Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Reviewer's Dilemma

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post.


This month isn't about a writing insecurity per se, but more... an insecurity surrounding being a writer online.

Recently, I changed my posting strategy both for my blog and for my YouTube Channel. I realized that my blog content was more suitable for seasoned writers, while I could use my YouTube Channel to draw in new readers by posting tips for new writers (most are readers, no?) and by talking about books I've enjoyed reading.

The latter does have the extra benefit of encouraging me to read more, but it's coming with a huge potential landmine:

What if I don't like the book? 

In all the years I've been blogging (eight this year, btw), I've consistently refused to post reviews, simply because I never know what to do in the event of having a meh reaction to a book, or worse. I can't lie and call it okay, because meh is not okay to me. Especially if I paid for said book.

Also, if people requested me to review the book, especially if we've built a relationship over the years, I could foresee that me just not being subjectively into their book would do damage to said relationship.

All in all, the issue of a writer reviewing other writers' books felt like swimming in shark infested waters, and I had always refused to wade in.

Until now.

So why did I change my mind? 


Short answer is I want to attract readers and grow my following, and my lurking for two years on YouTube and Tumblr has revealed that talking about books to readers is the way into their hearts. Also... really... I just really want to talk about the books I've read. Especially when I liked them. And since this year I have a goal of reading every day, knowing I need to whip up some content around my reading is doing a lot to act as an incentive so I don't move my reading down my priority list the way I've done lately.

And I guess I thought that it'll be okay. I read so many books that I love that I didn't really think I would bump into one I didn't enjoy.

And of course, I did just that in this first week after deciding to post my opinion on books I read.

Which means I'm firmly in chum-filled waters now. Do pretend I didn't read it? Do I acknowledge reading it with a meh, moving on attitude?

I'm kinda thinking of going with the latter. Especially for this book. It wasn't bad. It just had flaws. Explaining those flaws would make readers cry with boredom, though, so that's not an option. Writing a post about those flaws for this blog without naming names, however, is.

Thing is, I still don't know if acknowledging a book as being mediocre is a good idea. So maybe if I did a quick "what I liked, what I didn't like" segment on it...

Sigh. 

I need to stew on it. Three more weeks before I have to make a call.

Any suggestions? Do you review the books you read? What do you do with the ones you don't enjoy?

56 comments:

  1. Maybe you want to just talk about the books that you like and not mention the ones that weren't that good. That's what I tend to do. I want to try to post little reviews more on Goodreads.

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  2. Before becoming an author I didn't realize how important reviews are, good or bad. I review all the time, now. Bad reviews can give the author some feedback, but shouldn't be distasteful. I, on the other hand, will not post a bad review. It feels like a slap in the face, and authors work so hard. An author asked me to read their book, and it was so unpolished and bad. I emailed her saying that I couldn't in good conscience leave a review and I stated the editing problems.

    By all means you should leave reviews if you find the time. Good Luck making your decision.

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    1. That makes sense. I have been on the receiving end of such a slap in the face by one of the writers in my network, and I honestly can say I don't look at that person the same way now, and it's two or something years later.

      And the thing is, after years of being published and the many excellent reviews, comments, fanmail etc. that I've received, her review and the gist of what she said is still the one I remember.

      So yeah, I'd very much like to not go around slapping faces either. :-/

      Delete
  3. It's a tricky one. Usually, I always find something I like about every book I read (eve the meh ones) and I highlight that in my reviews, rather than focus on what I didn't like.

    I like your idea of blogging about flaws you've found in books without naming them as a learning exercises for writers.

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    1. That does make sense. Because there were some things I did like.

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  4. It is rather like swimming among piranhas. And, I think one can be tactful without being mean. I always keep in mind that not everyone is going to like everything I write and I'm not going to like everything I read. If the writing itself is really bad I just don't write a review.

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    1. True that. I'm fortunate in that I rarely encounter books I hate. I guess it's because I always see the work the writer had put in to get the book to where it is.

