Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Are you honest or polite? both? Let's talk.

is this how you feel?

Here is another heated subject I have been thinking of for a while. How honest are your reviews? Do you say that you like a book more when you know an author is going to read your blog? Can you say that your reviews are %100 truthful? If the author is good and dead do you feel you have more freedom to let it rip?

Personally I have a hard time when I know authors are going to read my reviews. I still try to be acurate, and convey that the book was not my favourite though. Still I feel bad for the author's feelings and all the work they put into the writing of the book. Usualy if I didn't really like it I will still highlight some of the things that were good about it. With most books you can find some good. What if you can't though? Do you just come out and say that the book wasn't good, that you couldn't get into it? I know that sometimes after I write a review I think it is overly positive, for a book that I didn't really enjoy. But what do you do about that?

In order to really showcase the ones I love I created my Happy Chicken Award, that way there is no dobut about the ones I love....but what about the ones I hate? Would I be brave enough to have a "I hate this book" award? Would you?

Another thing that I just did was that I amended my "Publishers and Authors" note on my blog to say (the gray is the new part):

If you have a book you would like me to review, click on the "email me" button above.

Understand however that I will write honest reviews of the books I accept. I reserve the right to say that I didn't like it.

I have seen this said on some blogs, " this book wasn't for me but....." mentioning someone else would enjoy it. I always wonder if that is the friendly way to dismiss a book without an angry mob of authors and publicists. (check out this situation at Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?
and at Both Eyes Book Blog )

What are your methods to give honest reviews? Do you cringe when you have to post a negative review? Have you ever had "bloggie hate mail" such as angry comments from authors, publishers or family?

Please share your tips with me!!!! I would love to hear them all.

or do you feel like this?


Veens said...

Yep I read that one, and I was actually pretty surprised!

I have had the good fortune of getting only very few NEW books :) and mostly I get them, after i read good reviews :)

It is importnt to be polite! A lot of had work goes into writing a book, and I truly hate it if someone says the same about something I put heart and soul into... but this is no ways gives yu the right to write a good review abt something your don't like! That will defy your readers like me- who look for recommendations here!

It is a pretty tough thing to do! I thin k the best thing is to say .. I am sure this book would be for others but not for me... line !

that gives me fair warning :)

I m commenting from the point of view of a reader here :)

violetcrush said...

Writing bad reviews on already famous and popular books is easy. One bad review is not going to make much of a difference. But if the author is new, the book is just released and there are not many reviews around, it tends to be a little more difficult. I generally do not write totally negative reviews unless a book is totally off the mark. Else the blow is always softened. If i say something i did not like about the book, i try to include things i did like, may be the plot or the writing style.

But i agree that this is a confusing and difficult territory.

bermudaonion said...

You are bringing up great topics to discuss! I try to be honest without being mean, but it can be hard to do. I wrote a lukewarm review on a book and actually got a nice comment from the author. I did avoid reviewing one book altogether because I just didn't care for it much.

Jen - Devourer of Books said...

I agree completely with bermudaonion. If a book is really terrible, I will say so (and have!). However, usually if I don't like a book it isn't necessarily that it has terrible writing or convoluted plot, but that I just personally didn't like it, so I try to say exactly what I didn't like and point out if it is simply personal preference.

~Kylee in CT said...

If I'm reading a book that the author or publisher has sent to me for review then I give them the option of seeing the review before I post it. If I don't like a book and they don't want that 'negativity' out there, I think they have that right since they sent me the book. This hasn't happened yet ("hating" a book).

Trish said...

This is another hot topic I've seen around lately--and it's definitely a great one to discuss! I have been leary of accepting ARCs directing from the author because of the personal tie. I didn't love Matrimony but kind of went along the lines of you may like it more--or see all these other people who loved it. Now I can see that I should have been more honest in my review. I used euphamisms to kind of cover up my true feelings (I thought it was underdeveloped and covered too many topics but all I mentioned was that it was too short for what the author was trying to do).

