Hey, everybody! I’m back from WIFYR, and it was an amazing experience. I can’t even begin to tell you how wonderful it was to be around other writers and soak in all that writing knowledge and experience. I’ll be writing a few posts down the line about what I learned, but first I just wanted to tell you all about some changes I’m making to the blog.
Don’t worry, you’re not going to notice any HUGE differences. But this conference solidified something I’ve been thinking for quite a while: as an aspiring author, I need to shift my reviewing style slightly, and I will no longer be including negative reviews on my blog.
I know some of my fellow bloggers will be instantly put off by this, and I get it. I do. Like I said, this is something I’ve been contemplating for quite some time, but I hadn’t pulled the trigger because I was conflicted about it. As reviewers, we value our integrity, and we don’t want to be seen as that reviewer who gushes about every book, completely ignoring a whole host of flaws. I still don’t want that. And I promise that I won’t be throwing my integrity out the window — if I don’t like a book, I won’t be making up good things to say about it, I simply won’t feature it here (or on my Goodreads account).
I’m not a particularly negative reviewer anyway. If you look at my review list you’ll see almost 600 reviews at 4 stars or above. And even my negative or neutral reviews tend to have a “this book just wasn’t for me” vibe to them rather than a “this was horrible, why on earth was it written?” vibe. So, why change anything at all?
Getting published is hard. There are a lot of roadblocks and there’s a ton of competition. And, let’s face it, every negative review I post could possibly be an additional roadblock I’ve constructed for myself. There’s a whole slew of people who might be hurt by the negative things I say (consciously or subconsciously):
- The author (obviously): If I get published, I’ll hopefully be interacting with other authors. How awkward would it be if I reviewed their book poorly? Even if I gently pointed out my difficulties with their book, they couldn’t help but feel put off, right? It’s human nature!
- Editors and agents: Every traditionally published book out there has a whole team of people who helped put it together. We think of a book as belonging to an author, but I know from experience (from the freelance editing I’ve done) that editors (and others) put a lot of their heart and soul into a book as well. An agent or editor who’s considering working with me might think twice if I’ve said negative things about a book they worked hard on.
- Friends of the author: The writing community is close-knit. You never know who might be friends with who and how hurt they might be because you slighted a friend.
Now, of course, my book should stand on its own and be judged on its own merits, and most industry people probably try hard to put personal feelings aside (after all, they want to sell books, and if my book is good and they think it will sell …), but we’re all human. It’s impossible to completely ignore negative feelings that might come up when someone expresses that they dislike something you worked really hard on. In the blogging world, this is something that we just have to deal with … but in the publishing world, this could hurt my chances for publication.
It’s one thing to stand up for a cause that you truly believe in (for instance, when I tweet an article that highlights something about Trump that disturbs me). That could burn a few bridges, but it’s worth it because it highlights the kind of person I want to be. I don’t feel like negative reviews fall under that category (I suppose unless I found a book very problematic for some reason—but most of the time there are people who are much more qualified than I am to speak to that). So, I’m switching things up around here.
What will change?
Well, I still don’t have it all figured out completely, but here’s what I’m thinking:
- No more negative reviews moving forward. This is pretty obvious, based on what I’ve said. If I don’t like a book, I simply won’t post a review. (I’m still figuring out how I handle this with publishers, authors, etc.)
- Negative (and neutral-bordering-on-negative) reviews will be removed.
- Basically, if I can’t give a book four stars or more it will most likely come off the blog.
- I’ve already started this process, but it will take me a little time to get it done completely (especially because it’s more complicated to remove books from my bite-sized review posts because of the graphics).
- There might be a few exceptions of books that got 3.5 stars originally, but I feel like I would easily round up to four OR with books in a series where I enjoyed the series overall, but one book was slightly less enjoyable than the others. (I’m still feeling that out.)
- Books on the blog are all books I’d recommend! This is, again, sort of obvious, but it deserves to be said. If you see a book featured on FYFA, you know I liked it and would recommend you read it!
- Less focus on “What left me hungry for more”?
- Here’s where it gets really tricky, and I haven’t decided how I’m handling it yet.
- I will still probably do a quick mention of areas where I felt the book could be improved, but I won’t dwell on it as much.
- I don’t want to be insincere on the blog and drive my readers away, but I also want to be sensitive to “The facts” as I’ve listed them above. This is a REALLY tricky balance, and I hope you’ll give me some grace while I figure it out.
- Removal of star rating system?
- Again, I’m not 100% sure about this, but it’s something I’m contemplating.
- I might use a “Worded” system (with fun food-related headings like “I Gobbled It Up”) instead of stars. This way, there’s still some delineation and people know how I feel about the books, but I’m not using a system as precise as star ratings. (I’ve actually thought about this for a long time anyway, since stars seem so rigid for such a subjective business as reading.)
- If I do switch, I’ll include a key that explains the Worded rating system a little better.
- More discussions/recommendations/writing process posts.
- I won’t be writing quite as many reviews, so I’ll (hopefully) have more time for other things!
- I plan to sprinkle in some posts about the writing and publishing process and things I’ve learned. Hopefully these will be broad enough that even those of you who don’t write will still find them interesting!
I hope you’ll stick with me on this journey!
But I’ll understand if I lose a few followers. I know that some people really don’t like bloggers who only stick to the positive, but I have to look at my blogging goals vs. my writing and life goals and make the choice that’s best for me. I think this is it.
One other point: I still invite open/honest discourse. If you disagree with me (here, in a discussion, or in a review), feel free to tell me so. I’m not trying to make this blog a “happy thoughts only” zone, and I value your opinions!
Have you ever considered adjusting the way you blog or review? Was it scary? (It is to me!) Do you have strong opinions about bloggers who do/don’t post negative reviews? I want to know!