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IWSG December - If you can't say anything nice...

 This is my Insecure Writers Support Group post for December 2023.

Alex's awesome co-hosts this month are: 
 C. Lee McKenzie, JQ Rose, 
Please stop by their blogs and say thank you.

December 6 question: Book reviews are for the readers. When you leave a book reviews do you review for the Reader or the Author? Is it about what you liked and enjoyed about your reading experience, or do you critique the author?

This one is complicated. Not only has my perspective changed, but being honest is going to reveal a side of me I'd rather not.

I became a voracious reader before I became a writer. I began leaving reviews that praised stories I enjoyed, but I wasn't shy about saying what I didn't like, if one didn't meet my expectations. As I learned more about fiction writing - about what authors *should* be doing - my negative reviews turned harsh. Too harsh.

When I finally published, that created a huge dilemma. Not only did I learn what it was like to be on the receiving end of a negative review, my relationship to other authors had changed. I was no longer just a reader. They were my colleagues.

I fully realized the value of supporting them. I also realized that the average reader wasn't as picky as I am.

That said, I still felt a duty to the readers who followed my reviews. If I suddenly began giving every book 5 stars, whether it deserved it or not, I'd let them down. But if I wrote an honest review of a lousy to mediocre book, I could harm another author, and possibly myself, if they or their fans chose to retaliate.

For a long time, I stopped leaving reviews entirely. I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings with a less-than-stellar review, or by implying I didn't like their book because I declined to leave one (the 'if I can't give 5 stars, I won't review' policy I'd considered). I was happy to announce new releases, etc., and celebrate publicly, but I shied away from commenting on quality. 

I've continued this policy for the most part. (If you want my honest opinion, you'll have to swap private critiques or hire me for an edit. LOL) I'm not really sure how else to handle it. I've begun leaving occasional reviews on retail sites, but they are few and far between.

What about you? 
Are you published. Has that changed how you review?


IWSG is the brainchild of Alex J. Cavanaugh. It's a monthly bloghop that offers a safe haven for writers to express their feelings and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. It's also a venue for offering  support, both in the form of comments and positive posts. Writers of all kinds are welcome. 

We 'meet' the first Wednesday of every month. If you're interested in learning more, click on the link above. And don't be intimidated by the size of the group. We're not expected to visit everyone on the list


  1. I don't have time to review everything I read. But I only give reviews of books I enjoy because I don't want to hurt authors. And it could be that the book just isn't for me. I just write a few sentence reviews.

  2. I review on Goodreads, more as an online journal of reading year. I only give out five stars because I hate the whole frickin system quite frankly and anyway I only read books I like. Life is short. I'm published but I don't read my reviews and I don't get that many anyway. I know they make a difference but I absolutely hate that they do.

  3. Being an author has put me in an awkward position at times. I'm basically honest, so there are times I've chosen not to review a book I either couldn't finish or that I didn't care for. It's only my opinion, so someone else might finish it or might like it.

  4. Yeah, I've abstained from leaving reviews for the same reasons as you, though I don't recall ever being too critical. I do remember a time I was asked to review a book, and I didn't like it. So I typed up my 2 star review, and emailed it to the author, asking whether they wanted me to post it or not. They opted not. They got 9 reviews on Goodreads, and 2 are 1 star, 1 was 2 star, and 1 was a 3 star that said they DNF. Makes me go hmmm with the 5 star ones.

  5. Being an author changes the game completely! You are so right.

  6. I won't review a book if I didn't like it, but it can be five-four-three stars. As long as I can say something good about it.

  7. It's a tough balance when you're also an author.


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