saying that? I don't recall posts where anyone has said that.

What we are saying, and what you seem to not be understanding, is that while people on the internet are free to spew whatever they like in a book review (be it positive or negative or so badly written you don't have a clue what they're saying), people in the industry have to be careful what they say in public.

Are you going to walk into work tomorrow and bad-mouth your fellow employees to their faces? Are you going to trash-talk your boss over the loudspeaker for everyone to hear?

Didn't think so.

As an author working within this industry, I'm not going to publicly trash another author's work. If I love a book, I'll say so. If I'm so-so with a book, I'll try to be fair about what worked and didn't work for me. If I passionately hate a book, I just won't comment on it at all. Just like in my day job, I'll praise a good job and offer constructive criticism on a so-so job, but I'll never blast an employee when they do badly. The latter does no one any good.

Folks are free to read and review however they like. But if you hope to be a professional in this industry, tread with caution. Use common sense. The internet is not private. As has been attested to in this thread, negativity unfortunately can come back to bite you.

Amadan
11-04-2010, 02:48 AM
What we are saying, and what you seem to not be understanding, is that while people on the internet are free to spew whatever they like in a book review (be it positive or negative or so badly written you don't have a clue what they're saying), people in the industry have to be careful what they say in public.

Are you going to walk into work tomorrow and bad-mouth your fellow employees to their faces? Are you going to trash-talk your boss over the loudspeaker for everyone to hear?

Didn't think so.

As an author working within this industry, I'm not going to publicly trash another author's work. If I love a book, I'll say so. If I'm so-so with a book, I'll try to be fair about what worked and didn't work for me. If I passionately hate a book, I just won't comment on it at all. Just like in my day job, I'll praise a good job and offer constructive criticism on a so-so job, but I'll never blast an employee when they do badly. The latter does no one any good.


I understand what you're saying perfectly well. I disagree with your reasoning.

Writing a negative book review is not the same thing as bad-mouthing a fellow employee. It is accepted and encouraged for people to comment publicly on books. It is not accepted and encouraged for people to comment publicly on how good a job a non-public facing employee is doing.

The average employee, unless s/he wears a polyester uniform, doesn't want or expect someone to come in off the street and give them a job performance evaluation. But as authors, you invite that.

And I still think there's a big difference between publicly teeing off on another author on your blog and giving their book a low rating on Amazon because you didn't like it.

(And since I gave Twilight one star, no, I wouldn't be so presumptuous as to ask Ms. Meyer to write a blurb for my book...)

dclary
11-04-2010, 02:55 AM
...while people on the internet are free to spew whatever they like in a book review (be it positive or negative or so badly written you don't have a clue what they're saying), people in the industry have to be careful what they say in public.

As an author working within this industry, I'm not going to publicly trash another author's work. If I love a book, I'll say so. If I'm so-so with a book, I'll try to be fair about what worked and didn't work for me. If I passionately hate a book, I just won't comment on it at all.

For instance, you are never going to see Anne Rice say "Twilight is a donkey-dug pile of manure the size of Rhode Island." -- Even if she thought so. She'd couch her words to remain as cordial and professional as she could... as she did in this recent interview:


"['Twilight']’s based on a really silly premise: that immortals would go to high school. It's a failure of imagination, but at the same time, that silly premise has provided Stephenie Meyer with huge success," Anne said. "The idea that if you are immortal you would go to high school instead of Katmandu or Paris or Venice, it’s the vampire dumbed down for kids. But it's worked. It's successful. It makes kids really happy."
-- http://www.nj.com/entertainment/arts/index.ssf/2010/10/interview_with_anne_rice_vampi.html

Perks
11-04-2010, 03:17 AM
Right. Now Anne Rice is also saying this from a secure position perched atop the achievement of several dozen best-selling books, many of them about vampires.

Would a hopeful, writing to enter the paranormal market, be wise to be so bold?

Medievalist
11-04-2010, 03:32 AM
There's also the consideration that, when you review for print, or well-known review zines/blogs, if you piss of the publisher or a major editor, that can be the last ARC you ever receive.

Which, if your business is the review business, is not good.

I've seen this happen with scholarly journals, btw.

mscelina
11-04-2010, 03:36 AM
Right. Now Anne Rice is also saying this from a secure position perched atop the achievement of several dozen best-selling books, many of them about vampires.

Would a hopeful, writing to enter the paranormal market, be wise to be so bold?

Absolutely not.

