I’ve been circulating around through the oddball little community of Christian speculative fiction writers. (Spec fic = sci-fi and fantasy).
Among little writing communities, there’s this thing that goes on. People send around free copies of a book to their friends with the instructions to read it and leave them a good review on Amazon or Barnes and Noble to get their “review score” up.
Bad reviews are not wanted.
Noob me, I’ve read some of these books. Some I liked better than others. I said so. Only to offend the authors. “Don’t dare diss my darling child!” they scream. “Don’t dare post your negative review on Amazon or you’ll ruin my Review Score!”
As a writer, I know how negative reviews hurt. I’ve had some doozies over on fanfiction.net.
But as a reader, negative reviews are the other half of the balance. When I’m interested in reading a book, I read a couple five star reviews, then I look at the 3 and lower ones. Those are the ones that gripe about the number of sex scenes, the poor writing, the lame characters. If enough of those people complain about the same things, I’ll check out the Amazon preview and see if it’s as bad as they say. Most of the time it’s not. But sometimes it is, and I’m thankful to those low-star reviews for warning me.
(I mean, have you ever read the reviews for Hexwood? Half the reviewers hated it and the other half didn’t understand it at all. But it’s a puzzle book. It’s supposed to be confusing. You have to read it with your brain all alert to put the pieces together by the end.)
If I dislike a book (not hate it, mind you, but just find some problems), I’d like to be allowed to say so. I’d like to be allowed to give a 3 or 4 star review. It wasn’t the greatest book I ever read, but it was a good try for a first book.
But authors can’t stand the thought of a less than five star review. So we get these dishonest review scores of breakthrough novels that may or may not deserve it. But how do we know if it deserved it? Nobody’s allowed to post anything slightly negative.
I have a review copy sitting on my desktop right now. My instructions were to “read it, leave a review if you liked it, otherwise delete it.”
Implying, “If you don’t like it, don’t review it.”
I’m frankly afraid to read it. Because I might honestly not like it. Then I’d have to quietly delete it and never say that I didn’t like it, because negative (or even four star!) reviews are not wanted.