Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Why I will not review a book on my blog. Ever.

Today, I met with a dilemma that clearly showed me how easy it could be for me to go down a blogging road that isn't heading where I want to be.

I have received my first request to review a book.

Let there be no doubt that I was immensely flattered. After all, someone asked me to review a book for them. I was about to say yes when wisdom (for once) stayed my hands.

Here is why I wanted to do it:

I love helping others in the writing community and this person asked me to help their cause of getting the book out there. One day, I will need people to review my books too... So it should count as karmic brownie points, right? 

Here's why I said no without even opening the ARC:

The one thing that sticks with me on this blogging experience is that the voice in the writing (or what gets posted on Fridays) is me. All of me. 

Even the not so nice bits.

Those not so nice bits of me do make it onto my blog, but in small amounts (I hope) and as such should never damage my image as a person beyond a point that I can tolerate. Sorry if this seems very calculating, but it is a truth that anyone should consider before they post something. 

Yes, I have apologized once or twice for making people uncomfortable with my opinion, but not FOR my opinion, which stays constant unless someone or something gives me a valid reason to change my mind. 

If I were to agree to review a book, I would run a very real risk of not liking it. And the Author would (blindly?) be taking the worst-case-scenario risk that I will hate it and tear every aspect of the book apart.

(And I would. Oh I would.) 

Even then, the person that would get hurt most in this scenario would be me. The writer will get positive reviews from hundreds of other members of the community. Who will be the one stuck looking unprofessional (even if I was the accurate one)? 

That's right.  

Yours truly. 

Who will be seen as difficult and will therefore fail miserably to get an agent?

Correct again.

Still, I do want to help others in my community. That is why I started GPF and, since I never stated this clearly before:

I am willing to host blog tours, interview authors, interview characters and will do almost anything for my writing friends as long as it will not rise up from the past and bite me at the worst possible time.

Calculating again, but dead honest.

So, if you do want me to help getting your book out there, please don't hesitate to drop me a line. (My address is in the sidebars.) Just don't ask me to review your book.

Anyone else ever meet with this dilemma? How did you deal with it? Anyone needing help to get their stories out there? I'm just dying to know.

19 comments:

E.J. Wesley said...

Misha, I couldn't agree with your logic more. It's too fine a line to walk, and if you're only going to point out the positives, you can't really call it a review. Perhaps the best solution is to leave it alone entirely.

I actually blogged about this same thing a few weeks back, and got some interesting responses. Here's the link if you care to check it out:

http://the-open-vein-ejwesley.blogspot.com/2011/01/wanted-little-backbone-lot-of-opinion.html

Thanks for posting this!

EJW

Tony Benson said...

I've been thinking this issue through myself lately, and come to the same conclusions.

If I thought someone's work was poor then it wouldn't mean I want them to fail - I would still wish them good luck and be as supportive as I could.

What I wouldn't do is put my name to a reveiw that says it's good or bad. If I say it's good when I don't think so, then I'd be lying, and people may think poorly of my judgement. If I say with honesty what I think is wrong with it then all the problems you describe in your post would kick in.

Cherie Reich said...

Personally, I enjoy reviewing books. For one, I like free books. For two, I haven't come across one that I terribly disliked. If I did, I would decline to review it. Simple as that.

But, even if you don't want to review books, I think it's great to do other things to promote authors. It's so hard to market your own work without coming across as throwing it into people's faces.

Sari Webb said...

Hey Misha, interesting post. I've reviewed a couple of books in the past, but recently I've seen advice from agents saying it's not a great idea for aspiring authors so I've put an end to it. I'll leave that to the book bloggers.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I'm with Sari. I've heard the same thing. I used to review books I loved, but then worried someone would buy the book and hate me because they thought it sucked. Big time.

I did recently review a non-fiction book for someone, but fortunately I thought the book was great. Whew!

Maria Zannini said...

I get requests like this all the time. I won't review them though for exactly the reasons you stated. I will review books I liked and paid for on Goodreads, but only if I liked the book.

There's no sense in burning bridges before they're entirely built.

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

I think you have to do what feels comfortable for you. And I can't imagine authors would mind, particularly if you were willing to help them in some other way, such as trading a review in for an interview.

Sarah said...

When I talk about books on my blog, it's from a very specific angle rather than an overall review. If I enjoyed the book, I will absolutely say so, but sometimes I just use the book to illustrate a psychological concept or disorder. I agree, you must be careful what you say. I like the alternative strategies you mentioned!

Nate Wilson said...

I've been starting to feel this way about my own reviews. I'm all for being honest, but if you're too negative about something, it could alter a future reader's/agent's/publisher's perception of you. And I, too, would say no to anyone who asked me personally.

