Have you ever been worried about reviewing a book you weren’t thrilled by? How about posting a less than four or five star review on a book by someone that everyone loves (including you)? As I begin to advance in my own career as a writer, and start to meet some of my fellow authors, I feel like I’m heading to a cross roads as a reviewer.
About a year and a half ago Ronald Malfi posted something nice on his Facebook page about a piece of my work. I was psyched and humbled. I then messaged him to see if he might do me the honor of a proper review. He was kind in his reply, and stated that he didn’t do regular reviews anymore. I thanked him anyway and went about my business. It wasn’t until recently, when I started releasing my own books, that I began to understand the benefits of opting out of posting reviews. It all goes back to that question: What if I don’t like it as much as everyone else? What if that person is a now a friend? It’s a hard position to be in. You never want to irk somebody (or their fans), and us writers are a pretty sensitive bunch.
So far, I’ve been lucky. The majority of works I’ve read by people I know have been good, really good, or great. Still, there are those few…
I love to read, I know writers love reviews, so I keep on going about it as I always have: honesty, with no spoilers! But it this year, I had to stop reading a few books because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to give them nice reviews. One book was like a horrible B movie, one insulted me, and one was just bad. Those ones were easy, I didn’t finish them, so I didn’t review them. The more difficult reviews to post are now the three star reviews. In the Goodreads world that seems to be littered with glowing four and five star reviews, a book that rates with Orion’s belt seems like a sad, sad thing.
And it’s not! I’ve actually been applauded and chided over the lesser (in some eyes) rating. Personally, I would love to get three stars, and have. A couple years ago, when I was just starting out, I ran into one of the authors I gave three stars. They told me I was the only one to give them that low of a rating. They didn’t say whether or not it upset them (this person didn’t seem irritated at all), they just noted it to my face. I’m quite certain I blossomed into ten shades of red. Although it was a little uncomfortable, we have remained friends. My little three stars paled before the heaps of love this particular novel received, but that didn’t erase the fact that I felt bad. It really does seem silly that I almost don’t dare to do reviews for the less than four star books. I wonder if I’m the only one with this problem, if I’m an oddity, but doubt that I am.
Going back to the Ronald Malfi stance…If I were as big and well-respected an author as he is, I guess my “opinion” might be more damaging. I can see that, especially if their fans are your target audience. It puts one in an interesting position.
If I ever reach the status of a Malfi or a Keene, maybe I’ll adopt the no review philosophy. Until then, I’ll keep on doing what I’m doing and hope I don’t ruffle too many feathers in the process.