I haz a ponder....about censoring reviews | Alexia's Books and Such: I haz a ponder....about censoring reviews

“Books are for people who wish they were somewhere else.” ~ Mark Twain

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I haz a ponder....about censoring reviews

Have come across a situation that I never expected and as it took me a little by surprise, wanted it throw it out there and get some feedback. After almost two years of reviewing on this blog, I've been asked twice within one month to only post my review if it was positive. In both cases, I didn't really care for the book and had planned to present my reasons why in what I hoped was a fair and balanced way. Neither party knew in advance that I hadn't cared for their book, so guess it was sort of a preventive measure.

My first reaction was that they had approached me, so no way was I going to change my review! But I did. I found myself softening my stance and rewriting my review several times. I finally caught myself, stopped, and decided to post what I had already written. As I hadn't completed the other review yet, I didn't bother to finish.

The thing is, I don't like to post so-called "negative" reviews. I try to find something positive to say about the book, no matter what rating I assign. I also don't want to post nothing but positive reviews, as I don't like every book I read.

My goal is to post honest reviews and explain why I may/may not have liked a book. I don't always succeed in this, but I try. Everyone has their own opinion about negative vs positive reviews, but I like to see a mix. These two requests, coming so close together, made me question myself and left me a little unsettled.

I can count on one hand the number of review requests I've made over the years. I can count on no hands the number of requested books I've actually received:  zero. My books come from the bookstore, email offers, the library, contests, and BEA. I can sort of understand someone asking for a positive review if I specifically requested a title, but if they approached me? That didn't sit well.

I'm a little upset that I changed my review because the person who originally made the offer asked that I not post anything negative. Left a sour taste in my mouth, and I almost want to stop accepting anything. It's not like I don't have enough books to read for the next few years (just ask my DH!). And there's always netGalley, who only asks that you submit a review and doesn't dictate terms.

Am curious how others have dealt with this? I don't want to trash the book, as the author didn't make the request. Also don't like mean reviews, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for anyone who can actually complete an entire novel and get it published! I know that I could never finish a manuscript (not disciplined enough).

Anyway.....like I said, I'm not happy with my reaction and could use some advice.

Thoughts?



17 comments:

  1. I don't like this. I mean if you ask for a review you can't say only if positive that's the point of a review that you get honest feedback. If this is the case why not just post one about your own book. I would say just be honest and then never accept a review from them again. Not to mention link them to this post so they can see your view and that of others who I suspect will also not like it at all.

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  2. I post negative reviews (and try to be respectful of the author, but sometimes books are just.. not good in my opinion). I always leave links to a more positive review as well on another book blog so my readers can get a rounded view of the book as well.

    If you only post positive reviews, I, as a reader of your blog (and this is in general with book blogs I read), have a harder time trusting your opinion of books because no one can love EVERY book they read. I need to know what you like, and what you dislike. Sometimes that affects my view on a book - but mostly it gives me a gauge of what is working and what isn't.

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  3. I'm like you. I always try to see something positive, but I'm always honest. And I like to explain what I didn't like and what I did. I read and review a lot of books from authors/publicists, although I have slowed down with it due to becoming terribly backlogged and overwhelmed. I have never been told to only post the review if it was positive. I did have one tour organizer tell me it was okay to be honest, but to please be gentle. I feel that I am gentle to a certain extent, but I do not sugarcoat. I agree with you. If they approach you to review the book, then they certainly should expect you to post a review whether it's positive or negative. This kind of practice does leave a bad taste in the mouth. I hope it doesn't become a trend.

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  4. I agree with you. It's hard to strike a balance. I also struggle with this. Be honest. I rather be respected.

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  5. I actually would be turned off and would not accept the book if told that. 1st it would make me wonder if it is only a 50% chance of me enjoying it, which of course I want a higher % on the possibility.

    I think it is great to see bloggers that are honest without being rude, it shows more of a personality also in the writing of negative reviews.

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  6. Oh wow that is terrible! I would say absolutely NEVER EVER EVER change your review to please someone else, because it's not being fair to yourself or your readers. Also, I would say, and publicists and publishers and tour operators also seem to say, that they are sending you a book knowing that you might not like it. And that is if THEY SEND YOU the book. They don't even require a review, and they can't dictate what you say. We don't work for them and are welcome to say whatever.

    Personally I review everything I read and although I try to be fair and balanced sometimes I fail, in both directions - either too much gushing or too much snark. But even a negative review, according to book industry people, gets people talking about it which isn't always bad.

