Today we have a guest post from M Hashmi, all about negative reviews and the backlash they often receive.
Also just a super quick life update: my netbook charger died last saturday, the replacement finally came yesterday. Then my netbook rudely showed me the blue screen of death. Meanwhile I’m running about trying to sort out graphics, Bookend Event things. It’s been hectic guys. I’ll be doing a proper post updating you all soon on what’s been happening. Until then – enjoy this wonderful guest post!
So I know this is something a lot of book bloggers and booktubers have already spoken about at length. But I wanted to talk about it myself since I have previously discussed my review method on my blog, and a few people pointed out how my method was problematic.
Now before we get into it, believe me, I appreciate criticism. In fact, they helped me along the way as I reviewed more books. I whole-heartedly agreed with some of the criticism, and used the advice to better myself.
But I disagreed with a few, and I think it was only right I got a chance to discuss WHY I disagreed.
For those who are unfamiliar, for my in-depth analyses, I split my thoughts into ten points, ranging from my thoughts on the opening, pacing, world and character building, the concept, all the way to the ending. Every point is an aspect of story-telling I personally look at quite carefully while reading a book, and they are usually what make or break a book for me, and possibly for a whole lot of others. For every one of the boxes a book checks, I give it one point, and then bring the final rating to a five point scale.
In the end, I write a separate review, not only summarizing the dissection, but also discussing my reading experience in general for readers who are there simply for the juicy review. This final “reading experience” or Review Section also adds or subtracts from the rating.
Again, every point I mark a book on is one of my personal criteria for liking a book. Yes, I do put every book I read under intense scrutiny as a writer. But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy them as a reader simultaneously.
And yes, it hardly happens that a book checks all the boxes. Which is fine. There is no such thing as a perfect book for anyone.
I believe that reviewers should be allowed to discuss a book as openly as they want. That is basically what authors mean when they talk about an honest review. And if I’m being honest, I’m gonna talk about things I dislike in a book, whether the author likes it or not.
Being a writer myself, I hate receiving criticism. Believe me, it is the worst feeling ever. I am currently running every chapter of my Work In Progress by my critique partners, and, considering it is my first ever novel, it is receiving a tonne of bashing. But by being a writer, one needs to basically sign an unwritten contract to suck it up and use the criticism to better themselves.
So it is only natural that a book WILL receive criticism. It doesn’t have to be harsh, but if I find a flaw, I will talk about it. If I dislike certain parts about a book, but ONLY talk about the story in a flowery way, I will be doing my readers a disservice, because if anyone ends up getting influenced by my blog, actually reading the book and finding out I glossed over all the messy parts, I might lose my credibility as a reviewer.
As will any reviewer, if they JUST talk about the good things in the book. When we review a book, we talk about our personal reading experience, and believe me, it’s NEVER perfect, and to paint it that way is to be dishonest.
For those who say we should offer our criticism to authors in private instead of publishing it for the whole world to see, well, the book is published for the whole world to see too. Sooner or later, people will start talking about any flaws a book might have, so if I am participating in that discussion, or even initiating it, it is not a crime.
It doesn’t matter how good a book is, part of it may simply not click with every reader, and if we happen to express that, well, that’s an honest review for you. The book blogging network exists to discuss books, not just praise them.
Some people also believe that if we don’t like a book, we should simply DNF it instead of publishing a scathing review.
I must admit, I kind of agree with this one.
When it comes to reviewing books, especially those written by indie authors or lesser-known authors, I think we should be as gentle and constructive in our criticism as possible. As I mentioned earlier, it sucks for them to have us talk negatively about their work, and if it’s happening anyway, we might wanna be nice about it. After all, we want to bring authors up, not pull them down.
However, so far, I have not DNFed a single book that has been sent to me for review. Why? Well, I think that if I have promised a review, I should deliver one. Maybe it’s just me, but I read every single book, even if it takes a lot of time. I highlight the good parts in my review as much as possible, but I also mention the parts I didn’t enjoy. So even if a lot of things in a book don’t work for me, I believe the least I can do is get the name out there and inform people about the pros and cons.
For all we know, in the process, the book might just find the right audience, which it never will if I simply DNF it. But again, this is just my method, and who knows, I might end up DNFing books in the future.
But yeah, it is important for bloggers to be honest in their reviews without fear of backlash. Because let’s face it, every opinion and reading experience may be different, but equally valuable. And if authors have a problem with negative reviews, perhaps they really aren’t ready to be published yet, since this little thing right here called criticism is a HUGE part of the process. The reading community should be open to all sorts of debate as long as they don’t turn nasty, and the discussion of a book’s cons is a topic that cannot be ignored or swept under a rug.
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