Safe Reviewing by @JoRobinson176

It’s important not to tarnish your brand when you’re in the public eye – or to invite others to tarnish it for you. No matter how small a fish you might think you are. As an Indie author you really do have to be reading books by other Indies as well your traditionally published favourites, and leaving reviews for our peers is absolutely necessary for the good of the whole tribe. I will ask you one question though – how many times have Dan Brown or J K Rowling publicly published a bad review of their peers? They don’t, because there are reviewers out there who get to do those things, and they probably don’t want to get into barnies with other scribblers either. If you have set yourself up as a book reviewer as well as an Indie author that’s fair enough, as long as you’re prepared to take the possible fallout if you post a less than rosy review. I’ve seen troll brawls caused by a bad review that almost had me under the desk, and I wasn’t even involved, with authors taking down their books and bowing out of the industry.

I am not an official book reviewer. I do review books, but never publicly if I really haven’t enjoyed reading them. It’s not just because I don’t want to be the target of some troll rage takedown, but more because I know how much goes into the writing of a book. Not everyone can write a book. Even though we cringe at the thought of the millions of eBooks out there competing with ours for visibility, the fact is that less than one percent of the population of the planet are writers by trade, and that not all of them write good books. Their bad books are not hurting yours at all, so there’s no need to trash them when there are many non-writers who can and will do so with relish. We’re a little old segment of the planet, and I honestly don’t think that tearing each other down is the way to go. Especially if you have your writers eyeball out when you read a book and pick up on grammatical errors, expecting a novel to be written according to rules.

I haven’t written all my life, but I’ve read all my life, and I can tell the absolute difference to the way I read any book these days. I see things now that I never would have noticed before, but mostly I choose to unsee them straight away if I know they’re something I wouldn’t have picked up on back in my pre-writing days. So far I haven’t seen any writer who is also a book reviewer give a blatantly unfair review, so they’re mostly safe, but you have to ask yourself if posting a scorchingly bad review on any public site is worth the possible damage it could do to your public persona as an author.

On the other side of the coin, leaving a glowing review for a book that you didn’t like at all could also affect your credibility, so don’t do that – rather abstain entirely and move on to a new read. Lately there have been a couple of furores in Indie world about all sorts of things from attempts to get funding to take time off to write a book, to vicious troll attacks and catfishing. We all should realise that there are a lot of people out there on the internet who will attack with the slightest provocation, and sorry to say, some of them have written books, so I suggest that we stick to doing what we love best, and leave the review takedowns to the many people who enjoy that sort of thing. We’ve got much more important things to be getting on with than spending any of our time trashing anyone else’s book publicly. If you can’t give it three or more stars, just let it go.

Bad Editing

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109 thoughts on “Safe Reviewing by @JoRobinson176”

    1. My books have three and four and five star reviews, and I love every one of them. All five star reviews on a book doesn’t come across as credible, because readers like different things. I also have a one star review that I’m quite fond of actually. Personally I’m alright with any review I get on my books. But as far as posting less than a three star review myself – uh uh. 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

  1. Given your philosophy, I wonder what you see as the purpose of a book review. Does it serve a function for the reader, or for the author?

    The failure to leave honest reviews on self-pub’d work is one of the problems affecting the credibility of self-pub’d books.

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    1. Reviews are for the reader. I agree that there are loads and loads of very obviously dishonest reviews online. The thing is, that sooner or later the true reviews will come in for these books from real readers, and that kind of evens the playing field. As an author we have the choice whether we leave really bad honest reviews – but it definitely should be a careful choice.

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  2. Excellent post! I particularly liked “I see things now that I never would have noticed before, but mostly I choose to unsee them straight away if I know they’re something I wouldn’t have picked up on back in my pre-writing days.”

