opinion · Reviews

Reviewers and their Blogs

Okay, as most of all know I am a reviewer for The Romance Studio and Night Owl Reviews.  I also guest review for The Forbidden Bookshelf blog.  There, I’ve outed myself in the world of reviewing.  I take pride in the fact that when I pick a book to review that I will give it my honest review.  I have been very fortunate that I have had only one semi-bad book to review since I started reviewing.  The reason for this post is to get something off my chest that has been brewing for awhile.

My blog today will go over some of the basics in reviewing and what I feel that a reader is looking forward to read from a reviewer and/or blogger.  This list below was sent to us that review for The Romance Studio.  What gets me is that some reviewers/bloggers don’t pay attention to #5 regarding spoilers.  Nothing gets me more mad when a reviewer tells me the conflict between the hero and heroine and how it is resolved.  A review should be no more than around 250-350 in word count with no spoilers. I mean it can be longer if the site you are reviewing for requires it but don’t spoil it for us.

Another problem I have with reviewing is when someone reviews a book from an author that they chat with on a loop/tweet with/or meet at a conference and they make it personal.  I typically do not review books by authors that I talk with on a loop or tweet with.  I will if an author wants me too but when choosing a book to review, I stay away from an authors work that have heard about for months.  When I decided to review, I knew that reviewing would give me the opportunity to expand my reading horizons and find new authors and genres to explore.  When I read a book by an author that I’ve either “friended” on Facebook, Tweet with or on a loop with, I send a personal email and let the author know what I thought about the book.  Does this make me a snob?  I don’t think so, I think it makes me a professional in the reviewing world.  Like #1 states. Thou shall have no other gods before the reader.  Its about the reader and no one else.  Also when reviewing an author that you know, you really need to distant yourself from the author.  Its about the book, not the author.  I’ve read books from authors that I talk to regularly, but sometimes I didn’t particularly care for the particular book.  Did it make me not read another book by the author?  No, it didn’t.  Authors have off days like anyone else.  It makes them human.

The Ten Commandments of Reviewing:

1. Thou shall have no other gods before the reader.
The review is not about the author, nor the publisher, and especially, not about you, the reviewer. Reviews are all about the reader. Don’t try to impress with pompous words in an attempt to glorify yourself or appear scholarly. Give readers simplicity and clarity. They’ll appreciate it. If they want verbose and fancy, they can read Shakespeare.

2. Thou shall not lie.
Honesty is what defines your trade. Without it, you’re nothing but sell copy. When you give facile praise or sugar-coat a book, sooner or later readers will take you for what you are: a phony. Furthermore, if you give facile praise to a poorly written book, you are perpetuating a bad writer’s career, lowering the chances that a good writer may be published instead.

3. Thou shall not offend the author.
Just as honesty is important, so is tact. There’s no need to be harsh or mean. A tactfully written, well-meant negative review should offer the author insight into what is wrong with the book. Instead of saying, “This is a terrible novel!” say, “This book didn’t work for me for the following reasons…”

4. Thou shall not eat the evaluation.
Some fledgling reviewers write a long blurb of the book and leave out the evaluation. The evaluation is the most important part of a review. A summary of the plot is not an evaluation. Saying, “I really liked this book” is not an evaluation. The evaluation tells the reader what is good and bad about the book, and whether or not it is worth buying.

5. Thou shall not reveal spoilers.
Nobody likes to be told the ending of a movie before having watched it. The same thing is valid for a book. If you give spoilers in your review, not only do you lessen the reader’s reading experience but you also risk being sued by the publisher or author.

6. Thou shall honor grammar, syntax and punctuation.
Don’t be one of those reviewers who are more in love with the idea of seeing their name online than making sure their reviews are well written and thorough. Your reviews may hang around on the internet for years to come and will reflect on your level as a writer. Run a spell check, edit, revise and polish your review as if you were posting a short story. Get a good book on grammar and punctuation, take an online course or listen regularly to podcasts such as The Grammar Girl (http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com).

7. Thou shall honor deadlines.
If you join a review site where the turnaround for reviews is 3 weeks, then you should respect that agreement. If you promise the author to have the review ready in two months, you should honor this too. Be honest and straight forward from the beginning. If you’re so busy your turnaround is six months, make sure to let the person know. If for any reasons you cannot meet the deadline, contact the person and let him know. It’s your responsibility to maintain a doable schedule.

