Our perspective changes when we become authors. We understand the value of a good review and the sting of a bad one. We are now in the public eye and have to think about our reputation. There is a balance between honesty and tact. Go too far with negative reviews and we open ourselves up to receive similar treatment, but go too far with positive reviews and we discredit our word completely. Some authors stop reviewing books altogether.
Sometimes the best way to learn how to do something is to know what NOT to do. Below are some examples of unethical reviewing using both positive and negative reviews.
- Giving 5 stars to everyone’s book to entice them to return the favor. When an author gives all 5 star ratings and reviews, it’s suspect, and seeking a return of the favor is often the reason. This becomes a discredit to that person’s opinion, as sub-par books receive the same treatment as great books.
- Excessive gushing, either for a friend or for a return review. Some books do deserve high praise. But excessive gushing is embarrassing and can feel really shallow. A review can be really good without appearing to be over-the-top or a suck-up.
- Poor ratings for others to make yourself look good. This is a trick some try to lower the ratings of other books in their genre.
- Reviewing books you haven’t read or didn’t finish. This one should be really obvious. If you didn’t read it to the end, you shouldn’t review it, because you didn’t give it a fair shake.
- Finishing books just so you can leave a bad review. This one isn’t so much unethical as just confusing. Life is short. Go read a good book instead.
- Bashing the author personally. A review should always be about the book. Personal attacks on the author should never appear in a review. Mocking or making fun of the author is shallow and unprofessional.
- The one-line review of “This book sucks.” You’re a writer - that’s the best you can do?
Bottom line - write reviews that are honest but fair and tactful.
What are some other unethical book review practices?