Why Don’t Authors Write Book Reviews?

Do you ever wonder why authors don’t usually write book reviews?

  • Maybe they don’t read books. (Yeah,we hate those things.)
  • Maybe they don’t have any opinions. (We…are…zombiiiiieeees)
  • Maybe they don’t realize how important or awesome reviews are. (HA! As if…)
  • Maybe they’re too scared. (Yeah, because writing books and having the world judge them isn’t scary at all….)

We authors probably know more about book reviews than anyone else out there. Authors live by these little star ratings and one-sentence opinions. (Or, sometimes, 800-sentence opinions. Bring it on.) Yet we grasp their importance Why-authors-don't-write-book reviewsonly when we become authors. And then we feel guilty for not having reviewed every novel our bookwormy-heart ever devoured. But now . . . it’s too late.

We are now in the “magical author circles” and suddenly there are politics and emotions and hurt feelings and the giant fear of burning a bridge that will eventually COME BACK TO DESTROY YOU.

It’s really not that intense, but it could be. If I let it. 😉

A few years back, I wrote a blog post on whether or not authors should write book reviews. At the time, I’d just gotten contracted for the Out of Time Series and I was examining how I wanted to surge forward as an author. If you read the post, you’ll see that I don’t really come to a conclusion by the end. (And then you might ask yourself, “Why did she even write that blog post?” Don’t ask me…) But for some reason I thought writing a review meant I was open and honest with readers, and that not writing a review made me a chicken. (Bawk! Ba-bawk!)

Silly little naive author.

Why don’t authors post book reviews?

Come on, J. K. Rowling, why don’t you slam the author of 50 Shades of Grey? Why isn’t Sarah J. Maas rating any of her current reads as 2-stars on Goodreads? THE WORLD WANTS TO KNOW WHAT YOU HATE! And that’s just the problem. There is this thing called the author community. When you become an author you get mailed a special I.D. card and a rulebook that tells you exactly what not to do —

Just kidding. OH HOW I WISH THAT WERE TRUE. I floundered in my new-author-ness trying to figure out all the invisible, unspoken rules about how authors interact with each other. And here’s what I’ve found out:

Thumper’s mamma got wisdom. Let me tell you a bit about the author community:

  • The author community is small. You wouldn’t think so, but it is. I’m friends with authors I fangirled over only 4 years ago. O.o
  • The author community supports each other. We tweet each other’s books, we read each other’s books, we try to get each other’s books into libraries because we know that authoring is hard. Especially because we’re adulting at the same time. *passes out*
  • The author community understands that it’s hard to write a book. Yes, even a two-star flop. And there’s the unspoken rule that we will not slam each other. (Though that doesn’t mean we’ll recommend said book.)
  • The author community works together. Networking, tweeting, promoting, shout-outing, squealing, etc. WE ARE A FAMILY. We didn’t get to choose each other, we just wrote books and ended up here.
  • The author community voices are loud. Think about it. This is why endorsements mean something. If I see Marissa Meyer’s quote on the cover of a book, I’ll probably pick it up. Because I adore Marissa and her taste in books. Can you imagine if Marissa started writing book reviews about how she didn’t like the plot in such-and-such a book? Everyone would listen. And that’s scary power in the bookish community.

These are some why you’ll rarely see authors writing reviews or giving a book a negative-rating. (Also, writing a review just means…more writing…and we have more important stuff to pour our writing time into. 😉)

Will Nadine keep writing book reviews?

I’ve been sumo-wrestling with this question for months, my friends. If you follow me on Goodreads, you’ll probably notice that sometimes I write lengthy reviews, and sometimes I jot just a single sentence. This is evidence of my turmoil. And as of last week I finally made a decision.

I will no longer be rating a book less than 4 stars on Goodreads.

Me no likey that there’s not a happy middle ground for me. I’m sacrificing something I enjoy. I enjoy being open, I enjoy being real. I enjoy sharing exactly what I liked and hated about a book. I enjoy helping readers find whether or not they’ll enjoy a certain book. There is so much that I like about writing book reviews. But giving that up is a price I must pay as an author. (Tweet this)

“But why, Nadine? WHY?!”

When I post a book review on Goodreads, it gets somewhere around 10 likes. Let’s assume that maybe 20 people saw the review and it helped 10 readers in that moment. I had to ask myself is it worth burning a bridge or hurting the reputation of an author friend so I can give 10 people a helpful review?

My answer: no.

Because those 10 people have other friends who review books. They’ll probably be able to find help from other reviews. And I want to support my author friends, even if some of them are writing books that I found to be slow, or a little too gritty, etc. It’s a fuzzy line, but I’ve chosen my side.

