Today an article by Peter Derk came to my attention, entitled “7 Things That Are Ruining Amateur Book Reviews.” Go read it and come back.
You’re back? Good.
I want to start off by making the point, which has been made before, that amateur book reviews – the kind that appear on social media including GoodReads, Amazon, etc., and blogs like this one, are just that – amateur. Every book blogger/amateur book reviewer has their own style of presentation. Some write eloquently, some don’t. Some include graphics and or gifs, some don’t. Some have myriad followers, some don’t.
I am not a big fan of animated GIFs. I find them very distracting and feel that they detract from the review’s content. If you are a book blogger, maybe try to express yourself in writing? Of course the web is also visual, and visual representations can be a valid form of expression. Blogs that rely heavily on GIFs are not going to be blogs I read, and I tend to just scroll by them on other social media. I DO however like to add still images to my reviews. Graphics are eye-catching and as they say…. “A picture is worth a thousand words”. I feel that if I can add a photo or graphic that pertains to the review content, or one that demonstrates how I imagined a place or event would be whilst I was reading the work, then that graphic puts MORE of how I personally feel about the work I’m reviewing.
Derk states he doesn’t like it when summaries are including in book reviews. When I’m on GoodReads I’m there for the summary. That being said I don’t feel that every review needs to include one. If I DO include a summary, it is only so that the reader of my review knows some of the context from which I based my opinions.
I feel that Derk’s point about free copies is really off the mark. I enjoy getting free ARC and/or review copies. Who wouldn’t? I don’t sugar coat my feelings about a book just because I received it in exchange for a review. I usually don’t write scathing reviews, only because I have usually chosen the title myself, thus I know going in pretty much what to expect. If I am greatly disappointed, I WILL say so. I do try to remember that the author has put in countless hours and a little bit of their soul in writing the novel, so I try to not be too mean…. Publishers hand out free copies and digital ARCs in order to create BUZZ about their titles. Most also understand that not every book is a hit with every reader, even when it comes to their biggest fans, and publicity is publicity. An honest, thoughtful less-than-stellar review will not damage a blogger’s relationship with most publishers. Oftentimes they find the feedback useful.
Some of Derk’s points I wholeheartedly agree with. I too think that pre-reviews (reviews written for books that have not even been written yet) are just plain fatuous and can distort the book’s rating when – after the book has been published, valid ratings are added into the mix. Just because you admire an author’s previous works doesn’t mean that you can give a star rating to a work as yet unfinished and that you haven’t yet read. I also disagree with how on Goodreads a person can ‘like’ a review for a title when there is, as yet, no review to like. For instance I have a few books on my Goodreads TBR that I have not read yet, thus I have not yet reviewed. Yet… still a few times I was sent an email that a person ‘liked’ my review of that title. What’s up with that?
Derk doesn’t believe in star ratings. I have mixed feelings about this. I DO utilize stars. NetGalley and Goodreads use them (though their meanings are slightly different on the two sites). I use them on my blog. My regular readers will realize that my stars are my personal opinion only. If they share my tastes in reading, my stars will be helpful. If they don’t share my tastes in reading they are free to ignore them.
I do often put “Full review at my blog” links in my Goodreads and Amazon reviews. I am constantly striving for more blog followers and that is a way of getting word of my blog ‘out there’. If someone like Peter Derk chooses to not venture onto my blog – then so be it.
Amateur reviews written by book bloggers are deeply personal. Some people write them for fun, to record their thoughts, keep track of their reading, share with friends, or for other reasons of their own. My own blog was started partly as a way of recording my reading (I’m not getting any younger and I find looking back at my old reviews is a great memory enhancer). I also enjoy the creative outlet. I used to maintain a website, but found that blogging suited me better and gave me a way to interact with other readers of like mind. Gradually, after I joined NetGalley and Edelweiss I started getting more and more free titles. After I retired from my career as a cataloger in a public library, I had more time to read, review, and blog. Blogging has kept my typing skills current and has given me a very enjoyable hobby.
I’ll close this post with my new mantra: