These are my thoughts on various trends that have me rolling my eyes, raising my eyebrows and in general wondering about the state of book blogging. I’ve discussed readathons, giveaways, blog hops, rules and reasons to start blogging, followers, comments, and overdoing guest blogging. Now I tackle reviewing.
As a book blogger, reviews are our bread and butter. Our words are used by publishers and authors to create anticipation about pending and new releases or get an idea of what books are going to be big sellers. Authors use our words to adjust and improve their writing. Let’s face it – our reviews are what make us important (well, that and our love of books). They are what we do.
However, I continue to see reviews that are poorly written and/or fail to be objective in any way. Some bloggers hesitate to write anything negative, even going so far as to ignore those books left unfinished for various reasons. Even worse, there seems to be a new trend of looking for and focusing solely on the negative aspects of books. For every well-written blog, there are at least three or four poorly written ones. This, to me, is a disturbing trend.
You make be asking, “But Michelle, why do you care?” I care because I am proud of being a book blogger, and I take pride in my work. Call me old-fashioned, but I was raised to always give my best effort in everything. The adage “a job worth doing is a job worth doing well” is one of my unspoken and unconscious life mottoes. I treat my blog like my job, always striving to put forth my best work and constantly looking for areas of improvement. I take CPE credits to maintain my expertise in my chosen field in real life, and I continue to read and write to improve my writing skills here on the Interwebz. It is important for me to do this because for the vast majority of my readers, these words will be the only way by which you can get to know me. I want to be known as an erudite, well-spoken, thoughtful blogger because that is who I am in real life. Something can still be considered a hobby, which is what blogging is to me, but still invoke my professionalism.
For the vast majority of the bloggers out there, I do not get this same sense of professionalism and self-respect. So, what do I mean by unprofessionalism? I mean either extremely positive or extremely negative reviews. I mean criticizing a novel or an author so badly that it begins to take on the feel of a personal attack. I mean gushing about a book so badly that the thoughts are not coherent. I firmly believe there is no book that is 100 percent awesome or 100 percent awful. There is ALWAYS something which could use some improvement or something positive to be found within a novel’s pages. More importantly, no author sets out to write a bad book. When someone is overly critical about an author’s work, that is similar to someone coming up to you and criticizing your work. The mere fact that an author is able to get a novel published is worthy of our respect, and our reviews should reflect that respect. It is okay to point out why you did not like something, but to let the discussion spiral into a rant against the author’s ability to write is completely inappropriate.
This is not to say that no one should ever write a negative review. There is a way to write them in such a way that anyone reading it can understand why you did not like a book, but that it is your own biases impacting your opinion and in no way is the fault of the author. The same can be applied to books not finished. I don’t feel that a blogger should ignore them. There is obviously a reason why you didn’t want to continue reading them, and there is a way to let your audience know these reasons without it becoming trash talk against the book or against the author. I try to do this with every review. I will admit that with some reviews, I am less successful at being overly harsh than I would like, but I always try to keep the feelings of the author in mind when writing up my thoughts.
If we want to continue being an important part of the book world, there needs to be room for both positive and negative reviews on a blog. We owe it to our readers, to authors, and to publishers to be honest and open about what we read and why. We should not be afraid to share our opinions in a respectful manner. More importantly, we should continue to consider ourselves professionals and act as such. I confess, when I was purging my feed reader earlier this year, it was actually quite easy for me to discern which blogs needed to go by their poor writing and extreme reviews. I would love to see the day where to purge a feed reader is pure agony because then I feel we are doing our jobs as bloggers. My fear is that as the book blogging world continues to grow, it is going to be more and more difficult separating the wheat from the chaff for everyone, and the power of book bloggers will diminish as publishers and authors struggle to find the gems hidden among all the rubble. This does the entire community a disservice.
I’m curious what you think about this. Am I a blog snob, or do I have a legitimate concern here? Have you been seeing something similar in your feeds? What are your own approaches to reviews?