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  5. I enjoy reading and I enjoy writing reviews for the books I read. However, I have to admit that I don't review the books that I didn't enjoy. It's a principle for me of not blasting the writer. I don't like blasting writers. We get enough knocks.
    Wishing you all the best.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

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    1. Agreed there. I'm definitely not wanting to blast a writer. :-/

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  6. I hear your predicament. I've reviewed books for many, many friends. Some I didn't care so much for, but here's the truth: reading is subjective. A book that you just can't get into might be the sun and stars to someone else. After years of reviewing, the conclusion I've come to is to focus on what I like about a work, period. If it was absolutely awful, I won't review it. If I'd give it 3 stars or above, I'll find what I liked, maybe glaze over the reasons I didn't get into it so much, and call it good. It's easy to blast something. I've decided it's all perspective going in.

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    1. You know what, I think you're right, because this book falls exactly in that three-star category.

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  7. Hi Misha, I've the same problem as I review books for 2 newspapers. What I would suggest is you start with what you liked about the book and instead of saying what didn't work for you (that is if you are trying to be polite or you don't want to hurt the author's feelings) you can say what would have made the book better or how the writer could have improved upon the book. That way you will be still saying that the book didn't work for you, but in a very polite and unhurting way.

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  8. After reading the above comments, I don't have any better advice, but I understand your predicament. As writers, we are qualified to give precise reasons why we don't like something. But also as writers, we know how devastating a bad review can be, especially from a fellow writer. I'd probably take the middle road if I had to write a review. Start with the good and find a gentle way to discuss what didn't work, if possible.

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    1. Absolutely. I think my revulsion at the idea of pulling apart an author's book online is that I know for a fact how much it hurts if someone, especially another writer, does that to me.

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  9. If you do review, it is probably best to go with the "what I liked/what I didn't like" type review. Personally, I don't review books that I can't give at least 3 stars to, and lately I've been reading only what I think are 4/5 star books because life is too short to read books I'm not loving or at least liking a lot.

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    1. Yeah, that makes sense.

      This book was a three-star one, but for the most part I enjoyed it until I realized what a let-down the ending was. :-/

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  10. I'll post stars and sometimes a review on Goodreads, but if I don't like the book, I don't post anything. (Like what Cherie said.) That is quite the dilemma.

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  11. I know of several really good YouTube book reviewers. I personally couldn't do it because I struggle to just write a review for writers I know, which is actually the only time I do write a review. Otherwise, I only do ratings. So much faster. lol

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    1. Yeah, my think with reviewing is that I don't want to do the whole formal review thing. What I'm planning is more like an off-the-cuff chat about what I read and whether I enjoyed it.

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  12. If you do review this book, I'd recommend listing what you like and what you don't like. What you may dislike might attract different readers to the book.

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  13. I think your idea of listing what you liked and didn't like is a good one - that way it's not quite so negative. As long as your criticism is constructive; it might even help the writer.

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  14. Honesty the the way to go. It's how someone says something not what they say that counts.

    Anna from elements of emaginette

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  15. I always look for the good in a book. No, not everyone likes every book. But a lot of the advice here is solid. If it's truly atrocious, don't review it. If you can find some good in it, talk about it in the review. It is a tough decision, though. Good luck, Misha.

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    1. It does seem that this approach is the consensus. :-)

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  16. I'm planning to review books this year, too, for the same reasons. An additional problem I have is that I don't necessarily want to review new books; I want to read and review the ones I selected up to three years ago, and never got around to reading. So much of book reviewing is about showcasing the hot new books.

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    1. That's a nice way to do it. I'll be doing a combination, since I'm literally aiming to talk about the books I've read, and I pick books almost at random.

