A Muse on Reviews: Ethics

Reviews under review. Photo courtesy Imagerymajestic Digitalphotos.net

Reviews under review. Photo courtesy Imagerymajestic Digitalphotos.net

As an author, I find it uplifting to receive a ‘good’ review. It is equally devastating to receive a ‘bad’ one. Especially, if it is unjustified.

Most professional reviewers take the task seriously. Authors wait on tenterhooks for their valued opinions. Professional reviews carry a lot of weight.

These wonderful people give their time, insight and considered judgement. Their reviews, whether favourable or unfavourable, are always constructive, sending a vital message to the author.

Customer reviews are essential to an author’s credibility and we are so grateful that our readers take time to say what they think. The majority are positive, but some are not.

If you are thinking of giving an unfavourable review, I would ask you to consider the following: Is it ethical to slam a book because:

  1. You don’t like a character?
  2. You don’t like a dynamic?
  3. You don’t understand the genre?
  4. You think the story should have a different ending?
  5. You don’t realise it is one of a series and legitimately leaves questions to be answered in subsequent titles?

 Have you taken into account:

  1. The quality of the writing?
  2. The strength and believability of the characters?
  3. The authenticity of the setting?
  4. The correctness of the language for its era?
  5. The twists and engagement of the plot?

It is the responsibility of the author to present a polished work, the creation of his/her mind, in a professional and interesting form. It is equally the responsibility of the reviewer to acknowledge this fact.

If you must give a book an unfavourable review, by all means do so, but back it up with valid reasons that provide useful feedback for the author. The review will then be a relatively positive experience for both.

So much better, don’t you think?

Then there are the ratings. How we look for the magical 5 stars! I wonder if you know that there are differences between some platforms about the meanings of the ‘star’ rating. Amazon, for example, regards a 3 star rating as a negative, recognising only 4 and 5 star ratings in their rankings, whilst sites such as Goodreads, recognise a 3 star rating as a positive. Before you decide on your rating I would recommend having a look at this, rather than giving a book a negative rating, when perhaps you did not mean to.

Yes, we authors love ‘good’ reviews. Who wouldn’t? Yes, we hate ‘bad’ ones.(Ditto.) But we’re OK if they’re ethical and make a fair point. We are mostly happy to learn something to improve our writing and thus our readers’ experience. It is what it is about, after all.