for a book you didn’t like
Whether we write fiction or nonfiction, all authors want their books to be read, and reviews are an essential marketing tool. This is why authors ask other authors for reviews.
A good review is like gold. The author may include it on his or her website and media kit, or even as a back cover blurb. This can benefit the reviewing author as well, as his or her name, and book title, may get a free mention. Most of the time, it’s a win/win for both. Most of the time. However, there are times when it can be problematic.
Authors often post review requests on online forums, and back when I was a newbie author, such a request caught my eye. It was for a nonfiction book about UFOs and aliens, and the author wanted some reviews on Amazon. While not my writing genre, I grew watching Star Trek, and I’ve always been interested in UFOs. So I contacted the author, and he mailed me a copy of his book..
It wasn’t what I expected
I eagerly opened the envelope as soon as it arrived. However, once I started reading, I realized it wasn’t at all what I expected. I’m not an astronomer, but I know we live in a vast universe. New solar systems are being discovered. I’m hardly a mathematician either, but I know we live in a galaxy with trillions of stars and perhaps billions of planets. Therefore, it seems logical to me that a certain percentage of those planets would have life. Maybe not life as we know it, but if I were a betting person, I would say yes. There is life on other planets. This author, however, didn’t think so.
The author turned out to be a born again Christian who didn’t think life on other planets existed. He also believed that what we may see as UFOs and aliens, such as the grays, are actually demons.
Okay, we won’t be having a religious debate here. I’ll simply say that while I believe in God, I also believe in science. (Many people believe in both.) However, until life on other worlds can be definitively proven, if ever, people will have their own opinions and beliefs. I happen to believe that extraterrestrials, if they do exist, are not demons. A demon is a spiritual entity. An extraterrestrial is a living being with a physical body, even if that body is only a single, microscopic cell.
In the meantime, the author is waiting for a review, and I honestly don’t like his book. So, what do I do? Do I decline? Do I write a bad review? Or do I try to come up with a different approach?
Declining to review a book can be awkward. It’s even more awkward when the author and I are on the same forum. Writing a bad review can have unintended consequences as well. I don’t want to make enemies or risk getting retaliatory negative reviews. Nor do I want to earn a reputation as someone who only writes bad reviews.
To the author’s credit, the book was well written and professionally edited. His argument went well beyond quoting Biblical scripture. His theory, while rooted in his faith, was well thought out. I just didn’t happen to agree with it. So, I tried to come up with a way to write a fair and honest review. Then, it hit me. Why not address the review to the people he wrote the book for? Christians. After all, Christian books are a recognized genre.
I gave the book a four star review, and mentioned some of the things I’ve mentioned in this article. The book discussed the UFO phenomenon from a Christian perspective. It was well written and edited. Christians might find it an interesting read. I didn’t go into my own opinion or debate the author on the subject matter. As mentioned, the subject matter has yet to be proven. Until then, all we have is speculation, conjecture, and opinions. Opinions are like a certain body cavity. Everyone has one.
Book reviews should be honest and fair. If for any reason you decide you don’t want to review a book you can certainly decline. Had the book been poorly written, I would have declined for that reason and told the author it needed more editing. However, that option didn’t apply. So before writing a bad review, consider doing what I did. If possible, try writing a review for the author’s intended audience, and tell that audience why they might find the book interesting.
After I posted my review on Amazon I got a nice thank you note from the author. It was nice for both of us to walk away happy.