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  17. Hmm, that's a toughie for me because I would hate to be on the receiving end in a public format unless I asked for the review in advance. Although, on the flip side of that...my book is on Amazon so I suppose anyone could write how awful it is at any time and I'd have to develop a thick-skin real quick. I guess I'd say, be honest but be gentle. That's how I'd want my review to be. Good luck! :)

    Have a beachy week!
    Elsie

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    1. Yeah, I definitely would like to do reviews the way I would have liked them done for my books, but I struggle to formulate that bit. :-/

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  18. Listing sounds like a good idea. I don't really do reviews either but on rare occasions.

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  19. I used to review books, but I finally decided that if I gave out any poor or bad reviews, as an author I'd be shooting myself in the foot.

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    1. That's true, and that's also what I'm afraid of.

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  20. I don't review books I don't like. It just seems easier (and kinder) that way.

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    1. It does make sense to me, but my issue is that each review will be part of an ongoing conversation, since I'd be naming books I want to read, and then letting people know what I thought when I've read them.

      So me not doing a review would be a bad review too. :-/

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  21. I refuse to do reviews on my blog for the exact same reason. And I won't review books on Goodreads or Amazon I didn't like unless it's for a bigger author who can take it. No bad reviews for friends, but I won't lie either, so I skip reviewing it.

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    1. That's my issue too, because I have a lot of blogging friends and I would want to help them this way if it did come down to it.

      But what if I just didn't like the book? :-/

      Delete
  22. Remember, the review is about the book, the story, not about the author. Focus on the story- the concept, the structure, plot fulfillment, flow, engaging characters, world building. And even if you did not connect with the story or world, there is always something nice to say, even about the author. Things like: author shows skill in such and such, up and coming growth, takes risks. And of course, if you are friends with the author, talk to them about your reaction before posting. If the author is only looking for pats on the back, they will be sadly disappointed to confront their true audience. I've found that most serious authors appreciate the honest feedback to help them improve and succeed. Nothing stopping the author from re-publishing with updates either, and a request for you to update your review.

    Sometimes what one reader doesn't like about a book could be exactly what another is looking for. The review is about YOUR reaction to the story, not your relationship with the author.

    If you want people to (honestly) review your work, get comfy reviewing for others.

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    1. That is so true. Yes, I would definitely not be attacking the writer in any way, because I've always believed that's out of line for readers to do.

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  23. Hi Misha, what if you write and release a hsort version under 100 or even 50 pages then receive feedback. Maybe this will help you with the full version.

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  24. Hi Misha - you seem to have very salient ideas here ... and I particularly liked Cynical Sailor's ... they'd be interesting to read - cheers Hilary

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    1. Yeah, I think it will probably end up being the approach I end up taking.

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  25. Hi Misha,

    Yes, it is daunting to even think of readers not liking the book. Though you have some good ideas here.

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    1. Yeah the thing is that I don't want to be nasty, because I wouldn't want readers to be nasty to me if they didn't like the book. That said, I don't want to lie either.

      I think I've found a middle ground, though.

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  26. It is tricky sometimes writing reviews for writer friends. I'll review books I rate 2.5 stars and above. But below that, the meh books and the ones I didn't like, I don't review. Usually most of those are books I don't finish either. I don't think people should rate books they don't finish, but I do see that out there.

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    1. Yeah I really get annoyed with DNF reviews. Especially when I see the reviewer hadn't even made an effort to get what was going on.

      I've often found that if I do make it through the difficult parts of the book, that my determination does get rewarded.

      This book was the opposite, where it was really easy to read until the end revealed that it was all a waste of time and emotion.

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  27. Reading is so subjective. And yes we can't just review a book we did not like. I always find something positive to say about a book.

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    1. Reading is indeed subjective. I like stuff other people wouldn't even try, and dislike popular books that displease me for whatever reason.

      C'est la vie.

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  28. This is a tough one. I usually don't review a book if I didn't like it. I do Book Buzz or Cover reveal those types of posts. I agree that's it completely subjective. And what you liked a year or so ago, might not be what you're into now.

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Thanks for commenting! I love to read what you think.

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