I do try to be honest in my reviews. Part of the reason why I keep a blog is so that *I* can remember what I read. How fair is it to myself for me to write something that isn't completely accurate? And then there are the readers (although I'm not sure people come to my blog because of my authority on books!). After getting to know a blogger, I can usually tell if the person is coloring the review a little and sometimes I skip over the review completely. I don't think people should bash authors, but books are not authors. They are extensions of authors. I try to be honest and respectful. Luckily there has only been one book I truly hated this year...A Million Little Pieces. Unfortunately because it is a "memoir" I had a difficult time separating the book from the author.

And what good does it do the author if he/she is not getting fair criticism? Doesn't constructive criticism make us better??

Rambling again. :P

Callista said...

I've thought about that recently too (are you reading my mind?)

After the last talk I decided I was going to write something up for prospective PR people letting them know I will write an honest review but haven't done that yet.

I rate all my books out of 5 but only have labels for 5 star books and what I titled 'NOT Recommended' which is one and two star books. There aren't that many in there but I've recently thought about not doing it that way. Very few books get a one or two star rating because I do want to be polite and I acknowledge (and have said) that a book isn't for me but might be for someone else. If someone else has reviewed the book and liked it I link to that review so they can get a different perspective.

I'd like to make labels now for 4 and 3 star books too but that is a LOT of work so I haven't done it yet. I think I'll do all the stars separately instead of putting something as NOT recommended.

With a book I get from the library or from my personal stacks I don't worry too much about the author seeing it or worry too much about offending them. However I do find with ARC and review books I worry about what they will think. They sent me a book at their expense only to have me bash their book? So no, I won't bash it, only politely say why I didn't like it and what sort of person might like it.

Serena said...

I really enjoy most of the books I've read at least for one reason or another. However, not all of them are going to be my favorites. I've taken the same advice I was given in writer's workshops--point out some good things and some things that didn't work--that's my honesty policy. If an author doesn't like it, its not my job to coddle them. I think that as a writer (coming from my own rejection experience) you need to toughen up...publishing is a hard business...you can't be spineless and weep or lash out everytime someone doesn't like your work. Reviews are subjective...because I didn't like it doesn't mean the next person won't either.

However, I would never go out of my way to hurt an author's feelings by berating them personally on my blog. I talk purely about the piece...not the author.

Anna said...

I think it's important to balance honesty and manners. If I don't like a book, I'll say what didn't work for me. But I won't say it in a mean way because there's no need for hurting someone's feelings. I'll also try to find something positive about the book. If it's a book I chose on my own to read, and I'm not liking it right away, I'll just call it quits, stop reading, and that's that. If I've accepted a review copy, I'll put a lot of thought into what I say to make sure it's fair, honest, and polite. So far, I've had pretty good experiences with the books I accepted for review, mainly because I'm picky about what books I accept.

Diary of an Eccentric

Lisa said...

This is such a great conversation. I posted a little about it this morning too, and linked to both you and Trish. I am not going to not post because I don't like something I'm supposed to review. If it's a book I chose on my own, I'll likely only throw in a comment that I didn't enjoy it. I posted a so-so review of Twilight and have gotten some comments that attack me personally. I'ev recently won a few Hachette Books and I feel obligated to at least say if I enjoyed them or read them or not. I'm hoping none of them are horrid.

raych said...

I'm with violetcrush. I don't feel bad bashing someone like Jodi Picoult because she's never going to read my blog and her feelings are never going to be hurt. I'm probably going to stop accepting books straight from authors, though, because it's too hard for me to be honest if I end up not liking the book, and I value my reputation for honesty.

Mostly, I think book-blog-readers want gut-reactions, and that's why we read book blogs and not NYT Reviews. I want to know what the ordinary people are reading, and I want to know what I should be avoiding. Similarly, I want people to know if I THINK a book isn't worth their valuable time.

