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Jul 27, 2011

Karen Gowen Talks Book Reviews

Posted by Wendy Ewurum  |  at  1:01 AM

Today I host my first guest post and am ever so excited to have Karen J. Gowen as my first guest. Karen is very well known on the blogsphere, forever dispensing informative and helpful advise to writers and readers alike. She's is an author and a publisher and so I imagine she has her hands full with not only her own projects but those of other talented writers as well. For more on the publishing aspect let me refer you to Mason Canyons blog post where Karen talks about the genesis and life of her family's publishing firm WiDo Publishig. Feel free to contact her and enquire about submission of your work.
Her literary accomplishments include Farm Girl and Uncut Diamonds and you will also find Karen busy blogging away and reviewing at:
Coming down the mountain
Good Reads
From the shadows to the page
Karen thank you for coming on my blog today, I am very honoured and look forward to what you have to share.


I am thrilled to be guest posting on Wendy’s blog! Wendy and I have been online friends since the A – Z Challenge. She and I just hit it off. And since this is a book-reviewing blog, I am posting about the ins and outs of book reviews, from a few different perspectives:  reader, author, reviewer, editor.
As a reader, I am always on the lookout for new books. When I come across a title that intrigues me, I click on to Goodreads and add it to my to-read list.  I know what I like, and even if hundreds of reviewers are praising the latest YA paranormal release, I will pass it by. Readers are like that. All the positive reviews in the world won’t convince us to buy a book that is outside our particular interests.

Blogger book reviews, tours and contests are one of the best ways today’s authors have of getting the word out and reaching their target audience.   As authors, we have a responsibility not to abuse this valuable resource by expecting a blanket endorsement when we ask for a review. If it becomes all gushy praise, then blogger reviews will lose their validity. Remember, it’s not gushy praise that sells a book—it is reaching that target audience who recognizes the book as one they might like.

If you are an author who has requested a review, then make sure you have a thick enough skin to handle the negative. Perhaps the review is okay but a commenter says, “I read it and hated it. The characters fell flat and the plot was unbelievable.”  Do you add your own comment as a rebuttal? Or if the review itself is harsh, do you start arguing with the reviewer? I hope everyone knows the answers to these questions!! Authors, always set aside your emotions in these cases. Be gracious and thank the reviewer. Ignore negative comments. And if you get bad reviews on Goodreads or Amazon, you always ignore them. Remember to be kind and gracious throughout the process. Believe it or not, everyone will not like your book! And readers have every right to express their opinion, even if it hurts your feelings.

I have occasionally reviewed books on my blogs (Coming Down the Mountain and From the Shadows to the Page). Plus I review or at least rate everything I read on Goodreads and often Shelfari.  Let me tell you, the hardest books to review for me are those that did not get properly edited, that have punctuation issues, random points of view, and read more like a manuscript in need of revising than a polished, published book. For this reason, I avoid self-published books because so many of them fall in this category. If I find myself editing as I go, then I just can’t finish that book. I may as well be editing a manuscript for my publisher than struggling through such a book.

To review a book on my blog, I don’t have to love it. I can find things to praise, and I try to be positive but realistic. I try not to gush, unless I found it to be truly gush-worthy.   A reviewer’s main objective should be to share the experience, so readers can determine if this is a book they would enjoy. A reviewer’s job is not to critique the author or to pronounce a final verdict on the author’s work or talent. It is more to disseminate information than to prejudice the reader about the book. Anyway, that’s how I see it. 

Happy reading, everyone!

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About the Author

Most know me as the author to Fabulosity Reads and in actual fact, that is the previous name of this blog. I have since then moved my books to a Wordpress self-hosted blog so that I can have a place to show a different side of me which I am equally passionate about and that is marketing and personal development. I hope you will love being here, watching me grow as I share and learn. My highest hope is that we will grown and learn together in all disciplines affecting our lives. I'd LUUURRRVE to hear from you, so don't be shy...


  1. I really enjoyed this discussion of reviews from an author's perspective. I am fairly new to the book blogging/reviewing community, so I am still learning a lot. But I completely agree--I have read reviews that really peaked my interest and led me to add books to my wish list. I think that is half the fun.


  2. A lovely person to have as your first guest! I enjoy writing reviews. I do not write grand ones but I do write positive ones. I try not to 'trash' the book or the author. In all books there is something for someone. Some readers might overlook the typo on every page, other will not. I try and share my findings in a fair way.

