As an author I fully understand the value of reviews and greatly appreciate readers who take the time to write a thoughtful review of one of my books. Whether the review praises the work or finds fault with it, whether it points out strengths and weaknesses or merely deals in generalities, whether the reviewer enjoyed the book or hated it, I can learn from the review and derive encouragement even from a bad review, knowing that the reviewer cared enough to read the book and write and post comments about it. Only a review that has nothing constructive to say is hurtful. If a reviewer says something like, “Don’t waste your time on this,” or, “I found this book totally disappointing,” and gives no reason for that opinion, it does not tell me how to improve my work. I only know that I failed to meet that reader’s expectations. I don’t know why. That kind of a review not only doesn’t help the author; neither does it give a potential reader any real guidance. We all have different tastes, and what one reader hates another might love. Giving specific reasons for the stated opinion tells a would-be reader whether he or she might react in the same way, whether favorably or unfavorably.
I have posted glowing reviews of books and I have posted reviews of books that were generally good but left me in some way unsatisfied. I have tried to be honest and specific. There have been some occasions when I have had to tell an author who requested that review that I could not write a favorable review and would prefer to express my opinion privately to the author. Those (and they have been few) are cases in which I knew the author, the author had asked for a review, and I felt obligated to explain why I preferred not to give one. In other cases in which I found serious problems with a book, I have simply not reviewed it unless I could offer constructive suggestions as to how it could be improved. I have never reviewed a book I did not finish reading, regardless of my opinion of it. Haven’t you had the experience of beginning a book, finding it hard to get into, and perhaps setting it aside for a while with the intention of returning to it later? And perhaps you never do get back to the book and complete reading it. In that case, you should not review it. I’ve had the experience of returning to a book after putting it aside, continuing to read, and thinking, “Oh, so that’s what the author was doing. Now I understand.” And after completing the book, I find I can give it a positive review.
I know that readers, like writers, are busy people. Some readers probably never think about reviewing a book even when they’ve enjoyed it. It’s easier not to bother, and to leave it to other readers to write reviews. Readers, please consider that by taking time to write a review saying that you enjoyed the book and the reason you did, you may encourage that writer. You may make their day. And if you write a review in which you state that the book wasn’t what you expected and disappointed you, and then you go on to explain why, the writer may see your point and because of your input may take care to do a better job on the next book.
I have books that need reviews, and so I appeal to my readers—please, if you read the book, write a review for Amazon or Goodreads or both. I value your opinions. And I do learn from them. Haven’t read any? Pick one and give it a try.