On August 25, 2012 the New York Times ran an article entitled “The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy.” This told the story of a man who was paid up to $28K per month, by Authors who wanted the best reviews their money could buy. In the space of this person’s short existence as a ‘book reviewer’, writers commissioned over 4500 reviews, and not one of them was bad. Of course they wouldn’t be as these Authors had paid real money to say how good their works were. One of the downside of this tale is that the man in question openly admitted they never cracked open one of the books they were supposed to be reviewing. As a result of this a Computer Science Professor from the University of Illinois, Chicago, says that research shows that a full one-third of all online reviews are fake. This throws the few of us that actually read books into a bad light. And as long as some unscrupulous Authors and their entourage are willing to pay for top drawer reviews, this light will continue to shine.
So where does this leave us? I think we are all aware of the fact that not everyone likes the same thing and, I know I’ve said it on these pages before, but that’s a good thing otherwise stuff would be in short supply. This means in the world of book reading and reviewing, not every reviewer will give that book top marks, and rightly so. By seeing a variety of stars/thumbs/unicorn dust, whatever is used as a rating scheme for the review, we can see that people from all kinds of backgrounds and cultures have read this, and so it may be something we should take a look at.
Another area I think Authors should really consider when having their books reviewed is the ‘padding’ issue. Of course friends and family are going to give you top drawer reviews, as they don’t want to upset you but are these really helping you grow as Authors. There is nothing more perplexing to me than seeing reviews of a novel I may have given 3 thumbs to, suddenly have a run of one line 5 star reviews, obviously written from a sock account from the similarity of names and review content. Did I, and others like me, miss something in your understanding of you being OK with ‘honest and unbiased’?
A big part of being a book reviewer is that you do it for the love of reading and sharing that love of reading and good books with others. The majority of book reviewers aren’t paid for what they do – they receive a copy of the book to review, either from Authors, publicists or publishers, and that’s it. Those select number who are paid, usually work for the large publishing houses or major newsstand publications, but for the most part readers review books, or at least in my case, for the love of reading. And I read a lot – I usually have 3 or 4 books on the go at one time, and yes I do retain everything I read in them; I’m also a fast reader, sometimes finding myself having to consciously slow down so I don’t miss something in a particularly riveting book; so I can read a book in a couple of days, if it’s a novella, less.
I always give honest and unbiased reviews, regardless of whether I have paid money for a book, been gifted a copy from the Author, or picked it up in my library or thrift shop. If I think a book could really have done better, I will state this in my reviews, not with the intention of being mean, but in the hopes the Author may take onboard some of my points and grow from there. Also if I love a book I will say I do, and why. There are so many great books out there, and so many genres that I like to read, or can at least be convinced to try, that there is no end to the type of books that appeal to me; and hopefully, through my reviews someone may be intrigued enough to try a genre they would otherwise have overlooked. But as you all know, I draw the line at romance – just don’t like that entire bodice ripping frippery! The whole notion of not reviewing something purely because YOU didn’t like it is alien to me, if all reviewers took this attitude there are some books out there that would never make it past a Beta reader, and that would be a great loss.
What I am really trying to share in this little soapbox moment of mine is simply this; if you read a review of mine on this blog, or on a website such as Amazon, Goodreads et al, you can be assured of a number of things, and these are:
a) I have read the book
b) I was not paid to read the book, although I may have received a free copy from the Author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
c) I respected the Author of the book enough to write a review, whether I liked it or not, and explain my reasoning if I’m able to, of why I disliked something about the book in the said review.
d) I never read other reviews of books that I have been asked to read for review. After all, how could I be unbiased if I’m going into a new book with someone else’s opinions of it at the back of my mind?
I am proud to say that I am a part of a dying breed maybe, a real book reviewer! And, with that I’ll now step down from my soap box