    I have been reading books outside of my comfort zone recently. Forcing myself to read them I have found some extremely talented authors, and am now a fan of their work. Sometimes it pays to spread your wings.

    Glynis Smy (writer)

  3. Whoops...typo alert...others will not.

    Plus I seem to be in a 'some' mood today. Every other word starts with it! :-0

  4. Random point of view is one of my pet hates, together with punctuation and spelling errors.

    I read a lot, not only because I work in a book shop but also because I write. I also do some reviews on my blog and on our book shop website. I run two book groups for which I choose books and this can be a little difficult sometimes as I don't always get to read them before recommending them.

    But even then, if the book is a disappointment, I try to emphasise the good points and be constructive if there was something in the book I didn't like. (As you recommend)

    As for books I absolutely hate - I just don't review them - or recommend them. (And hope I don't ever choose a 'bad' one for my book groups...)

    Helena xx

  5. @ Shanan, I can assure you that blogging and reviewing are such pleasurable pastimes you will soon be addicted. I'm so pleased you stopped by, see you at yours soon.

    @ Glynnis, one of the things I struggle with is lengnth. I go on and on, as you will see from the last one below this post. I think I just become too involved in the whole thing to be honest. This is my cross .....LOL

    @ Helena, I just cannot overlook the editorial errors. I'm a corporate trainer so I think there's a teacher gene in me. I can handle spelling errors but grammaticalones drive me around the bend. Its easy at times to overlook a single letter but an entire sentense....

    All that being said, there is an ongoing debate that I'd like to follow this up with and perhaps if Karen is agreeable, she can post on it again. what is the role of a Reviewer.....I read what is in my opinion one of the most horrendous critiques the other day that I imagined would have just trashed the writers confidence and I imagine as writing is such a personal thing, it would be very hard for that person to get up and dust themselves off again.
    But this is another conversation....

  6. I've learned not to worry if someone doesn't totally dig my book.

  7. I only wish more people who review books thought and wrote like you KarenG!!! Take care

  8. Great post. There's been a lot of talk about peer-based reviews as of late. Personally, I think if a person is to write a book then they should expect a few bad reviews along the way. They should take the positive out of every review, bad or good, and use it to better their writing skills.

    A reviewer should be tactful in how they point out flaws in someone's work, as future works and monetary gain are at stake. First of all, don't review a book in a genre you dislike if at all possible. Second, be honest with tact. Be professional. When I see a review such as, "I hated it," I assume that person is a tempermental idiot with no skills in the art of expression. Why did you hate it? How could the author have improved the story? Third, I think a reviewer should have the decency to point out areas they did like. Many readers will appreciate this.

    I am setting myself up for a whole gamut of reviews when my book comes out. Yeah, I'll probably crawl into a fetal position and cry when I get a few bad ones, but it's part of the game.

  9. Great post, Karen. It's interesting how you view book reviews while wearing so many hats. :-)

  10. Just from entering contests, I know that bad reviews can hurt. But when they're constructive, they can also be the most helpful.

  11. Great comments! And thanks for hosting me, Wendy. This is such a wide topic, there's so much that can be said on it, I barely touched the surface. I appreciate all those who have added to the discussion!

    Amy, I did get such a review. Shortest review ever, and they didn't even use the "I," just "hated it." It hurt at the time but now I laugh whenever I think of it.

  12. Great points, Karen. I only review books I like, though - and I won't talk about the negative. People can choose to make of that what they want, but I'm an author first and I know how hard it can be!

  13. Back when I was on the cops and court beat as a newspaper reporter, my additional duty was to review theater productions. (I know, I never did get the connection either!) Our newspaper's rule was to mention what you liked best.

    If your review happened to be much shorter than usual, readers got the idea that it might not be as good a play as without our actually coming out and saying so. That way you left it open for someone else to judge and, in case it the production just wasn't your thing, you didn't offend anyone too much when hinting at your opinion.

    Would this be a good policy to apply to book reviews, or is it doing readers a disservice?

    P.S. I'm a new follower!

  14. Thank you everyone for contributing and Michelle and Helena thanks so much for the follows. This is indeed a very broad topic Karen and I also thing it deserves further coverage. In my opinion the most important things are that the review must both be constructive and honest. Some reviews are so tactless I cringe on behalf of the writer, and some are not honest enough that you find yourself (the reader) not trusting the reviewer's opinion in the future. As with everything, balance is important.

