It’s the first Wednesday of the month again and the time for another post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. This time, I want to explore the touchy topic – reviews.
There is an ongoing dispute on several book sites: reviewers vs. authors. Reviewers defend their liberty of speech, their license to express their opinions freely. Authors argue that their works shouldn’t be defiled in public. They scream that the reviewers are fools and don’t understand. Tempers rise. Insults fly. The online book community takes sides. As in many disputes, both opponents are right… and wrong.
I’m both, a writer and a reviewer, so I sympathize with both sides, but for this post, I chose to be a writer only. Recently, I watched an episode of my favorite TV show, Bones, where one of the characters, Clark, wrote a novel and asked his friends from the forensic lab to read it. He said: “You don’t have to compliment me. I want your honest opinion.” They didn’t like the book but couldn’t tell him the truth. They lied, complimented the book, and made him happy. Of course, he didn’t want an honest opinion. He craved praise. All of us, writers, do.
Like Clark, I want people to enjoy my book. I want good reviews. More than that, I need them desperately, because for a beginner writer, bad reviews are deadly. When I send my novel to reviewers, I’m holding my breath. How many stars would I get? How many faults would they find? Would they like it? Would they thrash it?
But the reviewers are not my friends. Unlike Clark’s friends, most reviewers wouldn’t lie to placate my sensitive writer’s ego. Just the opposite, they revel in their ability to critique smartly, use cutting words, and distribute their sentiments as widely as possible. Sometimes, reviewers are extremely harsh and they don’t care what wounds their merciless judgment inflicts.
There are a number of benevolent reviewers too, those who don’t write bad reviews. If they don’t like a book they don’t review it – a dream coming true for a writer. But not all are so kind. Most books have flaws, and the reviewers spot those flaws and expose them ruthlessly. They flaunt their honesty, but sometimes, the borderline between honesty and cruelty is hard to see. How about a little kindness? Surely, there is something good to say about any book.
As most reviewers wouldn’t compromise their integrity, even for a friend, I hesitate to offer my books for review to any of my online friends. I’d like to know their opinion, but only if that opinion is positive. Yes, I’m that pathetic. What if they don’t like it? I don’t want to put them in an awkward position, to jeopardize our friendship. Would I want them to lie to me? Of course! Like Clark from Bones, I hanker for adulation. Show me a writer who doesn’t. But I don’t want to force my friends to dissemble, and I couldn’t bear it if they trounced my book, so I don’t ask. The only reviewers I approach are those who don’t know me. And then, I wait for their verdict. They hold my fate as a writer in their hands. Maybe this time, they’ll like my book.