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Protocol for Reviews

edited January 2017 in Writing
A posting in another thread has prompted this discussion.

None of us has a problem affording a fellow writer a positive review. What is the situation though, when we believe a book is worthy of only a one or two star rating (or, heaven forbid, less). Do we act out of respect and not offer a review, or be honest and ascribe a dismal rating? I qualify this criteria as a book flawed structurally or grammatically, not simply because we do not enjoy the story.

An old proverb comes to mind: 'If you've got nothing nice to say, then say nothing at all.'

I would be offended to receive one or two stars, BUT, it would make me look at my work and perhaps explore the reason why. What is the consensus?


  • If it was a friend's book, I'd either tell them personally, or keep quiet.
  • Several years ago I downloaded a book written by a Talkbacker (no longer an active member) and I thought it was badly done. It was worthy of maybe 2 stars. I kept quiet.
    Another (now inactive) Talkbacker's book was well written but had flaws in the plot. I left a review praising the writing and gently pointing out where I thought it was flawed. I think I gave it four stars.
  • If it's by someone I don't know then I say what I think.
    If it's by someone I do know, then I wouldn't leave a review unless I could give it at least four stars. Mostly I don't review books of people I know at all because then, if I don't review a particular person's book, they may guess what I thought and I would feel bad.
    I also generally disregard reviews on Amazon where there are only a few and they are all four or five stars as I assume they are from friends.
    So all in all a bit of a flawed system, but I don't know what is better!
  • I know how much getting reviews means to writers, so I always leave one if I feel I can award at least three stars.
    Mostly I don't review books of people I know at all because then, if I don't review a particular person's book, they may guess what I thought and I would feel bad.
    I think most would just assume you hadn't read it. We all know so many writers that we can't possibly buy and read all of their books.
  • edited January 2017
    Interesting response and fits with my thought processes. PM 'sort of' nailed it by suggesting a personal response. As I have clearly shown on this forum, quite often the written word will be misinterpreted (especially so with my propensity for sarcasm-laced innuendo). I feel that 'personally' must be taken to mean face-to-face, rather than even a private email.

    We all have the greatest faith and pride in our work. Sometimes even the most sincere of constructive feedback (not necessarily criticism) can injure the author's feelings, and, given that many of us are introverts, our feelings are, perhaps, easier to hurt than the steel-willed Mr Robots. :D

    My only concern is that those who may need the propulsion a bad review might bring, will miss out because of our silence. It is a very fine balance.
  • I do eventually get round to writing reviews, but often do a group of books I've read over a few months.

    If a book is generally good but has a weak point I would mention that; a non-fiction book that was stated as suitable for all... but wasn't in my opinion, I'd mention that and say why. That way a reader can make their own judgement.
  • Why do you think b-r is steel-willed? You only have his TB persona to judge by. No-one is unaffected by criticism.

    What you might be referring to is the fact that many of us are happy to receive constructive criticism as it can only lead to better writing - in fact I'd go as far as to say that only if you are happy to receive criticism will you improve. If you are capable of improvement, which I actually doubt everyone is. I think rather like artists, some people will always be mediocre writers - not because there is anything wrong with their structure, story idea, plot, grammar or punctuation but just because they cannot tell a story with a degree of engagement.

    I do not give reviews of friends' books on the whole. Unless I know the subject inside out and also, usually only if it it has been published by a mainstream publisher; so I don't need to worry about anything other than the beauty of the writing.
  • Yeah, what Liz said.

    You hurt my feelings, PET *sniff*
  • If I've paid for a book and it has errors/isn't well-written I will mention it in my review: 'with a little polish this could be a good book'. However, the book that states Edinburgh is in England will have a more robust review.

    If I'm sent a book to review and it has errors/isn't well-written I will tell the author that an honest review won't help them and I don't review it. I don't read beyond a few chapters.

    If I'm nudged to look at a book as part of a promotion and it has errors in the free excerpt I ignore it and keep quiet.

  • I think most would just assume you hadn't read it. We all know so many writers that we can't possibly buy and read all of their books.
    Of course, but I am meaning friends I really know, rather than just people I follow on Twitter e.g., so they would possibly be offended if I reviewed others that we both know but not theirs.
    I think some people would leave a positive review as a favour, but I don't like doing that, I'm afraid, if I don't actually think it's a good book.

  • Even if I know the writer well I always give an honest and fair review.
  • This is why I don't give reviews at all, but respect those buggers that can juggle chainsaws through the minefield that is reviewing!
  • That's why I love critiquing work. Slash it to bits AND get paid. >-)
  • edited January 2017
    As a writer you need constructive and occasional destructive feedback if it's justified, to develop. Nobody gets it right first time or even the second third or fourth time. Also if someone doesn't like something and say why I'm fine with that you can't please all the folk all the time etc.

    Occasionally though someone posts a review saying something like 'the writer got dates mixed up or the characters name changed half way through - which didn't happen and its the reviewer thats in error. That's annoying as it's them that has made the mistake and potential readers might be put off by something inaccurate. Also occasionally a writer gets a bum review because Amazon delivered it late or whatever which again is beyond the authors control.

    But hey ho all part of the fun!
  • I think constructive criticism is too late at publication stage!
  • Quite.
  • C2C2
    edited January 2017
    If a book is good, its good, and if it is not then why shouldn't we give it a review it deserves. I'm not saying, slate it, there is always something good to be found and can be highlighted in a review, but the negatives should also be included in as nicer way as possible, and this is what I do. If I think it deserves a 5 stars it gets it, if not then it doesn't. We're all different. I've read books that have only been awarded 2 stars, but when I have finished reading it if I think it deserves more then I give it more.
  • I would always try to be diplomatic, but if something doesn't work, I will mention it.

    Sometimes, I will point out the (limited) strengths; if that doesn't include plot or character, then it's unlikely it will be a 5*.

    There is a 'reviewer' on Goodreads who snaps up all the freebies. Each review of his starts with a mish-mash of notes he has made at the beginning about who is who, then after that, he copies and pastes exactly the same paragraph for everyone which is completely generic. He has recently added an extra line (again for every book he reads) stating that he has deducted a star due to lack of pictures! I do wish I could remove his ridiculous reviews, but I can't. He is not the sharpest tool in the box!
  • Yes, TN. I think I would feel worse receiving the same pro-forma response as 'Fred Nurk' who wrote something completely different. It goes to credibility (or lack thereof) if a reviewer has not even the gumption to offer a 'personal' appraisal rather than a cut and paste.
  • I try not to read lengthy reviews as I am always concerned they may give the ending away. Some reviewers do or they tell you most of the plot and it's really annoying.
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