Why do Independent Authors Need Honest Reviews?

Genuine people who are willing to take their time to write honest reviews are all too hard to find. Reviewing is a thankless task. Yes, the reviewer might get a free book, but for the amount of time they spend that can’t be considered compensation.

Sadly, honest reviewers seldom publish reviews on works they dislike. Why sadly? Because in the Amazon age we are inundated with 5 star reviews that almost invariably purport to love the works of whatever author they are supposedly reviewing. There should be balance in all things. To expect everyone to love your work is a pipe dream.  Yet this seems to be the case – especially in the so-called “reviews” posted about independent authors’ works.

Independent authors need honest reviews more than they need fabulous, yet fake ones. If we are lucky enough to get any reviews at all, we really need them to be honest. Why? For a number of reasons:


  • Honesty really is the best policy.
  • We learn more from adversity than from success.
  • We deserve a level playing field, and so do our readers.
  • If your readers actually like your writing, they’ll ignore bad reviews, or laugh at them, and who doesn’t need a good laugh?
  • People naturally root for the underdog, and bad reviews can make you the underdog.
  • Honest reviews help authors improve their skills.
  • They help readers find books they will probably enjoy, and save them from wasting their time on books they won’t.
  • Positive reviews point out our strengths, and encourage us to play toward them.
  • Negative reviews highlight our weaknesses, and show where we should strive for improvement.
  • If our writing is really as atrocious as genuine bad reviews indicate, then we probably shouldn’t be publishing. Either at all, or until we’ve substantially improved our writing.
  • Pats on the back don’t propel you forward, they hold you back. Especially when those pats are leading us to buy into the delusion we’re good at something when we really aren’t.
  • Potential readers often look at reviews before deciding whether to buy. If they read a glowing review, then buy the book only to discover it is a pile of garbage then every review they read later is tainted.

So you see, there really is no such thing as an honest review that is bad. Honest reviews either promote our work, or they help us improve it.

We independent authors already have a well-deserved reputation for producing writing that falls far short of anything published by a traditional publishing house. The more “great” reviews that promote sub-standard work, the worse this will be for all – writers and readers alike.

I take my hat off to real reviewers everywhere.  I’ve written a couple of reviews myself, and I know just how difficult it is to capture the essence of a work without spoiling it for the readers. In case you’re interested to read a couple of those I’ve written, here are two: Godspeed, by February Grace.  The Sowing, by Amira Makansi.

If you’d like to read reviews written about my work, well you might find the ones I particularly like here.

But the real bottom line?

Don’t waste your valuable time reading reviews at all.  Don’t let someone else tell you what you’ll like and what you won’t.  Instead of reading flagrantly positive reviews from questionable sources you should never trust, read the free sample every single reputable publishing system provides. Make up your own mind about the quality of the writing.  You’ll be giving the real underdogs, namely independent authors, a chance by doing so.  You’ll be glad you did when you uncover a gem in the midden {yes, you may have to wade through a lot of excrement, but that will make the gem that much more beautiful when you find it :)}.

And now, let me put my words where my mouth is… a sample of my first book is available right here, right now, right in your browser, completely free, with no download necessary, and no troublesome returns either.

By the way, if you’re a reviewer I’d love you to look at my work with as critical an eye as you wish.  I am nearing the end of implementing edits on Beltamar’s War right now and would love to send you a fresh off the editing block copy in the electronic medium of your choice, PDF or .MOBI {Indeed I’ve just taken hours of that editing time to post this.}  If I can tempt you to review me, please visit [Reviewers], where you’ll find information on how to contact me.

Further thoughts on authors like Ben Coulter

…and his ilk.  Those who compound the problem of blatantly biased reviews by going to extreme lengths in attempt to silence anyone who might give them a bad review, thus ensuring they never get bad reviews.  And when they do get bad reviews, they then go to extraordinary lengths to discredit such reviews.

What sort of extremes? Well, read about Coulter’s behavior here.

About C.G.Ayling

Musing misuser of words, lover of lyrical literature, author, occasional contrary thoughts. An honorable man’s name, in memoriam.
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6 Responses to Why do Independent Authors Need Honest Reviews?

  1. Jade says:

    So very well put. I wonder if you would mind my linking this blog post on Jadetheobscure?

  2. Kate says:

    Mindless flattery just leads to unwarranted arrogance, unpleasantness and no improvement in quality. If this is all someone wants it may be easier to just hire someone to pay one compliments rather than go through the hassle of self-publishing…

    Before any of this is misinterpreted, I’d like to point out that what we’re saying is the honest reviews are good – not fake reviews, not ego-stroking reviews, and certainly not unnecessarily mean reviews that are just trying to provoke.

    • C.G.Ayling says:

      Indeed, you hit the nail right on the head. This is about honesty. When a reviewer writes their review with the intention of promoting the work they have already made a conscious decision to be dishonest.

      There is nothing wrong with loving a book, and writing that you do. And there is also nothing wrong with strongly disliking a book, and writing that you do. However since the majority of people are inherently nice, the scales are naturally tipped in favor of praise over scorn. We, both authors and readers, do not need them artificially skewed with false reviews that almost invariably praise.

      I truly believe we need more reviewers who have the moral fortitude to call a steaming pile of turd just that, and include details of why it stinks. When that starts happening everyone wins. Authors improve, and readers benefit – which means everyone wins.

      Yes, bad reviews are painful, but if they’re honest we can learn a great deal from them.

  3. I completely agree with your comments. I recently had a giveaway of my short story collection, and only asked for HONEST reviews. I even paid money to have my book reviewed by Kirkus and Blueink (still waiting on those). As a writer, you need to have conviction in your work. If it sucks; learn to fix it. Suck it up, buttercup. The world isn’t a primrose path to Utopia. This is like kids who play little league and everyone is a winner. I HATE that. Human beings need to learn rejection and taking it like a good sport at an early age.

    • C.G.Ayling says:

      Not one of us is infallible, yet too many of us act as though we are. Provided a bad review is honestly written it is invariably valuable in that it offers ideas on how we can improve. Sadly the numbers game created by the largely meaningless 5 star review systems in place on all major sites means that bad reviews really hurt us. Why? Because sheeple {a word my children use} often don’t look past the number of pretty yellow stars.
      That said, I would much rather have honest bad reviews that lying false ones. In fact not one of my favorite reviews is a 5 star one, and I do have a few of those. My favorite reviews are the ones that show me the reader “got” me, somehow knowing there are other strangers out there who empathize with me is more comforting than pretty little stars will ever be.

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