Last Week on Inked Brownies

Honest Reviews

I came across this article on Book Riot today while I was already thinking about writing a post on this ‘issue’ myself somewhere this week.

While I have no problem whatsoever when it comes to giving a book from a firmly established author a 1-star rating, I do notice I tend to go easier on self-published authors. Mind you, I will still always give an honest review, but just tend to tone it down a notch when it comes to the criticism. I also feel way more guilt-ridden when I’m the first person to leave a review of a book on Amazon or Goodreads and it turns out to be a 1- or 2-starred rating for me. It won’t exactly leave an enticing invitation to potential customers…
On the other hand, I always hope it encourages the particular author to look critically at his or her work again and maybe edit/revise it (once more ). Plus, no one should waste their time and money on something that clearly can’t live up to the standard. Giving a higher rating out of guilt ruins it for other readers as well.

Seeing as I will be reviewing a lot of Indie books and/or books from relatively unknown authors in the upcoming two months, I was getting a little worried about not liking some (or possibly all!) of them. What if the contact between the author and me was really pleasant and then I come up with a not so flattering review? What if that person becomes truly hurt because of it?
Yet, after having read this wonderful article with the possibly even more wonderful comments on it, I’m not so worried anymore. Like one of the commenters quotes author Zoe Heller from the NYT: “Writers are not kindergartners making potato prints for their parents; they’re grown-ups who present their work to the public.” (you can read the particular NYT article here).

Which is exactly how I intend to deal with it. If we treat all writers as professionals, they should be able to take the (constructive) criticism and possibly, hopefully, use it to improve their future writing. I’m letting go of the “Who the hell are you to bash down someone’s else’s hard work?!”-voice I sometimes hear in my head when I’m writing a critical review. Instead, I’m going to embrace the “This is for the greater good”-voice. As long as you don’t attack the author personally, but just look at the (editorial) facts, no one should be offended (all too much).

How does everyone else deal with this? What’s your personal policy on this? How do you feel about this as a writer?

P.s. #1 – I don’t really hear voices in my head. I’ll most definitely take a break from blogging when I start doing so, though…

P.s.#2- This is an unofficial announcement of an announcement of a list of Indie book reviews for the months of March & April which I’ve got planned for next week. Jeez, that was a mouthful (and that’s what she said).

About Anne (231 Articles)
Dutch book reviewer who reviews in English. Grammar nazis beware!! I like brownies. And chamomile tea.

23 Comments on Honest Reviews

  1. zainabshykh // 17/02/2016 at 13:24 // Reply

    You’re right. It’s really hard for me to write a negative review especially if I’m writing for an indie author or a hyped book. I once wrote a negative review about a hyped book and received hate comment on it. But, you’re right. We can’t give good ratings just out of guilt.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh gawd, the hyped books idd! The same thing happened to me when I gave 1 star to a very popular book. The trick is to just ignore it, but that’s pretty hard indeed!

      Liked by 2 people

      • zainabshykh // 17/02/2016 at 16:28 // Reply

        Yeah, people should respect other’s opinions. Ignoring is pretty hard. A bad comment stays on your mind more than a good comment does.

        Liked by 1 person

      • True, bad comments can really keep me up at night. And I need my precious beauty sleep! xD


  2. Great post! and exactly my thoughts recently as well… there’s some guilt where there shouldn’t be and it’s a good approach to think “they’re grown-ups who present their work to the public”… will reblog.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on Cover to Cover and commented:

    Thoughts on writing honest reviews…


  4. bookheathen // 17/02/2016 at 16:09 // Reply

    Much as it is very nice to get a good review – 5* or even 4* – I take the view that if one is prepared to put it out there one has to be thick-skinned enough to accept bad reviews too. You can’t please all the people all the time. That said, I’d never give a bad review if I were first up on Amazon (or wherever), even if I thought the book awful. Best not to review at all in that case. I like to think that I’m fair about other people’s work and hope they’ll be fair with me.
    There are ways to criticise without being unpleasant.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like to take that view as well, yet I got a review removal request recently because the author didn’t agree with my rating and unfair comparisons. I didn’t see anything unfair about it (and still don’t), but it definitely means not all authors are as thick-skinned when it comes to bad reviews. (It wasn’t the one with the cock diagram in it, by the way 😉 )
      I have the same opinion about being the first poster on a commercial site, but when I suggest to an author that it might not be the wisest thing to do, I’ve always gotten the “Any publicity is better than none at all”-response. Maybe I should just bluntly refuse to do that from now on.
      I think you are! And definitely :).


  5. What’s wrong with potato-printed book covers? 🙂

    Reviewers shouldn’t differentiate between pro or indie authors. But as bookheathen says, reviewers should be fair as well as honest. A rating might only be one-star because the reader detests love triangles. Being fair simply means, explaining the rationale for your rating so others can judge. That’s why silent one-starring on Goodreads or Kobo is unfair. It’s also unfair to starpoon a book for something you were warned about up-front. Like one-starring a book for bad language when that was in the book description.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is a great discussion. When I was first reviewing books, it was hard for me to write negative reviews. But I think that as long as you back up your criticism, it is legitimate. I have learned the hard way to not tag the author on Twitter if it’s a bad review. That can be tough. I once gave what I felt was a positive review (3 stars) with some criticism. I tagged the author and she acted like I was attacking her! I couldn’t win!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Omg, your comment was in my spam folder for some reason! That keeps happening lately with other people’s comments as well. Grrrrr! Oh gosh, that’s awful. Especially if you never meant any harm! Something similar happened to me recently as well. Not only am I being blocked by the author but also threatened to take down my review. Still staying honest though and I’m glad to see you are as well!


