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When writers review

If you are a writer who does a less-than-complimentary review of another writer’s book, you run the risk of one of two things.

1) If the writer whom you are reviewing is more famous than you, your bad review might come off as sour grapes.

2) If the writer is a rung or two lower on the publishing ladder, you run the risk of of being seen as snotty and snobby

I started writing book reviews when I was in my early twenties, back in Cape Town, South Africa. I wrote them for the local newspaper (ah, the days when newspapers still had reviews…) and I wrote reviews for a wide variety of books, from tomes on science to coffee-table picture books, from travelogues to novels. The one thing that I always took with me in this endeavor was complete and utter honesty. If I liked a book, I said so, and I said why. If I disliked it, *I said so*, and I said why.

I’ve since grown up, become a writer myself… and I’ve continued to review. My on-line reviews have appeared at for several years now, and that site has been witness to at least three reviews which might be called… less than complimentary.

In some ways writers make the perfect reviewers, because we are capable of reading between the lines and figuring out just WHY a book fails. In other ways writers are the worst reviewers because we cannot help reading a book with a writer’s eye and things that drive a writer nuts would probably be given a free pass by an average reader. So a writer-reviewer walks a fine line – that between being overly technical and overly simplistic — pitching the review at an educated reader rather than at fellow writers.

So – readers – what do you want/need out of a review? Are you really interested in reading only “Oh, I LOVED this!” reviews? What do you think the value of a not-so-good review (if any) actually is? Is there space out there for a breadth of opinion? Is there a need for it? Should writers bow out of writing reviews the moment they sign their own first publishing contract, or do you think there is something of value in a writer’s reading of another writer’s work?

You tell me.


About AlmaAlexander

I'm a scientist by education, a duchess by historical accident and an author who shares writing tips and glimpses of a writer's life, the mundane and the magic

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