Like the writer, hate the book
How to be both honest and generous in your book reviews
Hello and Happy Wednesday!
(Are we happy? I don’t know. Most of us are sick!)
Subscriber and writer Beth M. wrote in some time ago with a real doozy of a question, which I’m making the focus of our Friday/Wednesday Office Hours today: how can you be both an honest book reviewer and a good literary citizen? Can you? Is it possible? I’m sharing Beth’s original question with her permission here:
This one is a quagmire. When you are first starting out as a writer, it’s totally natural to be honest about everything you’re reading when you are talking to people about your recent reads IRL and in review sites online.
“This one was so overrated!” 1/5 stars
“Everyone hated this, but I found it intriguing.” 4/5 stars
“This one went completely off the rails after chapter five. Was it even edited?” 3/5 stars
But a funny thing happens on the way to the Flatiron District: the authors of the books you are reviewing might one day be the very authors you want to reach out to for a blurb or a favor, or have to sit on a panel or judge a contest with. In my experience, authors have elephantine memories. If you give them four stars instead of five? They will remember that. If you give them a one star or panned their book? They might hold that grudge for life or have your Goodreads user name tattooed on their skin with a skull and crossbones next to it.
So writer Beth is correct here to be giving time and thought to the question of how we can maintain our integrity while also being…let’s call it strategic. Let’s call it playing safe.
Some thoughts on how to do this: