Getting that out of the way...honesty has been on my mind. Honesty in book reviews. (Couldn't resist a picture of Abe Lincoln. Have you seen that Geico commerical??? Awesomeness.)
|Photo by Gage Grove 91|
Honest book reviews are so valuable to the book browser. As our world keeps changing with new technology, book reviews are starting to play a big part in a reader's decision to purchase. Even I allow book reviews to influence me. And while I follow a lot of book reviewers, the only ones I pay any attention to are the ones who aren't afraid to be critical in love. Why? Because I value honesty.
When I read reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, I skip the five star ones, and start with the four and three star reviews. Four and three stars don't scare me away from purchasing a book. Instead, they show me what I may or may not have an issue with. Why do I skip the five star ratings? Because I'm a bit skeptical, and tend to believe that most five star reviews are overly generous. But I do pay attention to how many five star reviews a book has been given.
I got to thinking the other day. Why do people gush about books that aren't the five-star, favorite-worthy masterpieces they say they are? Maybe you know what I'm talking about. You buy a copy of Book "A" based on all the rave reviews. Alas, it doesn't meet your high expectations, and makes you feel like you just wasted twelve dollars. You think about those book reviewers and wonder what they were thinking. You wonder if they were friends and relatives of the author. And you vow to never trust those book reviewers again.
Back to why people gush about a less than stellar product. I think the root is fear. We don't want to hurt the author's feelings. We don't want to affect their sales negatively. We want them to return the favor when its our turn, so we leave things off of our reviews. But is that really helping the author? Some would argue "yes". Me? I'm not sure. Maybe its my "unpublished" mind-set, but lately I've been thinking that if criticism is left to those who buy the book and are disappointed with it -- not only will the bad reviews on Amazon increase -- the author will lose potential customers for life. Am I wrong?
I know what you're thinking -- she's one to talk! She posts nothing but five and four star reviews on her blog! Guilty as charged. Last November, I wrote a blog post about my hesitancy to post critical book reviews. You can read it here. Since then, I've become braver and concluded that my honesty --spoken in love, of course -- can only help an author, and build trust with those who read my blog. I'm still thinking I'll refrain from reviewing books that I can only give one or two stars. Those kind of reviews won't be helpful to anyone, unless it's an awful book that you want to warn your friends away from.
If your curious about how I rate the books I read, I'll tell you. Five stars means I found nothing wrong with it, and really enjoyed it. Even if the book isn't a favorite I would re-read over and over, I'll still give it five stars. Four stars mean it's an excellent book, I enjoyed it overall, but something bothered me. Something that took a bit of the enjoyment away from it. Three stars mean there were several things that bothered me. Maybe I was off and on about reading it, but interested enough to see what happened at the end. Two stars mean I was very bored. I usually don't even finish these books. I have a hard time giving a one star rating. Perhaps if the author has already entered eternity, and it was, well, just an awful book in every since of the word.
While I was still debating on actually posting this article, God led me to this verse.
"It is an honor to receive an honest reply." Proverbs 24:26
An honor. So when it's appropriate to give a book four stars instead of five -- according to the Word of God -- you are honoring that author. Wow. What a different way to look at it!
Here's another thought. An honest review is a customer magnet. I know, because I'm one of those attracted to honest reviews. By being honest about even one thing we didn't like about a book -- and nine times out of ten we will find something we didn't like -- we are sharing our opinion and inviting a potential customer to come to their own conclusion about it.