First of all, let me just start out by saying, yes, you can say whatever the heck you want in your book review. That is your right. But I have seen some things on social media lately, y'all. Things that reviewers have been doing that are just aren't...cool. Things that will get a reviewer called out as an asshat and will reflect badly on ALL reviewers. So, here are my guidelines designed to help book reviewers NOT get called asshats on social media. And who knows? You might just make friends with some really cool authors in the process. That said, here we go...
Do: Post your honest review
You have every right as a book reviewer to leave your honest opinion on Goodreads, or Twitter, or Facebook, or Amazon, or wherever. That's true for the good AND bad reviews. There's no need to worry about an author's feelings because reviews are for READERS, not authors. A negative review is obviously not designed to hurt the author. It's meant to warn readers about something you didn't like in a book. Your review might save a like-minded reader from suffering through a book that wouldn't be to their taste. And that's community service, in my opinion. The whole "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all" adage is great for when your spouse gets a haircut you hate. It doesn't--and shouldn't--apply to book reviews.
Don't: Tag an author in your negative review
There is absolutely NO reason to tag an author on social media in a negative book review. None. It's like telling a stranger at the park that you think their kid is ugly. It's unnecessary and hurtful. What do you expect the author to do in this scenario? Apologize? Refund you? That's not going to happen. Just let the author remain blissfully ignorant about how much you hate their book. It's the humane (and human) thing to do.
Now, I know that some folks say, but why is it OK to post my negative review on Amazon but not OK for me to tag the author on social media? Because no one forces authors to read your negative review on Amazon. A lot of authors (super smart ones who believe in self care, in my opinion) don't ever read their negative reviews because it's unproductive for them. But tagging an author on social media is pretty much forcing them to take note of your bad review. Doing so WILL earn you an asshat label. Consider yourself warned.
(Quick aside: I made this mistake myself early on in my blogging career. I tagged an author in a bad review by accident and still feel bad about it to this day. I was an asshat. I apologized. Hopefully the author doesn't hate me. If she did, I wouldn't blame her. But I digress...)
Final thought on this matter: I've also seen the argument that authors are public figures and if they're marketing their work on social media, they should be OK with taking the criticism. And my advice still stands. Yes, they market their work on social media. No, no one is saying you can't leave your negative review. Yes, tagging the author and forcing them to read your review is a dick move.
And that's all I have to say about that.
NOTE: If you want to tag an author in your positive, glow-y, 5-star review, feel free. Everyone likes to hear that their kids are cute. You absolutely will NOT be called a dick for tagging an author in a glow-y review. Just don't expect the author to reply. It's drilled into authors' heads not to reply to reviews, so they might not acknowledge your review, even if it's all positive. It's nothing personal. I guarantee it made them happy to see it, though.
Do: Feel free to post any length review
Regardless of what some folks will tell you, it's PERFECTLY fine to leave a review that says, "I loved everything about this book", or one that says, "I hated everything about this book." You do not have to be a great writer and put together a thought-provoking review. You don't have to write 500 words about the book--or you can. It's totally your call, and it's GREAT either way. You're under no obligation to prove to anyone why you loved or hated a book. Your feelings on the matter--and however you choose to express them--are fine.
And because reviews are for READERS, NOT AUTHORS (yes, I used the shout-y caps for all the authors in the back) you are also under no obligation to provide constructive criticism designed to help the author improve. That kind of thing should be left to the author's beta readers and editors. It's not a book buyer's job to make an author better.
Don't: Give away the entire plot
There's no need to include a thorough plot outline in your book review. I mean, you can, obviously (because no one is the boss of you)...but it's a dick move to give away the entire plot in your review. Some readers like to be surprised. Spoiling a book is really no better than spoiling a movie--it WILL piss someone off.
Do: Feel free to copy and paste
Don't feel the need to write different reviews for the different sites you plan to post on. Copying and pasting the same review from Amazon over to Goodreads and iBooks and wherever is just fine.
Don't: Feel obligated
You are in NO WAY obligated to leave a review. You can review as little or as often as you'd like.
The only caveat to this is if you accepted an ARC (an advance review copy). To accept a free book before publication and not leave a review is an asshat maneuver that will likely get you kicked off an author's ARC list.
Don't: Forget that authors can be asshats, too
Sometimes authors behave badly on social media. And when they do, we call them out on it and explain to them why they're being asshats. In fact, we recently posted an article about stuff authors get wrong about reader reviews. I only point that out to let you know that I'm not picking on readers here. Everyone has the potential to be an asshat, and honestly, that's OK. All we can do is try to learn from our mistakes and be better in the future, right? Right.