Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Part 2: Australasian Christian Fiction - To Review or Not to Review?

My name is Andrea Grigg and I don’t like writing reviews.



Some of it stems from the fact I’m not a natural reviewer. It takes me hours, even when I love a book. I could rave about it verbally – albeit not coherently – but to write one is a challenge. I forget plot points, themes and often can’t remember the subtext. All I know is I adored the characters, felt their pain and then the love when everything turned out as it should.

But there’s a great deal more to my discomfort than that.

Nola encapsulated my thoughts beautifully in one of the threads on my January 14 post: (You’ll need to set aside half an hour if you want to read all the comments). Here's what she had to say:

I sometimes feel 'put on the spot' when I read something I don't think is up to scratch. I want to support Aussie authors, but I don't want to give a book an endorsement or write a good review unless I feel I can wholeheartedly do that. Sometimes, I feel there's a subtle pressure to support Aussie authors regardless of the quality. While this might seem helpful (especially when these are people you've met at conferences and have friended on Facebook), it can do damage in the long run. If I give a book a four or five star rating, my integrity is on the line. If a friend of mine takes up my recommendation and then discovers the book is not up to par, they're unlikely to follow my recommendations in the future and may even get the impression that that particular book is indicative of other Aussie Christian novels. I hope I haven't offended anyone by this comment. As I said, I think we have some great Aussie Christian writers. But quality is key. I want to read and recommend a book because it's a great read and not because I'm friendly with the author or don't want to hurt the author's feelings. So although it may seem counter-intuitive, a good way to support Aussie authors is to write honest reviews that include less positive comments when warranted. I'm not talking about tearing something to shreds. If I really can't endorse a book, I don't review it. However, readers respond more to honest reviews than glowing reviews that lead them to buy a lacklustre book.

Totally agree with you, Nola! I too have had a problem allocating stars.

So what do they mean?

On Goodreads, three stars means ‘liked it’; four means ‘really liked it’ and five says ‘it was amazing’. (Amazon is one star higher than Goodreads, ie. Three on Goodreads is four on Amazon).While I obviously prefer to get four or five star reviews, I’m ok with three stars. At least they still liked it!

As a teacher, I spent a lot of time convincing parents that a ‘C’ on a report card is completely acceptable. A ‘C’ means satisfactory; their child is exactly where they should be for their grade level. What’s wrong with ‘liked it’?

I’ve also received a couple of two and one stars, but you know what? My books aren’t going to be everybody’s thing and that’s ok. No point in chucking a hissy fit. Besides, they’re not the usual ratings I receive. If they were I’d be taking a good look at my writing.

Second, I have absolutely NO CONTROL over what readers decide about my book. I have to ‘let it go’. (Ha! Just when you thought you’d got that song out of your head!) This may seem a very simplistic view, but until someone convinces me otherwise, I’m keeping it.

To back up my thoughts, here’s what one reader said in a controversial thread on Goodreads recently: ‘I actually steer clear of books that only have high ratings. It stinks of coercion.'’ That’s not the first time I’ve heard or read that sentiment.

The other thing I wrestle with is the fact I’m a writer. Aren’t writers supposed to write? Is that not where their focus lies? And doesn’t that suggest readers review? Nora Roberts stated this in a recent (and controversial) article published on The Passive Voice earlier this month. You can read it here. 

An excellent ACW post addressing the dilemma an author faces as a reader/reviewer was published by Narelle Atkins this time last year. You can read it here.

