Monday 8 January 2018

Understanding Authors Attitudes to Reviews

books, bookcase

As a keen reader, aspiring writer and book blogger, the literary world is one I know well. Those of us who do frequent bookish circles are likely already well aware of the importance of a review when it comes to establishing the success of a book, but for clarity's sake, let's recap.

For authors, reviews are essential. Potential readers tend to check out a book's reviews before committing to making a purchase, particularly for new books or authors they haven't previously heard about. Good or bad, reviews can help readers make an informed decision about whether a particular book will suit their personal reading tastes, cementing reviews as an invaluable tool for authors to make sure their novel reaches the right people.

Book bloggers, critics, publishers and even the average reader can now leave reviews, largely thanks to the increasing relevance of sites like Amazon and Goodreads. As a general rule, the more reviews a book has, the more likely people are to take it seriously. Similarly, in my experience, the higher it has been rated (within reason), the more likely they are to make a purchase.

Of course, it almost goes without saying that authors love good reviews. Glowing five-star reviews have the potential to make an author's day - especially for indie authors and writers who are trying to get off the ground and establish a name for themselves within the industry. In the past, I've had authors email me or message me just to thank me for leaving a positive review of their book; some have left me a few really lovely messages that reminded me why I love being a book blogger.

However, as with everything, not everyone will enjoy reading a particular book and sometimes, this can result in a negative review being left. Now, the etiquette around leaving a 'bad' review is a highly contentious issue within the book blogging community, with authors, bloggers and the world at large wading in to give their own opinion. While encouraging bookish discussion is always great, this means that many people don't see eye-to-eye when it comes to this particular topic. Of course, all I can do is share my own views, but just because this is what I do, by no means do I speak for the entire book blogging community.

Personally, I believe whole-heartedly in the idea of providing an honest review - I try to be as ethical as possible when sharing my thoughts here on The Writing Greyhound, and if I have been provided with a copy of a book, it is under the premise that I will write an honest review once I have finished it. Like anyone else, sometimes there will be books that I perhaps don't enjoy as much as I hoped I would. In this situation, I am committed to writing an honest review detailing why I didn't like it. When leaving one or two-star reviews, my biggest aim is always to provide honest, constructive feedback with the intention of genuinely helping the author, if possible. I always make sure to leave at least one positive point about every book I review, no matter the rating I provide, and I am not afraid to share my truthful opinion on what I have read.

Of course, as I previously mentioned, this is just my personal reviewing policy and other book bloggers go about tackling this thorny issue in many different ways. However, the real crux of the matter is what happens when an author discovers a negative review of their book. For many authors, their books are like their babies, so when someone says they didn't enjoy reading it, some writers can get defensive - an understandable reaction.

While constructive criticism and a gracefully-accepted critique are one thing, sadly, there are some authors out there who decide to go on the attack when they discover a poor review. In the past, I've had nasty comments on blog posts and attacks on social media which go far beyond disputing the review and instead, focus on personal attacks and online bullying. It's not nice, and, luckily, after a while, the authors in question stopped their attack, but I know that unfortunately, I'm not alone in receiving such abuse.

Again, I should point out that this is just a very small minority of authors. The vast majority are nothing short of lovely - being able to accept a less-than-brilliant review with good grace is not just the mark of a good author, but it is a hallmark of great character, too.

I leave you with a few points which I hope will make good food for thought.

Authors - reviews are integral to the success of your book, and it's impossible for every single reviewer to love your book. Next time you receive a review you aren't happy with, maybe think twice about your reply?

Reviewers - keep on reviewing! Don't be afraid to leave your honest thoughts about each book you read - the majority of authors will welcome useful feedback with open arms. On the flip side, though, it's important to try your best to stay positive even when reviewing a book you didn't like. Don't be baited with nasty comments and definitely don't launch a personal attack on any author.

This debate is so big at the moment I just had to share my thoughts, but at the end of the day, we're all here because we share the same love for books, literature and great stories. Let's not forget that.

What do you think? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below!


  1. I love this and very much the same as yourself. Many won't leave a review if less than 4 stars and that for them is ok. I try review everything I read so that is 1-5 stars. I am always honest, always find positives and admit it isn't always the book or writing that is the issue, often it is me and my tastes. Great post xxx


    1. So glad to hear I'm not alone in writing reviews less than three stars! Thank you for commenting xx