Reviews Are For Readers, Not Authors

reviews are for readers blog header

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.

Who do you think reviews help most?


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33 thoughts on “Reviews Are For Readers, Not Authors

  1. Great post, really interesting topic. I agree with you, like any other product or service, book reviews are for the consumers of the product, I.e.readers, not the producers. You also make a really good point about how difficult it can be to retain objectivity when reviewing a book provided by the author. I’d say the same situation can arise in blog tours. I’ve actually just pulled out of a tour because the book I was supposed to review was so badly written I didn’t even want to do a promo post. It wouldn’t have felt right giving any kind of recommendation to a potential reader. Interestingly other people on the tour had given it positive reviews so they either view writing quality differently or succumbed to the temptation you suggest.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Blog tours are so hard because most tour hosts don’t even let you post a negative review – if you don’t like the book, you’re supposed to tell them and switch to a promo post instead of a review. That’s one of the reasons why I don’t participate in a lot of them. I understand they’re for promotional reasons so it’s not necessarily that I feel it’s unfair to reviewers or anything, but I just personally don’t like the pressure of being expected to like the book (or to promote it even if I don’t).

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  2. I agree with this. It is a Catch 22 that the reviews are for readers, but the publisher wants to make money and therefore you feel pressure to give a positive review on the book given to you because you don’t want to upset them and maintain a positive relationship.

    As a compromise I am honest in my reviews, but if there is something I dislike I explain what it is that didn’t appeal to me. Books have their strengths and weaknesses, and something that might be a deal breaker to me does not necessarily bother another reader.

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    • Yes, exactly! Even just knowing that publishers are expecting reviews to help sales can end up making reviewers feel hesitant to post a negative review. There was a blogger not too long ago on Twitter who said that after she posted a very negative review of an ARC she got, the publisher stopped giving her ARCs which is so messed up. I worry that stories like that will pressure reviewers into only saying positive things about books they receive for review.
      I also try to explain why I didn’t like the book rather than just say “this book sucked.” I especially do that if I know it’s a personal taste thing (for example, it had a trope that I’m not a fan of) because in that case, it’s likely that other readers would enjoy it more than I would and I don’t want to discourage people from reading a book that they might actually really like.

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  3. This is a great discussion post, and I totally agree with you. Editors are meant to critique authors and help them improve, and authors – if they really are super curious – can check out feedback to help themselves personally, but reviews are ultimately for readers to see if they should invest time, effort and money into a book. I agree with you – honesty is so valuable in reviews, and if you start reviewing for writers rather than readers, sugarcoating is definitely going to be a problem. Again, great post. ๐Ÿ™‚

    ~ Aimal @ Bookshelves & Paperbacks

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    • Exactly! If authors really want feedback to help them improve, there are other things they can do besides rely on readers’ reviews – editors, critique groups with other authors, etc. can all help them improve. And if they do those things early enough, the feedback will help them sell more books because their books will actually be well-written. Reviewers definitely need to feel comfortable (and safe) enough to share their honest opinions without worrying about the potential negative impact their review might have. Thanks, Aimal! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  4. Love this post, I definitely agree with everything you said! I do find myself falling into that mindset where my review is intended for an author or publisher (mostly when they specifically request that I review a book). I just recently had to post a negative review, and I felt terrible about it! But when you think of it in terms of the readers that might waste their time and money on a book you don’t support, it’s obviously a much better choice to be honest! ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • I completely agree. I definitely feel a lot more pressure when I’ve gotten a book directly from an author or publisher because I know they’re hoping my review will help them sell more books. But I still do my best to be as honest as I can because like I said in the post, reviews are meant to help readers far more than they’re meant to help authors or publishers.

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  5. I think I have a third way of looking at it. I review books for books. For what they are. If a book is good, I’ll do loads to promote it. And not for the sake of the author – for the sake of the book’s message. If I hate a book, I might even give it a scathing review, in which I apologize to the author that I hated it, but I won’t feel bad about hating it. It’s really all about the work, in the end. It’s not personal. I guess that’s closer to reviewing for the reader, but I don’t know if it’s completely that.