Despite everything – and please don’t think I’m saying everyone should do this because I’m not – I will continue to review. It stretches me and I like a challenge. However, as an author/ reviewer, I’ve made myself a few guidelines:
  • If I know the author personally and I can’t give their work four or five stars, I will contact them and give the option of whether I publish my review or not. Usually it’s simply because their book is out of my genre comfort zone and therefore hasn’t grabbed me like it would someone else. Their call.
  • If I don’t know the author personally and would give their book three stars, I won’t write a review. I don’t want to risk someone getting upset, perhaps Googling me and discovering I’m an author too. I had an overseas author give my first book three-stars and then explain what they thought needed improving. I certainly didn’t contact them and complain. I have no intention of becoming what Amazonians describe as a BBA (Badly Behaved Author).
      Here's an article Iola shared on the ACW Facebook page recently. I read it thoroughly, ie. Clicked on all the links and I have to say, it was pretty scary! It also confirmed my third personal guideline.
  • I will NEVER, EVER comment on any reviews. Even if the reviews are good, in my opinion, commenting directly on the review site can make the reviewer uncomfortable and come across as stalker-ish. If I want to thank someone I will send them an email or message them on Facebook (if I know them well enough).
So what are your thoughts on reviewing? I’m looking forward to finding out J

Andrea Grigg lives on the Gold Coast, Queensland, and is a writer of contemporary Christian romance. Her first book, ‘A Simple Mistake’ was a finalist in the 2012 CALEB awards. Her second novel, ‘Too Pretty’ was released in August 2014.




54 comments:

  1. I have opted to not review Christian books. As a 'clan' we are very sensitive!

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    1. I understand your decision Rhonda :)

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    3. I deleted a repeat of my comment - no idea why it went up again!

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  2. Another great post Andrea.
    When I started writing, I was keen to read, write and review lots of books - I figured it was a way of becoming involved in a very active online community. I got bitten very early, reviewing a book that wasn't in the usual genre that I would read. I gave it 3 stars on GoodReads and also on Amazon. (At the time I didn't know the stars weren't aligned between these two!). I didn't give it 3 stars because it was a bad book or badly written - I gave it 3 stars because I didn't like it - it wasn't the kind of book I'd usually read. I then received a message from the author asking me to explain why I didn't like her book and to ask me to give her constructive feedback to improve her book. I had to explain that her book wasn't bad, it just wasn't for me. She then asked me why I'd reviewed it then! In the end I just deleted my reviews. As I said, her book wasn't bad - I just didn't enjoy it and I thought, as a reviewer, it was okay to say that! Clearly not. I guess that's one of the issues I'm still trying to wrap my head around - what exactly is the role of a reviewer? And should I read reviews from "Jane Doe - reader" differently to reviews from "Jane Doe - reviewer" or "Jane Doe - author".
    In other words, if I get a 5 star review, does that mean my book is amazing, OR, does it simply mean that the particular person who read it thought it was amazing - to them!
    Someone, (I think it was Narelle Atkins) reminded me very early that I just have to wait and find my 'tribe' - the people who love how I write and what I write.
    Why am I saying all this? Because I was advised, as an author, not to review ANYONE'S books. Well, I took that advice, chewed it around a bit and decided that wasn't for me. I like reading and I like promoting books that I loved reading. HOWEVER, if I don't like a book, I won't review it and give it a low rating. If it's poorly written, I won't review it. Usually if its poorly written I don't even end up finishing.
    If I was a book reviewer, not a writer, maybe I'd do things differently, but I guess at the end of the day, we have to do what we believe in our heart is right. I have reviewed a number of books for authors in this group (Narelle, Andrea, Paula and Meredith) not because I expect them to review mine in return, but because I really like their books and want the world to know! If my review helps others buy that person's book and support that author, that's a good thing.
    At the end of the day, when I review, it's just my personal opinion so when I read reviews of my book, I remind myself that what one person hates, another person will love.
    I'm just looking for my tribe.

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    1. Nicki, I'm so sorry you had such an unpleasant experience early in your foray into reviewing. Unfortunately, I suspect that author has put themselves in the BBA category. When we pick a book to read we have every expectation it will be enjoyable or else we wouldn't have picked it! It's not your fault if you didn't enjoy it. And yes, you have every right to express that. I'm sure you would have done it perfectly nicely.

      As far as your question about receiving 5 star reviews is concerned, I think you're right. It simply means the person who read it thinks it's amazing - which doesn't mean everyone else does, especially if they're trying a new genre. Readers of romance are your tribe and they'll be the ones who 'get' what you've written, especially those who love your voice.

