The Danger of Being Honest

Not every book is great, not every book is good, hell, I will even go as far as saying some books are a steaming pile of animal dung.

That is the truth, plain and simple, but is it ever really that easy to write it?

As a writer, I, and I know most of you are too, we are all too aware of the time it takes to create a book. The blood, sweat and tears that are poured into the words, and the maybe even more important, we know the sacrifice that is required to really make it, especially as an indie author. Besides the words there are families and day jobs that take precedence, and so our scriblings are done in bursts, or at crazy times so as not to interfere with our real world lives. Many of us are not afforded the luxury of being able to write whenever or wherever we wish.

Yet that is not reason enough to leave a falsely positive review.

Honesty is the best policy, right?

You would think so, however, as writers ourselves, there is one very dangerous label out there that is often confused with honest. It is a damming tag to be given, and I fear a great many people are allowing themselves to fall victim to this silent campaign, when in reality, I feel it is causing long term damage to us all.

That label being used comes in many guises, the most common is ‘jealous‘ but another manifestation that is often bandied around is ‘troll‘. These are the words being used when the best choice would be, honest.

How dare we express our own opinion on something? How could we possible consider saying anything negative especially against another writer? We know what they have been through in order to get their ´baby´ into the public eye.

I have two responses to this.

1) As writers receiving these less than glowing reviews, we understand that it is through feedback that we grow.

2) As a writer leaving a negative review, we understand how to correctly phrase our reviews without compromising anybody. Not to mention that should the book be so bad that words fail you, the review would be sent via email or some other means of contact to the writer, in the minimum as a form of advanced warning.

I think it is important to define at this juncture that there is a fundamental difference between negative / critical and vicious or degrading.

Just because a certain writer has written 5, 10 or even 50 books, there is no need to feel any obligation to give them a review that is a lie.

I have encountered writers that churn out works of fiction, books that total in the low 100 pages and every time these books receive a review that is less than 5* they demand a ‘circling of the wagons’ calling upon all of their friends to descend on this reviewers, assigning them the title of Troll and ordering people to mark the review as unhelpful on Amazon and even in some instances to report them as being spam.

I find this attitude deplorable and the fact that this all happens behind closed doors so to speak, the only people that suffer are those that leave the reviews.

When the review is left by a writer, the response is even worse, or I should has even more damaging consequences. The writer is labelled as being jealous. A horrid word which is used by those that are afraid or unwilling to see the truth. There is this mythic belief that as writers we are expected to review each other with nothing but an abundance of superlatives, and any time we use less than the maximum number of stars to grade a piece we are, in the minds of these authors we are simple jealous of their success.

This is utter nonsense.

Just because you dislike a book, whether it is because the style is not your favourite, or maybe because the book was riddled with errors, there is no reason to jump on the jealously wagon.

It is a testament to the fragile shell of most people, and I would go as far as to show the difference between writers and authors. Writers who write to publish in search of exaltation, and eventually fame, against authors who write because of the need to write, the compulsion and the desire to create. Writing is not done for reviews and it is not done for praise. It is made, as is art to satisfy the muse, and as long as the writer is true to themselves then the art is complete. Whatever praise may come after is all to the good, but it is far from the goal.

5 thoughts on “The Danger of Being Honest

  1. I have left bad reviews (including a one star) when warranted. And I know that there will be backlash, but honestly, I don’t care. Just as I accept those who review my work with less than glowing commentary. It is part of the business. For those who can’t take the literary heat, perhaps they should leave the kitchen. It is only when the reviews are personal attacks versus commentary on the work that I take offense. When I send out the word for reviews on my work, I always stress that it a call for honest. And if a person does not like it, for them to feel free to say why. As you said, that is how we grow.

    Nice article Alex. Could not have said it better.

  2. Awesome post, Alex. I couldn’t have said it any better. I’ve seen some publishers actually send their fans after negative reviewers with a bloodthirsty gusto. For one reason or another, people can’t accept the same critiques or criticism they throw at others. I’ve left bad reviews and have had them thrown at me. It’s part of writing and people need to learn to accept that.

  3. When I review books or movies I usually find the things I like about the story. If I really don’t like it, I don’t finish reading/watching and doing a review is a mute point. However, I will sometimes leave a negative review on Amazon if I feel I’ve been duped by a dozen gushing reviews by obvious freinds and guns-for-hire, for films and books. I think I can usually tell the difference between my own preference being different than other readers/watchers and plain old marketing BS.

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