My only negative book reviews I've written have been for mega-sellers, so I figure I might be safe. But from now on, I'll probably stick solely to reviewing books I'd recommend, and only unsolicited ones at that. But who knows... even when I've made the rules myself, I like to break them.

Myne Whitman said...

As an author myself, I feel what you mean, because it doesn't get easier. I've done a few reviews but I've been careful not to belabor the negatives. I like that you're still open to other opportunities for new authors.

Witless Exposition said...

You've definitely given me something to think about. I do lots of book reviews of already published books, but never for an ARC. I don't think your point of view is calculating, just realistic. I think you've found a way to work it though by promoting books, you can do that with a clear conscience.

Girl Friday said...

It's a strange and tricky situation - after all, we started being writers cos we love books, didn't we? I have a few reviews on my blog, but after all the threats of agents blacklisting etc, I've decided only to review books I enjoy - that way I can be honest AND nice AND not get into trouble!

(Though the books I read and don't enjoy tend to slip anonymously into posts about what I learned from them :)

Bish Denham said...

I don't review books on my blog either for the simple reason that it's all so very subjective. What I love someone else might hate. What I hate someone else might love. I'd rather stay out of the fray and leave it for those who know more than I do like agents, editors and critics. And even then, it's still their opinion.

Gen Revelation said...

Very nice post!
I can see why you wouldn't want to review any book. Honestly can't say I blame you. But what about private critiques? Would you do those or would you refuse for the same reasons?

-Gen

Shayda Bakhshi said...

I've never been approached to do a book review, but my policy would be similar to yours. Although I have no problem praising books I love, so I'd probably say something along the lines of, "I'm happy to read, but I'll only post reviews for books I really loved. If for some reason I didn't connect with your book, I just won't post any review of it."

Clarissa Draper said...

I review a lot of new author books and some of them are not that great. If they are horrible I've decided to just skip reviewing it. If it's not and they are a new author, I just focus on the good points. If they are a seasoned writer, I will state what I hate without qualms.

Misha said...

I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one, E.J. :-)

Yes, Tony. It just feels like too much trouble with too little leeway... :-)

Cherie, I can see that the free books are a huge perk, but then, you are a bit more qualified to review than me. You can come from what you see publishers like. I am forced to come from my opinion. :-)

I agree with you there, Sari. I enjoy good book reviews, but not if they end up jeopordizing my future. :-)

Stina that is a consideration that hasn't even occurred to me. Chalk up one to another reason why I will rather keep my opinions about books for myself. ;-)

Maria, the burning bridges line is so true! Thanks for your comment. :-)

Thanks Bryan. I hope that this post don't scare authors away, as that wasn't my intention. :-)

Sarah, I would have no problem with using books to analyse a particular point - as long as it isn't in the form of what not to do. :-)

Haha Nate, I'm all for breaking self-imposed rules too. Except when it comes to my self-preservation. :-P

Myne, I'm glad my ideas sound good to you. :-)

Phew, Wit, I'm just glad that my thoughts didn't strike anyone as negative. :-) Btw. Do you post your reviews on a blog? Because I didn't find a link fot you...

Friday, I see that a lot of people decline to post reviews on books they didn't like. I'd just drive myself insane that way. ;-)

I agree with you 100%, Bish. :-)

Well, Gen, I would still do private critiques, as this fills another purpose entirely. Reviews are to promote books, crits are for improving what has been written. I just try to make sure that those I crit know that I don't think that they've written badly as much as that certain things should be improved. By extension, I should be relatively safe. :-)

That is so true, Shayda. My biggest hang-up is that not posting the review on something I read feels like dishonesty too... So I prefer to post no reviews. :-)

Clarissa, I think you're brave to give bad reviews on seasoned writers. :-)

Colene Murphy said...

Hey, what works for some doesn't work for everyone. It's great of you to realize what you would be capable of doing and not doing to remain yourself and honest as well as not stepping on toes! Good for you!

Arlee Bird said...

I can understand your hesitation in wanting to review books. I have felt similarly about this although I have reviewed several books on my site--sometimes on my own and sometimes because it was requested of me. Do realize whether your review is negative or positive it will be of help to the author as long as it is a constuctive and honest review. As long as you are not maliciously tearing apart the author and their work what you contribute can be very helpful. I like to find as much good in something I don't like and point it out and give good reasons as to why I don't like certain things. I posted about this a couple weeks ago. Think about it: If you were an author, would you rather have one or more bad reviews or absolutely no reviews? Me? I want someone to at least read what I've written and then tell me honestly what they thought so I can gloat or learn, but at least grow.
My biggest problem is the time that it takes to read something. But I'd say if you're reading something anyway, go ahead and review it and if you're concerned about hurting feelings then start with a big name author who doesn't care that much what you say.

Good luck!
Lee
Tossing It Out