      Good on you for picking yourself up and keeping on reviewing!

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  3. If I don't feel I can give a positive review, or one that's largely positive, I respond personally to the author, and relay my concerns with the book. If they still want me to post the review, I will. I understand about endorsing with 4 or 5, or even 3 stars, when something doesn't merit it, in your view. understanding that what doesn't work for you, may be right on the spot for someone else.

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    1. Hi Terry - I agree with you completely. We're all so different and our opinions and reviews will reflect that. Thanks for commenting :)

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  4. Being and author (or aspiring author) and reviewing is tricky - lots of 'gotchas' along the way but I enjoy reviewing the books I choose to read - and I do my best to give honest and fair reviews which means that occasionally I do give low star ratings (funnily enough most have been big-name authors for one reason or another). After reading Iola's series on reviews - I steer clear of Amazon reviews as it's just too easy to contravene their strict guidelines as an emerging author.

    Anyhow, here are my thoughts:

    * Reviews don't have to be long and involved - they can be just a couple of sentences and still valuable (especially for the author/s). I had a short story published in December - and I know how much each review means - or even just a rating - especially on Amazon were it affects rankings but also on GoodReads and other sites where it promotes visibility. The more ratings/reviews the book has the more seriously readers will take it.

    * Having said that - reviews are for readers - they make an investment in time and money when they read a book. So I think we owe not to give over-inflated reviews.

    * While I know authors don't like low ratings or negative reviews (for obvious reasons) - like you Andrea, I've heard many times that readers a) often suspect coercion or biased reviews when there are no negative reviews & others had said that they have decided to read/buy the book on the basis of 3, 2 or even 1 star reviews because tastes differ. And I agree, on GoodReads, a 3 star review is not a negative review.

    * I have mixed feelings about contacting an author to ask whether or not to go ahead with publishing a negative review. A lot of readers react negatively to authors expecting that (read some of the comments about the Raani York case) and I can understand why. And, if no-one ever published negative reviews for fear of offending the author - then the review system would be pretty pointless. It smacks of collusion to some extent. On the other hand, I would find it hard to do a scathing review of someone I knew. And if you only ever give out 4 & 5 star reviews, then maybe they begin to mean less.

    * But then, even in the one or two times I've given a 2 star rating, I've always tried to be fair, to be moderate in my language, to find the positive - and to use the compliment sandwich ie bracket the negatives with positives.

    I guess there is always the risk in giving honest reviews as an author - but I know my preference is to have honest reviews even when that means some negative ones. For instance, I was very happy with the 3 star review the anthology got on GoodReads. And because we are still working at getting Aussie Christian fiction visible to a lot of readers, each review is valuable - and a great way to support each other is through honest and thoughtful reviews. Oh, and I apologise if I've offended anyone with a less than 5 star review :)

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    1. Hi Jeanette -
      I'd much prefer to write short reviews (as you would gather from my post, haha) but don't usually allow myself the luxury as I know how much time and effort goes into writing a book!

      Yes, I read the Raani York case - oh boy! My plan is to contact only authors I know personally if I have a 3 star offering, but I'm aware that could go pear-shaped after reading Nicki's experience (although I realise that happened after she'd published her review).

      I find writing reviews like writing report cards. If there's something negative to say, sandwich it in between a couple of positives, as you do yourself.

      Honest and thoughtful reviews are a risk alright. And being honest, Jeanette, if people are offended with less than a five-star review then that's their problem. Please don't apologise for being truthful!

      As always, your comments are fab. Thanks for stopping by :)

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    2. Hi Jenny
      I agree. Reviews don't have to be long. I have some single sentence reviews and some essays on Goodreads. It's easier to write about what you don't like than what you do. I think honesty is absolutely key - I have people who follows my reviews and whom I've friended because of the comments they've made, showing they value what I say. I also agree that if we never published negative reviews it would be pointless. It would also mean authors would never improve because they'd have no feedback about what people didn't like.
      Sure it's risky telling authors - especially ones you know - that you didn't like their book. I could cite dozens of examples of people I know who won't review Aussie Christian books because they didn't like them. But they fear telling the authors. They fear the repercussions for friendships, for their own careers, for creating a tit-for-tat situation.

