Thanks to Chris, I came across this post. The author of it writes about what it is like to be on the other side when dealing with a review – as an author instead of a reader. I have often wondered what that would be like, so figured it was time to post about it and see what you fine folks think.
Today’s random chat is:
WHAT IS A GOOD REVIEW?
First of all, regarding the post I linked, I agree with most of what the author wrote, except for his ‘golden rule’:
One last thing (and this is a “Golden Rule,” as far as I am concerned): If you can’t give at least a 3-star rating for a book, on a scale of 1 through 5 (or, in academic parlance, a C), then it’s best not to post a review at all. My rationale for that is that anyone who devotes anywhere from six months to a couple of years writing a book, deserves, at a minimum, a passing grade of C, or a 3-star rating for their effort alone. Anything less is an insult, and that violates the “no personal attacks” thing.
I have to say that, as a reviewer, I found it difficult not to take offence when reading this. As far as I am concerned, everyone is entitled to share their opinion as long as it is done in a civilized manner, with no intent to offend or hurt anyone. Every single time I have given a 1 or 2 star review, I can honestly say that is what I have done. At least tried my best to; obviously I will be annoyed at wasting my time, but it is never personal. To me, reviewing a book is exactly the same as reviewing any other product. I will state what I liked, what I did not like, and why – period.
So reading that what I take such care to do – so thoroughly explaining why I did not like a book -, putting me in the same bag as all those This book sucks!!! sort of opinions and whatnot is insulting and constitutes as a personal attack is incredibly disappointing, to say the least. I can honestly say I have never tried to hurt an author’s feelings – on the contrary, more often than not I will say that just because this book did not work for me that does not mean other people won’t like it -, and I can surely say the same for the incredible amount of fine reviewers I have met since I started reviewing the books I read.
Now I would like to stress that I am not posting this with any intent of bashing this author; as I said, I did agree with most of his post and I think he makes great points. It’s just that I believe several people may agree with the part I quoted, and so I wanted to both have my say and find out what other people think about this.
While I can understand why an author would say something like this, as far as I am concerned, two main things:
1) Not everyone that takes 6 months to a couple of years to write a book should have done it. Not everyone can be a writer. Just because you put a lot of effort into something does not mean it is good. If it’s your passion, fine, go ahead and do it, and always try your best, but you should have no expectations. That goes for pretty much anything in life, in my opinion.
2) You are never going to please everyone. While another person loved a certain thing, someone else will hate it. That happens with every single thing in life! I am not going to feel offended because, say, someone did not like my cooking. Should I make it personal just because I put so much time and effort in it? Hell no. I may be disappointed, but so what? I know some people will say that is not the same, and they will be right, but the principle is the same: take it and move on. That’s life.
Let me start with the obvious: Personal attacks are pointless and only speak ill of the reviewer. However, a low rating does not mean that a review is bad, if it is well explained and justified. As far as I am concerned, all authors need to be prepared to receive 1 and 2 star ratings as much as 3, 4 and 5 ones. Giving a low rating is not a matter of rudeness or lack of respect, but of honesty. If we didn’t like the book, then we will not give it 3 or more stars just for the sake of not hurting the author’s feelings. It is a matter of respect towards the other authors whose work we have read and thoroughly enjoyed.
Now, onto what makes a good review.
Again, this is a matter of personal opinion so, if you think differently, please don’t be offended.
I see a lot of reviews where roughly 80% of the text describes in detail what happens in the book. That is not a good review in my book. I don’t want to know what happens in the book, I want to discover it as I go. If the blurb does not give a good idea of the book, then summarize it. Briefly. Only enough to get a clear picture of what one can expect from it.
I do, however, want to know what feelings and thoughts the book awoke in the reader. Did he or she like it? If so, why? What did they think of the writing? Was it easy to follow the story, did it flow well? Were the characters multi-dimensional, and could you see them grow throughout the narrative? Is the world well-developed? Were the plot twists predictable? Did the reader experience any emotions? If so, which?
I want to know those things in detail so that I can know if I would enjoy the book or not. Often times, the issues that the reviewer had with the book are things I would find annoying myself, so that’s when I know if I would like it or not and that is what will ultimately help me decide if I will get the book – not because I know the story beforehand.
Something that should be obvious – NO SPOILERS!!. The very least people can do is clearly tag them (I do that by changing font and background colour, so people who want to view spoilers will have to highlight the text). Please, don’t give away major plot twists. It totally ruins the experience.
And that’s about it, other than not writing something too big, but I am guilty of that myself. I do proofread and edit my texts several times before posting, but everything seems important for one reason or the other. Because of what I wrote above, I think some things will appeal to one reader more, other things to different readers.
I guess low rating reviews will naturally be longer, since I try my best to explain why I am giving it.
Anyway, I try to do these things in my reviews, though I will be the first to admit I may not always succeed. Not on purpose, though!
With which points of this post do you agree and disagree with?
What do you feel makes a good review?
What do you think I should do differently in my own reviews?
Please share your thoughts in the box below!