Tell me the truth: when you read a poor book review, does it make you want to run out and buy the book anyway, or cause you to have second thoughts?
Like art critics, I believe that book reviewers can hurt authors. While reviews are important (how else will anyone online discover your work?), I choose not to write them for a few reasons. Here they are:
3 Reasons I Don't Write Book Reviews
1) Book reviews say, "I'm an expert," and I'm not. I think that two people can read the exact same book and one will leave the experience in love and the other will be wondering why they wasted those hours of their life. Who am I to say, "yes, read THIS book," or "no, don't read THAT book"? Reading tastes are so individual that it's impossible to predict whether or not someone will love or dislike the book that as a reviewer you tell them they "must read."
2) I hate reading things I don't want to. Just the thought of having to read something makes my skin feel itchy and my legs twitch. I did loads and loads of that in high school and college. I don't want to "have to read" anything. This is also why I have never joined a book group. I tried and failed.
Book reviewers often have lots of free books coming their way and they are expected to actually READ them. Shiver, shiver. My reading time is so limited that in the few precious minutes I do have, I want to focus on something that I love. Reading is an escape. It's hard to "escape," if you're reading something that you'd rather not be.
3) Reviews can hurt. I nearly gave up writing books a few years ago. I allowed a series of negative reviews online and in person at book events to really discourage me. I thought that I sucked as an author. "Maybe I should just give up," I thought. "There has to be better ways to spend all this time and money than on writing books that I put so much of myself into, only to have them criticized and belittled. Maybe I should take up extreme ironing. (Guys, it's a real thing.)
Anyway, after a long time, a lot of reflection, prayer and introspection, I eased back into writing novels. But my point is this: critical words hurt. It doesn't matter if you're a baby beginner or a stalwartly pro. Creatives are sensitive creatures (some more than others). Putting your work in the world, the work that you've put your heart into, that you've spent hours upon hours on is risky. One too many barbed comments or scathing reviews take their toll.
What I Do Instead of Writing Book Reviews
Rather than writing book reviews, I choose to write book recommendations. The biggest differences?
a) I only write these about books I really enjoy and
b) I follow Mom's rule: "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."
With that said, though, I do like to write and verbally share book recommendations. Book recommendations are fun! I love making these and do so monthly in my newsletter for readers of suspense. I will also occasionally read something really good and then reach out to the author and ask if I can interview them here on the blog. I also often promote their work on Twitter or Facebook or a private suspense reading recommendation group that I'm a member of. It's a great way to share other authors great work, without writing traditional book reviews.
In the next post, I'm going to tell you more about some suspense reader review sites that I do enjoy. Just because I choose not to write reviews, doesn't mean that I don't like reading them...and enjoying the community that these review bloggers have created.
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