Dear Authors : About My Negative and Positive Reviews

Its Ramadhan and I’m currently on my 6th day of fasting, so I won’t do any much reviewing or reading this time of the month since I’m not in the mood for anything without being miserable and drained most of the day. Plus, its Camp NaNoWriMo month and I can’t find myself to concentrate on reading anything properly other than Fiction of Reading stuff. As a general statement, I try not to be emotionally antagonized by this but I will give a general response to this whole “Me Against Every Reviewers Who Says Bad Things to My Books” thing going on.

As a general rule, I like to read. In fact, I read a lot out of boredom and whenever I had a hard time sleeping or when I have something bothering me that I want to read so that it could calm me. I have this weird urge to read that give me some sort of understanding to those with OCDs. So in a sense, it does borders on a physiological need that is emotionally gratifying.

So, when I chance upon reading up an author who felt like I give negative reviews solely because I hate his works and fully motivated to ruin an author and later he went to his fandom for some ego-soothing. In some ways, I am sad and disappointed really. Considering this came from a famous author whose really older than my parents and have been in the industry for so long that I was quite surprised by the quite immature way to justify things and made up like I’m a great dark lord bent on an author’s destruction.

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Generally, I don’t keep track of my reviews and I don’t number them or rate them on my blog except on Goodreads. This blog is only a year old but I’ve kept my Goodreads account for several years and I am still surprised by my current tally.

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I am not a negative reviewer nor a positive reviewer. By being stuck in the middle of 3 pointers, I belong to a neutral party. So by nearly reaching 400 reviews, its safe to say that I am a prolific reviewer. I’m not popular reviewer either but each to their own.

But I don’t try to discriminate between genres. Yes, there are some genres and categories I utterly dislike reading like most literary fiction and popular local publications like Malay romances. But life is too short to read everything but I keep trying to broaden my reading preferences because its a learning  process for me.

I don’t discriminate authors too. What I mean by this, I don’t have a preference between traditional publishing or independent publishing or famous authors or unknown authors etc. All of my reviews reflect on the book itself. I don’t care about who get the bestsellers. I don’t care about your book sales. All I care was me reading the book and ALL of my opinions came from the actual book itself, not the author’s reputation.

I also don’t have a primary ulterior motive as a reviewer to “hate” you and your unread books. That is a strong word even from me. Whatever negativity on a book itself, it came from reading it and AFTER reading it. Not from the beginning of the reading process.

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Dear Authors, I came to your work with a clean slate. I expect you to wow me, to draw me into your world with fantastic people and its creation. I expect you to impress me with your style and suck me into your world like a succubus. I want to cry with your characters. I want to be enslaved by your characters and storylines. In another word, I want to love your books.

I’m also a reader who tend to be disappointed – a lot. But I tend to devise a way to write up my responses to make the experience worth my while. Considering it took an author so many months, years and times reading, writing, rewriting, editing, rewriting just so that I could read the book. I guess its fitting for me to give my views on your book.

But not all books are created equal and the same.

I don’t want to lie to everyone especially to my own readers who read my reviews about my own opinion.

I hate censorship.

If I read only things I love and lie about reading something awful but did great reviews it, it does reflect on my own character. How does it work for me to be a fake reviewer? I don’t get money from this. No one pay me salary to read your books in fact I’m the one throwing money around to sustain this habit.

Frankly, it is demeaning for me that you would to think of me as a reviewing reader as someone who build up a persona to make you feel awful. I don’t have a fanbase. I don’t have a publishing contract. I don’t work with publishing company or bookstores or affiliated with any authors for publicity. 

My own way of publicity on your books is simple. I talk about your books. Yes, I read hundreds of books but there’s the beauty of a review. It didn’t make me forget about the books. It made me digest the books.

I’m just a reader who reads a lot. I am also a reader who are used to do literature reviews for several years for assignments so its within my natural habit and response to analyse everything and it reflect on my readings.

For every reviews I’ve written, I’ve spend time to read the book until the end. I never do Do-Not-Finish reviews and I always read until the end. That is the main point of it all. Reading.

Sometimes I started with a summary, then I open up about the characters. I introduce who is the most prominent in the story. I talk about the plot, the rising action and sometimes the climax. I try not to give spoilers but if I am satisfied by the book, I would say in detail how I love it. But if I’m not, I give reasons why. Since I tend to be too opinionated, many of my reviews were simply too long but its really up to anyone to read or not. I don’t force people to read them unless they want to.

That is what you as an author should expect from your readers. Not glowing praises that stroke your egos. Not layered sarcasm about the genre. Not summaries of your writing and some paragraphs about yourself as a prolific author. But the actual responses from your readers who read your books.

More than often, you get uncensored criticism too but no matter how harsh it was but if its the truth, then you shouldn’t behave like you haven’t spent your lifetime writing and didn’t gather enough confidence within yourself to have an ability to change and experiment. In the process, you can still reach out to your readers and potential readers.

I know, that a bad review can mean something towards book sales. But like I said, I am not affiliated with the industry. It is NOT within my job scope to sell books. My role as an ARC reviewer here are largely as a feedback to the publisher but my role as a reviewer (with and without ARCs) as a whole was towards potential readers who are curious about the book I’ve read. Buying a book is an investment. Readers are potential investors who expected something more than just a summary and censored book reviews with glowing praise on the author but not the book itself. But its up to them to determine whether its worthwhile or not and its not up to me to decide it for them.

My role as a reviewer also work as a Quality Assurance towards potential readers. Indirectly, sometimes I did sell books. But I am not directly obligated to actually SELL the books for you. I can give recommendations. I can give discussions. I can offer alternative. I can nudge a person to read it and join in the discussion. Bookstores sometimes went to my recommendation and recommend books for their customers. But I am in no way, obligated to lie to my own readers especially when I don’t feel your as books satisfactory.

Negative reviews also bring interest into your book. There millions of books out there that weren’t being read and some crumble underneath lack publicity and cease to exist. This is the problem I face with the trend to get a book solely because its by a popular author while ignoring unknown authors with interesting books and stories.

By the way, if you’re too comfortable in your niche and only write to please yourself armed with book sales but rejected criticism and label them as haters. Then you’re clearly need to be more aware of the world around you and the larger reading circles as a whole who have  people who have differing opinion on your work.

On the other hand, I do appreciate authors to not making me the antagonist inside your own self-created drama and calling me names and created an issue from a word in my reviews about your book (which I give lengthy detail why I use it) that send you and your fandom into boiling rage while ignoring the multiple points and flaws that I detected on the book which you conveniently selectively read.

Like I said from the start, I don’t care who you are. I spent my time and money to read books and by default your books, aren’t your own anymore. Its my property and I am entitled to my own opinion as a reader. You don’t like my opinion, then tough luck. There’s hundreds of authors out there who are much nicer and emotionally matured than you anyway.

Additional note: 

I would love say that I don’t care whether its international or local author but I tend to read a lot of non-Malaysian authors. I live in Malaysia and as much as I want to read more by Malaysian authors but the local publication is still largely dominated by school books, political, religion and contemporary romance book which severely limited my choices. If you have great book recommendation from any Malaysian authors or if you are a Malaysian author seeking reviews, just say contact me and give me a summary about your book and do try to seduce me into reading the stories.

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