    That’s exactly it! Writers need to read and review book as readers, not as writers. That’s a bit difficult once you have changed your mental map into ‘writing’ rather than ‘reading’ mode. But I admire you for trying so hard to be fair and nice. I try to do the same! If I feel that I have issues with a book, I think I prefer to contact the author and just point out the things that I feel might need a bit of change. I don’t post awful reviews and generally choose to post reviews with at least 3 stars. It’s really nice to see people on the same page as me.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you Nicholas! I actually was contacted by a wonderful reader who had read and reviewed my books, and she’d let me know by email exactly where she’d found a couple of gremlins in them – that’s why I’m mini-editing all of them this week. I always do the same for other Indies if I find some small typo or something, rather than publicly announce it to the world. You’re the fairest, nicest man around – it shines through very clearly in all your words, so I really appreciate being on the same page as you.

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  3. I haven’t written a book review since college. I was considering adding them to my blog, but then I started wondering what I would do if I read something that I didn’t like. My first thought would be simply to not review it, but what does it say about my reviews if the only things posted are positive reviews? I think the problem manifests for two reasons: 1) reviewers who prefer insults to actual critical advice, and 2) authors who take actual good criticism too personally.

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    1. That’s the problem – the few authors who take criticism really badly and then go on a rampage using anything and anyone to do as much damage to the reviewer as they can. I’ve been noticing more of these stories in the past few months, and no matter that the reviews were justified, the reviewers have been hurt by these attacks every time. Reviewers who don’t also write can get away with posting one star scorchers because they have nothing to lose really. I don’t accept books from people asking for reviews – I buy and read the ones that I like the look of rather, and review those. So far there haven’t been many that I’ve hated enough not to review though.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I must confess that when I read reviews I read for the content not so much for number of stars. Sometimes it might be that the reasons why somebody doesn’t like a book would be reasons why I’d like it. I try and explain what I’ve found, as sometimes I can see that things that might not be of my liking might make the book better suited for other readers. I do reviews for a magazine where they make it quite clear that we should not limit ourselves to high scores and there’s no option for not leaving a review. So far I’ve been lucky with the books I’ve chosen though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m exactly the same! I’ve often been encouraged to buy books because of low star reviews. I’ve also been lucky so far – I always read the Look Inside to get a feel for if I enjoy the style. My problem is I’ve got too many good books waiting to be read now.

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  5. Reblogged this on carolkean and commented:
    Can you be a book reviewer as well as an Indie author? Should you?

    Excerpts from a good blog on this topic:
    Indie authors: do you read books by other Indies and leave reviews for your peers?
    Have you seen Dan Brown or J K Rowling publicly publish a bad review of their peers? (No, you haven’t, because they don’t.)

    Trolls have caused some authors to take down their books and bow out of the industry.

    “I am not an official book reviewer. I do review books, but never publicly if I really haven’t enjoyed reading them. It’s not just because I don’t want to be the target of some troll rage takedown, but more because I know how much goes into the writing of a book. Not everyone can write a book. Even though we cringe at the thought of the millions of eBooks out there competing with ours for visibility, the fact is that less than one percent of the population of the planet are writers by trade, and that not all of them write good books. Their bad books are not hurting yours at all, so there’s no need to trash them when there are many non-writers who can and will do so with relish. We’re a little old segment of the planet, and I honestly don’t think that tearing each other down is the way to go. Especially if you have your writers eyeball out when you read a book and pick up on grammatical errors, expecting a novel to be written according to rules.”

    Read more at the site:

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  6. I select my books carefully… I haven’t got the time to waste on reading books I dont like. So most of my reviews are 3* or above. Anything less hurts, not just the author personally, who may have slaved away on their book just as hard as I did on mine, but their future writing career, as well as my reputation. That’s a lot of responsibility, and shouldnt be abused. Thats not to say I would lie; I wouldnt compromise my credibility, either. But I would point out both strengths AND weaknesses during the review. Honesty and integrity are key. There is never any need to get nasty in a review, but always a need to be constructive. Indie books are generally of a high standard, I have found. I have only ever had to give less than 3* three times… but then, as I said, I am very selective lol!

