When to leave a review

I’ve got a question for all the authors out there, is it alright to leave a less than stellar review?  I’ll explain.

Over the last year I’ve met and followed a lot of different authors on WordPress.  I try to be a good part of the network by picking up their books and other recommendations, supporting indie authors.  Some of these books are fantastic and I make sure to leave a good reviews, some… aren’t.

Since I started writing seriously I found that I’ve gotten a lot more critical over my own writing and what I read.  I’ve also gotten a lot better at identifying problems, in my own writing and others’.

There have been several times that I’ve seen glowing reviews for a new indie book, on multiple sites, then picked it up myself and had a hard time even finishing it.  That’s not to say I’m an editorial genius, I’m not, some of those needed a lot of work but others were just not to my taste.

When I do finish one of those books I face a dilemma, do I leave a three-star (or less) review or do I just stay silent?  It might be better for them even if I left something less than positive with the way Amazon does their rankings, I don’t know.  And what if I know the writer (on WP, anyway)?  Should I email the writer if I had problems with the story, or just say nothing?  If it was me I’d want to know, but some people are protective over their baby and might not like unasked for criticism, even if it’s intended as constructive.

9 thoughts on “When to leave a review”

  1. Tricky question. I’ve felt stuck and indecisive on several occasions. To make things easier on myself, here is my recent approach … I don’t tell authors that I’m purchasing their books so there is no awkwardness if for some reason I wasn’t enthused. I read the book. If I can give an honest 4-5 rating, I write a review for Amazon and Goodreads. If I loved the book, I write a longer review and post it on my blog. I generally don’t send a note to the author with criticisms or suggestions – unless I’m doing a beta read at the author’s request. I wish there had been more responses to your question as I’m no expert and am also interested in how other authors handle this topic. Hope this helps a bit. 🙂

    1. It does help and I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s felt like that. I was hoping to get some more feedback too, but I’ll take what I can get. If anything, I think the lack of comments is a kind of affirmation of sorts, so I’ll just keep doing reviews the way I’ve been doing them. 🙂

  2. I don’t review books publicly if I don’t like them. I’m also a secret shopper like Diana said, and don’t generally let authors know that I have their books, unless I’ve read their work before and loved it. I think that there are plenty of readers out there who don’t also write that will share those negative reviews. It’s different when you’re reviewing your peers for all the world to see in a bad way. I wouldn’t want to hurt a fellow scribbler, and neither would I want to be trolled or attacked by an angry scribbler or his/her friends, which has happened around and about too. 🙂

    1. All of that makes sense and it’s pretty much what I’ve been doing up until now. The only issue I have is that is that how will we improve if we’re not getting constructive feedback? I feel like I’m doing the authors’ a disservice by not giving it. If I read a book by someone I knew online and found that the characters were too flat for me, or there were plot holes/grammar/whatever, I want them to be successful and if we ignore it then they’ll never have the opportunity to change. I’m not sure if I’m explaining this very well, so hopefully that makes sense. 🙂

  3. Yeah, been there. I’m getting more and more reluctant to read other people’s m/s’s. I did accept a file from a guy I’d corresponded with for a while. He was okay, but his book was pretty bad, Definitely ☆☆☆ material, at best. I warned him that based on a partial read, he was destined for three stars, maximum. He requested a halt in the process, and I complied. Didn’t really want to read any more.

    Book quality has taken a giant plunge the last few years. Only a day or two ago, I hit the “read inside” button for an indy book. In the section I read, there weren’t two consecutive sentences that were grammatically correct. The button should have said, “dread inside.” My feeling is that most of these people don’t want to grow and improve. They want to be told their book is great, get five stars and a glowing review. Their friends will probably do that. They may even sell a fair number of books. But unless they’re open to honest criticism, they’ll never write a truly great book. It’s almost tragic. Last year, another author came unglued when I pointed out a common, amateur-level plot hole in her latest work. Potentially a really good writer, but now out of touch with real criticism, busy getting ☆☆☆☆☆ from all her friends.

    1. You’ve hit on a lot of stuff I completely agree with, especially with the last point. There are so many people that want that instant gratification, recognition, and won’t work for to improve or get too sensitive with feedback.

      When I was in College I was fortunate enough to get into some advanced writing classes that were pretty vicious with everyone’s work. At first it was a culture shock but eventually I realized the value of getting a really good, detailed critique. I think it’s vital for improving our skills but it’s not easy to find the right people to work with.

      1. Yes, finding the right group or beta readers is important. My critique nom de plume in one group was “Ming the Merciless.” Not “Ming the Vicious.” Vicious isn’t necessary or helpful. I’m a believer in opening with “What’s right about this piece,” even if it’s “Your use of periods is flawless.” And euphemisms; euphemisms are good. [e.g.,”It’s very Post-Modern,” instead of “It rambles on and on incoherently,” or “It sucks like a fruit bat on a mango.”]

        But in the last analysis, every writer who hopes to be great will have to go through a period of having his/her beloved prose accurately and painfully exposed as pedestrian, cliched, badly organized, ignorant, grammatically disastrous, or as an exercise in missed opportunities, if nothing else. This is an unavoidable process and it never feels good. Growth is painful. When the painful part is over, you leave workshops eager to improve the work, do the research, write the next piece, or examine the last one again for similar problems. Critiquing is an art as deep as the art it examines.

        1. I definitely agree that critiquing is it’s own art form and one that we’d all benefit from exercising as much as our writing. Whenever I’m doing a critique I try to use a format we called the “sandwich”, start out with something positive, then the constructive criticism and end on something positive. It’s just as important to point out the good things sometimes as it is the bad things, and those kinds of reviews are easier to swallow.

  4. If a book is really horrible, before I leave a review, I will try to contact ( and warn) the author that it needs an edit. I ‘ve read a couple that had so many misspellings etc. that they were atrocious. If it is fantastic I will review because I want to see that others enjoy it.

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