Negative Reviews: You Know I Love You, But…
You know what’s great about blogging? Aside from the obvious love of books, the community is the best. Sure there’s some drama and bad apples like anywhere, but the friends you will make while blogging are all well worth it. Even more special in this particular field is how we can become so friendly with the creators of our passion–the authors. Without them, where would we be? Probably drunk, but that story’s for another day.
So you have made friends with an author! Isn’t it awesome, sometimes even a little fangirl-making, to be able to talk on Twitter (or other) to your favorite authors? Sometimes you develop a friendship before their upcoming book–which sounds amazeballs by the way–is even OUT! How cool is that? It’s definitely been a big highlight of my blogging journey, BUT, the downside of this is when you’re friends with an author, you read their book… and you realize you don’t like it. *Le overdramatic sigh* What now? Do you feel guilty writing a negative review? How do you deal with it? Do you rate higher because you like the author?
These are questions that come up quite a bit when you’re a blogger/reviewer. It’s never easy to write a negative review, it’s a million times harder when you know the author. Yes it happened to me, more than once, and I’ve had the above dilemma–what do I do? And when it comes to this, no matter how close I am to the author I’ve had to remind myself why I’m blogging, who I’m reviewing for, and if lying in the review would “really” be a favor to the author–it would not be, in case you were wondering.
So why DID you start reviewing and blogging? For me it was to share my love of books with other readers. Sure friending an author is something that I will always cherish, but in the end, I am not doing this for them. This is the conclusion I have come to every time this sort of thing happened. If I lie in my review, if I rate it a 3 stars instead of 2, it annuls my reason to be. This sounds a bit “profound” sure, but that is honestly how I feel about my blog. We don’t review for authors, we don’t even review for publishers, we review for other readers. Readers that read reviews to know what to expect. Most of our readers, I imagine, have similar taste or have come to know our own taste well enough to be able to judge how they will like a book when they read a review on our blog–hence why they keep coming back. If we go and lie out of guilt, will it really do anyone a favor–especially the author? To lead others who won’t like the book either to read it? Or even worse, it may lead those who would like it away from it. Because that is what reviews are for, right? To lead like minded people to or away from books they may or may not enjoy. A book has to reach its audience. A dishonest review is halting this potential. So when all is said and done, this is what we have to remind ourselves when we’re about to write a less than stellar review for a book where we’ve become friendly with the author, or any book for that matter.
Nevertheless, it never ceases from being one of the hardest things we have to deal with when blogging and reviewing. It’s especially hard when the book is a review request and we have to email our review to the author themselves. I do it like a band-aid. Don’t hesitate, click send. You’ve done them a favor in the end. Negative reviews are NOT a bad thing. I believe them to be a very good thing, actually. I have read a book solely based on a negative review because the person hated what I love in books. I have also avoided books I’m sure I would have hated based on reviews from people I trust–saving it from another negative review. I have also skipped a book that had only positive reviews because, for one it lead me to believe some of the reviews were untrustworthy–maybe friends of the author or other–and for another, with such high expectations my chances of enjoying it actually plummets. With an online world and self publishing, there will be authors who can’t handle negative reviews, some may even lash out, but I very much doubt these authors will last long in this career; a career where you put your baby out there for others to tear apart and judge, to critique and point out its flaws. It’s for this reason that I could never be an author myself, it has to be hard if you can’t stop yourself from reading those reviews, but it comes with the territory, and you know what? It is what it is! They’re going to have to either grow a backbone, or find a very good shrink!
In the end, not one book is loved unanimously, no author should expect as much, and no author worth your friendship will block you, or whatever else, because you didn’t enjoy their book. You only have to remember who you’re reviewing for.
Have you ever felt guilty over a negative review?