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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Faith 'n Fiction Saturday: Reviewing

From the blog of My Friend Amy :

Ok, here's today's question: The past couple of days there has been a big flare-up in the broader book blogging community regarding review policies and a blogger's obligation to an author once they've received a review copy. For those of you who belong to the blogging alliance FIRST, we've also discussed this issue a little bit.

I decided to make today's question about this, because I think this is an even tougher situation for Christian reviewers who review Christian books. So here goes...do you receive review copies of Christian books? If so, do you review them honestly? How do you handle it when you don't like a book but are obligated to provide a review? Who do you see your first commitment being to in book reviewing (besides God)? Yourself? The author? Your readers? Does your review change based on the spiritual content of the book or is it solely based on technical or artistic merit? Have you ever had a negative experience with an author after giving them a negative review? (please don't name names)

My Answer: I would like to start by saying that I take my reviews very seriously. I am sharing how I liked a book, and how I judged it with others, and I value my reputation. I want to be a person people can come back to and say, "She was right - I LOVED that book (or hated it) - let me see what else she has been reading."

1. Yes - I do read and review Christian books, along with general market books and non-fiction (I really enjoy reading all genres).

2. Yes - I believe I review them honestly. Similarly to Amy, I have given my review policy a lot of thought. I know that authors work really hard on their "babies" - um - I mean books. I also realize that not every person is going to feel the same about a book. If I happen to hate a book, but everyone else loves it, does that make me wrong - no - it just means that the book wasn't for me. SO - I try to provide an honest review, but try to spotlight each book's strengths without tearing into the flaws - after all, we are all human, and there are bound to be parts in a book that are less than perfect. If I am not honest, people are bound to figure that out, and they will stop reading my posts and visiting with me. I value feedback and the fact that people are willing to spend their time with me - I owe them honesty.

3. If I don't like a book, but am obligated to review it, I will let my readers know that the book was not a favorite, and will try to point out the books strengths as well as why it wasn't for me. The key here is that I stress it wasn't a good fit for me, but that others will still find it a worthy read. If I absolutely hate the book and can't find anything nice to say at all (haven't had this happen yet), I think I would contact the person who sent me the book (author or publicist) and let them know that I did not like it and see if they want me to pass the book along to someone else.

4. Besides God, I feel I owe it to myself to be honest about how I feel about a book. I'm not willing to "sell" myself for the cost of a book, regardless of how good or bad I feel the book is. I will give it an honest review. It is hard to put myself before my readers, but if I'm not honest with myself, how can I be honest with them?? I also feel the author needs honest feedback. If I ever write a book, the last thing I want is a bunch of bloggers/reviewers telling me the book is great, and then finding out it is horrible. If I can read and review a book and provide some honest feedback, along with other reviewers, maybe the author can make changes to the book (if needed) prior to publishing . . . or they can feel really great about the feedback! So - God, myself, the author, my readers, etc.

5. I would like to think my reviews are consistent, regardless of the spiritual content. I do find I feel differently by the time I finish a really well-written Christian fiction book. I feel inspired (which can happen with secular books as well) and filled with renewed faith. Could this possibly affect the review - yes. . . does it . . . I don't think so, but I would have to ask the people who read my reviews who have also read the book. I really do strive to review the books I read on the same criteria overall (which I am working to change for non-fiction), but I'm very likely to add personal thoughts on books that really move me.

6. To date, I've never had a negative experience with an author. I'm pleased to say that authors tend to be very open and honest in their reactions to my reviews and interviews.

One last thought - with all the talk of honest reviews, has anyone given any thought to creating a Bloggers Reviewing Code of Ethics?

Care to answer the question yourself? I welcome you to post your thoughts here, add them to your own blog and head back to Amy's post and add a comment with a link to yours. :)


Amy said...

Wendi--I had that same thought this week about the code of ethics! I think we should definitely develop one for FIRST..I'm going to send an email to the group about it.

We need to keep it general though, you'd be amazed all the different feelings on this topic. :)

Jewelz said...

It's good to see that quite a lot of people believe in reviewing honestly while still trying to make sure that they say something good about the book if possible.
It's really great reading people's thoughts on this. Thank you :)

Anonymous said...

Love your thoughts...and I love the code of ethics! Honesty is so important...and our integrity is too.

SmilingSally said...

I like your answer. A code of ethics is another good idea.

Stormi said...

Hi Wendi,

Great answers! I to feel that I should try and find something nice to say about a book even if I don't like it. I have also never found a book yet that I just hated, have found some not for me, but I could still read them.

The code of ethics thing might be a good idea too.


Andi said...

Hi Wendi,
You did a great job. I love the way you answered it. It's been so fun reading everyone's thoughts!

As for a code of ethics, I'm not sure I agree with that. Ultimately, if someone doesn't follow through they have a higher judge to deal with and I believe that we on earth shouldn't sit on that court. Just my thoughts. ;o)

kalea_kane said...

Wendi, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your answers. I like that you can state why a book isn't for you but still review and inform on the strengths as well. You are so right, a book may simply not be for you. :) I certainly learned that with books, music, movies, and tv shows (I just do not get the big deal over Desperate Housewives). :) Love your thoughts.

Have a lovely Sunday!!!!


Mimi N said...

We're on the same page when you said, "The key here is that I stress it wasn't a good fit for me, but that others will still find it a worthy read."

As for the code of ethics, I think it'd be too hard to enforce. You'd have to structure it so that it applies to the people who agree to abide by it. It can't be a blanket code for every reviewer if they don't agree to it all. We would also want to be careful about not being to legalistic. I like M.C.'s requirements for her FIRST site. Otherwise, I think it would be hard to enforce a code. Just my $.02

Pam said...

I had not thought about a blogging code of ethics for book reviews, but I think that is a good idea. I think that is why people read our reviews--they want the truth about the books.
I also like that everyone has stressed honesty with gentleness.
Great ideas!

Rae B said...

Your answers are really insightful, Wendi! Thanks for sharing. :)


Ausjenny said...

Hi Wendi
Just wanted say i enjoy reading your comments.
I am now tagging you for a meme at

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