Book reviews are important. Whether you’re Stephen King, Jeffery Archer, Stephanie Meyer or EL James, book reviews form a vital component of an author’s career. If you’re… I dunno… Alice Smith from up the road plugging copies of your debut vampire romance, featuring talking unicorns and aliens, reviews are important to you too. They’re what convince readers to take a chance on you. They’re how the word is spread about the tale you have to tell. And, perhaps, more importantly, they are a means to boost flagging confidence.
People are interested in reading your work. They care. They enjoyed it enough to spend time telling others about the experience.
Those are good reviews.
But bad reviews? These can turn away potential readers. Frustrate existing ones. They can take your reputation and grind it into the earth. Bad reviews can destroy your confidence. Steal your mojo. Even make you lay down your pen.
Anne Rice has recently been on a massive campaign to encounter the implementation of named reviews on Amazon. Not because she wants to get rid of bad reviews, but because she feels the anonymous nature of the current review system gives rise to needlessly venomous reviews and even fake ones from disgruntled readers or unscrupulous, competing authors.
While my thoughts on that campaign (see Anne’s Facebook if you want to know more) are for another day, it does bring me neatly onto my main point.
I’m an author. I write books.
I’m a reader. I read books. I also review them.
This year one of my self imposed challenges is to read 12 Indie books over the course of 12 months. Raven is also going to read 12 books. This challenge encourages me to review the books in full here, and in brief wherever I bought them.
Now… some of these books have been awful. I can’t lie. No editing, flat characters, wishy-washy plot and abysmal formatting. Some books have been so amazing that I stopped my own work (more on that later in the month!) for the two days it took to yank my head from the hypothetical sand. They scared me with their incredible level of professionalism and talent to the point that I doubted my own ability. And still do.
All these books will get reviewed. They’ll be scored based on the system I came up with at the start of the year and I’ll talk about why each book got what.
But should I post them? Is it fair? Do I have any right to potentially hamper another person’s career because my take on their work isn’t favourable? Should I only post the good ones? Should I not add links or refuse to name names just in case I upset someone?
I don’t have any trouble reviewing larger names and mainstream authors. Perhaps because they’re big enough that I feel they can handle it. But small press authors? Indie authors? I’m sensitive to them and the potential damage I could do because I’m in the same boat. That, if I’m honest, is what this post boils down to.
But will my humble option really make that much difference?
To a potential buyer of a JK Rowling book? Probably not.
To a buyer searching through the freebie section of Smashwords? Maybe.
Aaah well… for now I’ll continue to write reviews and post them here. Whether they’re good or bad.
However, I will also be more sensitive about the language I use, wary of the fact that somewhere along the line, these authors may read my words, after all, Martyn wasn’t the only one to contact me following a review here.
I know not all books will be to my taste, just as my writing won’t suit everybody. but I can be respectful about the feedback I leave, which is key. After all… I’d want them to do the same for me. 😛