Long, long ago and far away, I reviewed movies for a small newspaper. I found it fun and I think I was pretty good at it. I developed a theory of reviewing that I still use today: review the piece for its intended audience, not for my taste.
I think this is an extremely important thing to keep in mind, whether you are reviewing a book, a CD or a movie. If the book is a thriller and you’re not much of a fan of thrillers, you either have to put on your thriller fan hat or choose not to review it. If you are trying to review a bluegrass band and you know nothing about and don’t even like bluegrass, you’ve got your work cut out trying to be an objective critic.
So, this is the first rule I apply to the review I do for Amazon and Goodreads. I put myself in the place of the booklover who would appreciate the genre I’ve read.
The second comes to me as an Indie author. I don’t do reviews rating a book less than 4. If I can’t do that in good conscience I don’t review the book. There is no way I’m going to write a review for either Amazon or Goodreads less than that, unless (there’s always an exception) the author has been blatantly offensive. I haven’t yet run into that situation, but reserve the option to lower the boom in that case.
Why have I taken this course of action? Because I will not do harm to another writer. There are those who would argue that telling a writer than their work needs help is constructive and good. However, I once had someone who loves me tell me that she didn’t think my dialog sounded real. I did not write for 6 months – at all. Reason eventually won out. As a screenwriter I had received many compliments on my dialog, so I listened to those comments in my head instead of the off-the-cuff remark from a relative. But I tell this story because I know it illustrates how sensitive a writer, or any artist, can be.
I am not a writing expert. If I considered myself one and had lived in James Joyce’s day I would have told him his writing needed work, because I still can’t read it. See what I mean? I doubt that he was as sensitive as I have been, but what if the one piece of criticism killed the genius? Hmmm?
Even when my opinion is requested, I’m very careful and hesitant. So, when you see that all my reviews are positive, if you’ve bothered to look, that does not mean I’m a push over. It simply means I’ve reserved my judgment on those I could not rave about.
Movies, however, I can still pan if I feel like it, because they are a collaborative effort and who cares if I hurt the feelings of someone who must have made a gazillion dollars to put out that tripe? Oh, did I say that out loud?