Nov 20, 2008

Book Through Thursday: Honesty

Here is this week's BTT question, hosted by MizzB:

I receive a lot of review books, but I have never once told lies about the book just because I got a free copy of it. However, some authors seem to feel that if they send you a copy of their book for free, you should give it a positive review.
Do you think reviewers are obligated to put up a good review of a book, even if they don’t like it? Have we come to a point where reviewers *need* to put up disclaimers to (hopefully) save themselves from being harassed by unhappy authors who get negative reviews?
This is a very important question and I'm so glad MizzB brought it up! This is an easy one for me. I, also receive many ARC's from marketing directors, publicists, publishers and many direct from the authors themselves and I always make it clear that I pride myself on writing honest, forthright reviews. There have been times when I was a little concerned that the author would be upset about my less-than-glowing review, but I've never had any bad experiences.
There was one book in particular I really didn't like and when I forwarded the review to the publishing agent, I explained that I hoped the author wasn't too upset. The agent responded that it was fine as long as it was my honest opinion. A few have even come right out and stated that 'just because we send you a book, doesn't mean we expect you to write a favorable review'. If I don't care for a book, I try to give constructive criticism and not just negative comments. I believe that the author wants to hear all reviews and even if its not a positive one, the book is still being talked about and sometimes a negative review can lead to even more attention for the book in the long run. I think that's a good way to look at it.
I have wondered sometimes about how other reviewers feel about this. I've seen a few book blog websites that review many, many books, but I rarely see a negative review. Can they all be great books? Maybe, but I doubt it.
I hope it doesn't get to the point where we reviewers have to put disclaimers on our sites. I think it should be understood that our opinions are that - opinions and its OK to not like a book. This is a changing time for book reviews. With the fast-growing book blog community, I believe the average consumer is relying more on us book bloggers for reviews and recommendations than the paid reviewer. It's everyday people who buy the books, and I think they look to us for honesty. I certainly hope it stays that way. We can do our part by continuing to be forthright and honest in our reviews.
Where do you stand on this issue?


  1. I've only written a couple bad reviews and several bleh reviews. I am honest in all of my reviews, but I try to accept only books that I think I'll like.

  2. If you want to see some reviews that are not glowing, come see mine. Most books I read are books I like, but there have been some...

    Come see my answer.

  3. I guess I'm one of those bloggers who post mostly positive reviews because I rarely finish books I don't like.

    Here’s the rest of my answer.

  4. I don't accept ARCs, just so I have more freedom with what I read and not any pressure.

    However, I typically only review books that I like. I have struggled with that...but when I start writing a bad review, I keep thinking, why am I wasting time and space on a book that I don't want to recommend?

  5. As long as the review bears a resemblance of reasonably argued and well-supported statements, it’s a just review regardless of whether the subject being reviewed is good or bad. I stopped reading some of the book reviews in media because they turn into fluffy gasbags. I owe my readers my honest opinions to a book, regardless of whether it's free or not. A negative review can be constructive as well given the reviewer states what can be improved.

    Usually I only review the ones I like. But the exception is made when I see that a book I really like can have room for improvement.

  6. I agree with you -- I think the average book reader relies more on the honest opinions of "normal" folks (i.e., unpaid reviewers) than the paid ones. How often do we see a movie review for a film that we love completely panned by a critic? Or a book that's given glowing remarks by a reviewer in a mag like People and, after we get it home, we really hate it?

    I try to be honest without being hurtful. I highly doubt that authors like Jennifer Weiner, Meg Cabot or Danielle Steel would ever read my blogs, but other readers are -- and I'm not trying to be snarky or mean. Just helpful. Constructive criticism is the way to go! :)

  7. Looking at the reviews I've posted, most are positive; I attribute this to my selection process ... I'll only accept a book for review if it's a genre I enjoy and I've seen a sample of the writing. Even with this precaution, there have been some duds!

    My negative reviews all list specific reasons why *I* didn't like the book, whether it was writing style, poor construction, etc.

    My full answer is here

  8. Great topic, Lisa. They say that all publicity is good publicity, so if you REALLY hated a book, you might want to not mention it at all :) One of the hard things about reviews is that everyone enjoys different things. When I read a book I really don't enjoy, I step back and think about that, and about all the work the author put into it. I especially don't think I'd ever give a bad review to an author published with a small house, or one doing most of the work on their own. Then again, some of those bestselling authors need to be taken down a few notches when they start churning out less than great work...

  9. Wow, those are some great comments!

    As far as ARC's go, I can't say I've liked every one I've read, but I've never been hurtful or mean about it. I just simply say what 'I' didn't like about it, like Dawn said. Doesn't mean others won't like it, but that is my opinion and really, that'a what reviews are, right?

    Typically, my reviews are positive as well, because most of the books I read, I choose for myself and I wouldn't choose a book that I knew I wasn't going to like.

    I don't read authors like Danielle Steele or James Pattterson... I enjoy reading less familiar authors and even if I didn't like the book, I would always remember the hard work they did and respect that and give constructive citicism. I never post a review right after I read the book. I take up to a week to write it so that all my feelings about the book are accurate and not spur of the moment. That way I can give a more thoughtful review.

    Thanks to everyone for all the great comments and points of view.

  10. I actually didn't do this BTT because I had so many other things I was writing about this past week but I had wondered something. Most of the ones I read were people who stated they receive ARCs. Is book reviewing your job or a sideline thing? How did you get into it? Are all the book review blogs done by people receiving ARCs or are they like me - a person that simply loves books and is reviewing them for her own enjoyment? I am so very opinionated in my reviews because of this. If I like it - I rave about it. If I don't - I tell exactly why in no uncertain terms!

  11. Hey Tonya - I'd love to answer your questions for you. I can only speak for myself, but I started posting reviews on a blog simply for my own pleasure almost a year ago. After a few months, I started getting emails/comments asking if I'd like to review for authors/publishers etc. It's strictly a hobby for me as I think it is for 98% of other bloggers. (Although I spend so much time doing it, I feel like its a job sometimes.)However, not all my reviews are on books I've rec'd as ARCs. Probably half are just books I want to read. There are some bloggers who do nothing but review ARCs but I guess I'm just too selfish. There's so many books that interest me out there and I don't want to be limited to just reading new books that I didn't choose for myself.

    When I do a review of a book I don't like, I don't mince words, but I keep it constructive. I think its very important for reviewers to be honest. I think most reviewers feel like I do: My reviews aren't for sale just because you send me a free book.

    There are several places you could get started recieving review copies. For instance, Library Thing Early Reviewers and most publishing houses have groups for ARCS that you can sign up for as well.

    If you're not a member of Book Blogs that is another site that offers a lot of information for bloggers. I'd send you an invite, but I don't have your email. I only recently signed up and I like it. Here's the link:

    I hope I was helpful with my answers. :)


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