November 20, 2008

BTT: Tell Me Lies

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Booking Through Thursday:

I receive a lot of review books, but I have never once told lies about the book just because I got a free copy of it. However, some authors seem to feel that if they send you a copy of their book for free, you should give it a positive review.

Do you think reviewers are obligated to put up a good review of a book, even if they don’t like it? Have we come to a point where reviewers *need* to put up disclaimers to (hopefully) save themselves from being harassed by unhappy authors who get negative reviews?



Well, isn't this timely ;) Honestly, I've never lied, but I try to be kind. I also keep in mind that other readers may not feel (and have not felt) the same way about the book. I often say, "this wasn't for me" which is true. And I avoid saying unhelpful things like, "this was a total stinker." I point out the flaws but also the positives and it's up to other readers to decide for themselves if they can overlook those flaws. Sometimes I can't. It's does feel kind of weird to say negative things about the books I've been given. I always feel a bit nervous sending out that email with the link to my review. I'm sure the giver would like a positive review but it doesn't always turn out that way. I don't think getting it for free should have anything to do with how I review books. It's a gamble and the author has to roll those dice.

I very rarely deal directly with authors, which makes it easier for me. All my experiences with authors have been positive so far. They've been very respectful. I prefer to go through publishers though. These aren't their babies. I'm careful to read their guidelines. Do they only want positive reviews? Or do they respect the reviewer's views whether they are positive or not? There's a freedom in the latter even though I've rarely had to do it.

All that said, I've been lucky, there are few books that I didn't like. I'd like to think it's because I'm pretty choosy. I don't have the patience to read what I don't like. I also have other things going on in my life so why would I want to read bad writing? There are just too many books I want to read and not enough time.

Earlier this week, I posted on this topic somewhat. I had a discussion with readers about self-published books. Check it out if you want to weigh in on that topic as well.

11 comments :

  1. I enjoyed reading your post - probably because I wrote something similar! I agree reviewers should try to be honest but gentle in their criticism.

    Here’s my answer.

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  2. The publishers I've worked with say they want honest reviews.

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  3. Same here on liking books; I do tend to like most of what I read, and even if I don't like something, it's easy to find the positive. It makes reviewing easier, and I try to stay away from books I know I won't like in the first place.

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  4. I've learned to be more choosy about the books I accept. I've only had one so far that I thought was the worst thing I had ever read, and decided not to review it.

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  5. Just this past week, I read the worst book ever, and I reviewed it. I was professional and not mean-spirited, but I was honest. Come see my answer.

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  6. As long as the review bears a resemblance of reasonably argued and well-supported statements, it’s a just review regardless of whether the subject being reviewed is good or bad. I stopped reading some of the book reviews in media because they turn into fluffy gasbags. I owe my readers my honest opinions to a book, regardless of whether it's free or not.

    If authors or agents cannot handle negative reviews, they should keep the books to themselves.

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  7. While it certainly is timely, I doubt any lit-blogger with an ounce of self-respect will answer differently. Authors and publishers should know what they're getting into when they start that whole process of requesting reviews.

    Of course, when I've known an author is going to read my review, and it's not great, I am very concious of the fact that feelings are involved and try to use a dose of tact with my honesty-- though on a few ocassions, for various reasons, I've been...less than tactful. The way I figure it is, they should know that my opinion is just the opinion of one person, with a just a tiny web-presence, and a non-writer at that, so my bad review isn't exactly the end of the world.

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  8. Remind me never to accept a book just to review it. I hate hurting anyone's feelings but OTOH, I'm not reading a book for the author or anyone else. Mostly I just log the books that I've read the last month with a brief description and maybe a few thoughts.

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  9. If a publisher ever told me they only accepted "positive" reviews, I'd tell them to send the book to someone else. I review honestly...and that means if I don't like it, I say so. I believe if bloggers are afraid to give honest (and I'm not talking brutal or mean, but FAIR and honest) reviews, than what does that say about our integrity? Why would I read a review if it was not going to be one I could trust? I doubt very much if the print reviewers for magazines and newspapers think twice when they give someone's book a negative assessment - it is part of being a professional!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I've enjoyed reading everyone's "take" on the controversy!

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  10. I agree with everything you've said. And I'm also picky about the books I accept. When requests started pouring in, I limited what I accepted to books that sounded interesting to me. I've dealt with a few authors and they all said they wanted honesty. Thank goodness I was pleased with the books!

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  11. I've been really interested reading all of the "honesty" thoughts the past couple of weeks. I think we lose our integrity a little bit if people are either not reviewing books they didn't like or "lying." I, too, prefer dealing with publishers than the actual authors. So far I've only had two author books, but I have another two waiting on the shelf. Having all this talk about honesty, though, will help me with my review, I think. There was a time when I was really nervous about negative reviews.

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