As you've likely gathered from reading my blog, there's a lot of politics surrounding reading. And if you're a book reviewer, you've likely encountered several issues in book politics.
It can be a tricky situation when you receive books for free in exchange for honest reviews. Depending on who is giving the book to reviewers, it may be expected that the reviewer is just supposed to write a five-star review. Navigating the tumultuous waters of authors' feelings, honesty and accountability to your readers, and just trying to enjoy a book can get a bit complicated.
I've recently started receiving ARCs (advanced reader's copies) of books from publishers for the purposes of honest reviews and to generate hype about new books coming out. In doing so, I had to consider the type of reviewer I wanted to be: Brutally honest? Enthusiastic about everything even if I'm really not? Casually skipping over the parts I didn't like and only mentioning what I did like? Generally lukewarm. "follow your heart" type?
Ultimately, I decided on a review policy that allows me to be true to myself, be honest with my readers, and not lambast off authors when I don't spending time with their book children that have been in the incubator for years on end.
I decided I wasn't going to write bad book reviews. Specifically, my policy is that I refuse to write about any books I didn't thoroughly enjoy.
Just because an author or publisher offers me a book doesn't mean I have to take it, and just because I take it doesn't mean I have to write a review. I had to reconcile with myself that I don't owe the author or publisher anything and that I don't owe the book anything either (I know some readers feel book guilt, but that's a whole 'nother post).
But I do owe it to my readers to be honest in my reviews. By not writing negative reviews, I can assure my readers that by the sheer fact I'm writing about a book I must have loved it.
My goal with my blog is to inspire people to read. It wouldn't make sense for me to post a negative review, which is essentially telling my audience to not read a certain book. Because everyone's tastes differ, my readers might love a book that I loathed, so it wouldn't serve my readers for me to dissuade them from a book they might very well adore. I'd rather persuade them toward books I think they'll enjoy--I find that to be a much more productive use of my blogging time.
And if an author is going to get mad at me for refusing to review their book, I'd rather let them know the alternative (and, really, who's going to choose bad review over no review) in private conversation rather than the comments of a public blog post. I think there's something to be said for professionalism, and maybe it's just my Southern roots, but I prefer to practice common courtesy. I'd rather bless their hearts quietly.
I don't know of many other book bloggers with similar policies to mine. Most state that brutal honesty is their deal, and I can respect that--it's just not for me. I want to keep it real with my readers, but I'm not out to slam authors to generate a clickbait post. I hope that's something my readers can respect and appreciate.
All that being said, I hope you'll check out my past Hot Off the Shelf reviews and stay tuned for future ones. Believe me, they're spectacular books.