      There are way too many, way way too many people who've told me this. One of the reasons I've stepped away from involvement with Christian writers is because I don't like this culture. When we allow fear to rule our relationships, we've already lost. At least in my view.

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    3. Annie, the honesty issue is what I was getting at on my post a fortnight ago, hey. It's tricky alright.

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    4. Jeanette, I'd only contact an author regarding posting a critical review if the author had approached me directly to request the review. If I've got the book through a third party (e.g. NetGalley, ARCBA or a book blogger programme), then I just post my review. Some blogger programmes won't let you get another book without posting a review, and NetGalley likes reviewers to have a 80%+ request-to-review ratio.

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    6. That make sense Iola if you've been asked to review as a favour. I think context is important too - for instance, I would probably wouldn't put negative reveiws on my blog - because I see that more as making a recommendation for a book but might do so in Good Reads where I'm listing the books I read and have a practice of reviewing each one as I finish it. And it makes perfect sense to do so with Netgallery given the 80%=request-to-review ration.

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    7. That's interesting Annie - I agree that honesty (speaking the truth in love) is key - and I think that if many people don't review Christian titles for fear of offending in the end we are all losers. No reviews are much more damaging to a book than a sprinkling of negative reviews. And if all the reviews are negative (unlikely) then maybe that's saying something too?

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  5. Hi Andrea
    As an author, I haven't stopped being a reader. I simply love books. I love writing and I love reading them. I think everyone has to make up their own mind about they are going to do with regard to reviewing. However - I'm going to go out on a limb here and maybe seem nasty - but I don't believe you should expect reviews if you don't ever review. (A variation on the golden rule principle.)
    I know what Rhonda's saying - but I think there are many factors here. If someone holds a grudge against you for not liking their book, what does that really say? Isn't forgiveness part of what makes us Christian? This is why I thoroughly ignore the entire 'Christians are sensitive' mindset. I think we should be setting an example of forgiveness for people who don't like our writing and might have slammed us along with our books. I think we should set an example of truth by giving our opinion and simply articulating our own views, recognising others have different perspectives. I think we should set an example of lifting others up, just as we might like to be lifted up ourselves (and that doesn't mean 4 or 5 stars, or even 3).
    So I agree with Nicki that everyone has to do what we believe in our heart is right. But let me finish with an observation: I often get asked for a review for a book by someone I know will never return the favour; I know - because in six years at the helm of a Christian writing organisation, I've never seen them publicly do anything for anyone other than themselves (other than comment on a blog like this.) It looks self-centred. It may not be, but I'm beginning to see that, in communities like Goodreads where activity is highly visible, there is less and less support for people who don't ever give back. It takes time for people to notice it - but eventually they do.

    If you have a policy of not reviewing, you need to make it clear why. Because for authors who intend to stay around for more than one book, it looks really uncaring after a while.

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    1. Thanks for your honesty, Annie. I'll be honest too - I can't agree with you on several things here.

      If writers don't give reviews, I don't really care. I think it's up to them whether they do or not. There are other ways to support fellow authors than just reviews and who knows what they may be doing behind the scenes? Not my call.

      Some people find reviewing stressful for a myriad of reasons, some of which will be (and have been) illustrated here today. If they need to reduce stress in their lives and reviewing causes it, I'm not going to insist they do it.

      I also don't think authors have to make it clear why they don't review. If they choose to answer the question, fine, but it's their choice. Again, there are many unseen reasons why they have their policy and I'm not going to call them on it.

      Authors can write endorsements, which I believe are editorial reviews on Amazon. Also, Amazon considers reviewing other books from your publisher to be a conflict of interest and a breach of their reviewing guidelines, something I'm very aware of. I would love to write a glowing review of Meredith's 'Mortal Insight' but for that reason I can't.