My solution to not writing book reviews, but still having an opinion.

Fear not, I have a solution! It’s called . . . private messaging. If you are a reader and you want to know what I thought about a book I recently marked as read (but didn’t rate or review it), just shoot me a private message. You can do that on pretty much any social media and I’d be happy to share more detailed thoughts with you, just like if we were chatting books over tea. 😊

I also still plan to leave reviews for books I like and some negative reviews if it’s a classic, some select non-fiction, or a super super super famous book. There is so much I could say, but imagine my surprise as I planned this blog post to see my dear friend, Sara Ella, post a video on the EXACT SAME TOPIC. Couldn’t have timed it more perfectly, so I’m commandeering her video to share with you all since she’s so delightful and concise. It’s only 5 minutes, but she sums up everything much better than I seem to be doing.  😁 (While you’re at it, you should subscribe to her Booktube channel. It’s my favorite ever.)

 


And there you have it. Before signing off, I want to make something clear: This is not an “advice for authors” post. This is the stance I’ve personally chosen to take regarding book reviews, but I know there are authors out there who do it differently. And that’s fine. Personally, I love reading other author’s reviews. Those brave souls. 😉

Your turn! Do you think authors should write reviews? Why or why not?

 



About Nadine Brandes

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She never received her Hogwarts letter, but rest assured she’s no Muggle (and would have been in Ravenclaw House, thank you very much.) This Harry Potter super-nerd has been known to eat an entire package of Oreos (family size) by herself, and watches Fiddler on the Roof at least once a year. She writes about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her dystopian trilogy (The Out of Time Series) challenged her to pursue shalom, which is now her favorite word (followed closely by bumbershoot.) When Nadine’s not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she and her knight-in-shining armor (nickname: “hubby”) are out pursuing adventures.

Bookmark the permalink.

30 Comments

  1. Really interesting points there, thanks for sharing this.

    Oh and on a totally, not so totally different point: I got something in the mail yesterday!!!!!! All the way from America, I think I almost died when I saw that little envelope! EEEK. I will post the photos I took tomorrow, off to bed now. Who knew I could go so crazy over another humans handwritten note, (I usually only do that with books) but yes, you being an author really does raise anything you have to say in the eyes of your friends and fangirls…..

  2. Nadine, I love this so much! I’m not an author, but I’m a writer, and I’m always hesitant to post negative reviews – thanks for putting it into words!
    You’re right about author voices being loud. If one person has a negative review of, say, a Maggie Stiefvater book, it’s brushed off as an opinion. If an established author negatively reviews one of her books, EVERYONE that respects the established author will think, “Oh man, if so-and-so-author doesn’t like it, she must be absolutely right!” and then she’d lose a lot of potential readers.

    I rarely leave negative reviews because I hate hating books. Writing is hard work, even for writing books that nobody likes. So…yeah. 😀

  3. This is very true. Most of the time when I don’t like a book, it’s either a problem with me or a content problem. If it’s a content problem, then I write a review anyway, especially if it’s a book everyone’s raving about (because sometimes people don’t mention content, and I’ve found content reviews to be very helpful). But this is a difficult decision to make as an author…

  4. This makes complete and total sense. It’s not that your objections as a reader aren’t good to share anymore, it’s just that you make the choice to not publicly proclaim them with your new influence. And that’s completely fine. I appreciate especially the content reviews, because they’re so rare, but I think you’ve found a good way to still help with that. 🙂

    I’ve rated very, very few books below 3 stars, and in fact, not many 3 stars either. Maybe I’ve just been fortunate enough to find mostly good books, but I think it’s also because I’m inclined to focus on the positive aspects. There’s always that balance between honesty and kindness, which obviously applies to a broader scope of things. 😉

    • I’m a very critical reader. Not in an “I-judge-you-by-typos” way, but I give out 5-star reviews very seldomly. So, knowing that about myself, I think it’s better that I don’t review. Since most of my reads are 3-stars.

  5. Interesting points. I run a review blog with my sisters, so even though I’m an author I have to review books, but I rarely bother to review books I don’t like. (And I’m naturally generous with my stars, so it’s rare for me to give a book below 4 anyway.) Occasionally I’ll commit to reviewing a book and I don’t love it, but when that happens I try to be as kind as I can and give constructive criticism rather than simply bashing it (and also feel simply TERRIBLE because I couldn’t rave about it). I’m not high profile, so I doubt my reviews mean much right now other than just another reader’s opinion, but I’ll keep reviewing books I like even if I get well known because if I like a book I want as many people as possible to read it.

  6. We are totally on the same page. My only exception is that I will post a star review on Goodreads if it’s a 3. This means “I liked it”, but I won’t review it.

