I am an avid reader. It comes with the job — both as a librarian and a writer, it’s just what you do. You need to keep up with the market, stuff like that. And I used to write reviews for a lot of the books I read. On my blog, on Amazon, in magazines.
But I don’t anymore.
See, the thing is, that reviews are for readers. Only. They are so that anyone who is thinking about picking up a book can get other READER perspectives on it and decide if it’s worth plopping down the cash. Reviews are NOT to stroke the writer’s ego, or make the publisher feel good. I mean, I suppose those things happen anyway, but they’re off-label uses. Long ago, when I was first starting out, I read a lot and wrote a lot of reviews, but now that I’ve published a bunch of books and do appearances and what-not, I’ve cut it out. Because I’ve seen what can happen.
The ‘you’re an author‘ card gets played. Oh yes.
My reviews were always truthful, because, as I said, they were for readers. And even if it was a book I didn’t particularly like, I would always try to find something nice to say. I was never nasty or snarky, nor did I ever personally attack an author. And yet, I’ve see it happen that when a book gets a less than five-star review from another author, someone will come along (maybe the author themselves) and start going off on how the reviewer/author must be jealous or not know what they are talking about or whatever.
First of all, it’s Bad Author Behavior to reply to a bad review. We know that. Especially in public. But there are those Special Snowflakes who do. And I really don’t have time for the online flame wars that ensue when that happens. I mean, I have tons of friends who loved Twilight. I…didn’t. And we all know how big a fight that can turn into.
Now there’s the other part. I have an agent, who is trying to sell my book, hopefully to a really great publisher. So what happens when that publisher Googles my name and sees that I’ve written a review of one of their books, and I didn’t like it? I would hope that they would be professional about it, and take it as the constructive criticism it is meant to be, and move on. But I’m not taking any chances.
So, while I am still an avid reader, I no longer review books. If you ask me if I liked one or the other, I will possibly tell you. Maybe.
But don’t count on it.