Imaginative Discussions: Something That Needs to be Said

Posted April 22, 2011 by Kara in Uncategorized / 42 Comments

imaginative discussions


Everyone that talks to me here and follows me on Twitter knows that I haven’t been a part of the book blogging world for long. I am still finding my place and where I fit in. And I am perfectly happy with that. But I am not a person to sit back and watch ridiculous bullsh*t go down and keep my mouth shut. That just isn’t me.

One thing you can be sure of is that I will always be honest with my readers and my friends. And with the anonymity of the internet, I am shocked that there is so much dishonesty and cowardliness in the book blogging community.

There are a lot of bloggers out there that choose not to review self-published and indie-published works. And while I don’t really agree with that practice, I understand why people do it. First, the reason why I don’t agree with not reviewing self-published works is this: I just feel like as book bloggers we should be doing everything we can to bring awareness to new authors and great authors that may not get the opportunity to enter into a contract with a traditional publisher. There are a lot of great books out there that don’t get the recognition they deserve because they are not sitting in bookstores. But that is a topic for another day.

The real reason I am writing this blog: As book reviewers, we have a responsibility to the writing community to be completely honest with the authors that are writing the books and the readers that are reading them. And frankly, I am sick and tired of watching certain book bloggers blow smoke up the behinds of authors who don’t deserve it. Yes, I know. Reviewing is subjective. What someone else may find appealing, I may not and so forth. But this happens WAY too often for it to be a one-time thing. If you are going to be a book blogger and you want to be taken seriously, you have a duty to be honest with writers and readers. Stop lying! Stop saying a book is well-written and the best thing you have ever read if it is utter crap! You do realizing this is helping no one, right? It doesn’t help a writer improve their writing, and it doesn’t help a reader make informed decisions about which books to purchase.

Why do I give mostly 3 star reviews? Because not every book you read is worthy of five stars! I only give 4 and 5 star reviews to books I really feel deserve it. At the end of the day, all you have is your integrity! And how would you feel if someone purchased a book you recommended only to come back and say “That book sucked, why did you recommend it to me?” Then what? You are finished. No one will trust your opinions ever again! Honestly, who cares if you piss people off? Doesn’t what you are doing mean something to you? I don’t know about you, but when I started book blogging, I made a conscientious choice to do this because I enjoy reading and I wanted to help other readers make informed decisions and motivate them to love books as much as I do. Somewhere along the line, I think quite a few of us have forgotten that. We need to regain our integrity as book bloggers.

And another thing. When you are an honest and trusted book reviewer and you do give out good reviews, they mean way more to the author. And this I know from experience. I’m sorry if you think I’m being arrogant or bitchy, but it’s the truth.  Please leave your opinions below.

Rant over. Off Soapbox.


42 responses to “Imaginative Discussions: Something That Needs to be Said

  1. Like I said on twitter, I agree with you. Just because someone else loves a book, that does not necessarily mean you have to love it to. And lying is just not worth it because usually people can spot out when your trying to rave about a book that is not worth the rave.

  2. I agree with you. I read book blogs to help decide what to put on my TBR list. I know I’m not always going to agree with a blogger’s opinion, but if they’re raving over every book they read and there starts to be a trend, I begin to doubt the blogger’s motivations for reviewing. I don’t see where it has to be about not pissing off authors or publishers. As long as your review (whether it’s negative or positive) isn’t rude or a personal attack on the author, it shouldn’t matter.

  3. What you are describing seems to me to be the very definition of constructive criticism. And what is that for if not to give thoughtful feedback to an author who would like to know what people really think?
    So long as people are saying what they think in a duly considered fashion, and not just reading, disliking and replying…”You suck!”…which, of course helps no-one.
    I hasten to add, I am not aiming that at you 😉

  4. I completely agree with you. Whilst it isn’t easy telling someone that a piece they’ve slaved over isn’t quite up to par, as you stated, it makes the writers that HAVE done a good job feel more secure in knowing that what they’re putting out there isn’t a piece of crap. Thank you for saying this!

