Since I’m new here, I suppose a quick introduction is in order. My name is Holly West and I write historical crime fiction. My debut novel, Mistress of Fortune, comes out on February 3, 2014 from Carina Press and as you can imagine, I’m très excited.
I'd also like to thank Steve Weddle for asking me to be a part of this group.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get right down to it. Last week, Steve posted about review etiquette, specifically, whether to thank, or otherwise acknowledge, reviewers. If you haven’t yet, take a look at that discussion as it’s rather thought provoking.
Reviewing has been on my mind lately, albeit from a different perspective. Here's my question: As an author, should I be writing reviews?
Oh, I know what you’re thinking. I may be a writer, but I was a reader first. Of course I should be writing reviews and rating books! After all, this is one of the best--and easiest--ways to support my fellow authors.
In fact, it wasn’t so long ago that I had no issue with writing book reviews. I happily participated on Good Reads and posted Amazon reviews, and took great joy in sharing my opinions on books with anyone who would listen. And I still have no problem with sharing my opinions about the books I like. I regularly recommend them on Twitter, Facebook, and my blog. Essentially, my dilemma is with the rating system.
I recently purchased What to do Before You Launch by M.J. Rose and Randy Susan Meyers. I haven’t had a chance to look at much of it so I can’t speak to the quality of all of the advice just yet, but I did read something that struck me:
Don’t write negative reviews of books, or give any book less than 5 stars, unless you’re willing to receive the same.I knowingly gave up the luxury of writing negative reviews almost as soon as I started writing. It seemed kind of obvious that I wouldn't want to do anything that could be perceived as bad mouthing other authors. A bad review of a particular book might be justified, but it's not worth it to me.
But what about those 4-star reviews? Early on, I made a "policy" never to give any book less than 4. If I didn't feel it deserved that, I didn't rate it at all. In my own personal rating scale, 5-star books are the ones I've loved for years, the ones I've read over and over or resonated strongly with me for one reason or another. Truly, there's only a handful of books that hold that rank for me.
If I rate a book 4 stars, it means that I loved it, that it deserves high praise and gets my sincere recommendation. I've rated many books 4 stars in the last few years, but even as I did it, I wondered if the recipients might take it as a slight. After all, how are they to know my criteria for rating books? Over time, I started rating most books as 5 stars, then, feeling conflicted, I stopped rating books altogether.
I'm curious if any other authors struggle with this? Have you continued writing reviews and rating books after getting published? Do you ever give less than a 5-star rating? If you've received a 4-star rating from a fellow author, how do you feel about it?