I know many of you who review books also write them, so you probably don’t need to read this post. But I have a question for you.

As a reviewer, do you ever stop to ask yourself this, “How will my words directly impact this author?”

I don’t write a ton of reviews. I will post on GoodReads on a pretty regular basis, but that’s usually if I’ve really enjoyed a book, or (yes) if I know the author. How does that work? Well, just as I asked a bunch of people to read my book, Yesterday’s Tomorrow, when it first came out, I get similar requests from other authors. Usually I enjoy the books and have no problem finding great things to say. But I’m always conscious of how my words are going to affect that author. Yes, even those authors I don’t know personally.

I remember the days after my book released. I would sit in fear and trembling, work up the courage to hit the link for Amazon and check if any new reviews had come in. I’d already seen the ones from those wonderful people who read advanced copies and gave endorsements…so I did have a certain sense of security that I hadn’t written 375 pages of complete drivel, but you know, there’s always that little voice in the back of your head that starts those nasty rumors…I was terrified that one day I’d wake up to find several really bad reviews plastered all over the internet for the world to see.

Fortunately that hasn’t happened. Not that it could never happen. It just hasn’t. Yet. But I’ve seen posts on various writing groups from anguished authors who have been getting those bad reviews. They’re crushed. Some of these reviewers seem almost vindictive in their words. And I just shake my head and wonder, what’s that about? Why is it necessary to be so cruel? So you didn’t like the book. Big deal. Say SOMETHING nice about it or don’t review it. (We talked about this here, and there were great comments).

I’m in the process of judging several entries for a writing contest. I’ve been on the other side of this. I know what it feels like to get those low scores and not so encouraging remarks. I’m really trying hard to be encouraging in the comments I’m making, even when I can’t give a high score. I sure don’t want to be responsible for making an aspiring author throw their laptop out the window and go back to working at Wendy’s

Do you know what I’m getting at?

Just as we writers carefully craft each sentence, each scene, every bit of dialogue that goes into our manuscripts, so should you, the reviewer, carefully craft the words you say about the finished product. If you are going to take the time to write a review, be responsible. Professional. And above all, do no harm. A little melodramatic? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Some will scoff and say pish-posh, reviews don’t matter, nobody reads them anyway.

I disagree. They do matter. They matter to the author. 

A good review is validation. It’s confirmation that all the hard work, frustration, tears and sleepless nights have been worth it. When I read a great review, I think, “Yeah. They get me.” And that’s an amazing feeling. A bad review cuts deep into the soul, and even though you smile and shrug it off, you know you’re not going to forget those words in a hurry.

Maybe you are one of those sensitive reviewers who do think about us authors before you start hitting keys and sending your thoughts into cyber-space.If so, I applaud you and thank you for a job well done. Maybe you haven’t really looked at it this way before. May I encourage you to do so? Your authors would really appreciate it. And you’ll make a lot of friends in the process. And who doesn’t need friends?

How about you? Do you think about the author before you send out that review?