Why was it a conflict of interest? Maybe that's not even the correct term. As someone who, then, was about to be published, I began feeling squeamish about giving anything less than a 5-star review. And up to that point, I'd reserved 5-star reviews for books that absolutely hit it out of the park--books I'd loved for years (THE SECRET HISTORY by Donna Tartt comes to mind), had read more than once, books I considered an influence to my writing.
By this definition, a 5-star book was exceedingly rare for me. It also meant a 4-star book was excellent and probably, a book that many people would consider 5-star. But how would my author friends view a 4-star review from me? After all, they didn't understand that for me, 4-star meant the book was great.
Rather than risk offense, I stopped writing reviews altogether.
After I got published, I realized first hand just how important those book ratings are, especially on Amazon. Though I've only got the vaguest idea of how their algorithm works, I do know that MISTRESS OF FORTUNE, my book with the most reviews (21) never reached the number required to trigger any sort of additional promotion. And that's okay. From this experience, I learned just how hard it is to get people to write those reviews.
I became sympathetic.
I decided I would write reviews again, especially for those authors for whom I knew my review would make a difference. Blockbusters like THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN (which I'm reading now and loving) will benefit from a review/rating, but with numbers in the thousands, my review doesn't make much of a difference. But for the book that has twenty or thirty (or less) reviews? My review can help.
I also loosened my rating criteria. I'm much more likely to rate a book 5-stars now (although 4-stars is still an excellent rating from me). I won't review books I can't give at least 4-stars.
In spite of my decision to resume writing reviews, I never really followed through on it. Part of it was the concern that whatever I wrote would sound stupid and/or trite. Filled with cliches. I'm a writer myself so my reviews should be brilliant, right? The pressure I put on myself prevented me from writing reviews on any regular basis. Also, I'm lazy. Writing a review was just another thing to put on my to-do list.
The reason for this new resolve? I've been moving toward it (that is, thinking about it) for awhile. But when Eric Beetner and I wrote our end-of-year post about the books we loved in 2016, I realized I wasn't as much of an advocate to the book community as I wanted to be. So not only has Eric inspired me to eat fewer french fries, he's also inspired me to put reading higher on my priority list and to take the time to write reviews of the books I love.
Do you have any book-related resolutions?