  5. I don’t do ratings, too much involved with that.

    BUT, that is neither here nor there.

    I think you are absolutely right as far as honesty goes. And well, you know me from Twitter, I don’t BS. I don’t pretend to hold a popular opinion when I don’t. And I can tell when people are BSing, which just lowers my opinion of them. I’d rather read blogs that I know won’t steer me wrong as opposed to blogs the do the smoke ass blowing thing.

  6. Deb

    My son is tearing apart the living room, so I only have a moment to capture what might otherwise be an exhaustive response. (You’re probably lucky on this count, ahem.) Agreed re: honesty. If I review something, it will be totally honest, even if that’s painful in some cases to write. It’s gotten easier for me because I’m doing more beta reading these days. If I don’t say what’s on my mind, I’ve failed as a beta reader. Doing the same in a review is food for consideration for an author’s future work. In my case, the reviews I’ve received via email have absolutely helped me. The book I’m writing now is a much different, cleaner book for the feedback I’ve gotten. I know enough now not to think people hate me because they’ve said something negative about my book. :p If people don’t share the good and the bad alike, there can be neither trust nor growth, in many cases. That’s the merit of honesty. So, keep on rockin’ as you have. In the meantime, imma go chase down my little one!

  7. April- I can almost see why you don’t do ratings now. Almost. 🙂 And I know I can trust what you say. And that is exactly what I mean by integrity. I’m slowly learning which bloggers not to trust.

  8. Deb said- “I know enough now not to think people hate me because they’ve said something negative about my book.”

    Exactly. And I couldn’t agree more. While hearing negative comments about your work does suck, if you are a rational person you know that it’s not a personal attack.

  9. I’ve been blogging for four years now and I haven’t ran across a blogger who I thought wasn’t being honest about their reviews. I’m sure it happens though. I follow bloggers based on their reading tastes are similar to my own. If a blogger often hates a book that I love, I know she’s probably not the blogger for me to follow. I also don’t review everything I read, or finish every book I start so there’s rarely a bad review on my blog. Life is too short to finish a bad book.

  10. Vasilly-I actually know for a fact that there are dishonest bloggers out there. But I refuse to call anyone out. I would not have posted this had I not known for sure.

  11. I stopped reading print book reviews because the attention they devote to big ticket authors absorbs so much attention there’s virtually no space for new authors and nothing for indie authors. So much so that it’s a news story when they do.

    “Phillip Roth’s got a new novel! I wonder what the Times thinks? Not as good? Reallllly good?” Maybe I’ll buy it, it maybe not (actually not, my dad likes Roth and reads book reviews this way).

    Blogs are great for finding new/small press/self-published authors the mainstream media skips over. What a pity it will be if they imitate the lame-o practices of the print publications that have inspired many to start blogging in the first place!

    Thanks for the thought provoking post!

  12. I know. All I have is my integrity when it comes to my blog. I want it to mean something. I can’t imagine why someone would just take the easy way out when they will end up screwing themelves in the end.

  13. Amen!! Yes, every reader’s opinion of a book is different, but I tend to drift away from blogs that only have great reviews. Yeah, they might really love those books, but I don’t feel like I get any thing out of it if every review is “The characters were great, the story was great” The book blogger site I follow the most is one that is honest and explains WHY she didn’t like a book, because the reason she didn’t may be something that wouldn’t bug me.

    Much Respect for what you do Kara!

    Angeline Kace

  14. Thanks for the awesome post, Kara. I wholeheartedly agree with you!! There are a lot of good books out there, but so few that are great. Having recently joined Goodreads, I actually struggled with a few of my reviews because of this fact. How many books really live up to the 5 star? I think there are fewer than we would like and I, for one, admire your honesty. I know I can trust your intuition and your review. Keep doing what your doing!

