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Rachel Reviews: To review or not to review?

That is the question - whether 'tis nobler to suffer the compromising of your review or by opposing, not do it? This Vocal Writer needs your help!!!

By Rachel DeemingPublished 21 days ago Updated 20 days ago 9 min read
Top Story - November 2023
Rachel Reviews: To review or not to review?
Photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash

It's been a strange week for this writer for many reasons, most of them requiring me to draw on emotional reserves that, for the most part, remain slumbering deep in my inner recesses, never needed in the charmed life I lead.

However, being challenged on a number of fronts means that I have had much time for reflection and the best way for me to sort through my thoughts is to write. Unfortunately, not all of the challenges met by me are suitable for public consumption and so I am going to address just the one:

To review or not to review?

I review books. Sometimes I review new books. Sometimes I get approached by poets and authors who have read my other reviews and they ask me to provide a review of their book. I have discussed this before in two previous articles listed below:


Recently, I was contacted by a poet who wanted me to review their work. I was happy to do this, explaining time constraints and that I wasn't sure when I would get to it but I would try and do it expediently.

It's a nice feeling to be approached and I like to spread the word about what I read. I crosspost to many places including Amazon and like to think that my reviews are a fair and honest expression of my opinion of the book. Highlighted and italicised, notice, and that is because that statement is important as it is at the crux of my debate about the poet's requirements of me.

I contacted the poet yesterday to advise that I was in the process of reading their book and that I would get a review back to them as soon as possible. I asked if it had been launched on another website where I write reviews and they advised that it had (although I couldn't find the review).

And then they added this statement:

"...please feel free to post your review on your blog. And Amazon, though if it's not a five-star rating, I'd appreciate it if you would only post on your blog because a lower rating there sinks the book."

For context, I crosspost all of my reviews to Goodreads, Amazon, Reedsy Discovery, Bookbub, Barnes and Noble and my blog. I am starting to publish them on Vocal too.

I do this because it's just my opinion of the book. My opinion. No-one else's. Now, you can either be influenced by that as a potential reader of that book, or not. That is with you as an individual. I am a great believer that we all get something different from our reading of a book, no matter what it contains. I know this because of the discussions that I have had with my husband about reading material.

I loved "Lessons in Chemistry" by Bonnie Garmus and waxed lyrical about it after devouring it in very few sittings. His response to it was moderately warm. I gave it 5 stars; I reckon he may have given it between 3 and 4 stars.

Very different opinions - same book.

And so, what to do?

I have to say that I was perplexed by this statement and it did immediately get my hackles up. I don't like the idea of being limited on where I can publish my reviews. I feel compromised. It sounds dramatic but I do.

I have started to read the book. I am quite enjoying it. I don't know how many stars I am likely to give it at this early stage. I do know that my opinion of it will not be influenced by those of others. It currently has 4 stars on Amazon and other people have reviewed it. I have not read those reviews.

I felt this had to be addressed pretty quickly and so responded with this:

"With regard to the rating, and I want to be honest with you at this stage, I don't know if I feel comfortable being limited to where I can post it. I am happy to review it but I do crosspost to multiple places outside of Reedsy and do that for everything I read. It is only my opinion after all.

I don't know what my final rating will be currently as I have not read it all but if you are uncomfortable with receiving anything other than a five star rating and want me to limit where I post the review if it is less than five stars, then I'm not sure that I'm the right person to review it for you.

I'll leave that with you. As you have sent me your poems to review, I will wait to hear from you before proceeding further."

The poet then responded and respectively explained :

"It was not my intention to pressure you into giving a high rating. To be clear, I meant to say I'd be happy to read your honest review on your blog and there would be no need to cross-post, especially if it's not favorable. I hope you understand it is difficult enough to market poetry books. I'd just rather not sink my book further at Amazon. I think it's only fair since it's my book page.

Thanks again for considering my book. As I wouldn't want to take up more of your time, please feel free to move on to the next book for your review."

As you can see, not pleased.

For the record, I never thought that they were pressuring me into giving them a higher rating. That was not my beef.

They're not pleased: I'm not pleased. What to do? I don't want to be responsible for "sinking" anyone but I do feel like I am being persuaded in some way to do something which is against my instinct. I don't want to not review the book; however, I do want to be able to share my opinion wherever I want to publish it.

I was also troubled by the "my book page" bit. I know it's the page where the book is offered for purchase but it is also where independent reviews can be accessed so I was a little unsettled by that statement as well. I don't know much about publishing books on Amazon but the "my page" comment rankled. If other people can honestly offer their review, why can't mine be posted there too?

