Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Ask Andrew - The Elephant in the Room - Reviews

Dear Andrew

I read a lot of books, and try to give honest reviews. Sometimes I'm really disappointed in a book and then I just don't review it at all.  How do authors - and I know not all would react the same - want readers to handle comments when the negative feeling about a book outweighs the positive?  Do you want to hear things like how I feel that  the story doesn't really flow, or that the characters felt flat and maybe even the typos were distracting? I don't want to say anything in a mean way - and the worst writer still has more writing ability than I'll ever have - but is it helpful to say anything critical when the book is already done and it's too late to make changes? Is it better to leave a lukewarm review than no review at all?


Dear Susan

I feel a little like I'm answering this question on behalf of all my author friends, so I want to give a really good answer.  I've thought about this question a number of times during my career and to answer your questions honestly - it depends.  Okay, let me explain.  First thing I'd like to say is that not every book is for everyone, so there will be people who love a work and those who don't care for it.  If you love a book, please tell others.  If a story isn't to your taste, but it was still well written and professionally produced, then, as a reader as well, I generally set the book aside and go on to another.  No harm, no foul. 

However if a book is bad, poor characterization, poor editing with lots of typos, a story line that's convoluted and uninteresting, then in my opinion, as an author, I would much rather get a personal email than anything else.  In this case, if you have real solid opinions about what's wrong with the book, opening a direct dialog with the author is the easiest way to get your point across and it may generate a discussion that will help the author improve their work.  As a reader you will also get the chance to have input into the creative process. 

Good reviews help the author sell the book.  Sometimes a bad review will have the same effect.  However I would like to stress that good or bad, once something is out on the internet, its hard to take it back.  It can sometimes take on a life of its own and have consequences beyond what you intended.    I know I went on a little, but in summary, I love good reviews and sometimes bad ones are like a stab in the heart.   I have one other word of advice.   I think Disney said it best in Bambi --  if you can't say something good, don't say nothing at all--  At least in public.   There have been books I haven't enjoyed and books I've loved.  The ones I've loved I've told others about, the others I simply kept quiet and moved on. 

Susan - I really hope I answered your question.  There will be many opinions by many people and this is mine. 

Ask Andrew is your chance to ask questions of a gay romance author.  The questions can be about the writing process in general, writing sex scenes, gay men, sex, characters in romance, characters having sex... okay you probably get the picture.    I promise to answer your questions as frankly and with as much humor as I possibly can.

So if you have a question, please send it to  This is different from my usual email so your questions don't get lost.  I will answer one question a week.

Please remember this is meant to be all in fun.  (I was going to say good, clean fun, but who wants that.)    So send me your questions and let's see what mischief we can get into.

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  1. I think you gave a great answer that is honest and forthright, Andrew. And I agree with the points. If I can't say anything good about a book that's already published, I don't see the need to say anything. Maybe it was just me. Besides, making people feel bad isn't my MO. Thanks for your answer, Andrew. :)

  2. Great answer Andrew! I don't leave any comment on a book I couldn't connect with ... because as you say ... maybe it was just me as the reader. What a wonderful thought about contacting the author thru private message. Especially established authors. When you have read enough of one author to know their voice & style & you get a book not up to par ... being able to discuss why I, as a reader, don't "get it" would be wonderful! I want my authors to thrive so I can read!! I'm so selfish ... hee hee Thanks so much for your answer! Have a Great rest of the week & weekend!

  3. I agree. A really good answer to a difficult question. As a writer, I'd rather have an email as well, but diverse reviews also help promote a book. Ultimately, as a reader I decide to take a chance based on the sample or blurb rather than the reviews. There has only been one time that I said to myself, should've listened to the review.

  4. A letter to the author seems like a really good idea. I've read reviews, on occasion, that sound as though the review hadn't actually *read* the book at all (not my own books) so a private email might be a good way to go. Then again, given how some writers (and readers) overreact, I can imagine some folks don't want to make direct contact. But in the long run... reviews are for readers. If a book is really awful, as a reader I appreciate a warning--and I know that if a reviewer's taste is 180 degrees opposite mine, a 'warning' might be a recommendation. The only reviews that are totally useless are "I hated it" or "I loved it" with no reason why...

  5. Thanks for being candid, Andrew. As a blogger, I often set aside review for books I pick up and dislike. Others--ones that were egregiously awful because there were sexist or horribly plotted--did get "negative" reviews. Reviews that I thought fairly addressed my reactions to the books, with examples why I didn't like them. I recognize that gay fiction writers are sometimes targeted by homophobes, and I comment negatively on those biased reviews. Still, it's not fair to a reader when they look at the reviews, which all are glowing seemingly never addressing the glaring flaws of a book because they were all written for a blog tour. One of my most highly rated reviews was a one-star, and I got lots of feedback from other readers who felt the same as I did--that book was a Did Not Finish because it failed (horribly) as a romance and was one of the worst edited (self-pub) books I've had the misfortune to download. Interestingly, that author's books fell similarly downhill in series.
    I can appreciate that authors don't want bad reviews. Really. Because...who does?
    But when your product is not good, as sometimes happens, well, your public will speak. I have actually refused to review books for blog tours because they were awful. I have reached out to authors privately to voice my concerns over their books and been rebuffed. Told that "50 other reviewers loved it." Well. I guess then I should have, but I didn't. I couldn't stand the book enough to finish it. And, while I might reserve that sort of judgment on occasion, I don't think it's fair to censor myself all the time. I'm not the author with the platform. I'm a reader/reviewer. I spent hours reading a book that was not good. I have the right to be honest, though I'm not usually "cruel." And some of the authors whose books I've panned have reached out to thank me for the constructive reviews I've it does have a positive effect, but only when the reviews are constructively written. My $0.02. ;)

  6. I am so glad I found this blog! This is a delima I have struggled with while reviewing books I have read. I feel obligated to other readers to be as honest as possible, but it feels like I'm attacking the author. Let's face it, the books we read are like their "children", and no parent wants to hear anything bad about their child. Besides, I have read books which received poor reviews that I have loved.

    That being said, I have eviscerated one based on 3 books in a series being nearly word for word, only the names changed. (Yes, I read nearly the entire 2nd and 3rd books, just because I couldn't believe the audacity of the author!) And another because the book had been written as m/f and changed to m/m, but the editing was horrible so it was really obvious.

    I would never have thought to send a review via email. I'm just one of millions of readers, who am I to directly engage with these people who have imaginations I can only dream of? Oh, wait. I paid for that book! Yeah, I am so going to do that next time!

    Thanks for your input.