For this month’s Insecure Writers’ Support Group post, I’d like to discuss something that’s been on my mind a little bit lately, thanks to Andrew Leon’s two-part post titled, Is It Better To Be “Nice” Or Honest?
You can read the full post part one and part two by Andrew (and I recommend you do, it’s very thought provoking), but in the interests of time, I’ll give you the extremely abridged version. Essentially, what I took from Andrew’s post was that we are doing the indie book industry a disservice every time we write a positive review for a self published book that doesn’t deserve it. Why? Because reviews are the only currency independent authors have, and if we discredit that, then readers will assume all self-published books are as rubbish as each other and stick with traditionally published books, which have been judged as worthwhile by someone they trust (mainstream publishers).
I agree with Andrew on this point. Writing a good review just to be nice doesn’t do anybody any favours. It tarnishes your reputation as a writer/reviewer, it tells the author they don’t need to grow, and it turns readers off the indie book industry.
However, I’m not entirely comfortable with the extension of this argument, which says that we must write negative reviews for books that deserve it. While I agree this would add to the overall credibility of the industry, I just can’t bring myself to publicly criticise another author’s work. If they asked for my opinion, I would give it to them – in an email, not a public forum. I would rather recommend the books I enjoy and not mention the ones I don’t. I guess this is because I understand what it’s like to be an insecure writer, and I don’t want to cause others pain.
But maybe I’m just soft and my reluctance to criticise is actually harming the industry. Almost every self published book you see has a handful of glowing reviews, even those that clearly don’t deserve the praise. I assume these reviews are written by family and friends who would love whatever the person wrote regardless of the quality. By not balancing these reviews with honest, critical ones of my own, am I contributing to the erosion of review credibility, thus diminishing the indie publisher’s only currency?
I’m really keen to hear your take on this. Do you think I(/we) should be tougher and write critical reviews of self published books? Do you write reviews like that? What would you think if you read an ultra-critical review on my blog? And what effect do you think the absence of these reviews has on the industry as a whole? Let me know what you think!
P.S. Don’t forget to support other insecure writers!