I responded and I am sort of regretting what I wrote back to them now that I've slept on it and I'll tell you why. Here's what I said:

"Thanks for getting back to me and for giving an honest explanation for your viewpoint about Amazon. I know how difficult it is to get your work recognised.

I'm not in this book reviewing lark to sink people but I do have to find a balance and this means keeping my integrity and providing an honest review.

I tell you what - let's see how I rate it. You can read my review and we can discuss where I post it."

What is it that I regret about this response? I mean, it reads reasonably doesn't it and it offers a compromise that bridges the gap of the disparity in our opinions?

It's true as well. I don't want to "sink" anyone! Why would I want to do that? One of the great things about writing on this platform is all the support that I get offered on a daily basis by readers and fellow writers who I respect and consider my Vocal friends. We should be buoying each other up!

What I regret is that last line: You can read my review and we can discuss where I post it. I regret offering that. The reason: because I have inadvertently offered up my review for their perusal and we will jointly decide where I post it. Nothing has changed - I am still reviewing and I am still giving them the offer to decide. I don't want that autonomy of mine, to publish my words where I want to put them, taken from me.

What I should have said in hindsight is this:

"I will tell you what - let's see how I rate it. You can see my star rating and we can discuss where I post it."

The star rating would have given them a small, probably not sufficient, insight into what I thought of the book. They could then choose whether or not they then wanted the words that accompanied that star rating, my opinion of the book, to be published wherever I saw fit.

And so, I find myself in a dilemma: To review or not to review?

I get it. Nobody wants their work unduly criticised. I never go out to slate someone. I merely express what I thought of the book. I don't do it crassly; I do criticise but I do it constructively. Most writers respond well to this but not all. I accept criticism on mine unless someone writes something about its length - which has happened on Vocal. I don't know what to do with that. What does that mean? Especially when prefixed by a compliment.

I digress.

So, the upshot of this is that I don't know if I'm going to review it and I am asking the advice of my fellow Vocal writers and readers to help me decide what to do.

My initial feeling is to send another email paraphrasing what I wrote above:

"I will tell you what - let's see how I rate it. You can see my star rating and we can discuss where I post it."

The star rating is an indicator. They can say yes or no. If they say yes, it gets published wherever and they get to read it; if no, then it remains safely tucked away in the dusty annals of my computer files. Or I could buy the book legitimately and publish my review? I'm not going to do that, but I could.

Am I being too principled? Would it really affect me that much to sway and just publish it on my blog? Should I trust my gut or be more conciliatory?


Thanks for stopping by! If you read this, it is especially important that you comment due to the plea written above. I need your help!


About the Creator

Rachel Deeming

Mum, blogger, crafter, reviewer, writer, traveller: I love to write and I am not limited by form. Here, you will find stories, articles, opinion pieces, poems, all of which reflect me: who I am, what I love, what I feel, how I view things.

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Comments (24)

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  • Xine Segalas4 days ago

    Great article - I review books too - but don't have the following you must to have someone reach out to me to review their book. It got me to thinking however about your situation. I don't think I would want someone to dictate where I posted my review good or bad. I find as a reviewer - understanding the thought behind a low rating is so important. I hate when I see people simply give whatever it is a star rating and not explain what was behind that rating. However, as a struggling author myself I would hate a bad rating, especially again if they didn't explain why - which I know you do in your reviews but others do not. So as an author, I would like to know why my work didn't connect with you. But I will go back to my original thought which is if you reach out to someone to review your work, you must appreciate this person's opinions enough to wanted it in the first place and with that you sort of have to take the risks that all involves. Check out my article -

  • J. S. Wade15 days ago

    Great article and question Rachel. I would pass because the angst this has already caused you is undeserving and unfair to you. Imagine an author placing conditions on the New York Times. I also Suspect this author, from the wording of their communication is passive aggressive and there is the possibility of retribution in some form. I’d quietly slide this book to bottom of your pile and let it gather the dust the author deserves.

  • Kendall Defoe 16 days ago

    I wonder if a rating system of any sort helps any type of artist. We live in a world of hearts, thumbs, valentines and likes...but what do they really mean? Thank you for this. A lot to consider...

  • Novel Allen16 days ago

    Congrats. I hope you made a decision that was tailored for your peace of mind. Too late for me to chime in. Just saying great article and keep up the good work.

  • For your peace of mind, I'd say ditch it. I feel this person is a difficult person to work with. The "my book page" thing was so annoying. Lol. Also, congratulations on your Top Story!