I was at World Fantasy Con last week, where I was reminded again--FORCIBLY--of why you don't want to spout your mouth off or act like an ass around people in the industry. I saw a couple of people blow any and all chance of ever get published by doing things like (a) badmouthing an author to people at her publishing house; (b) by cornering a REALLY BIG WIG (think first name Tom last name Doherty) with this REALLY GREAT NEW NEVER DONE BEFORE epic fantasy about an orphan with a sword that your (and I quote) "stupid submissions people passed on, can you tell me why?"; (c) opining loudly why agents ruin the whole business while handing a business card with web address to...an agent; (d) going to a mass signing and while standing right in front of an author's table saying very loudly, "I really didn't like that book *insert title here* no matter where it's at on the bestseller list.

So, here's the deal, and it's very simple. If you want to work for a company, you don't tell the CEO that their product is crap. If you want to find someone to represent you, you don't act like a horse's ass in public. If you expect to write and be published, you don't stomp all over toes in the publishing industry. Period. This isn't brain surgery.

If expressing your opinion is more important than building business relationships in the hope of furthering yourself in your chosen field, then perhaps review writing should be the career choice instead of writing for publication. So many people are trying to break into the business, and every one of them is getting vetted in lots of different ways--and online behavior is one of the big ones.

*shrug*

Just sayin'...

dclary
11-04-2010, 03:43 AM
Flies. Honey. Vinegar. This advice is older than the printing press.

HelloKiddo
11-04-2010, 03:47 AM
I've seen a few authors on Goodreads who 5-star every single book on their list. If anyone does that, I flat out don't believe them. For me, that's when the rating system becomes useless.

Perks, to respond to this comment--on my GR page my reviews are mostly five stars, no one stars, a couple four, and a maybe one two and one three. The reason isn't that I am too easy on books. The reason is I'm a very picky reader with a good eye for choosing books I'm going to like. Also, I have a strict rule about not reviewing books unless I've finished the entire thing, and I rarely finish a book I'm not enjoying a lot.

Though I do tend to decline to review books I wasn't thrilled about...

I just wanted to make that point, lest people thumb their noses at pages with too many good reviews (I know that may not have been what you meant Perks, but wanted to make the point anyway.)

aadams73
11-04-2010, 03:49 AM
(And since I gave Twilight one star, no, I wouldn't be so presumptuous as to ask Ms. Meyer to write a blurb for my book...)

Consider this, if you will: You don't (generally) get to decide who blurbs your book. What if the people who secure that kind of thing get you a great blurb from SM then, later, someone discovers you hold a low opinion of her work?

It creates a pretty awkward situation, no? I figure it's part of my job to save my editor, my publisher, and all their staff from embarrassment--and (in doing so) protect my own interests as well. Like I've said before, this is teamwork.

Anyway, I think Toothpaste and ChaosTitan have mirrored my own thoughts on the matter with far more eloquence (and greater detail) than I can muster. I just think it's smart to consider the long term consequences of such actions.

Perks
11-04-2010, 04:18 AM
Perks, to respond to this comment--on my GR page my reviews are mostly five stars, no one stars, a couple four, and a maybe one two and one three. The reason isn't that I am too easy on books. The reason is I'm a very picky reader with a good eye for choosing books I'm going to like. Also, I have a strict rule about not reviewing books unless I've finished the entire thing, and I rarely finish a book I'm not enjoying a lot.

Nope, you're absolutely right. I've reversed my opinion a good deal on that bit you quoted. And now that I've read this thread, gotten a little more off-board input, and thought it through, my GR page is only for recommended reads now of 3,4,or 5 stars. Ha!

I get it.

And, in fact, my list of 1 and 2 star rated books was very short as I also only add books I've finished and have a tendency not to finish books I don't enjoy.

PhoebeNorth
11-04-2010, 04:29 AM
Mealy-mouthed? If it's any consolation, I don't think Medievalist (capital 'M'; AW fixture) has ever been in the same zip code as 'mealy-mouthed'.

I'd like, on Goodreads, to freely recommend books I've really enjoyed (with or without supporting reasons) so I think perhaps I'll just keep it to a Recommended Reading List. I really don't have the time or inclination to write negative reviews, and although it might give a more honest picture of my reading tastes to include one-star rated books, Toothpaste makes a good point - who really cares what I think?

You'd be surprised by how many reviews on Goodreads say things like, "I wasn't going to read this book, but my favorite author blurbed it, so I did!"

Readers do care, which is why I think it's important to give an honest reflection of your feelings--and again, people looking at goodreads reviews generally are looking for a variety of opinions on books, not just the professional reviewer's. It's part of the conversation of the site--asking what anyone thinks.

There are also options on there to keep your ratings and reviews hidden except for people you friend. That's always an option, too.