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    1. Firstly – I’ve seen some amazing feedback on your books around the internet, and I’m definitely looking forward to reading them. Got a drop of Irish blood myself so that’s another factor. 😀 Being selective has helped me a lot – there’s only ever been one book that I paid for ($9.99) that really had me jumping up and down in rage for a total waste of money, that if I wasn’t a scribbler myself would have left a one star for with pleasure. I think your style of reviewing is the way to go, and my way too. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

          1. I was chortling away so much at my own joke, I forgot to say thank you for the compliment! Unfortunately, I think my books are victims of their own reviews, as you mention in your post. I dont have many, but they’re all 4 & 5*… looks like they’re all from my friends and family! I’d welcome a 1* lol!

            Liked by 1 person

            1. There really are books out there that absolutely deserve only fours and fives, and without coming across all sycophantic from what I’ve heard around and about, yours are them. You’ll get your one one day though – probably from one of those lovely “Amazon took too long delivering this book, so I never read it” brigade. 😀

              Liked by 1 person

  7. …bang on the money , m’Lady. Jo Robinson… I enjoy reviewing other author’s books, usually indies, as part of my own little attempt at ‘paying it forward’… I will post reviews on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com (USA) ( separately,as they do NOT automatically register) and on Goodreads if i can HONESTLY give 4- or 5-star reviews.. Anything less than that, I do NOT publish.. I am NOT a professional reviewer, so I do not think I’m entitled to hammer someone else’s work, and nor would I ever wish to do so… gonna share this blog post..LUV the sentiments in it … :):)

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    1. Thank you Seumas! That’s an interesting point you bring up here – professional reviewers. We’re not really them, and most of them don’t write books. I reckon that no review from one of us scribblers is better than a really bad one for a fellow writer. Reviews always come eventually from readers, so if they’re going to be bad, rather from them. 🙂 X

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  8. Reblogged this on Seumas Gallacher and commented:
    ..bang on the money, from m’Lady. Jo Robinson… I enjoy reviewing other author’s books, usually indies, as part of my own little attempt at ‘paying it forward’… I will post reviews on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com (USA) ( separately,as they do NOT automatically register) and on Goodreads if i can HONESTLY give 4- or 5-star reviews.. Anything less than that, I do NOT publish.. I am NOT a professional reviewer, so I do not think I’m entitled to hammer someone else’s work, and nor would I ever wish to do so… gonna share this blog post..LUV the sentiments in it … :):)

    Like

  9. It certainly is an interesting situation to be both a reviewer and a writer. I write and I review. I have posted somewhat negative reviews, but I never attack. I try to be as constructive as possible, while also pointing out that it may be something that certain people would like. I still do recommend those books. My most negative review is a 2 star review, which doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. It meant I was quite neutral about it. I’ve never read anything that warranted a 1 star review.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I think it’s different if you set yourself up as an author/reviewer as opposed to an author who posts reviews. What I put on my blog is down to me and my choice. If I asked for books to review then I would be duty bound to review, warts and all. As it’s my blog, I don’t have to review, but if I enjoyed a book, I will. What I won’t do is review a book I didn’t like even if I’ve paid for it. As you have said, readers will do that anyway, so why should we. When people look at my blog and see book reviews they will know that I enjoyed them, even if nobody else did, which is as it should be.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Reblogged this on I Read Encyclopedias for Fun and commented:
    As a reviewer and a writer, I have to agree with this post over on Lit World Interviews. It’s fine to be both a writer and reviewer, but it’s important to be careful. I pride myself on being a fair reviewer. If I don’t like something, I just give my opinion and state that it may appeal to certain people. I have recommended books I’ve rated 2 stars. I always recommend every book I review, but I often focus on a certain group of people who may enjoy it more than I did.

    Of course, it’s also important to make sure there are no feuds or bad blood between authors. Not a good idea. So, I am never insulting in my reviews. I always try to be constructive and also state what I think is done well every book. I do want to support all authors.

