During the past few weeks, I’ve been contacted by other writers and asked to write book reviews on their novels. I’ve done book reviews for some time now on books I found through Goodreads and the library, books where the author doesn’t know I’m reading their work and probably doesn’t care.
And I find being solicited for a review flattering, but daunting.What if I read their work and can’t find enough good things to say? What if I can’t finish their story? Worse, what if I can’t even start it?
I’ve had to turn a few offers down just because the genre or content didn’t mesh well with me, as a reader, but I really like helping other authors. Reviews and ratings can make or break books, especially self or indie published works. We reviewers help get the word out that a book exists, sometimes, and we tell others whether we think it’s worth reading or not, and I feel bad if I can’t say as many compliments as I’d like to.
But writing is work, and one of the challenges for self, indie, or small-printing-house published works is that there are less eyes on the page, fewer people giving the author an opinion and helping them see a books potential (as well as its problems).
This is one of the reasons I advocate interactive writing tools like “Writing that Scene” or the writing challenges of “Write…Edit…Publish” is that they give authors a chance to see what readers will think about their works before it comes to the book reviewing stage. They’re a chance to get free advice, and another perspective on what you wrote, and even if you don’t agree with what is said, it at least prepares you for what other readers might think. Every one who reads your work probably won’t object to or enjoy the same thing, but frequently, book reviewers echo each other.
For example, my book review on Throne of Glass discussed some problems I had with the main character. When you look at other reviews of that same book (on Goodreads or Amazon, for example), you’ll find that there is a lot said about the main character. Some really liked her; others couldn’t stand her, but either way, she created divisions among those who encountered her.
If the author had submitted the work for a writing critique, I’m sure she would have heard similar reactions. Some would enjoy her; some would be turned away. But, armed with those reactions, she’d be able to rethink her choices regarding that main character and confirm that, yes, she did want to write her that way. And then, she could be braced for the reviews that would come, mirroring those readers who would never see her character as she did.
So what about you? Do you find critiques helpful? Would you rather receive feedback about your work beforehand, or just wait until after it’s published?
Copyright 2015 Andrea Lundgren