Saying something nice
Posted by Elizabeth Langston Jul 24 2013, 12:01 am
One of my dad’s favorite expressions is: if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
That is my philosophy for book reviews.
My debut YA doesn’t release until November, so I have no reviews to angst over yet. But I have friends who are published. They get a lot of reviews. I’ve listened to their advice about not paying attention to reviews–good or bad. When the time comes, I’ll try to ignore reviews. Really. But I don’t know how easy it’ll be to resist.
For the readers out there, a good review is one of the best gifts you can give a writer. It shows you cared enough about the book to respond. But bad reviews can sometimes serve as an unnecessarily mean way to hurt authors. Here are some things to consider before leaving a book review at Amazon or B&N or Goodreads or any of the other places that allow reviews.
Read the book. Please. I can’t understand why anyone leaves a review for a book they didn’t read. If you don’t like the cover, go to the Cover Review site. If you don’t like the author’s other books, review them. But please have enough compassion for the book, the other readers who have enjoyed it, and the book’s author to read and judge each individual story on its own merits.
Avoid reviewing genres you don’t like. In many ways, books can be like food. You will have a taste for some and not others. I’m allergic to chocolate, I never eat it, and consequently, I don’t review chocolate desserts. It makes no sense to blast another professional for creating something you’re guaranteed to hate. If you loathe paranormals, sneer at dystopians, or despise zombies, just don’t read books about them.
Create a ratings system that makes sense. For a while, I used to compare all stories to The Giver. As one of my favorite books of all time, it rated a 5 from me. But once The Giver became my standard, hardly anything else could measure up. I’ve adjusted my system. Instead of 5=perfect, I have changed 5 to mean I highly recommend. A 4 is I recommend. I have stopped giving anything lower than a 4.
If you must be negative… I’m not suggesting censorship of all things unpleasant. I’ve read negative reviews that helped me gauge whether I wished to read a book or not. But I do like for the critique to be supported by the reader’s actual experience of the book. And I prefer reviews that use language not intended to be hurtful. There is a big difference between this book sucks; the author is a sell-out and this book didn’t appeal to me. Both convey the same overall opinion. One tries to be unkind.
So Ruby-blog readers, do you have any more advice for review-writers? Any advice for me–an author who has yet to read a review of her first-born?
Elizabeth Langston is a 3-time Golden Heart Finalist in YA. Her debut novel, Whisper Falls (Book 1 of the Whisper Falls trilogy), will be released on 19 November 2013. I Wish, book 1 of her next series, will release in November 2014. To learn more about Elizabeth, visit her website or blog.