Reviewing: Is Honesty the Best Policy?
Book reviews are simply a matter of fact in a writer’s life. It is the law of averages that some of the reviews will be less than stellar. Even the most popular authors get dragged through the mud.
Harper Lee published only one book in her lifetime, To Kill a Mockingbird. Some think she suffered from First Book Syndrome where the writer is unable to write a second book after leaving all of themselves in the first. Perhaps she was overwhelmed with all the new attention. We writers tend to work in a bubble and, when breached, our creativity suffers. Ultimately, a second book would have been scrutinized and compared to the first. Can you imagine the reviews? Just look at what has been said about the manuscript she never published?
So what happens when you finish a book you have been asked to review and you have issues? Or rather, the book has issues. In your humble opinion, of course.
First, I don’t think it is ever necessary to crucify an author over a book they wrote. They managed to shuffle 26 letters to create words, sentences, paragraphs, and pages. That, in itself, is more than most people ever accomplish. It’s called Respect, folks.
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On the opposite end of the spectrum, overt and lavish praise sets the bar higher than most of us can justify. Do remember the concept of balance.
When Crystal Unicorns came out, the reviews were primarily from my friends. The line “Surely not her first book” jumped from one review to another. I was thrilled. It wasn’t until later down the line that reviewers brought up the editing issues. I am pleased to say it was just the editing that suffered in the reviews. Still, all things in moderation is a useful phrase in many applications.
Second, please try to remember you are giving an opinion, your opinion, of another person’s work. Do your research. Read the book. (Yes, some people skip this part) Make yourself familiar with the author. Then pick out what you did like and what you feel didn’t work for you. It is called ‘constructive criticism’ because it is meant to be beneficial.
What if you feel the book is beyond all redemption? I would contact the person who asked me to review it and say I would be unable to complete the task. Let’s face it, when you can have a book up on Amazon overnight, there are going to be those works that are masterpieces only in the mind of the author. It still isn’t a good reason to be cruel or rude.
I like to think one can be honest and still be kind. We do it all the time in our daily life. Yes, there are those people who delight in malice and denigrating other people’s efforts. Some claim to be award-winning, educated, and have their nose so high in the air one can only imagine how they can see to walk. Some have no credentials and are just plain mean. I write both those types of people off. (Pun intended) My readers are the people I am out to please, not the erudite and malicious.
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We are not here to break people down and drive them away in despair. If they are smart they will take the constructive criticism and improve with the next edit, the next book.
Did you know I have a short story titled “The Bench” published in the OWS Ink: Literary Journal? Get your copy today.