In keeping with my theme this week, I wanted to touch lightly (not that I do much lightly) on book reviewers that go rogue…or in some cases, bad. What constitutes bad in the review industry? Okay, before I tell you, here is my standard disclaimer: these are just my opinions. I am not a professional book reviewer, I don’t claim to be an expert. I am simply an author and a publisher who has to interact with reviewers on a regular basis.)
So, where was I? Oh yeah, bad reviewers. Over the last twenty-five years, I have read a lot of reviews. Some of them are stellar, even when the reviewer didn’t like the book. Others have been downright embarrassing for the rest of us in the industry. Here are my five top things that make reviewers bad.
5. Anorexic reviews. If you are a reviewer, write a review. Don’t offer a blurb. “I loved this book. The author has done it again with a great mystery.” This is NOT a review, it is a blurb. This is what authors/publishers use on book covers and in ad copy. A review is a breakdown of what you thought of the various aspects of a book. Plot, characters, description, writing style, etc.
4. Excessive spoilers. For the love of Pete, why would any reviewer who had a clue give away key points of a plot? I just want to kill someone when I read a review that reveals who, what, where, why, or when of a mystery plot when I’m supposed to figure it out as I read. Come on people, show some consideration. If you need a description of the book, use the publishers so you don’t tell secrets.
3. Glossing poetic. Big words, and colorful adjectives that don’t offer a damn bit of anything about the actual book. I don’t care if ” the author writes a blissfully elegant tale.” Yeah, yeah, I get that, someone else thought the same thing and published it. Why would you tell us that “everything about this book sings to my emotional side.” What the hell does that mean? Is the plot solid? Do the characters come to life on the page with their hilarious antics? Does the setting come to life and offer readers a glimpse into the perfectly flawed community of gnomes? Tell us what you think of the damn book.
2. Charging money. I get it, everyone needs to make money, but in this industry, it just isn’t right. The reviewer is getting a free book and has (in most cases) chosen to offer their opinion. If they work for someone else, then it is up to the employer to pay the reviewer. NOT the author/publisher.
1. Vicious attacks. Book reviews are NOT a platform for venting your anger or hostility. Do not take a bad day and turn it into a tirade against an author who just happens to headhop in their book–or whatever. No one wants to read a review that calls the author a talentless hack who couldn’t write a halfway decent book on a good day. No one cares if you think the author has wasted paper by penning a book about two people too stupid to live, much like the author. This is just mean and it serves no good purpose. When you write a book review, you are reviewing the BOOK, not the author. If the book is poorly written then find a halfway considerate way to say “While the story had promise, perhaps the author could focus a bit on general grammar rules.” It makes the point without making the author suicidal. Mean reviews lead to me to think that those who can’t say mean things about those who were brave enough to try.
Just because you call yourself a reviewer doesn’t make you a good one. There are simple rules for every little thing in life we do, and if not rules, then at the very least guidelines. If you take on the responsibility of reviewing, then take it seriously and do it in a respectful manner. You are not going to like every book you read, but that doesn’t give you the right to ensure that no one else does either. Offer some insight, without being an ass.