  7. Absolutely nothing as you can see! 😉

    Yes, being fair is very important. You’d never see an “I gave it one star because I didn’t like the title” in any of my reviews. Silent one starred ratings are the worst. It always makes me wonder about the reason behind it, so I can imagine it must be annoying as balls to the author him- or herself!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I completely agree with you. I always give an honest rating but if it is a negetive one it does still give me a little belly ache! Fortunately I don’t feel the need to rate higher for indie authors, I actually dislike when people do that. I especially hate when people rate a book before they have even read it! It skews all of the real ratings and usually the book has a higher rating then it may have otherwise. I think that is a big problem on some well known up and coming books rated on goodreads. It doesn’t help anyone, the authors or readers, to be dishonest in a review but that doesn’t mean I will ever feel good about giving a bad one. As long as reviewer are respectful though it shouldn’t be a problem.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, rating books before reading them…soooo incredibly lame! “5* s Can’t wait to read this!” Why, people, why?? I’m secretly still feeling bad about it as well, don’t think that will ever change, but being dishonest is even worse. Then I’d feel guilty towards everyone who bought a book based on one of my reviews, only to find out that it sucks balls. *sigh If only all books were awesome ;).


  9. As a writer I truly hope every review is honest. Sure, a negative review can sting, but I’d rather have it than a puffed up review because a reviewer felt sorry for me. Otherwise, the 4 and 5 stars mean nothing. The stars do bug me. I realize we need a rating system, but one person’s 3 is another person’s 5. I suppose that’s where actually writing the review comes in to play as opposed to dropping a star and running. I appreciate reviewers who explain their star system somewhere on their site. And really, any rating is fine as long as there’s an explanation. One of my first reviews was a 3-star review on Amazon and I was horrified, but when I read the review, it was actually really positive, just from a tough reviewer who gives no 5’s. All of that aside, I’m gentle with most reviews I post simply because I’m not a reviewer, I’m a writer. I know how much work goes into even a bad book. The rest of you, though- honesty, please. we are all adults, here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • And really, any rating is fine as long as there’s an explanation. Now that’s a quote I’d like to hear more! You’re right about the rating system. It has come to a point where 3 star-ratings are considered to being shit, while really, it means you scored somewhere between 60 and 79% on the liking scale. It’s a reason why I’m all for adding half stars as well because that’s a pretty big gap, still. Amazon and Netgalley have the worst rating system when it comes to books. 3 stars there mean ‘it’s okay’. While 2 stars are ‘don’t like it’ and 1 star means ‘I hate it’. That’s a lot of negativity before reaching the 4- and 5 stars! I think the most accurate rating system for me is still the Goodreads one. Even though a lot of people ignore it and create their own version on there anyway (without an explanation most of the time!). I guess it’s a must for every reviewer to put up their own rating system indeed because it’s just so confusing otherwise!


  10. I have always been honest in my reviews. There are books that I don’t care for, and I have rated some 1 and 2 stars. I used to write very detailed reviews, but it was so consuming and tiring – and honestly, since that’s what we’re talking about – I didn’t get a lot of readership, so I ditched it and refined my process.

    There was an author earlier on in my blogging career (around my 1 year mark) who criticized my reviews of the first two books in his books. They weren’t his first, but you would believe they were. He completely tore my review apart – even alleging that I got important facts about a relationship between characters wrong and explaining it to me. I glossed over the relationship because it was a major part of the plot twist at the end, and I didn’t want to spoil it for readers. He even included any typos I made. I corrected the typos in the first review, and after continuous and after the second one – after he thought on the subject some more! – I ignored them all, which continued coming in daily for a week. I guess he finally got the point, but he had the audacity to ask me to review his next book when it came out.

    It’s always hard sharing your writing and making it public, because once it is, it’s permanent. It’s the difference between thinking words and scenarios in your head and actually putting them on paper, where they become a living story. When I was younger, I loved and hated revision and feedback. I wanted to know how good my writing was and what others (ahem, teachers) thought, but I also wanted it to be perfect. We have to be able to take that feedback and make our work even better because of it. Sometimes there are things others can see from the outside looking in that we can’t because we are so wrapped up in our own self-created world for the piece of writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the in-depth comment! ❤ I encountered a few of those authors as well by now, sadly, but never one who then asked me to review another book of his/hers! Oh my god, how blind can you be?! It’s a good thing you just ignored him, even though these kinds of things can still drain you while technically, you’ve been doing the guy a favour!

      I got a review removal request in my inbox recently, asking me to remove my review of the author’s book from my site and Goodreads because I was supposedly accusing the author of plagiarism/drawing unfair comparisons on where the inspiration for the book came from. When I checked their Twitter account to see if someone had said something mean about it or something to provoke such a strong reaction, I only found out to have been personally blocked by the author…Mind you, I’ve been nothing but fair in my review and possibly even got some more readers for the book due to those comparisons I made. The last thing I heard from it was that they were asking me kindly for the last time to remove it. I refused. So hell hath no fury now?! sighs I even bought this book myself and it wasn’t in a bargain bin or anything either.

      Feedback is important, but being able to receive it even more so!


      • Good for you for refusing. I hate when people try to bully others (cyber or otherwise) into doing what they want or into changing their views on something. Isn’t it common knowledge that this is not the right way to behave? Not everyone is going to kiss the ground their feet stand upon!

        Liked by 1 person

      • @Crystal. I would only comply if I felt like they had a fair point. Which they didn’t, so I’m standing my ground. I feel the same way! Besides, this the internet, everyone’s entitled to express their own opinion! As long as it’s still respectful to others. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this! I feel so much more confident about this whole matter with all of you lovely bloggers by my side 🙂


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