Two other blogs I have read recently have made me write this post. I saw that on Saturday C.B James had discussed on his blog about good and bad reviews, reviewing unfinished books and also whether people should review advance copies. It makes for interesting reading so do take a look. Then on Sunday Jackie at Farmlanebooks also blogged about reviews and the fact that sadly she had received some rather harsh and upsetting comments and asking, as I read it, is that what comes from saying negative things about books you don’t like or reviewing books you haven’t finished.
I suddenly realised I have never really stated why I blog, what my personal blogging and reviewing rules are etc and maybe it was time to do so. Please, before I go on, let me state that this is about my personal feelings not how I feel anyone else blogs should be written as that is down to the individual and there is no gospel on ‘how to blog’ and no blogger should be enforcing any other blogger on what they choose to write about. I think , for the record, you need to be honest when blogging and if you don’t like a book say so and explain why rather than just say ‘I hated it’ I return to blogs with negative reviews because I know the person is talking for them not for everyone and does it in a construtive way explaining why they didn’t like it… I might still buy it though.
I blog because I love books and I love having a soundboard where I can discuss books to my hearts content and stop boring most of my non reading/book addicted friends and family. When I started I had hopes people would read the blog and like it but for almost a year I hardly had a comment. This didn’t deter me as, some of you may say selfishly, I blogged for me – a journal where my reading and thoughts it gave to me could be left and I could look back on. I didn’t want to become a professional reviewer or get famous I just wanted to let all my book musings out. My rules were that;
- Give honest thoughts rather than “reviews” even if I tag them as reviews (I am not a literary expert I just love a good book), no one likes every book they read, though the more I read the better I become at judging what book is a “me book”.
- Have fun with blogging, after all you don’t get paid unless you have links to books you are selling, are an affiliate (which takes a long long time to earn anything) or are just bloody lucky, so you should enjoy it.
- Be honest with publishers if they approach you; say that you may not read it, may not like it and only agree to reading what you think you will enjoy or what they think you will.
- Don’t review a book I haven’t actually finished but collate my thoughts on why I didn’t finish it and what it was that didn’t appeal to me.
- Try and be positive rather than negative as I may put off someone reading a book I didn’t like but they might love, also an author has taken years to write a book and that should be respected.
- Remember that if I read a book blog that doesn’t like a book I really want to read realistically it wont stop me and I wouldn’t be arrogant enough to say that I think my reviews would do vice versa.
- If people buy a book because I raved about it fabulous, we all love enthusiasm and can get caught up in it.
- If I have nothing nice to say don’t say anything at all. A blog filled with negative reviews will eventually start to read as a negative blog unless you make it constructive.
- Don’t feel pressured to blog everyday it shouldn’t be a chore.
- Never believe my opinion is the right or only opinion.
- Stop blogging if reading stops being fun because you blog (it makes sense in my head).
- Don’t take offense if someone criticizes me or what I write, I am after all putting a blog out there into the world of the internet and some people may not agree with me.
The latter is easier said than done however. Though recently I did ask for feedback be it good bad or indifferent. I am happy for people to tell me their thoughts whatever they are as it can be really beneficial when it’s constructive. In fact I am going to put up an email I received and my response (unedited) as hopefully it will illustrate this post all the more. So starting with the one I received…
Dear Mr. Savidge,
I am a regular reader of your book blog, because (a) I’m an avid reader myself and (b) I like to see what others are reading. However, I would like to make a couple of points:
1. I am getting really annoyed by the spelling and punctuation mistakes in your blog. For example, on the Book Group page is this sentence: That doesn’t sound to scary does it? There should be an apostrophe in doesn’t and ‘to scary’ should be ‘too scary’. And there are lots of examples in other blog entries (e.g. Preferences of July 23, Frank McCourt of July 20).
I know you probably type fast and, as I do, occasionally mistype, but it doesn’t look good that a person who reads so much and obviously is well educated should allow the blog to be peppered with these mistakes. Please proofread your blog entries before launching them on the web.
2. It seems to me that your reading is a chore. You want to read all the Man Booker titles, you want to read all the Orange Prize titles – this seems to me too much like ‘homework’. My own TBR titles comprise a very great number of books, some of which I purchased years ago. The fact that I borrow from my local library and also like buying books means that my TBR doesn’t reduce in size. But: when I want to choose a book to read from my own shelves, I have often found great pleasure in reading the older purchases. For example, I’m reading Paul Burston’s ‘Queen’s country’, which I purchased in 1999, and have just finished Robert Hugh Benson’s ‘King of the World’, which was an even older purchase. The latter was an immensely readable and prescient tale first published in 1907 and republished in 1970.
I see you’ve started Antonia Byatt’s ‘The Children’s Book’, which I believe is a fairly thick tome. I wouldn’t like to think you’re going to get bored with it, but have to read it, just so that you can blog about it.
I don’t know how you find the time to read and blog; I know which of those tasks I’d prefer to do: read, take pleasure in what I’m reading, and absorb what I’ve read – and keep the pleasure all to myself! I have recommended titles to other people, and they’ve not liked them – so I keep my treasures to myself.
My response was…
Thank you for your email. It’s always good to be in touch with my readers and always welcome feedback. In fact you may have noticed that I wrote a blog asking for just that not long ago.
I hadn’t spotted the mistakes on any of these blogs you had mentioned and I do proof read them I assure you. However in particular of late, as I have mentioned on my blog I have swine flu at the moment and no internet and therefore am doing everything on my tiny blackberry screen. I have been consciously trying to carry on putting daily blogs out to my daily readers rather than simply go silent for quite sometime. I think we all have glitches with type-o’s now and again and as a writer by trade and having an editor I can be a true grammar and spelling offender, but hey am human.
As for your second point you actually said it yourself “you want to read all the Man Booker titles, you want to read all the Orange Prize titles” I do want to read them which is why I do. I do read a mixture of stuff but for me part of loving books is getting excited about the awards and guessing what will win and a huge proportion of my readers feel the same. In the same vein I will also be reviewing books by the Bronte’s, Georgette Heyer etc I try to do a mix of all the books I like.
If I felt I was being forced to read I would stop and I don’t. I am incredibly lucky to be in a position where I get sent many, many books by publishers which they all know I will read when I can and when it matches my mood. Generally I ask for titles I want as I don’t like to get books I won’t ever read or review.
As for why I read and blog, I enjoy it. I don’t get paid for it and do it alongside two other jobs so it’s simply because I love it and the book blogging community.I hope this answers your questions? I wonder if I could use these emails for a blog… Your details taken out of course. It’s raised some very interesting questions.
I had the response that I could and so here you are. The main reason I blog is that I love books and that’s that. If you like it that’s wonderful, if you don’t then what would make you like it more? I know I will never please every book lover out there as there are too many books and differing opinions (which I love as it makes blogging so interesting and creates great discussion) to make everyone happy and enjoy doing it.
So if you blog why do you blog? If you are a reader of blogs, why do you read them? What are your thoughts on negative reviews or reviews of books a blogger hasn’t finished? Would you be put off a book because of a review? Do you buy books because of glowing reviews? Do let me know as I love your thoughts and find everyone’s take fascinating, as its individual opinions don’t feel there is any right or wrong answer, just let me know your thoughts.