  • Carol Townend20 days ago

    I write books for Amazon. I am at beginner level. If someone was going to review my books, I'd rather them do it honestly and fairly. I'm open to constructive criticism. Constructive but not rude is a great way to give me feedback, and helps me to improve my work. Crossposting is up to the reviewer; and in my opinion, is a great way of gaining interest in my book, even if the review isn't good. I think you should always go by your standards, and you should never lower them at the expense of someone who is being negative about how you do things. You are the reviewer, and honesty always pays in my opinion.

  • Caroline Jane20 days ago

    Your article is fab. This topic makes my blood boil. Art is subjective. We all have to get our heads around that. This poet needs to understand that and stop asking people to compromise their integrity on their behalf. It's rude and not the way the world should turn. Some great works of art have been galvanised as masterpieces due to the adverse reactions they provoke. The Tate has a whole gallery full of them. Stick to your guns. You may inadvertently make them greater because of it.

  • Paul Stewart20 days ago

    Regardless of whatever anyone says...I agree with everyone else and think you should never have to compromise. While noone wants their work to be absolutely trashed without any constructive feedback...I think it's unfair to tickle people's ears. And as reading, like all forms of art, is a very personal and subjective experience, your review, as you said in your well-framed piece above, is your own. I would rather someone give me their honest opinion, even if they are not telling me it's great, which can hurt, because ego etc. Congrats on Top Story and bringing attention to this interesting debate and important points you have raised!

  • Kristen Balyeat20 days ago

    I don’t think you should compromise your reviewing standards at all. If your instinct tells you to move on, then you should. I say honor yourself and your process. 💫💞

  • Babs Iverson20 days ago

    Congratulations on Top Story!!! Agree with Judey's comment response to writer.

  • Donna Fox (HKB)20 days ago

    Warning.... I am letting HKB take over to express our opinion of this situation. Once again, just my opinion, so take it with a grain of salt. I think it was unfair of your "friend" to tell you how and where to post your review depending on your rating. I understand that they don't want to sink or have their book be sunk, but they asked you to compromise your integrity and that's not okay. I can see their view point but I also want to express that there's a third view point in this... the consumer's. As an avid reader, it's great to see a book and see it's got a good rating but I also struggle with seeing all 5 stars on something... it makes use question whether or not the item is legitimately that good or if this was just a buddy-fest. (Bunch of buddies rating their work). As an author, I think it's hard to separate from our work but I think it's also important to be able to accept other people's opinions/ thoughts on your work. We don't have to like it but when we put it out there for review or ask for an opinion, we need to be mature enough to accept whatever comes from that and not push our insecurities on to the person reviewing the book/ story. Which is what it looks like your "friend" was doing to you. They felt insecure about their work and in turn made you feel less confident in what is usually a very standard practice for you. I think what you need to do is centre yourself and do what you normally do/ what feels right. As you said, you don't let other peoples opinions affect what you think of a book/ piece of work so why let someone else's feelings/ opinions affect your work? As I said earlier, this is just an opinion and shouldn't be too heavily taken. But I hope that helps you Rachel! 💚

  • Well that was speedy! Super congratulations! 🤍

  • Zara Blume20 days ago

    This is like a soap opera. I would’ve immediately told them if I cannot post my review on Amazon as well, then I’m going to decline the invitation. I don’t even know this poet and I don’t like them. They’re trying to get a dishonest rating by asking people to review their book, but only share positive reviews where the book will be sold. They’re trying to cash in, which means they should be PAYING you to market them. What a jerk wad. I wonder how many people do this? That would explain why I’ve read lots of crappy books with high ratings. Art is polarizing. People feel strongly about it, some of them loving it, others hating it. I’ve found the best books usually have 3 stars for this reason. I understand why you regret agreeing to compromise yourself and waste your time. But it’s not too late to email them back and say you changed your mind. As women, we’re conditioned that we cannot change our minds, we cannot revoke consent, we cannot say no to what we once agreed to take on. That’s bullshit. Wash your hands of this. Life is giving you an opportunity to assert yourself. You’ll see how good it feels to do so, and hopefully do it often.

  • Lamar Wiggins20 days ago

    It kind of feels like the writer has had bad experiences with reviews in the past that has created paranoia. Unless the work is obviously terrible, they should let the review process be what it is. I think they have already altered the relationship with you by tainting the process. Now, your review may not even be what it would have been because the conversation with them is lingering in the back of your mind as you write it. Not saying that you can be swayed by their words, but now your review needs to be reviewed. In a way it feels like a pity bribe. I would still write the review but would be reluctant to work with them on other books. Good luck!