  15. I don’t think I’d be asking you for a review then. I don’t need a 3-star review dragging me down. And yes I’ve given five star reviews to people who maybe didn’t earn it. Have people given me five star reviews I didn’t earn? Probably. So it goes.

  16. So you think I should just give you a 5 star review even if I didn’t like your book? I’m sorry, but that is just insanity. Not everyone is going to like your book. And I have a responsibility to my readers to be honest.

  17. Wow! Not everyone is going to like a book and lying about it is not the right thing to do!! If I don’t like a book I don’t finish it that’s why there are no bad reviews on my page. We do have some so-so reviews though because we believe in honesty!

  18. Rogue: Surely if someone’s work is actually 5 star quality, then there should be nothing to fear from a firm-but-fair critic?
    Only someone who doesn’t believe they should get 5 stars for their submissions would hold their work back until they could find a ‘compliant’ reviewer.

  19. I think honesty is very important. If I didn’t like a book I have to point out what I didn’t like. It helps to give other readers an idea if they would like it or not. My negative review could help someone else decide what I didn’t like they wouldn’t mind. But honesty is key. Giving someone a 5 star review they didn’t earn isn’t honest or fair.

  20. I think there’s a big difference between *not liking a book* and a *badly written book*. You can still give a decent review for a well-written book that doesn’t happen to appeal to you. For example, the Toy Story movies – most everyone loves them. I’ve seen them, and they are excellent, well-written, well-acted, feel-good movies. I hated them every single one. If someone asked me to review them, I’d probably give them at least 4 stars because they are *quality* entertainment. They just don’t happen to be for me.

    This business of an author not wanting “a 3-star review dragging me down” is just plain selfish. That kind of attitude represents everything that’s wrong with the publishing business. Art vs. Capitalism. I guess Rogue Mutt is more interested in making money than getting an honest review.

    As a struggling author, I’d much rather have Kara (who happens to be one of my fave Twitter buds) give me an honest 2 stars than a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” 4-5 stars. If I totally suck as a writer, I probably need to know that before I embarass myself any further.

    Just my opinion.

  21. Good point Kendall! If you don’t like the book, tell us why, but do it intelligently and don’t bash it either.

    I think when authors expect to have a good review even when it isn’t warranted is IMO selfish. They are not only risking their image, because readers are smart and can see through the BS, but the author is asking the blogger to risk all the creditability the blogger has tried so hard to build. You want someone to toot your horn, hire a PR agent or a marketing director, but don’t expect the blogger to do it. That is not their job.

  22. A critique, to me, is a well written opinion piece on a work of art. If one wishes to use critics to whittle down the list of books to be read, you need to find one whose tastes run close to yours. Trust, to me, seems rather important, if you want to be taken seriously. I have, thanks to critics and friends recommendations, found amazing books in genres I rarely read. I have, by the same routes, found books I truly believe have no other use than to prop up broken table legs. You can’t like everything. And even well written books aren’t necessarily everyone’s cup of tea.

    Okay, this is rambling, so summing up. Critics are, to some extent, the lights in the fog of the never ending library. It’s better if they shine true.

  23. Well said, Kara. Integrity is key. I appreciate the critique as much as the praise (although praise feels nicer on my ego), as it’s what helps me become a better writer. If I only hear that stuff is lovely, I won’t see that it really is only sorta okay but that there is a stunted part that needs more attention. So, yeah, constructive criticism is important. Blowing smoke = bad for business all around. It’s the Simon Cowell mentality: if you can’t sing, someone should tell you so you find another way to spend your life, in the hope that you will find that one thing (and everybody has that ONE THING) that you are really good at. If you spend your life trying to be good at something you really suck at, your life is one big missed opportunity. I like that Simon Cowell, as harsh as he is. You can be that to writers. Tell it like it is (gently, with class), Kara. We’re all better for it in the end.

