Have you ever read a book, especially a new one, then wrote a review of it? With the ease of publication by electronic means now available that results in new books popping up on Kindles, Nooks, iPads, etc., the chances that someone you know will have a novel or a non-fiction book that you can purchase on your e-reader in the near future are growing all the time. Conceivably, a friend of yours could even have a traditionally published book that will appear on the shelf in your local bookstore. Out of friendship, you may buy that book and take it home, or download it onto your reader. Then, presumably, you will read it.
Wonderful. Once you’ve read it–and this applies more to electronic texts than printed ones–you may be tempted to go to Amazon (or wherever the book came from) and write a review, or at the very least, give a simple rating of the book in terms of zero to five stars. Be careful.
I haven’t published a book yet, either electronically or on paper, but I’ve made a conscious decision in the last several weeks that, from now on, I will not write reviews of books published by my friends. For one main reason: it puts too much pressure on the reviewer.
So many reviews by close friends have a tendency to be automatic “5-star” glowing reviews and ultra-high recommendations. Of course, the reviewer does this so as not to jeopardize the friendship and alienate the friend. (There are other reasons, too, but I won’t go into those.) That may be a good idea in preserving the friendship, but it doesn’t do the book–or the writing ability of the writer–any good.
If someone writes a review of a book or story I’ve written, I’d like it to be as honest as possible. Getting a 5-star review tells me very little about whether the reviewer liked the book or not. It’s very rare for someone to like everything about a book, about every little thing and every little detail that went into making it. I need to know what went wrong (at least what the reviewer thinks went wrong) about the book. The dialogue, the characterization, the plot, the setting, the front cover, the picture of me on the back cover. Only in that way can I improve and write a better book the next time. You aren’t doing me any favors by giving a 5-star review if you didn’t think the book was worth it. If you don’t want to give a knee-jerk 5-star review, then don’t review the book at all. Just read it. That’s what I intend to do.
Some may say I’m just bailing out on giving reviews. I don’t mind writing a review, but my intention is not to make people angry. I just want to give them my honest opinion. If a writer friend insists on an honest opinion, and I didn’t like the book, the result could be disastrous (though not necessarily). I would rather preserve the friendship. So I ask you to do the same. Don’t give me a fake review. I will get lots of reviews anyway from people who don’t know me, even from professional reviewers, so not having a few reviews from friends doesn’t do any harm.