Mr Flibble
11-04-2010, 05:02 AM
Okay, just in from work - not read everything super fully but...


I don't mind what people think of my books -- I have plenty of bad reviews and every person is completely justified to feel how they do. My stuff is not for everyone and that's just fine with me. I didn't write it for everyone.

But straddling the line between author and reviewer is hard.

It is and it isn't and yes everyone is entitled to per peeves etc. I sometimes write reviews for a UK fantasy site. (really must get back up to date on that) But when I write a review, I also hold on mind the sudience it was intended for. That is not always me. So I might say 'I personally didn't like X. y or Z, or the book particulaly. But if you liked 'book by well-known author in a similar style' it might be your kind of thing. I might say 'I didn;t like it, but for fans of this it's well-written' or I may indeed say 'if you like this genre you could do worse, but be warned there's this, this and this'

I can express my opinion. Loudly. I do or do not like the book. But at the same time I can appreciate that those with different tastes might love it, and my score reflects that, and the people who wil love that style. I can say I don't care for it but it is well-written. Or I can say it's rather clumsy but if you like the genre... And so I say so. Opinion with professionalism + an appreciation for others tastes. One review the guy hasn't published is one I thought had serious editing problems (among other, quite, er, basic things), and then found it was given from a borderline scam/vanity pub. So we didn't pub the review.


"Give shiny happy reviews or shut up (or else be known as a spiteful meanypants that none of the cool kids will want to sit with)."No one said that.

You haven't seen my reviews. I'm not sugar coated or nice unless i LOVED it (which includes Chaos' Three Days to Dead btw). That doesn't mean I trash the author or the editor or the pub.

It can be done. But not really with just a 'number of stars'. That said Perks, many many people star books at Goodreads without an explanation. Yeah, they're readers though. I'd suggest that if you really feel it's a one or two star, explain why, even if it's only a line to say 'not my cup of tea'

Brindle Chase
11-04-2010, 08:42 PM
Perks... this might interest you. It's from Editor-in-Chief, Kelli Collins, from Ellora's Cave. While the article talks mostly about an author's website and the impact is has on editor's and publisher's decisions to sign said author, she talks a bit about the impact of making derogatory comments about other authors/editors/agents/publishers/books in public..

http://redlinesanddeadlines.blogspot.com/ (http://redlinesanddeadlines.blogspot.com/)

Perks
11-04-2010, 09:01 PM
Yep, BC, these are the things I'm hearing. That's a handy little article and a fairy godmother's reminder about professionalism. It matters.

That said, I've have my website's changes in with my webmaster for a little while now. Lol! Too much stuff on that site.

Brindle Chase
11-04-2010, 09:08 PM
Yep, BC, these are the things I'm hearing. That's a handy little article and a fairy godmother's reminder about professionalism. It matters.

That said, I've have my website's changes in with my webmaster for a little while now. Lol! Too much stuff on that site.

*lol* I hear ya... my website needs serious overhaul... ug, but sadly, I do all the work myself... so its a matter of finding the time really. This article lit a fire so-to-speak and I plan to bump revamping my web up my priority list.

Namatu
11-04-2010, 10:23 PM
Perks... this might interest you. It's from Editor-in-Chief, Kelli Collins, from Ellora's Cave. While the article talks mostly about an author's website and the impact is has on editor's and publisher's decisions to sign said author, she talks a bit about the impact of making derogatory comments about other authors/editors/agents/publishers/books in public..

http://redlinesanddeadlines.blogspot.com/ (http://redlinesanddeadlines.blogspot.com/)Excellent link.

readitnweep
11-04-2010, 11:31 PM
I'm also on Goodreads, and I'm politely honest about the books I've read, however, I do use a screenname - just for that reason. Personally, I dislike receiving rah rah reviews when I've posted stuff on writing boards I'm on. If something doesn't work, I'd like to know it and why. I know certain people will tell me if what I wrote is crap or not, which makes me feel good when it isn't. But I do think only honesty is helpful.

When in doubt, use a screen name.

mscelina
11-04-2010, 11:39 PM
Screen names aren't anywhere near as anonymous as you think. Seriously. It's so darn easy to figure out who's who online that using a screen name is almost a waste of time.

Perks
11-05-2010, 01:15 AM
Personally, I dislike receiving rah rah reviews when I've posted stuff on writing boards I'm on. If something doesn't work, I'd like to know it and why. I know certain people will tell me if what I wrote is crap or not, which makes me feel good when it isn't. But I do think only honesty is helpful.

In workshopping, I absolutely agree.