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      1. You’re welcome! As an English teacher, I see the value in constructive criticism far more than the average reviewer. Some can be quite brutal and insulting. I don’t like doing that at all. I want to highlight what works and what doesn’t for me.

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  12. This is a real thorny issue for us authors. On the one hand, you appreciate how much work goes into a book and don’t want to knock somebody who has put in the effort, on the other hand we know the review system on Amazon (and Goodreads in some respects) is skewed. I have a lot of sympathy for Karen’s point of view above (and have spoken with her about this often).
    I make book recommendations rather than cast myself as a reviewer. I don’t leave bad reviews and although I used to contact an author directly if I found a book problematic, I’ve stopped that also because of some adverse reaction.
    The real issue is, we NEED good, honest book reviewers. The best reviewers have a following and can drive people to your book. If they don’t like it, and they are constructive, you should accept what they have to say. You don’t have to agree with any or all of it, but you should never argue with it because that is what they’ve taken from your book. Authors who don’t respect this are just bonkers, in my point of view.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re right – we really need good, honest reviewers and we have to respect the reviews that they give us. A lot of peer reviews are skewed because the author reviewing the book is sympathetic or friends with the author of the book they’re reviewing. Another reason I don’t take on books that I’m asked to review. Reviewers who review without also being authors are gold.

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  13. This is a bit of a tricky situation. I do respectfully disagree. Leaving only positive reviews will then make them lose value, if everyone does this. Plus, it’s not being honest with the author, who I think deserves to know if someone didn’t like the read. Otherwise, how can the author improve?

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    1. I totally agree with you Christy, and absolutely if you are a book reviewer you have to leave ones to fives. I only review books I like without being an official book reviewer. I personally won’t leave a five star if I don’t think the book deserves it, but if I rate anything under three stars I don’t publicly post a review.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. As an author, I will not pay for reviews and I no longer ask for reviews and I typically don’t review others, this isn’t out of lack of support, it is because I am uncomfortable reviewing the works of others, I would rather just use the word of mouth method, if someone likes my writing they will talk about it, if not they probably won’t… I prefer to keep my focus on writing.

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  15. I am an author myself, and I have author friends who have reviewed my book on Amazon, and I am now nervous about reviewing their book on that site in case Amazon thinks we are just doing each other a favour. The same problem doesn’t seem to appear with Goodreads.

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    1. I’ve often wondered about that, but I’ve posted loads of reviews for authors who have also reviewed my books on Amazon so I’m not worried. I think that that could only be a problem if mutual reviews are obviously fake. Still – there have been reviews taken down that I’ve heard of, so I always make sure that mine are legitimate purchases.

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  16. Sounds like a plan. If I don’t like the book, and not everyone is going to like everything, I tell the author and bow out. I have told author’s before that the book only rated a three star with me and gave them the decision to post or not. That has worked out well for me in the past. I have one star on my book that person even claims to not even to have finished the book. So sad that some people have to be that way. Good advice and thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thanks Kandy! I think that it’s really kind of you to give the author the choice. I’ve seen those one stars for not reading books around – even Stephen King. It’s amazing what people get up to with reviewing. 😀

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  17. When I can’t say anything nice, I zip my lip. I’ve read a couple of books which continue to receive 5 stars, even though they contain, many and glaring, grammatical errors. I don’t bother contacting the author in such a case because too much editing is required. I will stick my neck out if a couple of blips needing attention will help him or her add that extra polish to their book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re the best Tess! I think that unless the author obviously really doesn’t care about the quality of their books it’s wonderful to get help for missed gremlins. I’ve had several gremlins slip through after proofreading by lots of eyeballs, and they slip through so easily when you wrote the words yourself.

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      1. I know. I’m aghast when I find itty bitty typos I was positive weren’t there the last read. It is difficult to catch them all. Someone sent me a private e-mail once pointing out a boo-boo and I was so grateful. ❤ ❤ Made ME look better.

