Soon after I began writing reviews and publishing them on my blog, I asked another author if he would review my book of short stories and post it on his blog. He said that he didn’t write reviews because he didn’t want to be a target for disgruntled authors who might not like what he said about their work. I took his point and decided that if I couldn’t say something good about a book, I would say nothing about it in public. I also want to support good authors, not talk about books that aren’t so good. Who wants to hear about them anyway?
So my policy for reviewing is that I will only publish reviews for books that I can give 3 or more stars for. That doesn’t mean that I give 3-5 stars for everything I read; it means that I don’t publish my 1 & 2 star reviews. If the author had requested a review from me, then I send them a few private notes.
However, in the same way that fake 5 star reviews have consequences for the whole rating system, so does this policy. Many reviewers, especially if they are authors, have similar policies. Some only publish their 4 and 5 star reviews. The result is that there is nothing to counteract any fake or misguided 5 star reviews in places like Amazon, thus the rating becomes dreadfully skewed. As a reader, I’m suspicious of any book that hasn’t many reviews, because I figure that no one had anything good to say about it, but the book may simply be recently released, or the author hasn’t managed to get anyone to write reviews for it yet. So really this idea of not publishing negative reviews isn’t very helpful for readers or for authors who do have genuine reviews.
I am so grateful to those who publish their 1 and 2 star reviews telling me that the book has atrocious grammar and countless copy errors, because plenty of genuine reader reviewers actually don’t notice or don’t care ( That’s why to get on the AI list your reviewer has to be someone with writing or editing ‘qualifications’). Some things only writers notice and by publishing our 1 and 2 star reviews, we can educate readers and help them to be more discerning. We are also sending a message to authors that says – make sure your work is professional before you publish because we will tell everyone if it isn’t.
It goes without saying that we should be fair and kind with our words, that we should acknowledge the work that has gone into the work and also note the difference between our personal preference and technical faults. Given all of this and especially in light of the unfortunate occurrence of fake 5 star reviews, the question is – should I change my policy and publish even the reviews for books I would give only 1 or 2 stars for? For the sake of readers and realistic ratings, I’m tempted. The only reason I don’t do it, is because as an author I don’t want to risk my career getting stained by someone getting nasty –I have noticed that even when I’m being careful to be kind, people can still get offended. I have also heard that some authors try to discredit the work of authors that they feel are a threat to their fan base by writing negative reviews, and I certainly wouldn’t want that happening to me.
I think it’s a culture thing. If it’s accepted that we all publish the bad along with the good, then we should feel safe in doing so. I want to know how you feel about this, so here’s a poll.