    Stick to being yourself and doing what you do best - honest reviews, whether good or bad.

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  7. i know how hard it is to write a negative review...they are the hardest and take the most time to write. you are a kind person who does not want to cause another pain which is why you were seceptable to their requests. do not beat yourself up for it. just learn the lesson from it...if you feel bad after doing something, it your good self telling you a truth.

    if i am to trust your reviews, i must know they are honest. i have only posted 2 or 3 negative reviews.

    they were books that others loved. i explained why i disliked the books. there was no attack on the author.

    when someone asks me to review a book, i tell them yes but they must understand that i will post only my honest opinion, thereby giving them the opportunity to change their minds about sending me a copy.

    as for books from library, stores, audible.com, no one has asked me for an opinion, so if someone asked me to change my review, i would tell them that my reviews are my own, therefore, they stand as written.

    if i had attacked the author, then that is not fair. that would be the ONLY reason i would consider changing my review.

    i have been lucky not to have been put in that position. so maybe my words flow easily but i hope if faced with the issue, my actions will follow them.

    as no one is paying you to write your review, therefore they have no right to request you change anything.

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  8. I think it all depends on how bad the book was, in your opinion. If you can find some redeeming qualities, then by all means, aim the review that way to soften the blow of the less appealing elements and still maintaining your honesty. But if it's just plain bad, I have a disclaimer on my blog stating that I reserve the right NOT to review a book, because, frankly, if I didn't like it THAT much that I would be writing a bad review, it is not in the author's interest for me to do so either. Regardless of being offered a free book from whatever source, it's all about integrity and you don't want to sell yourself short in that department. If someone asks you not to post negative reviews, then just don't post it at all. I hope this helps :)

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  9. Reviews are supposed to be your own honest opinion, so it's not fair of an author to request the type of review you post. But I agree that it would be difficult to continue on with a negative review after being told something like that. It kind of sounds to me like you weren't the only one who didn't like these books and the authors wanted to put a stop to people saying negative things about their books.

    Sucks that you were put in this position.

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  10. I also dislike posting bad reviews, but I have done a few. I always try to put a positive spin on it, though, and say SOMETHING nice about it, and justify why I didn't enjoy it as much. I never outright bash a book, but I will say if I didn't enjoy it.

    I'm quite appalled that they asked you to not post a review if it was negative. If they are only allowing positive reviews, that is going to skew everything and mislead people. I cannot believe someone did that to you and put you in such a bad position! I say, post away! They need to learn to take the good with the bad.

    Last week, I posted a GOOD review of a book, but pointed out an error. The author e-mailed me and tried to tell me I was wrong. This was so annoying and unprofessional, and it sounds like the people contacting you are also being unprofessional.

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  11. I've never been asked to not post a negative review, and as anyone who reads my blog can attest to, I have no problem telling my readers why and how much I didn't like a particular book.

    I can honetly say I wouldn't accept a review request taht asked me to do that. If they asked me later, I wouldn't review it then. I would etiher send the book back or donate it.

    I think it is a hard balance sometimes, especially because we are reviewing something that an author put a lot of their time and energy into. I try to say what, if anything I liked, but I can think of one book right now that I flat out said I hated it.

    I think we all have to figure out what we are comfortable with and if certaine publishers/publicists/authors don't like it, then they need to find someone else to review their book.

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  12. I find when I don't care for a book I have a hard time getting myself to read it and then I regret saying I would review it. For a time I stopped requesting or accepting requests so that I could focus on reading what I wanted. If it was a book I paid for myself part of the pressure to review positiviely is removed, but it is hard to write a nice negative review. That said, I don't think I've ever been asked to only post something positive.

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  13. Let anybody asking know, before they send anything, that you won't post negative or positive reviews, but HONEST reviews. There may be criticism, there may be praise, but it won't be one or the other, it will be balanced. This means including critique you might have of books you have liked because in a review it's best to give all of the information a person might want when deciding whether to buy the book or not :)

    Once Upon A Time

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  14. PS. You're more likely to receive respected review requests in return for an honest review.

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  15. I love how you always put up pics of cute little cats :)

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  16. anyway, i quite like your review style. i dont think any books deserve to be trashed cuz it takes a lot of effort to write a book and the authors deserve better than that.

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  17. I'm way late in responding to this, but really wanted to anyways! I think that we live in a free world and you have every right to be honest about your thoughts on the book. Though I personally believe in constructive criticism, I also think that sharing what did work for you is also important. It's a fine balance, but honesty is truly the best way to go!

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