      Also, since the large majority of traditionally published Christian authors in Aust/NZ are published by the one company, Wombat books/Rhiza Press, it makes it difficult. Plus, it's a commonly held belief that authors shouldn't publicly criticise their publisher, which includes writing critical reviews about their employer's product. I wouldn't like to be dismissed for code of conduct breaches if I made negative comments about my employer on blogs or social media.

      Reviewing can be a minefield and that's why I understand if people (authors in particular) are wary of it and not as active as they could be.

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    2. Hi Andrea - I agree with you totally that it's the author's right to do as they choose. But not if they expect a review when they aren't willing to give it. You don't expect a review - as you say, you don't care - but others complain of not receiving what they're not giving. In that scenario, I think authors should be more open about their reviewing policy.

      There's no reason why you can't write a glowing review of Meredith's book elsewhere. So long as disclosure is made of your relationship on Goodreads, there's nothing to stop you. You can review your own books on Goodreads - and I've taken that opportunity to write about the background to some of mine. You can review books you've beta-read, or edited, or appraised or critiqued and so long as you are honest about your involvement, it's ok. Honesty is the key.

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    3. Oops, sorry, Andrea. I also meant to say that I don't think writing an honest review of a book (even if it is negative) equates with criticising a publisher. In fact, I don't know of any publisher who thinks that and I've worked with several. It is not the same as criticising an employer on blogs or social media; there's a difference between attacking a person and writing a review of a book (or a product for that matter.) Speaking as a Wombat author, I have never written a critical review about another book in the same "stable" in which I have not first gone to the publisher and explained my issues - whether it be masses of spelling mistakes (my favourites being the L words: loose/lose and lightning/lightening), repeated grammatical errors of a particular type or the spiritual tone. Often that gives the publisher a chance to fix the issues I've raised in the next edition. I feel this is part of being honest.

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    4. Or breath and breathe, Annie. That's one of those that always gets me.

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    5. Or affect and effect ... that's the one that stands out for me :)

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    6. Legos. The plural of Lego is Lego, not Legos. At least according to the company that makes Lego. If you want to be pedantic, it's one Lego brick, two Lego bricks.

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    7. Iola, isn't Legos a type of spaghetti sauce?

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    8. Close - Google tells me that's Leggos.

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  6. Interesting post Andrea and comments from Nicki. I review a lot of books and will often make the comment that other people may love a book but it didn't work for me. I think that's a valid point to make. I've just done that with a well known author and given it a lower rating than another reviewer had, even though I could appreciate certain aspects. When it comes to reviewing Aussie Christian writers, I will choose not to write a review if I cannot say anything positive. It's better than hurting someone's feelings with negative comments, in my opinion.

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    1. Dale, I always enjoy reading your reviews ... but they've never convinced me to buy the book, because I can tell from your reviews that our tastes are very different. That, to me, is a large part of the purpose of reviewing: to give readers an idea of whether or not they'd like the book.

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    2. Hi Dale - reviews are so a matter of opinion aren't they? I'm with you :)

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    3. I appreciate your reviews too Dale. We seem to have similar tastes on most of them, so I've come to really appreciate your honest reviews and have marked as "to read" many of the books you've liked. I wouldn't necessarily not read a book you hadn't liked if I thought the book sounded like something that would interest me. As Andrea said, it does come down to what the reader likes.