I try to refrain from bashing authors directly, because I think it's uncalled for (unless, of course, they're mean to me or my blog-friends). Each book represents an author's hard work, but it also represents several hours of my time. If they didn't put enough time into writing it, I don't mind steering people away from reading it.

Great conversation!

Ramya said...

Ha! I started leaving a comment here and then it got too long so i decided to write a post about it and leave it on my blog! this is awesome conversation though. I can see how different people are reacting to this differently! you just saw my review on Forever Lily. I had issues with it and i voiced it. I don't feel the need to be nice to the author. But if this honesty of mine is going to get me into trouble, i better watch what i am doing!

trish said...

I think there's a way to be honest without being cruel. I've read a at least one review (not here!) that really wasn't fair, and it made the author leary of people on LibraryThing.

And this is a conversation I'd wanted to have before this whole situation, so I think it's good we talk about this. :D

I just can't help but wonder if it's right to not post a review just because you didn't like the book. I go back and forth with myself on that...

Natasha @ Maw Books said...

A lot of people have written about this today, I have enjoyed all the commentary. I think it's only fair to our readers that we be completely honest in our reviews but there is a fine line between being honest and polite. I believe that we can do both without personally attacking an author. Like I've mentioned on the other posts, I believe that if a blogger accepts review copies they should have a policy easily found on their blog. I've had one and it works because I've had publishers and authors reference it when emailing me.

Dar said...

I believe in being honest in my reviews. At the same time I truly am pretty easy going when reading a book. I can almost always find something I liked about it and then I will focus my review on that. If there isn't something I liked I do say so but I don't normally focus on it. I am also one of those people who says while a book wasn't completely my cup of tea but it might be someone elses because it's true. I read a classic and don't get a lot from it yet someone else does and from reading their review I think I better reread the novel. I've seen not so favorable reviews on books and yet liked the book myself. That all being said I think we have an obligation to be honest but not mean. I wouldn't want somebody, after writing my first novel, to completely bash me. At the same time I think you can do it with some class. Anyhow, that's my humble opinion for the day.

gautami tripathy said...

Some books are so bad that one can't help but being ver honest about that. Ok, I can stand a bad story but bad use of language puts me of.

So in my reviews I try to be polite but am honest too.

dawn said...

I try to be honest and polite - I liked it, here's why ... or, I didn't like it, here's why not ... you might like it if ...

I do post less than positive reviews (my reviews of *Three Cups of Tea* and *The Necklace* come to mind.

My blog isn't just "books I've enjoyed"; it's book reviews (i.e., opinions). I believe the people who read my reviews TRUST that I'm HONEST in my writing.

I'll be adding a review policy to my blog, so exectations are clear.

Thanks for posting this; the comments are an interesting discussion.

Amy said...

In regards to whether or not you should only review books you like...

I think that decision is up to each individual blogger. If the purpose of your blog is to talk about books you love, than great. If it's to talk about everything you read...great. Not every blog has to work the same way.

Dave said...

When deciding whether to post negative reviews, I think it's important to remember that you're writing not for authors, but for readers. The folks who read your blog deserve straight talk, and authors have to accept that.

Jessica said...

I avoid the situation by reading whatever I want and only reviewing stuff I liked! Occasionally I poke fun at an author, but only authors with very strong reputations and bestsellers, who can presumably take a little bashing. I've had two authors pop on and thank me in comments, and I've been overwhelmed and flattered that they would bother to read what I wrote.

Red lady-Bonnie said...

This is a great topic and I've been trying to catch up with all that is going on! I'm a newer blogger so am finding my way through this issue. I've only had a few books that I wasn't that fond of. I did find it difficult to keep my review balanced and tried to focus on the positive but did mention some things that didn't sit well with me.

Corinne said...

I don't have a lot to add, except when I got a self-published book I could tell just by flipping through that I would NOT like, I actually sent it back to him with a letter saying he'd be better off having it reviewed elsewhere. I never heard back from him :)