Chai break is a new weekly feature on This is Lit to discuss concerns that every book blogger has. This is meant to be a lighthearted discussion that you’d have over tea and the only reason for it not being called Discussion Post is that the site’s author thinks that would be too mainstream. Pfft.
Gulp down your tea, nerds, for today we’re going to discuss some serious shizz.
How do you rate a free book that you received as an ARC or won in a giveaway that’s just bad?
You receive a free copy of a book and it’s just so patently boring–the story line is pathetic, the plot is ill-conceived, and the ending is the only part that makes you happy because you get to put an end to this torture at the hands of sheaves of paper. But now comes the worst part–how do you review it? Do you hold back a little or do you go all in and call a shitty book a shitty book?
If the book is bad, you can call it bad since the agreement clearly states that you’re giving an honest review. Every review that a book blogger writes should be an honest review so that readers get an honest idea about the book they want to read. But sometimes, when the book is won through a giveaway, something holds the reviewer back. I noticed this trend while reviewing a book I won through a giveaway. Every review before mine was a 4/5 star rating. They all won the the book through giveaways, too. Every reviewer was waxing eloquent about the book and my review was the only 1 star rating in the list. I said the writing was “cringe-worthy” and called out the off-hand remarks made about South Indians, which was in poor taste, really.
I did feel bad about giving a poor review so I added a line at the end that said I didn’t want to seem ungracious. This a book that I received for free. I felt a little guilty about calling a spade a spade when I got the spade for free, with no caveats requiring me to tell everyone that the spade was a spade. (Dayum, I’m too deep into this figurative nonsense.)
I personally believe that there is nothing that should hold you back while reviewing a bad book, giveaway win/otherwise. I added the line about not wanting to be ungracious because the author was reading all the reviews and commenting on them. He most definitely would’ve been hurt by my review. But, in a few days, he’d hopefully have gotten over it and try to make his next book better. This is how I rationalized on this thought. (The author did end up commenting on my review. He said he was sorry I didn’t like it and mentioned that he hoped I’d like his next book. I thought it was sweet of him to comment.)
To the people who believe that you need to handle reviews of free books with care, I ask this–you are reviewing the book, not the person, so why hold back?
Now tell me what you think. Do you ever feel bad/guilty about giving a 1 star review to a free book? If you’re an author, how would you take getting such a review? Let’s launch the chai talk in the comments section!