Should writers review other writers’ novels?

One of the novels I have actually reviewed on The DabblerToday’s post is going to be a little short because I’m up to my eyeballs in work preparing for the A to Z blogging challenge, but I think it’s an important one for writers to read.

As writers we all know it’s important to read critically so we can learn from the books we read(and yes, there is something to be learned by reading bad books as well as good books) but should we actually post our feedback in online reviews?

I struggled with this question a lot when I was a tired student blogger. On one hand reviewing books I read meant endless ideas for posts even when I was exhausted. On the other hand many of the books I read were older novels with hundreds of reviews already posted all over the internet. So I opened my blog to review requests to get some newer fiction into my reading list and hopefully attract some new readers of my own.

After being sent about half a dozen books, half of which were poorly edited self published novels, I stopped taking review requests. Picking apart every novel I read might be an important exercise for me as a writer but I didn’t want to do it publicly, especially when the review requests came from people I knew either online or in real life.

Fortunately I still loved most of the books I had been sent, but I did encounter one novel I simply couldn’t recommend because of the sheer number of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. I debated what to do about it for at least a month. The author in question happened to be my friend, and even if he wasn’t, I don’t want to be out there bad mouthing other authors.

I could have used the novel in question as a learning exercise for my readers, most of whom are also writers, but it would have still painted the book in a negative light. I decided not to review it on the blog and even offered to proofread the copy I had so the author could re-release it. I wouldn’t have offered editing to an author I didn’t know but I decided I also wouldn’t post negative reviews about any author, regardless of whether or not they were my friend. There are enough critics and haters in the world already.

Now I only review books I love. If I’m not excited to recommend it to my friends I simply won’t tell anyone about it. There’s no need to. My goal is to build other writers up, not to tear their life’s work apart or crush their dreams. And if you are a writer, whether you’re published or not, I think you should have the same goal. There may be thousands and thousands of other writers but they aren’t your competition–they are your community. Nobody will boost your voice louder than another writer who happens to love your book.

So should you review books by other writers? I think you should, but only books you love. Support the writers you love and ignore the ones you don’t. There are plenty of people out there eager to leave the nastiest review possible.

Do you review the books you read? Why/why not? Let me know in the comments section below!

2 thoughts on “Should writers review other writers’ novels?

  • While I believe there is much to be gained in breaking things apart and really, any good demolition, I agree that very little is gained when that destruction is at the cost of anothers’ work. At this point in my life, I know that I make judgement calls based on the habit of tearing others down versus building them up. Personally, I prefer to be the lowest common denominator in any setting.

    • dlgunn

      Hi Gauche! It’s nice to hear that other writers think the same way I do. We are only competition when we make each others competition.

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