"Authors, reviews are not for you. They are not for you." ― Stacia Kane
I start with this quote, because it's the essence of what I'm going to talk about today. There's been a lot of talk on blogs and even industry articles on book reviews. Some authors like mystery writer RJ Ellory have been caught giving negative reviews to other books in hopes of damaging the reputation of their peers. Other authors like thriller writer John Locke have been caught buying reviews for their books to try to get more publicity and sales. Every author knows reviews are important to any success in publishing. But what's getting lost in the shuffle is the true purpose of book reviews.
Book reviews are for readers. Period.
Book reviews are not marketing tools. They are not a scorecard. They are not a weapon to be used against another writer. They are not a gift to help out fellow authors. Readers rely on honest book reviews to determine what books they should spend their hard-earned money and time on. That's the one and only purpose book reviews serve. Reviewing a book for any purpose other than giving legitimate information to future readers is an abuse of the system. That goes for positive and negative reviews.
If you're giving a negative review because you don't like the author, you're abusing the system.
If you're giving a negative review because you're jealous of the book, you're abusing the system.
If you're giving a negative review because you want to drive down the sales of the book in favor of your own, you're abusing the system.
If you're giving a negative review because you want to teach the author a lesson in grammar, you're abusing the system.
But it also goes the other way.
If you're giving a positive review because you want to get a positive review for your book, you're abusing the system.
If you're giving a positive review because the author is a personal friend or family member, you're abusing the system.
If you're giving a positive review because the author paid you with money, gifts, or even a free copy of the book, you're abusing the system.
If you're giving a positive review of your own book under a pseudonym, you're abusing the system.
Anyone who goes to Amazon or Goodreads and clicks the button to submit a review should be doing it for only one reason, and that's because they want to share their honest opinion of the book for other readers. If book reviews are tainted for any other reason, readers will no longer trust them, and we'll lose the system altogether.
UPDATE: Let me close with this quote from a joint letter written by authors condemning "sock puppetry" (fake review writing) published in the Telegraph.
We condemn this behaviour, and commit never to use such tactics. But the only lasting solution is for readers to take possession of the process. The internet belongs to us all. Honest and heartfelt reviews, good or bad, enthusiastic or disapproving, can drown out the phoney voices, and underhand tactics will be marginalised to the point of irrelevance. No single author, however devious, can compete with the whole community.Let's work to preserve book reviews, not destroy them.
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