Thursday, July 21, 2011

Guest - Larissa Lyons

Authors writing reviews—taboo or not?

Today I hope to hear opinions, from both readers and authors, on the topic of whether or not authors should leave reviews for books they've read.

Howdy. I’m Larissa Lyons and I write spicy (some say sleazy >^..^<) regencies and upbeat erotica. Thanks to Amber for having me today.

So, the topic of authors reviewing books. Is it okay? Tacky? Taboo? This is something I’ve seen come up on a couple of author loops lately. Some folks say, “No, never.” Others chime in with, “Only in genres they write in.” (Which I admit seems almost the opposite of what I’d think.) Still others claim, “All authors are readers first and if I buy a book and read it, I have a right to state my opinion.”

I don’t seems to me the proliferation of reviews (via retail outlets, review sites and forums) has turned downright nasty in a lot of cases. Before I ever wrote my first book, I’d heard that only one in four readers truly like a book. That means 25% of the people who pick up your story are going to love it and want to read everything else you’ve done. Conversely, 75% won’t find you their cup of tea. In the past, when reviews weren’t plastered everywhere, individuals had to form their own opinions, on their own.

When I got my driver’s license in the 1980s, the first thing I asked for wasn’t a car. Or a raise in my allowance to save for a car. Oh no. I asked to borrow Mom’s keys and for directions to the used bookstore, a place I haunted frequently and with relish.

For every 20 books I bought (assuming I had no prior knowledge of the authors) I’d typically love two or three (and maybe consider one of these a “keeper”), thoroughly enjoy 10-12, be indifferent to maybe three, and choose not to finish (i.e., really dislike) the remaining 2-5, usually because the writing was flat and/or the storyline simply didn’t hold my interest. But it never occurred to me to badmouth the books I didn’t like—that’s why there are 31 flavors!

Flash forward to the new millennium and a decade later, to constant Internet access and connections, where it seems everyone has an opinion and doesn’t hesitate to voice it. So now I ask yours—should authors post reviews? If so, with what restrictions, disclaimers or caveats?

Let the discussion begin!

When she’s not debating the merits of reviews or wrangling ornery cats, Larissa’s writing. Info on her latest projects can be found at


  1. I totally understand the statement that writers are readers first. I would consider myself a reader who writes at this point in my writing career. In my opinion, writers shouldn't write formal reviews. I believe if they read an excellent book, they should promote it on their blog or website. The situation becomes murky when they don't like a book. You can choose not to say anything or promote it because in reality we know that we won't like everything that we read. I think it can be a conflict.

  2. When I first joined Goodreads, I didn't rate any book I read. But then I'd get so excited whenever I saw that someone else had rated one of my stories, I felt like maybe other authors like to see ratings on their books too, so I started.

    Of course, I can't give low scores because I know how much it hurts to see those. Yet if I do a three-star I feel like I need to add a review, telling what I liked about the story then describing what wasn't my preference so other readers can judge for themselves if that matter is something important to them or not. If I think it's really that bad, I wouldn't rate it or even claim to have read it.

    I don't know if this is the right or wrong thing to do; hopefully it doesn't offend anyone.

  3. Good morning Marie and Linda. Thanks for chiming in with your thoughts. What you both stated is the direction I've been leaning: leave a casual review or high-star rating for books I positively love and simply remain silent on those I'm not nuts about.

    Linda, you raise an interesting point with regards to a three-star review. I recently received one but the comments were glowing; it almost seemed a contradiction. That leads to the question: do starred reviews that try to quantify someone's opinion work? Especially since everyone has their own thoughts about what each individual star rating means. I've seen a couple of sites stop giving any type of number of stars, kisses, etc. but as an author, I actually like to get those.

    I definitely don't think there's a clear-cut answer which is why I appreciate everyone's opinion.

  4. In my opinion, no matter who the reviewer is, there is never any reason to be nasty or insulting. Constructive criticism is acceptable, but if one really dislikes a book, remaining silent is taking the high road.
    "Stars" vs. words - shouldn't the top number rating be reserved for a very, very select few? I've read many books that I really enjoyed, learned from as an author, will re-read, but are they the best ever? To what standard are they being held?
    I've received reviews ranging from 5 stars to 3. When someone 'gets' my stories, despite their flaws (yes, I know they exist!) I consider those the best reviews.

  5. Hi Tessie & thanks for sharing your input. "remaining silent is taking the high road" - I like the way you worded this. And yes, when done right, even those 2-3 star reviews can provide valuable insight. Similar to what you mentioned, I like the way RT reserves its "G" (gold) rating for a select few. It carries more weight that way.

  6. Hi Larissa, great post. And what a hot topic! I nodded my head in agreed with your point that perhaps authors should only review books in genres other than what they write. In this scenario, they become true readers, instead of editors. Lots to think about!