8. Thou shall not be prejudiced against thy neighbor.
Don’t assume that a self-published or small press book is poorly written. Give it a fair chance and let it speak for itself. Likewise, never assume a book published by a major NY house has to be good. You’d be surprised by the high quality of some small press books by unknown authors as opposed to those written by big name authors whose titles are often in the bestseller lists. In general, most subsidy books are mediocre, but there are always exceptions. If you’ve had bad experiences with subsidy books, then don’t request them nor accept them for review. If you decide to review one, though, don’t be biased and give it a fair chance.

9. Thou shall not become an RC addict.
RC stands for Review Copy. Requesting RCs can get out of control. In fact, it can become addictive. You should be realistic about how many books you can review. If you don’t, pretty soon you’ll be drowning in more RCs that you can handle. When this happens, reading and reviewing can change from a fun, pleasurable experience into a stressful one. If you’re feeling frazzled because you have a tower of books waiting to be reviewed, learn to say NO when someone approaches you for a review and stop requesting RCs for a while. Unless you’re being paid as a staff reviewer for a newspaper or magazine, reviewing shouldn’t get in the way of your daily life.

10. Thou shall not steal.
Remember that the books you request are being sent to you in exchange for a review. Requesting review copies and not writing the reviews is, in one word: stealing. You’d be surprised at the number of ‘reviewers’ who, after having requested several books, suddenly ‘disappear.’ These people are not legitimate; they’re crooks, plain and simple. If you have a valid reason for not reviewing a book, let the review site editor, author, publisher or publicist know. 

The list is courtesy of www.savvyauthors.com .

I’m sorry if you are asleep now or drooling on your keyboard from the boredom but I just had to get this off my chest.  I found out over the weekend that I was the topic of conversation at an author’s retreat with my views on reviewing and how I review books and what a total sweetheart I am.   **Blushing**  I”m an honest reviewer and blogger, at least I think I am.

Feel free to disagree with me.  Until my next rant…er post, which ironically will be a review.

9 thoughts on “Reviewers and their Blogs

  1. Hey, Harlie!
    Enjoyed your post.
    I review books, too, on a professional review site, and there ARE so many rules to honor. And maybe, too, it's not so much that they are 'rules' but just measures of integrity to the review process.
    I get pleasure from being able to look into a book and see the core, and 'gush' about it. Sigh.

    Good post!

  2. Sam, yes I'm an actual reviewer and when I get a book that I have won from an author, I always read it and give the author feedback regarding the book. Its only fair to the author and trust me, I have found some new to me authors that I would have never read and go back and buy their backlist. Also, since you are a new author, I thought it fair that you should know what I thought of the book.

    Still can't get the “retreat” out of my head.

  3. I'm glad that you liked the Ten Commandments, Marie. It does give you pause. Now, I'm all about the author's views on reviewing and how one review doesn't mean the end of the world, but I do agree with reviewers out there that are just bad all around.

  4. Stevie, I would just allude to the issue its self. Plus, I was taught that in a series, its alright to talk about the common thread in the series. Now, if it gives away too much in that particular book that you are reading, I would only allude to it. Its trickier in series books but the main point is to not tell the reader why the H/H “broke” up, left each other when they did, etc. Most of the time, that's covered in the blurb.

    Great question…

  5. I'm with you on not giving away spoilers in the majority of cases, but what's your take on the case where a single plot point detracts from the story as a whole?

    The last book I read in a long-running and much loved series dealt (in my opinion) very badly with an issue close to my heart. I tried to write the book up without revealing the exact issue, but now I've finished a book in the author's other series that handles the same issue much more sympathetically. Is it a spoiler to mention that the character in question exists, without revealing who they are, or should I just allude to the fact that the author handles the issue much better than previously?

  6. Very true about the slippery slope. The reason for the post was because I was reading a review on a blog about a book that I bought and haven't had the time to read. Well, the reviewer/blogger completely gave away the whole book. Now, I'm stuck. Do I even read the book?

    You are too funny about the last two chapters! I used to do that but not so much anymore.

  7. This is a very informative post, Marika. The whole “spoilers in reviews” issue is a slippery slope. Really, anything said beyond what's in the book's blurb is a spoiler to some degree. Some reviewers won't tell you anything, and some say too much.

    I guess readers just need to stick with reviewers they like. As long as there's a spoiler warning, I don't have a problem with them. I read the last two chapters of a book first anyway. LOL.

    ~ Diana

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