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  7. I'm with you Andrea! I really don't enjoy doing reviews, I have only done a few, and that was - frankly - because I felt it was something we 'have' to do in order to support one another. I've since changed my opinion (and I'm confident that it's my right to do so.) I have a crazy busy life and have realised that my time away from my family is better spent doing intensive critiquing and praying for other writers. I know this has helped several writers immensely and I believe this is time well spent, my way of being faithful to God, and my writing community. I'm also in the process of gathering a group of reader friends to read books and review them for my fellow Aussie writers as I believe these are the most genuine reviews - those from readers who simply read, share and discuss books because they love reading, not because they are hoping to garner the publicity of a review in return. For those writers who choose to review, its nice to be able to do that for one another and I'm sure its not always with expectation that the favour be returned. But, for me, I feel this group will be a good avenue of support I can offer, without expectations that I may be unable to meet.
    I have recently started reading books based on reviews by Rel Mollet and Iola, and I have found their reviews so much more helpful in choosing my books. In fact, when I brought a few of Rel's top ten books for the year, I noticed that the books listed as 'people who brought this book also brought...' were all books she or Iola had recommended in that top ten or elsewhere. That in itself shows that the volume of sales was there from her review - and Iola's, since there were some similar books. Quality reviews from readers sell books. I'm sure there are some quality reviews from writers (since we are still readers!), but I don't feel the need to push myself into a state of stress to review when others are doing such a good job that is resulting in sales. I want to write quality books, so I'll focus my time there. It certainly is a hefty task to up-skill to the level I want to achieve! At the end of the day I feel at peace with my decision, that God is pleased with how I'm choosing to spend my time - that in fact the decision is not deeply spiritual to begin with.

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    1. Good on you Cat for choosing to spend your time wisely. I know I've benefited from your prayers!

      I enjoy Iola and Rel's reviews very much too. And what a wonderfully supportive person you are getting a group of your reader friends together to write reviews for us. Thank you so much. :)

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  8. Personally, I think reviews of three stars or up are okay, so I will post reviews that are three stars or up for everyone. But, like you, I have not posted reviews for some books written by people I know if I couldn't give them at least three stars. I don't want to hurt them (I do tend to be brutal in my reviews sometimes, although it's not deliberate) but, like you and Nola, I can't put up a review that presents a book positively if I felt it had a lot of problems. I freely admit that I often have problems with books everyone else raves about. We are all different, after all. But I can't post something I don't agree with.

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    1. Hi Lynne - glad to hear you don't mind three stars too. Totally understand your thoughts on not posting something you don't agree with. I think a lot of us feel that way. Thanks for commenting :)

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  9. I asked a respected reviewer to review one of my titles once, and she did, bless her, and sent me an email with the review and the rating, and asked if I still wanted her to post the review. It was a 3 star, and an honest 'I didn't like your hero' review. I thanked her and asked her to still post the review. It was honest, and she is respected. It sat against a 5 star review of another reader who loved the book and didn't have any issues with my hero. I also learned early to NOT read reviews if you don't want to be depressed. I couldn't obey that law for too long, so I only read reviews 3 stars and up. Anything less, I say 'OK, so you didn't like it' and leave it at that. Readers are funny - I'm a reader, and I'm funny too. I read 'The Shack' and liked it, but certainly didn't RAVE over it like the rest of the world seemed to be doing. I felt a bit bad for not being a sold out fan, but hey, that was how it was for me. I like to review, particularly if I really enjoyed the story, of both Australian and American authors. If it's good, I'm happy to say so. Only very rarely do I give a 2 star (never a 1 star). I don't think I would rate an author that I know less than 3 - or I would contact them personally and ask them if they'd like the feedback privately. This is an interesting discussion, as always, Andrea, as we are learning the world of digital reading and publishing.

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    1. Yes, my policy of not reading reviews didn't last long.

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    2. A lot of us seem to have the same policies when it comes to writing reviews, Meredith, which has encouraged me. (Btw, I had/have the same views as you about The Shack)

      Thanks for your comments :)

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  10. I posted comments but my computer and blogger ate them. On reviewers by authors for other author friends I don't read them as I know they will be glowing cos they are friends and want there friend to do well. They are not going to put up a 3 star or lower. So I rarely will even look at an author review. Its reviews by readers If I look at reviews I will look at and as someone said if a book has nearly all 5 stars I will also be sceptical about the book. If its a favourite author that's different but if its one I am not sure of it my have me question the book cos most books should have some lower ratings.
    I have been asked to put positive reviews up because an authors rating dropped due to a 3 star review which surprised me. Also had a few say if you cant give 4 or 5 stars I would prefer you didn't post a review. I can understand this in a blog tour as they are spending the money to promote the book but if they just ask you to review it can be embarrassing.

