I have wrestled for some time with the problem of whether or not to publish one and two star reviews. My writer self doesn’t want to see 1 or 2 star reviews of my work published any more than any author, so when my writer self is in charge, she refrains from publishing them. She has even been known to delete them from Amazon.
Such behaviour scandalises my reader self. Like all readers, she wants to read the opinions of those who recognise the difference between good and bad writing. She doesn’t want to spend money on a book that should never have been published and she is grateful to the reviewers who save her from that fate.
My author self is well aware of how much time, energy and commitment it takes to write and publish a book, and of how fragile authors’ egos can be, even when a reviewer takes pains to write nicely and to divorce their personal opinion from their evaluations as this reviewer does.
My reviewer self, although she is always polite, is not in the business of massaging authors egos. Reviewing is a service she provides for readers, and readers deserve the truth. However, she is well aware that any review, no matter how well informed, is always a matter of opinion, and that low star reviews can, rightly or wrongly, damage book sales. She is also aware that though she knows more than many others about writing, she is no expert.
Do you hear the opposing voices here?
If, under the guise of being ‘kind’ to authors with substandard books, we do not publish low starred reviews, are we not doing a disservice to both the buying public and the authors whose books are good? As it stands now, many poor quality books do not have the low starred reviews they deserve. Not because no one thinks they are bad, but because people are not publishing such reviews. Readers buy these books, discover they are poor and swear off Indie books for good. Thus the stigma against indie books is reinforced and even quality indie books lose sales. Where is the kindness there for our most deserving authors?
These days, readers, assuming that no negative reviews does not mean that a book is good, view all books with only a few reviews as highly suspect. Only when a book has more than around twenty reviews does this reader give any credence to the rating. I simply will not risk buying an indie book with only a few reviews unless it has been recommended by someone I trust. This is far from ideal, but it’s hard to go against the pervading culture of closed mouths. That’s why it continues.
In the end, I simply don’t have time to deal with the fall out when I publish negative reviews. Few authors can resist defending themselves and such emails take time to answer. (Point of note: I highly respect those who still send me a thank you after a less than glowing review.) It takes me a long time to read a book and write detailed feedback which I then check to make sure that it is written as kindly as possible, but still some accuse me of being spiteful (seriously, what do I have to be spiteful about?) or unkind. I do not want to have to deal with other people’s projections. It is just too damn time consuming.
So, though I will not change my review policy about publishing negative reviews, in practice it will be harder for authors to convince me to read their books at the outset. If I see a hint of bad writing in those first few paragraphs, I will not agree to read the book. That will save me a lot of time, but it won’t help readers, nor will it help the authors in the long run. I wish I could be braver, but frankly, I only have so much time at my disposal and I’d rather be writing than trying to convince authors that their book really is poorly written.
I will not enter into correspondence about my reviews or my decisions in refusing to review a book. Not because I don’t care or aren’t interested, simply because my time is limited.
How do you feel about this culture of not publishing negative reviews? Is it helpful or not?