To review or not review

I’m still a rookie book reviewer in so many ways but one of the lessons I’ve learned is to be selective because you owe it to yourself and the author.

I have to say up front that I subscribe to an approach where if the material doesn’t reach a certain plateau, call it three stars, I won’t write about it.  While negative reviews may be entertaining to some, I feel most readers are looking for good reads from the outset, so that’s where I put my time and energy.  I’m also not one to diminish people who’ve made the kind of investment a writer makes throughout the process of creating a story.  It serves no purpose for me and is probably why I love working with the team at Kindle Book Review.

I’ve had to learn to try and find the right fit but don’t type-cast me by genre because though I love a great epic fantasy, I’m also a fan of historical fiction and enjoy suspense and even some young adult stories.  I’m keen on books with well-developed, quality characters and a compelling plot.  I want a book that pulls me in and makes me feel something, which is not an easy task.  I’m no different than your typical reader, no more and no less.  It just happens that I make it a point to write something about the books I’ve enjoyed so others might give them a try and enjoy them too.

The problem is that early on and even today, I’m looking at more requests for reviews than I could hope to complete in a year, and that’s not counting some of the stuff I simply want to read.  On one hand you have an author who’s devoted a lot of time in creating the story and on the other is my very limited time, which compels me to find those gems others will enjoy.

There are a couple of efficient techniques I’ve adopted to help me sort through the titles and it starts with other reviews.  Yes, I definitely stop by Amazon to see what others have said but with an eye out for self-promotion reviews and the blatantly malic

ious posts as well.  It’s sad that someone would mark a book with one star and simply say they hate it without an explanation.  I chalk that up to a person with an agenda.  Same goes with the five-star review that says it was the best with nothing to quantify the comment.

I also use Goodreads and Smashwords in the same way I use Amazon.  I usually finish up with a look at the author or book website to see the summary and any other thoughts from readers.  I honestly don’t look at video trailers but I do read samples when they’re available.  Once the background work is done I make a decision and notify the writer.
I’m sure there are plenty of missed opportunities for me but I do what I can to mitigate.  For example, if it’s a new release that may not have many reviews then I consider comments on other work by the author.  If other work was good then there’s a good chance this might be worth picking up.  Debut novelists have it tough, which is why those samples are so important and even short stories can give a good picture of the writer’s style.

It’s never fun to decline a request from an author but by the same token, I have to take a certain amount of responsibility to make this fun for me because it is a hobby.  The only compensation I get is a copy of the story.  When it’s good I can’t ask for more and being able to share that with other readers is reward enough.

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  1. #1 by Love To Read on April 15, 2012 - 1:09 pm

    Very well said! I couldn’t agree more.

  2. #2 by Tina Arnoldi (@TinaArnoldi) on April 18, 2012 - 11:04 pm

    I’m with you on not wanting to write bad reviews. I started one book and thought it was so poorly written, I couldn’t get through it. Fortunately, I was working directly with the publisher and not the author, so I sent it back on my dime without the author every knowing about it – an easy out. I figure these authors (good and bad) accomplished something big by writing a book, so there’s no reason to slam them.

  3. #3 by Mark Paul Jacobs on April 22, 2012 - 2:21 pm

    Generally, I don’t leave less than 3 star reviews, unless (and rarely) it’s the work of an established writer and I think he/she has underperformed. i.e. Peter Hamilton’s ‘The Reality Dysfunction’. As a writer who has received many 5 star reviews followed by the off-hand 1 star clunker, I know what it’s like to scratch my head.

  4. #4 by Martin Lake on April 30, 2012 - 5:20 pm

    This is such a wise and warm approach to reviewing. Well said.

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