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  18. This is such a tricky one, isn’t it, Jo. My policy has always been to be honest and kind. I don’t post bad reviews. If I feel a book could be good with a bit of editing, I contact the author and let them know what I felt about their book, only ever with the motive of offering constructive criticism, and always hoping not to offend.
    As for receiving reviews, I am happy with any review that is honest and fair. I did have to contact one reviewer who very cruelly published the ending of my novel in his review. He also compared my novel unfavorably with a best seller he had just been reading. I pointed out to him that, as Shakespeare said, ‘Comparison is odious.’ (or thereabouts)
    He did take out the reference to the ending, thank goodness — talk about plot spoilers! — but left in the comparison and some inaccurate information about the novel. I have left it there at that, trusting potential readers will want to make their own minds up about my novel. Just wish he’d correct the inaccuracies. He does have the right to his opinion, but I don’t feel he has the right to misrepresent my book.
    Good post, Jo. Certainly seems to have zoned in on a sore point for me, doesn’t it? Oops!

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    1. Thanks Christine! It’s really rotten to post the ending to your book in a review! Some people are just mean at the end of the day. I have a low star review for my Fly Birdie where the reviewer was really upset because the tree gets chopped down even though it’s very clear in the story that its dying and there’s no choice, It’s really interesting to see how different people read books – they all have different pictures in their heads I suppose.

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  19. A very good post Jo. I can really only read what interests me, but I have a fairly eclectic palate. I like to gift a review because the moment one is expected I feel paralysed, so I prefer to buy books and then decide. At least that way the authors get a small royalty. I tend to reserve 5* only for books that are unique and cannot be compared with others (in terms of genre or originality) but it does seem as though anything less than 5* is an implied criticism. I tend to review only indie authors who need the help, others have publishers behind them to get those valuable aids. But giving only 5* has its hazards inasmuch as it suggests a kind of sycophancy and lack of balance but what is hidden from view are all the books you could not bring yourself to criticise, but could not applaud either!

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    1. Thanks Philippa! I know that paralysis when reviews are expected. When I was still new online quite a few writers sent me their books with review requests, and I felt horribly obligated and put out because they weren’t what I would normally read. I tried to see only the good in them, and based those reviews on that, but I never want to have to do that sort of thing again.

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  20. I used to review everything I read and was always very honest. Now that I know how much work goes into writing a book and how badly it hurts to receive a bad review, I’m taking a very different approach to reviews. If I don’t like a book, I don’t review. I no longer accept unsolicited review requests on my blog. If I accept a book for review and end up not liking it, I’m in the uncomfortable position of either thrashing the book publicly in an honest review, lying about the book, or telling the author in a private email that I hated their book too much to review. Maybe I’m a coward, but I don’t want to do any of those things. Like you said, there are plenty of people out there willing to post a takedown. I don’t have to be one of them.

    Thanks for this wonderful article!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. This is really good advice about a subject that I have pondered often: reviewing. I usually do what I did when a student asked me for a recommendation I couldn’t give. I was honest and said I couldn’t do it. And you need to have a thick skin if you put your own stuff out there for review – easy for me because years of critiques of my scientific papers was a great growth factor for that skin. Scientists are not gentle! Most of my reviewers have been kind and helpful, a nice change for me.

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    1. You really do need to have a thick skin! I’ve found that most reviewers are actually very kind. I’m the same as you – I refuse to read anything I haven’t chosen myself, so that if I don’t like it I don’t have to publicly say so.

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  22. So many perfect comments to a spot on post, Jo. I too, as a writer and a humanist, don’t write a review if I didn’t like or found too many errors in a book. I try to be honest with the ones I do write. One thing I do if I see talent in the writing is offer a private critique, but only if the writer wants one. I’ve found that most good writers look for any positive advice concerning their writing and learn from it. I know I do.

    There are plenty of people out there that will write a poor review, even if they don’t finish the book.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Great post. As an indy writer, I try to stay away from giving negative reviews, for all the reasons you mentioned.

    On the other hand, I like to post reviews for indy books I’ve really loved as a way to support my fellow indys.

