Reviewing is pretty much the cornerstone of book blogs. It’s what draws a lot of bloggers to blogging in the first place and it’s probably the one thing that a majority of book bloggers actually have in common. Because there are so many different people who review, you’re bound to come across a lot of differing opinions about reviews, who they’re really intended for, what they should do/say, etc.
Some people view reviews as a way to help authors. I don’t think anyone views their reviews as 100% for authors and not at all for readers, but there are certainly reviewers who think of reviews as primarily something that helps authors. You review books and help more readers discover the books, leading to more sales and exposure for the author. The end goal here is not to help readers discover books, but to generate more sales, hype, etc. for the author. But really, this mindset can lead to some problems in reviewing and for this reason, I really think reviewers need to view their reviews as something that benefits readers, not authors.
I think it’s pretty easy to start viewing reviews as something that we write for authors. I know for a little while I actually fell into this mindset myself. I’d get review requests from authors who seemed so happy when I said I’d review their book and I definitely viewed these reviews as something I was doing specifically to help the author. They wanted more people to discover and read their book and I was helping them with that goal. But as I mentioned earlier in this post, if you start to review for authors rather than for readers, you can run into problems.
The biggest issue that results from this is that reviewers can pretty quickly and easily start to feel bad about writing negative or even just mediocre reviews. If you understand your review as something that you’re writing to help the author, then writing a negative review suddenly seems awful. How are you helping an author if you’re talking about how much you hated their book? This can lead to reviewers failing to be completely honest in their reviews; they’ll start sugar-coating their opinions or even flat out lying about their thoughts. If your reviews are for authors and not for readers, negative reviews no longer make sense. After all, a negative review is likely not going to help the author sell more copies of their book. But a book having a bunch of dishonest reviews? That doesn’t help anyone, especially the readers who are relying on your review to make a decision on whether or not they should read this book.
This is why I think it’s important for reviewers to understand that reviews are not meant primarily for authors. Reviews are to help readers make decisions about whether or not to invest their time, money, etc. into a book. Do reviews benefit authors in some ways? Of course! If you love a book, spread that review as much as you can! It will help more readers discover it and hopefully, that will lead to a lot more people falling in love with the book and, obviously, that helps the author who wrote the book you love so much. But I don’t want reviewers to reach a point where they are afraid to share their honest opinions about a book because they fear it will hurt the author. Simply put – and maybe this sounds harsh, but it’s true – if an author can’t write a good book, maybe they shouldn’t be trying to sell books (at least right now – improve your craft first and then try again!). Your reviews will save other readers from investing their limited time and money into a book that they won’t enjoy. Help other readers discover books they’ll enjoy and if that helps authors in the meantime, great. But if not, don’t get too hung up on it.