  24. I don’t have a rating system in place for when I rate book. Instead, I try to offer a summary and then write a paragraph about the book’s strengths and it weaknesses. That way, if someone reads my review they can actually see 1. If the book summary interests them and 2. If it’s written well enough that it would be worth the investment of time and money. I’ll also note whether the book may be offensive to someone i.e. lots of cursing or sex. If there’s material that may be triggering for someone who’s recovering from some psychological problems. I want people reading my reviews to use THAT rather then a rating system to choose whether or not they will read a certain book.

  25. I am glad you have written this post, recently I have seen some book bloggers give amazing reviews to books I had a hard time getting past the first page on. I read CONSTANTLY. I worry however, that if I don’t give glowing reviews to twitter friends it will come back and bite me in the butt so I stay silent. Being silent makes me INSANE!

    I want to say don’t buy that indie book people are raving about! It needs to be edited, the author needs to learn how to write something but a convoluted run on!

    I can’t though, as a witer it is a lose-lose situation.

  26. ajkulig- That’s exactly why I posted this. If I can’t get past the first page,it certainly doesn’t warrant a 5-star review. And I totally understand. That’s why book bloggers are here to do it for you. And I want us all to be honest and not afraid to stand up for what we believe in.

    As for the couple of comments I’ve seen on rating systems: I started using rating systems because Goodreads did, and that is where I initially started doing my reviews. I’ve continued doing it, because at this point it is what makes me comfortable as a reviewer. ::shrugs:: At some point I may stop, but for now it works for me.

  27. Kara-Well done! I agree w/Jamie, I also dont review a book if I hate it. That’s b/c I don’t finish books I hate. I give a synopsis & talk about what I liked, & what I felt could use improvement. But I do it in the kindest way possible b/c these authors are pretty much laying their hearts on the line. I have to respect someone who has the courage to do that, regardless of how much I did/didn’t like their book.
    I always look forward to reading what you have to say!

  28. Really interesting discussion! And I totally agree about honesty and integrity. If you don’t like something you really shouldn’t give it higher ratings just because everyone else does.

    I tend to give high marks for reviews, but I also try to choose to read books I think I’ll enjoy. And if a book is not to my taste I won’t read or review it. I read because I love to, and why would I want to spend my time reading something I know I won’t like?

    But I also don’t think it fair of me to review or rate a book if I’ve only read five pages and put it down.

    And I also won’t automatically give negative marks if it’s not to my taste but is well-written. Poorly written is a totally different story.

    Lately I’ve been only reading things I’m pretty sure I’ll like because there are so many great books out there. Why choose ones I don’t like just to give it a two or three star rating to make my blog appear more diverse?

    I have over 100 books in my TBR and if I think I’ll only like a book a little I certainly don’t want to choose that book just so I can gripe about it.

    Sorry so long, but just want to comment back about Indie authors.

    I love to read works by Indie authors, but I can understand why some prefer not to. When you review a major published book your review will likely not be seen by the author if you didn’t like it. When you review something for an Indie author they will definitely be reading it. Call it cowardice, but some people may not want the drama.

    I’ve had a couple rather unpleasant situations so I can see why others might not want to take the risk.

    But I’ve had some wonderful experiences and so it makes it worth it to me and I’ve discovered some pretty terrific authors I would never have known before!

  29. Kara – you’ve made a very valid point in your post. I think any author who wants a real career as a writer wants an honest review of their work as long as it’s not a personal smack down on the author.
    I can only speak for myself, but as a writer I want readers to enjoy my work. Readers are savvy and know which bloggers to follow depending on their reading preference. I sent out my novel to be reviewed by bloggers because I feel they are the real voice to readers who are looking for good material that will interest them. As a writer I need the honesty and readers depend on it, especially since they are spending their hard earned money on your selections.
    I’m an indie author and thankfully my fairly unknown novel has been reviewed by a handful of bloggers and reviewed on goodreads. I’ve taken note of the reviews and write with all those notes in mind. Its one of the ways I feel I can improve.
    And I appreciate that you embrace indie authors.
    🙂 Mayandree Michel

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