On Reviewer Guilt

This is both off the cuff, and something I’ve been thinking about for literally years now. I want to be very clear from the get go that this isn’t guilt about writing “bad” reviews… by which I mean negative. I think readers and reviewers should be able to write whatever their thoughts on a book/movie etc that they want, as long as it isn’t malicious. (I mean obviously generally personal attacks are off the table, but if the author is say, a Nazi … fair game.) As you can see there are many reasons I’ve put off writing this post. And I’m trying to not get into too many pitfalls and cans of worms and such. Anyway – if I hated a book, I can rant about it to my heart’s content. As could you. Anyone could and more importantly should be allowed to. If they don’t want to, fine. If they do want to, fine. And fuck the person who tries to police or shame anyone into not writing “negative” reviews. I’m also going to focus on book reviews here. A review should be the reader’s thoughts on the book. What they liked, or didn’t like about it. Some people like posting book summaries as reviews. People have different styles.

That being said … what I’m talking about specifically in this post today is … I feel guilty about not reviewing certain books. Sometimes, I just hated a book and I have nothing nice to say about it, and frankly don’t care to even think about it again. I don’t even want to rant about it. (This hasn’t been much of a problem in at least 5 years, and likely longer, because I don’t feel bad about abandoning books anymore. Reading is something I do for enjoyment. I don’t get paid to write reviews. And these days, even if I were being paid, if I loathed a book, I wouldn’t keep reading it.) So – I might not review a book because I only read a few chapters, and that wasn’t even enough to discuss. I agreed to do something … (write a review in exchange for an ARC) and I didn’t. I still feel badly about pretty much each instance. For example, I agreed to write a review for an upcoming Alison Kent book in … gosh 2007? … and I never got around to it. And I still feel bad. So on the very slim chance Alison Kent sees this or hears about this … I’m sorry. This has obviously happened with more than one author and … sorry. (These days I also make no promises, with the understanding I/the review crew will do our best but … there’s no guarantee.)

There have been other instances where I meant to, and truly still mean to review a book, but it’s literally been years. However deluded, I still hope to review certain books. I think this especially happens with anthologies, where I read most the novellas, but stall or DNF on one of them. At the time I thought I’d go back to it and finish it. Nowadays I think I’ll just re-read the few and skip the one I didn’t like in a review. I can think of at least three anthologies where this is the case. (I mean, old[er] books need love and reviews too, yeah?)

ARCs were also a great way to try new authors with “only” the promise of time and effort, instead of direct monetary loss. I mean, I don’t think anyone acquires ARCs they know or intend to dislike. But ARCs have in the past given me the opportunity to try a book I likely wouldn’t have otherwise. There was one SF romance that was “pitched” to me as a PNR, but really was more futuristic and tech heavy. I thought it’d make a fantastic movie – and got about halfway through, but really couldn’t read anymore. I felt so guilty about not reading what I was “supposed” to be reading that I stopped reading and reviewing for quite some time.

I think that’s a big part of it too – with ARCs I know the understanding is that reviewers are supposed to write a review – ideally right around publication. But if things don’t work out, at least for me, they sent me into a huge slump, because I really don’t want to pick up the book that isn’t working for me – for whatever reason – but then I feel that I shouldn’t be reading anything else because I’ve got that ARC waiting for me. Or sometimes, I read a book, and I literally just have nothing to say about it. I can’t personally write a review that just says “well, this book was ok. I read all of it” and nothing else. I try to offer some sort of analysis in my reviews, and hope that the review crew at ALBTALBS does the same.

As for me, I’ve also had … just my god a lot of shit happening for years now … so along with reviewer guilt, I’ve lost track of guest posts, or missed posting them. I’ve tried to be clear about going on hiatus and such, but sometimes even that was too much. Or perhaps I had someone agree to review a book, I sent them the ARC … and the person just never did it. Even with follow up, there’s only so much you can do.

And going back to the “bad” reviews thing … to be honest, I generally only check 1-2 star reviews, to see what issues readers had with a book, and if those will bother me or not. I’ve also seen a number of people say they buy more books due to “negative reviews” than positive ones. YMMV of course. Anyway, back to our regularly scheduled programming. (Hah!)

Basically … I’m saying, shit happens. BUT ALSO – I’m very sorry about it. I’m issuing this as not just a blanket apology, but a personal apology. I’m sorry I screwed up. Please understand. Thanks for sticking around with me! <3

2 thoughts on “On Reviewer Guilt

  1. Hollie

    I don’t do reviews anymore, mostly for these reasons and one more that for me is almost bigger, but at the same time not.
    After reviewing for years, even if a book is 5star amazing and jumps to the top of your personal best ever list. What can you say that you haven’t said a thousand times before in a hundred different ways?

    It started to feel like I giving doing books or authors what they deserve anymore and I can’t seem to get rid of that feeling.


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