    Andrea I agree Authors can endorse a book rather than review especially in Australia where there is really only one publisher and in many places you can not review books for author who publish by the same publisher.

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    1. Hi Jenny - glad your comments made it on here!

      I was interested to read your thoughts, especially those concerning authors reviewing authors and books boasting nearly all 5 stars. I don't think you're alone in your opinions. Thanks for sharing :)

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    2. Yes, I've had some authors tell me not to review if it's less than four stars. It doesn't encourage me to read their books.

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    3. most know I love there books or I have written to let them know how much I loved it and they ask if I would mind adding the review.

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  11. Andrea, great post! I agree, it's an individual decision and we should respect each writer's personal preference.

    I also agree that honesty and integrity in reviewing is essential, which is one reason why I only write book recommendations.

    There are times when, as a reader, I've loved a book, connected emotionally with the characters and the story has stayed with me. But, from a writer's perspective the same book I'd give 5 stars as a reader was a writing craft and editing disaster. Awkward POV shifts, telling rather than showing, too much narrative back story, poor or non-existant copy editing, awkward dialogue and sentence structure etc.

    As a reader, I can sometimes get past these problems because I've been drawn into the fictional dream and loved the plot and characters. But, the writer in me is critiquing and rewriting sentences in my head as I read the story until I eventually turn off my pesky internal editor and intentionally work hard to stop being distracted by all the glitches. Reading a novel should be a pleasure, not hard work.

    From a writer's perspective, the book is probably worth 2 stars because, despite the many aspects of the story that I loved, the book is underdone and not up to standard. But, the book may have put a big smile on my face or brought tears to my eyes as I kept turning the page, wanting to know what happened next.

    How can I give a book that made me cry 2 stars? But, how can I give it 5 stars and maintain my integrity as an author who values quality writing craft?

    My conclusion is I'll leave it to the readers to make that judgement call. Reviews are supposed to help readers decide if they want to read the book. Authors have editors, agents, critique partners and beta readers who can provide them with constructive feedback on their writing before the book is published.

    Readers deserve the best quality book that an author and his or her publishing team can produce. Reviewers shouldn't be playing the role of beta reader because they are the customers who have paid money for what should be a professional and polished book.

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    1. Hi Narelle - yes, I think recommendations are my personal preference.

      I find it as hard as you do to read a book without my writers' hat on. The dilemma you described is very real! I read a novel this week which had several typos but because the story was soooooo good my critical writer voice was squashed as soon as the thoughts were formed. It will be my next review for ACW. Thankfully I have several weeks to figure out how I'm going to write it!

      Love your statement: 'Readers deserve the best quality book that an author and his or her publishing team can produce.' Absolutely they do!

      Thanks for commenting :)

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  12. Hi Andrea,
    I used to feel the same as you, especially after reading a piece by Joyce Meyer in which she said she believes people in the same profession shouldn't examine each other's work in critical depth. But later, seeing the example of others, I decided we can do it in a kind and helpful way. Well-balanced reviews surely help to sell books and I'm always grateful for them. I often decide not to buy books with no reviews, no matter how good the blurb sounds. They look too sad and it seems too big a risk. So when people review mine, I'm grateful and can see what a favour they're doing.
    My second reason for writing reviews is more self-serving. I enjoy receiving free books from Net Galley and Blogging for Books, and writing a review seems a fair exchange for saving the money :) I've found that I do enjoy writing them now, more than I expected I would at the start.
    It's a shame that we're required to use the star ranking system though. I'd rather just write the review and not bother with trying to decide.

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    1. Haha, Paula - I'd rather give the stars and not write the review! Still, I will keep practising my reviewing skills. Hopefully it'll get easier as time goes on and I'll enjoy writing them as much as you do. ( I really enjoy reading yours, btw.)

      Thanks for stopping by :)

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    2. NetGalley also gives you a cost-effective way of getting all the new Christian novels. Writing a review is a small price to pay for the ability to get all the latest books.