    But sometimes you see indy published work that really really needs help. Books that could be great, but need serious revision. There needs to be a way to help people out, without posting a bad review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I’ve been helped with typo gremlins by a very kind reader who emailed me, although I’ve heard that some authors react badly to even a gentle email, so it can be a slippery slope. I pointed out high double digit typos to an author once, and he informed me that that was fine – not too many – and he left them in his book.

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  24. As the say, ‘If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.’ Bad reviews can be detrimental to confidence, and the laughter they produce hurts at the back of the throat.

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  25. This is a tough one, Jo, especially when asked by an author to read and review their book. I recently gave a book a poor review here on Lit World Interviews. OK, I wasn’t asked to read and review it by the author, but I could not see the point in not telling the truth about what I really thought about the book. Anyone who publishes any kind of writing must know that bad review or comments are a possibility. I’ve had them myself and, when they are justified and written in a polite and friendly manner, I publish them and respond back in a polite and proffesional manner. I know not everyone is like me, but I’ve learnt not to respond and to ignore Internet Trolls and their friends.

    I’m currently reading a book where the author informed Ronovan that they wanted me to read and review it. If I am going to give it less than three stars then I think it would look unprofessional of me not to write and publish a review on here. It’s a tough choice when it comes to writing a bad review but it has to be done especially where the author has asked for an honest review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that as an official reviewer you have no choice but to leave one or two stars if that’s deserved. It’s really important that reviews are always honest. That’s why I’m definitely not officially a reviewer because some of the books I’ve read really deserved no more. Also I think that professional Indie writers must always take the bad reviews on the chin along with the good. I’ve had one absolute doozy too. It can be dangerous though – I’ve seen a couple of really distressed authors when they’ve been attacked for posting honest bad reviews.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I totally agree, I can’t see any point in not leaving an honest review. Perhaps when I finally do publish a book I will have a rethink and not do any reviews if asked to by the author.

        I think bad reviews ,when honest and justified, can help an author just as much as good reviews can. After all we learn something new every day and, for me, that includes when writing as well.

        I would have loved to have had this conversation with you over a cup or two of coffee, Jo, as it’s a real interesting topic you have bought up.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I would love to chat with you over cups of coffee Hugh! You never know – Sally and I definitely plan to have a get together in our futures, so this might very well happen. You’re right. I’ve steered clear of a lot of bad stories by reading the reviews. I always have a look at reviews before looking inside any book I buy. You can spot an honest review a mile away, even if it’s a one star. We must have honest reviews. As a published author it might be a good idea to rethink though. It might never happen that you get attacked for an honest review, but there really are a lot of writers out there who most definitely will attack when they get anything less than stellar reviews, so it’s always a possibility.

          Liked by 1 person

  26. Absolutely agree Jo. I tend to stay clear of reviewing books that I don’t like for that very reason. Unless I decide that a book is worth a 3 star or above I tend not to review. Life is too short to read books that I don’t like when there are so many out there that I would love to read. So very sound advice.

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  27. Good points in this. I’m not a reviewer or book blogger, I’m just an author who also likes to read, and lately I’ve been rethinking my approach to reviewing. I’ve stopped accepting review requests and doing read-for-reviews (with rare exceptions; I read and reviewed an ARC for an author whose previous book in the series I really enjoyed). Now I’m taking the angle that my reviews are just sharing what I’ve enjoyed reading with my readers and fellow authors. I only review at the 3, 4, and 5 star level; if a book is going to get less than that from me, I’m not enjoying it anyway and life’s too short to read books I don’t like, so I don’t finish it and just let it drop off of my reading list. I do try to be honest, point out the good things and less-good things so other readers know what to expect, but also to always be positive, and to acknowledge that my opinions are just my opinions. But I’ll keep doing reviews, because it gives me something to post on my blog when I’m out of ideas 😀 and it’s fun to share what I’ve enjoyed reading with other people, and it allows me to interact with other readers as a reader rather than as an author.

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