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  6. Great topic. I actually haven’t written many reviews myself (yet?), but I’ve actually never really thought of them as affecting the author at all. I never even considered that an author might read my review of their books, which anyway seems unlikely since my blog is pretty tiny and unknown. That’s not trying to be self-deprecating, I’m just stating it as a fact. For me, reviews are just about an honest opinion of the book/movie/music/etc. so other people have an idea of what they’re going into when they choose to read/watch/listen. For years, I wrote music reviews of my CDs on Amazon, and I’ve written one or two reviews on my blog although I have to say that I’ve been completely procrastinating when it comes to writing more. I’m wondering if there’s a difference between people who write the reviews of their own choice and those who are sent books to review? I think that if I were sent a book and asked to publicly give my opinion, I’d feel a lot worse about being negative than if I just randomly chose a book I happened to hate.

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    • Oh, I absolutely think how the reviewer got the book has a big impact. If an author or publisher sends you a book, you know that they’re hoping you’ll love it and have a positive impact on sales. And that definitely leads to more guilt or hesitation when it comes to writing a negative review, at least in my experience. If it’s a book that I decided to buy for myself, I know the chances of the publisher or author ever being aware of my review are much lower and therefore I don’t feel as bad about it if I end up giving it a negative review.

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  7. This is an awesome discussion post. I definitely think reviews are more for readers than authors. Reviews definitely help me decided on whether or not I’m going to read a book, especially if it’s from reviewers that I trust.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you liked it! There are definitely a few reviewers whose opinions have an impact on my reading choices. While I don’t base a huge part of my reading choices on other reviewers, there are some who I know have similar taste in books as I do and so their reviews end up helping me decide if I want to spend my time/money on certain books. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  8. Great discussion topic. I can see both sides of the argument. I think positive reviews are great for authors to see. I think negative reviews are what their publishers should be watching for and if there is something in them that can approve the author’s writing, it should be communicated to them by their editors. I think negative and critical reviews are definitely for readers.

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    • For me, I tend to always keep the readers in mind while I write my review and if it ends up being positive, then I promote it a ton to get that added bonus of helping out the author. I completely agree with you that publishers should be watching out for negative reviews so they can kind of decide if there’s something about the author’s writing that can/should be improved.

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  9. This is very thought provoking. I agree that reviews are for readers. Sure, they also help authors, especially new authors who don’t yet have a follower base or indie authors who don’t have a huge publishing house to promote them. And though I love helping out authors, I never hesitate to write a review that isn’t great, because in the end my commitment is to other readers.

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  10. Agreed. The exposure can help an author, but I review primarily to work out my thoughts about the book and to help other readers decide what to read. If I saw my job as marketing, I could not write honest reviews.

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  11. This is a really good post, and I completely agree! I personally don’t review self-published books, so I never contact an author directly. I think if an author requests a book review themselves you need to be prepared to write a negative one despite their personal request. When you only talk to their publicist, it’s different – it feels less rude to write a negative review, at least in my opinion. x

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    • I think part of the reason why I end up feeling bad/nervous about negative reviews when I’ve received a book directly from the author is that some authors react really, really badly over it. It’s definitely different and less intimidating if you’re only talking to a publicist because they act as a kind of buffer and even though it’s possible the author will still react negatively, it’s unlikely you’ll personally have to deal with it.

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  12. Love this! I am honestly just getting out of this mindset. I used to constantly seek out authors for review copies, usually I was so appreciative that I’d give a positive review whether I actually liked the book or not. I was deeply influenced by someone I was hanging around, who basically introduced me to the world of blogging. I actually had to delete that blog completely and start over fresh. New mindset=better reading experiences.

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      • Last year all I did was read and review books, I would message authors and get copies from netgalley and blogging for books and I literally spent the whiole year doing that. I think I read 3 books that I actually picked out myself. I enjoy reading but the way i was doing it made it feel more like a job than an escape. I got myself into a massive slump and didn’t touch a book for almost 5mos. Now that I’ve come out of it my reading identity is so different. I still do author reviews on occasion but I no longer let it consume me. Your post totally hit the nail on the head for me.
        ๐Ÿ™‚

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