      They can be a valuable teaching tool, to see what the trade publishers (and readers) see as good fiction, and to keep an eye on trends. For example, first person has been common in contemporary fiction for a while, but I'm seeing more historical fiction written in first person. I'm also seeing more novellas.

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    3. Oh Iola, yes Novella's are all the rage at the moment! Some a great, but some I've read are truly terrible!

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  13. Hi guys,

    It's been such an interesting discussion. I love NetGalley and when I really don't like the book, I send a note to the publisher telling them why I couldn't review it. I like to hope those get seen and hopefully taken on board. As of yet the one author I have stopped reading because the books are simply mediocre has not changed and that is a shame.

    However, I digress. I love reading, writing and even reviewing. I Always try and write a fair review, without too much gushing and always try and give reasons for my likes and dislikes. at the book review sisters, we don't rate books, just share our thoughts.

    I have struggled with writing reviews for many Christian books last year - we halved our book reviewing and I read less books. Mainly because I felt I had nothing new to say about the books I was reviewing. To that end, I have decided to stop reviewing authors that I adore (like totally adore to the point of gushing) as it doesn't serve a purpose. Even our readers indicate they like our book reviews because they are honest and thoughtful without bashing a book or the author. Some of our readers have indicated they don't like overly glowing reviews because it smacks on insincerity.

    I always try to be positive and anything negative gets (hopefully) said constructively rather than with a vicious intent. There was only 2 book reviews I wrote but never published because I really hated the book and as much as I tried, upon reviewing my review it was decided that I'd ventured into bashing the book unnecessarily.

    This year I am wanting to read new authors in Christian fiction as well as some favs, but I want to explore what new authors have to say. I wil be writing a book review soon on a book that I wasn't sure i liked, but yet I can't figure out what I disliked about it.

    On a quick aside, I recently ventured out into secular suspense fiction and it sent me running back to christian fiction. If anyone can recommend clean, non Christian work I would like to know.

    thanks for reading this!
    Jess

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    1. Hi Jess - glad you've enjoyed the discussion!

      You are an experienced and respected reviewer so thank you for sharing your insights.

      As far as clean, non-Christian work is concerned, you might like to try our own Nicki Edward's 'Intensive Care', a rural medical romance, released a week ago by Momentum, a digital imprint of Pan McMillan.

      All the best with your reviewing this year :)

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    2. Thanks Andrea. I will try the book you suggested. I think I saw a link to it somewhere on my feed. I found it on amazon and I like the blurb. I just bought it on kindle!

      Thanks!

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  14. Another thought, I wrote a book review on one of Elizabeth Camden's books and I didn't like the hero very much and I said so and why. I remember being terrified when I posted the review for her to read. She said she welcomes reviews like mine because as an author she always tries to grow and stretch herself and she needs to know what readers think. So I feel that have more freedom to say (politely) but in more depth with what I liked and disliked about her books. But I always come back for more with her because she is always pushing herself and it shows in her books.

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    1. Wow! Elizabeth Camden is a great example for us all. Unfortunately, not everyone is that gracious. Good on you for being so brave.

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  15. I do a bit of reviewing and my policy is if I don't like something I don't review it but sometimes I worry that will make people think I will automatically provide a positive review for anything. I have had a couple of authors comment on reviews I did on my blog about their work and I actually found it a real compliment that they had taken the time to read my review (as I am the lowly reviewer and they are the author I liked/loved) and make a comment. I don't use a star ranking i just talk about what I did like, if any bits weren't my scene and who I think would enjoy it. So hard though if you know someone and as an aspiring writer you know how much love and sweat has gone into something even if it isn't my scene I don't want to treat someone's work with disrespect... thought provoking article.

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  16. Hi Miriam - Having to put a star rating does make things difficult at times, doesn't it? I too like being able to discuss the merits of a book and mention the things that didn't appeal in the mix without having to actually categorize the book. And yes, knowing how much effort has gone into the book can make writing a negative review even more heart-wrenching!

    Thank you for commenting - I'm glad you enjoyed the post :)

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