Thursday, 27 May 2010

Armchair BEA: To post or not to post, that is the question...


In the past week I came upon several blog posts discussing the subject of negative reviews and whether a blogger should post them, whether it is ethical for an author to ask the blogger not to post a negative review and whether the reviewer shall comply with such request. I think this topic is certainly worthy of discussion, so here is what I think, and please tell me your take on this issue. 

As a reader you always come across some books that you didn't enjoy either because it wasn't your cup of tea or because the novel had some major flaws. As a book reviewer you tell your blog readers your thoughts about the books you've read and it is probable that your judgment will influence them in deciding whether they will bother picking up that book and read it or not.

It all becomes more complicated when the book you are about to criticize was offered to you by the author. Since through your communication with the author you got to know the person behind the name and novel and you don't want to hurt their feelings, but can you simply not post the negative review when you feel you have an obligation to your readers to tell them your opinion?

As book bloggers we always stress our honesty. That our reviews were based honestly on our enjoyment of the novel and that it wasn't influenced by the fact that we have received that book by the author/publisher for free. But if you don't post that review aren't you disrespecting that honesty by not informing your readers who trust your judgment?

If you didn't like a book but won't post your review saiyng that, isn't that as bad as lying in your review? Because omittance is a kind of lie. You leave your reviewers in the dark.

(Of course there are reviewers who prefer to avoid confrontation and state in their review policy that they will only post positive reviews, and that is fine: they have been honest with their readers from the beginning, the readers know that all they gonna see there are positive reviews. In my opinion this case is different than the one this post is about.)

I am a fairly new blogger, but I have been writing reviews for years now. Why? Because as a reader I realized how helpful they can be! When debating whether to buy something, who doesn't check the reviews on Amazon? And let me tell you, I have no problems with negative reviews when the reviewer states clearly why they didn't like it and what was their problem with the book/film/product, etc. I can at least see and decide whether those comments are pertinent to me and based on those complaints whether it is probable I would feel the same. However even negative reviews should be constructive: the reviewer shouldn't bash the book or the author and should never be malicious or hurtful on purpose. Rather they should state what in their opinion was the problem with the book, maybe even show examples by using a few sentences/paragraphs or state that though they didn't enjoy the book, it wasn't due to the writing or the novel itself, but rather to the fact that it wasn't their cup of tea.

Sorry, I'll try to wrap this up as I've been rambling on for a bit now: my bottom line is that as book reviewers our readers trust our taste and judgment, we owe them and ourselves to be honest and truthful. If you don't like something say so, just do it politely and in a constructive, objective way.

What do you think? Do you write negative reviews or if you didn't liek something prefer not to write a review? Has an author ever asked you not to post a not so stellar review about their books? Tell me your thoughts, I'd love to hear them! :-)

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