Everyone’s a Critic; It’s a Good Thing

Image from Flickr by See-ming Lee

Image from Flickr by See-ming Lee

I used to be reluctant about posting reviews to Amazon and Goodreads, but I got over it because book reviews serve the entire reading community: readers, writers, bookstores, publishers, librarians–anyone who cares about books wants them discussed.

Authors need book reviews, particularly on Amazon, because the more reviews they have, the higher they rank in Amazon’s search engine. In other words, the book becomes more visible. Like a brick-and-mortar bookstore, the more “buzz” a book has the more likely it is to be shelved in a prominent place where people actually see it.

So why was I once resistant to posting reviews? Several reasons.

PRIVACY: Not that long ago, I was an unpublished writer. Although I wanted my name out there as a byline, I didn’t like the idea of it being public in any other way. The only social media site I really used was Facebook, because I thought, back then, I could guard my privacy on it. Go ahead. Laugh.

Then, at a writer’s conference, a social media expert asked us if we’d ever Googled ourselves. It had never occurred to me, but I do remember thinking with total confidence that nothing would show up in a Google search of my name. Because I so fiercely protected my privacy and all. Later, I did the search and was shocked and utterly horrified to see, plain as day, a comment I’d made on Facebook show up. MY comment. On the INTERNET. Go ahead. Laugh.

I’ve finally gotten over commenting in public forums. In fact, I love Twitter, and I enjoy blogging. But this was unimaginable to me even a year ago.

How I got over it: By getting over myself. The world isn’t watching and waiting to pick apart my Facebook comments. It’s not going to be scrutinizing my book reviews either.

CONFUSION: The system of rating books confused me. I thought: how can I give a 5-star rating to Pride and Prejudice and also to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince? I love them both, but can I place J.K. Rowling at the same level as Jane Austen?

How I got over it: I stopped over-thinking it. Really, the rating system is quite simple: Five stars means you loved it. Four stars means you really liked it. Three stars means you thought it was okay. I love Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and I love Pride and Prejudice; therefore, they both get 5-star ratings.

ETHICS: Because I’m a writer and I know a lot of authors, I worried about getting caught in this tangled web of ethics. If I read a Stephen King book and I think the plotting is slow and the characters are made of cardboard, I can give it a 3-star rating and explain why. I’m not worried about hurting Stephen King’s feelings. He’s not going to read my review.

But what about authors I know? Of course they’re going to read my reviews. What if I’m not planning on reading an author’s book but then he reads my book and gives it a glowing review and 5-star rating? What if I then read his book out of obligation but feel it’s only worthy of a 3-star rating? This sounds easy–you owe it to the readers to be honest. But, believe me, it’s harder than it sounds.

How I got over it: I honestly haven’t yet. The compromise I’ve come up with is this: If I liked or loved a book, I’ll rate it and (one day when I’m caught up) review it. I’ll be honest about what I liked and didn’t like.

If I hate a book I’m not finishing it, so that’s my out when it comes to 1- or 2-star reviews. It’s the 3-star reviews that still throw me. But if an author I know gave me a 3-star review and explained why (didn’t like the main character, plotting was slow), I can’t imagine holding it against her.

In fact, all I want are honest reviews and ratings. I’m not going to hound you for them—if you’ve read The Fourth Wall, I’m already very grateful for your time. 🙂 But if you would be willing to post a review, here’s a link, and hopefully this post explains a bit why they’re so important.

Remember, you don’t have to be a professional book critic to tell people why you liked, or loved, a book. You just have to be a reader with an opinion that you’re willing to share.

P.S. Why, no, the photo has NOTHING to do with the post. But isn’t it CUTE?!


  1. Abbey (ur daughtr) says:

    Wow mom. That wuz realy cool! I wish I wuz as good a blogger as u r. Its called a blog, rite?

    • Haha, yep. 😉
      Thanks for commenting, darling daughter. One day, when you have your own blog, I’ll be your most avid reader. <3