  7. So I totally feel you on this. I’m actually in the same boat. As soon as I started my blog in August, I decided from the time I posted my first book review that i would not publicly review books that are less than 4 star worthy books on my blog. However, this is why I keep my Amazon reviews PRIVATE. because sometimes readers need to be warned about horrible books lol. I ALSO agree that supporting authors is extremely important. I have an author (who will remain nameless) that greatly inspired me. One of her romantic series literally reading that was the catalyst that spurred me to write my own (well, I already had the idea, but that’s a long story) But later, I was so disappointed in reading her novellas because I felt they were so subpar. Anyway. I highly respect her and refuse to slam her. 🙁 I also am in the opinion that, WHO really wants to read bad reviews on a blog? I skip over those blog posts.
    Since I can’t remain anonymous on Goodreads, I usually don’t actually write any reviews, if I do rate the book 3 or 2 I just don’t write anything. I wonder if authors feel that’s better or worse hm…

  8. I hate writing negative reviews anyway, but being an author makes it even harder. I kind of have an unspoken policy not to rate anything lower than a 3 star. Thankfully I tend to enjoy most books. 🙂 Great post!

    • Thanks, Claire! I think that’s a great unspoken rule. 🙂 And with all the other reviews out there, it’s nice to be able to find mostly good reads instead of risking several hours on a 2-star.

      • I won’t review a book unless I’ve finished it and if it’s a book that I don’t enjoy I don’t finish it, hence I rarely have the problem with reviewing a book I seriously didn’t like. However I am also a ‘hard marker’, so for me 3* is I enjoyed it, 4* is I think this is a really good book and 5* (rare) is one that I would happily have started reading again the instant I finished it / one that lives on in my head long after I’ve finished. I was shocked yesterday to realise that for Amazon 3* reviews are regarded officially as negative, so that has given me pause for thought re my classification…

  9. I know what you’re talking about. Right now, I have a secret identity on goodreads. I’ve been on Shelfari since 2007, so I have nearly a thousand books I’ve read. I rate them honesty, and I used to review books if I didn’t like them, but of late, I don’t review books I didn’t like, though I still rate them. I mostly do this for myself and my friends.
    If I ever have an author account, I will follow the 4-5 star rule, unless the author is dead, or very famous author, but since my account is currently under my secret identity, I’m not too worried since I’m a “nobody” there. I figure that if I’m taking the time to review a book, I’ll mostly review the good ones, but I will rate the bad ones.

    When it comes to authors making comments on reviews, I think it might be a bad idea, unless author knows the reviewer is another author. To most “civilians” I think it’s scary for them to realize that the author is reading their reviews. (It would be kind of like sitting at a dinner table discussing the ice cream, then the owner of the ice cream company randomly appears and starts thanking you.)

    • Hi Jesse, Can I make a plea as an author that if you’re rating books that you’ve considered ‘bad’ that you put even one sentence saying what for you was the problem – content / writing style / plot / whatever – low ratings pull a book’s average down and if other readers have no idea what triggered the low rating they can’t judge for themselves if it would be a problem for them also (not everyone likes the same things) and therefore may pass on the book because of the book’s overall rating.

  10. This was truly helpful, Nadine! I’ve been thinking about this myself, as I’m now on Goodreads and I don’t like posting anything negative.
    It’s especially trying when you know the author but you couldn’t bring yourself to give it a five star review for a reason.
    Thank you for this post! Its been enlightening! 🙂

  11. I came to this very same conclusion last year. I so agree!

  12. Hope you don’t mind me replying to some of the comments, Nadine – not meaning to usurp your place here, just some of them triggered a thought that I hope might be useful to others.

  13. This is such an interesting discussion Nadine. Come to think of it, all the author ratings I’ve seen are either 4 or 5 stars. I think you bring up a lot of great points though – a lot of authors are friends, so they don’t want to criticize their friends’ work when they know better than anyone how much effort it takes to write a book. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous post! <3

  14. Brianna da Silva

    This makes me kind of sad. I’m going to enjoy writing all my honest reviews as much as I can now… because I can see how there will be a time in the future (when I’m an author!!) that it probably won’t be appropriate anymore. O.O

    I’m glad you wrote this blog post. I didn’t even think about this until now.

    • I’m glad it helped you! It made me very sad, too, and I fought for it as long as I could. But I’ve become wiser the deeper I get into writing (and fellow authors have helped with all their advice) and I realize…it’s time to let it go. *sigh* I’ll live vicariously through your book reviews! 😉

  15. Pingback: Writing Post Round-up 2016 |

I love hearing from you!