This is another “authors behaving badly” post, a topic discussed again on Twitter. It seems like this topic comes up every few months or so and the comments are the same. How Should We Review Books?
I wrote a post a few years ago asking if authors should respond to reviews of their books because I had a personal experience of an author responding to a review of their book. It honestly left a bad taste in my mouth. But on a good note, the author did not make a triggering comment on my review, so I was luckier than most.
I wanted to talk about this topic because of a tweet stating that reviewers should leave a review with a 3-star rating.
This tweet bothered me a lot. And I think a majority of the readers/reviewers who responded to this tweet had the same reaction as me.
To be honest, reviewers and even casual readers are not obligated to justify their reviews. Reviews are very personal and varied. To be honest, even star ratings are arbitrary and mean differently to different people.
We are Not Obligated to Write a Review
Unless we are requesting an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) from a publisher, we are not obligated to write a review. Heck, even when we request an ARC, a positive review is not a guarantee. I write honest reviews even if they are ARCs – even if the author is one of my favorites. And I hope other reviewers are the same.
Review So We Can Improve
Another argument authors seem to have is that they want to improve. The argument here is that they want to read reviews so they can improve their writing. They want readers to not stop at rating books but write an actual review explaining why readers gave an x-star review.
We are unpaid reviewers.
We are not your critique partner.
We are not your editor.
It is not our job to help you improve your next book or your writing.
We are not obligated to give you a detailed review listing all the things we need for you to improve. That is not the purpose of a book review.
I don’t know how other reviewers write their reviews, but my review style isn’t technical and does break it down to grammar, tenses, and such. So, I’m not even sure how my review would help them improve.
I guess it’s good to know the pulse of the community you are writing – for example, the current trope trends popular in romance. But I don’t think you can find that in an actual review.
How Should We Review Books
To be honest, I think there shouldn’t be a rigid way of reviewing books. We should be free to write a review, or just leave star rating, or also have the option to not leaving or rating a book.
For us reviewers who are not paid to review books, we should not be held to stringent rules in reviewing.