I have a semi-popular book review blog, and I'm often very honest in my reviews, sometimes quite harsh. I'm also querying my own novel. Will being overly critical of working authors hurt my chances for nabbing an agent?
(And don't let anyone who says otherwise fool you. They're either not agents, or they don't want to look bad by telling you the honest truth.)
Here's why: I think my authors are the cats pjs. If you don't think that, you're not only wrong, you have demonstrated you have no taste.
I'm not kidding here. That's really how I feel about it. My guys are my guys and anyone who disses them in any form is unlikely to be someone I want to add to the team.
So, now that you know, what do you DO with that information.
First, and counter-intuitively I do NOT suggest you stop reviewing. Reviewing is a good way to make sure you are reading in your genre and that's important. It's also a good way to hone your writing. All those words in blog posts add up and help develop both your ear and your editing skills.
Second, I suggest you make SURE that your reviews are well-written, and fair. It's entirely fair to point out plot holes, chronological mistakes or anachronisms. It's entirely fair to point out clunky writing and sentences that are not deft.
It's NOT fair to say "I hate Ben Coes' politics so I hate this book" if you're reviewing Coup D'Etat (a book that anyone interested in how to put tension in a thriller should read.)
It's NOT fair to say "I hate this book cause the author was a snide SOB on Bouchercon panels and should move to France."
It's NOT fair to say "This book needed a better editor" because you don't know anything about what the editorial process was.
If you can support the position you take in your review with examples not assumptions, it's fair. If you can't, don't use it.
Frankly, when I look at reviews these days, I'm most often looking for authors I don't know and for books from smaller presses. You'd be doing the entire community a HUGE service by reviewing those kinds of books, and for that you'd probably slither in to my good graces and that's where you want to be if you're querying a novel.
Reviewing requires a delicate balancing act and doing it well makes it look easy, which it ain't. Don't think I think otherwise, ok?