  • We here, obviously, tend to be writers … Be that a hobby, a lark, or professionally (or trying to be so). We all understand the power of a review. Reviews can and do cause works by relatively unknowns to sink or swim. Thus, you do have a power and a responsibility. That being said, you have the ABSOLUTE responsibility to the author and yourself to post your honest opinion… politely, constructively, and nicely…, but mostly honestly. I am an author of 2 full novels, a poetry book, and a couple unfinished novels. I am also an unknown without the financial resources to “get my work seen” … (tbh, I am a bit discouraged overall. I believe in my work, but can’t afford to promote as needed .. hence the 2 unfinished novels). As such, I need reviews. Yet, I still want them to be honest. Never would I ask a reviewer such as yourself to compromise your personal integrity. As for advice.., if I were you I would go one of two ways … 1) Don’t post a review regardless of your opinion of the work. 2) Post an honest review exactly as you normally would on the platforms you usually use … with an addendum stating that the author requested you not to do so if your review was not a high rating. … Even if your rating of the work is highly favorable. Option 1 is my personal choice were I you as option 2 tends to be a tad aggressive. I wish you luck.

  • Judey Kalchik 20 days ago

    My suggestion: “Hello again! I’ve thought it over and I think that I am not a good match for you as a Reviewer. I’m quite enjoying the book, but I feel that my aims as a Reviewer don’t mesh with yours as a Writer. Thank you for the opportunity and the book. I’m happy to send you my feedback once I complete the read. I do have a few other books to read that I’ll use on all my review sites, though, so it may be a little while until I complete your book for just my private enjoyment.’

  • SC Wells20 days ago

    This was a really interesting and wonderfully crafted read. Your thoughts on this were so insightful. I can’t offer you any words of advice (I completely lack experience regarding review writing); I can only tell you to trust your gut. I’m in the ‘what’s the point of giving books star ratings’ camp. Giving star ratings are more often than not unhelpful ways of reviewing media— how does one boil down the complexities of any artwork, and the meaning, enjoyment, etc. you’ve derived from it into stars? I’d be really interested in following more of this dilemma as it speaks of a much deeper topic!

  • C. H. Richard20 days ago

    I would agree with Gerald Holmes on this one. No matter the review you write there shouldn't be any delegating decisions from the writer. Reviews in general are hard to get. I would let this pass and give a "No review for you!" lol. Also, congratulations on Top Story ❤️ 👏

  • Gerald Holmes20 days ago

    Back to say Congrats on a well deserved Top Story!!

  • Mr Ahsan20 days ago

    Thanks for being relatable and raising important questions about the ethical considerations of book reviewing.

  • Gerald Holmes20 days ago

    I would not waste my time if I were you. The whole point of reviewing something is to be honest. Your integrity as a reviewer here is the most important thing.

  • Donna Renee21 days ago

    This is tough! I’m so blah about conflict that I’d be overanalyzing the email stuff too ❤️🤷🏼‍♀️. I’d wash my hands of this one and get a general statement down for future opportunities where you can respond to requests for reviews with something that makes it very clear from the start that you aren’t going to try to tank a book but that your reviews have to be honest and not fluffed up. And that they’ll be going on all your regular review sites. That way anyone like this poet who is going to be upset about any less than 5 stars can just say oh nevermind then and move on with no hurt feelings. I personally wouldn’t post a “bad” review on Amazon for an indi author especially if I didn’t seek out their book on my own- I’m probably not their ideal target in that case and things I don’t like much are probably not aimed at me and my preferences. I’d just not review it at all 🤷🏼‍♀️

  • Hannah Moore21 days ago

    Argh. What I would do is finish reading it, work out what I'd give it, and then tell them "well, I'd give it X stars. Happy to write the review if you'd like it , but I would want to publish across all platforms in the same way as I do everything else, thought I'd give you the choice". I feel like you're both coming from very understandable positions and you've both tried to be reasonable and clear, but the reality is of you put your work out there you can't pick and choose reviews.

  • Hmmm, I personally think you shouldn't bother. Dude sound like a pain inthe butt. If that is how reviews work on Amazon then it doesn't help with the integrity at all. Though that said, I don't often take reviews too seriously because as you said its an opinion, but I enjoy reading what other people think and then seeing for myself 🤍 Looking forward to your final decision 🤍

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