I'm an aspiring crime writer, and I recently had the idea of reviewing crime novels. I figure that I'm reading them anyway, and I usually think critically about them, so why not write reviews for a blog or Youtube channel? It could be a way to build an online audience, and at the very least, it's forcing me to really analyse the books I'm reading.
So I wrote my first review. I wasn't particularly fond of the book, and I think the review captured my feelings. But my wife raised a red flag. Is it a good idea for an aspiring author to put their name against a negative review for a book? (I should be clear that the review style is totally professional. I've got no interest in tearing down authors or being mean. Or is one writer's "professional" another agent's "unprofessional?").
If an agent googled me and saw my name against a negative (albeit professional) review for one of their clients, would that be a bad thing? I like the idea of reviewing books, but not as much as getting an agent.
What do you think? Safer to keep my opinions to myself?
If you post a negative review about any of my clients, you're toast.
It's not fair, and it's probably going to get me some sniping on the Twitters, but honestly, it's the damn truth.
I'm less forgiving about bad reviews than my clients are.
(as in never)
And my clients know each other, and if they're crime novelists, they often are at the same event like Bouchercon, and eating breakfast at the same table with me.
So, there you are with that objective assessment of Felix Buttonweezer's book that you didn't like.
Awkward doesn't begin to cover it.
So, what to do?
Well the easiest thing to do is only post reviews of books you like.
But let's think about this a bit more deeply.
What's your goal here?
If it's building platform, you don't need to review books. Instead, you can talk about how a particular book taught you something as a writer.
And lessons on what not to do are often more helpful than what to do.
When you talk about a book in relation to your own work, it's not a negative review. It's more of an essay. It's entirely subjective, not the purported objective kind of review that will earn my undying enmity even beyond the grave (I'm entirely convinced I'm part Sicilian.)
And as an aspiring writer (versus an established one) your opinion is just some guy flapping his gums. Why does your opinion matter?
But as an aspiring writer talking about what a book did for your own writing, you're not flapping your gums, you're actually contributing to the community.
In other words, being more vulnerable about your own work is the path to non-enmity.
Let me give you an example:
Felix Buttonweezeer's memoir Wrenching Tales from the Hardware Store is repetitive drivel, like the jackhammer he sold to kindergarten teacher.
I learned to watch for repeated uses of a buzz phrase after reading Wrenching Tales from the Hardware Store that had sixteen instances of "Juicy Fruit Fiasco" on six pages. I re-read one of my chapters and realized I'd over used the phrase "flipping jelly jars". Six times on six pages!
Bottom line: by having skin in the game, you're less likely to fall afoul of even the fiercest shark.