  15. I enjoyed this post and your guest. I jut may have to have her swing by my blog. I definitely believe a reviewer should be tactful. One peeve i have about reviewers is when they don't like a character and think the author should of written the character one way. WHAT!!! the character may not have been written for you to like, i don't get involve with telling authors what the characters should of been like or looked like. i don't like when a reviewer say, 'i didnt like the ending'. my reaction is "Is not your story'. i know sometimes novels dont end the way we want or wish but that should not be reflected in a reviewer rating of the book. i don't like when reviewers cant handle a personal issue therefore rate the book low. ex: i don't believe in speaking in tongues so i give this book a two stars, even though the book was a good read. I had to tear into that reviewer politely of course. i read the same book, i don't believe in speaking in tongues but my review was a four. the story line and character was well written and developed. I think reviewers should not review books if they can't put their personal opinions about a topic aside. okay, that all.

  16. Sidne, this raises another interesting dimension. We assume that when we say reviewer we're all talking about the same context but as I read people's blogs and look at my intentions I find that this word has many interpretations. For example, when I started blogging and decided to share my thoughts of books it was entirely because I really just wanted to share the books I read with people. And to this end I think I have leeway to share a little of my thoughts and feelings. However when an author But then now that I have writers requesting reviews, I put on a different hat because, despite not being their editor, I feel that the author genuinely wants to know what I think objectively and what can help improve things. I find that this works for me. I maintain that being tactfully honest is still the best because at the least, it shows professionalism.

  17. Terrific post, Karen. Thank you. And now I know ... if my book EVER gets published, and if you ever do a review on it and GUSH ... you'll mean it! And THAT means a lot.

  18. "A reviewer’s main objective should be to share the experience, so readers can determine if this is a book they would enjoy." I've not heard it put that way before, but I really like that in a review. Because you're right, no matter how fabulous a book may be, if the subject matter doesn't interest me, I'm not gonna read it.

    And Wendy---tactfully honest is a great way to go. It's what I prefer as a reader as well as a writer.

  19. I'm sure I've made a few faux pars in my time because I suspect I might be too honest when it comes to reviews. It's likely to bite me in the posterior in the future. It certainly bit me in the past. So now I try to avoid writing up book reviews unless I honestly loved the book. I also have problems with books that need another 2 or 3 editing passes.

  20. Great post. Thanks for all the info and advice. I wonder where rating systems fall in this discussion. Good/bad. I don't rate books when I review them but am considering changing that at the request of my followers.

  21. It's because of reader/reviewers like you and the others online that I trust these reviews more then I do the ones by the "professional" newspaper or magazine reviewers. The online reviews seem to be more honest and genuine and less focused on peripheral issues that go beyond the value of the book as reading entertainment or enlightenment.
    I try to always find something positive, but I will point out the things I don't like as tactfully as I can.

    Thanks, Wendy, for hosting the wonderful Karen G.

    Tossing It Out

  22. I'm not yet published, but already know the rules about having a thick skin and not getting into arguments with reviewers. It's a public space and you won't do yourself any favours. It's funny how some people just don't pick up on this.

    As for reviewing books. I do at times, review books on my blog. If I haven't particularly enjoyed a book I don't intend to trash it. I simply say what I didn't gel with but that it's an individual opinion and other readers who like that particular style could love it. It's really about saying the book is out there and what it's like. I don't see it as a place to shred it or gush about it. (Though I have occasionally gushed if I've really enjoyed it and it's made me feel all gushy!)

    Great post!

  23. I agree with you. It's the writer's responsibility to handle all reviews given on their books with grace. The good ones as much as the bad.

    As for reviewing books, that's a bit more difficult for me, as I think that writers that review on their blogs need to be very aware of the conflict of interest involved. It's not something that I'm brave enough for, but I have a lot of respect for my writing friends that are.


  24. I love your view, all wise points~ I love the one about it being about informing our blog readers. We know not everyone is going to like the same cup of tea~ Great Job!

  25. It's been interesting to follow this discussion. One thing to bring up, that Arlee mentioned, is how powerful the online reviewing community is becoming. Many newspapers are abandoning their book review section to cut costs as more of the population goes online for their source of news and information.

    This is a vast opportunity for authors. Those blog reviews are a resource, the Amazon and Goodreads reviews a commodity that can translate to sales. And don't think they all have to be 5 stars! A nice mix can make the book look valid, like many people are reading it besides friends and family.

    As you prepare for your book's release, have a list of potential reviewers lined up. And after it comes out, when someone tells you they read your book, ask them to post a review on Amazon.

    Book blogs like Fabulosity Reads are where writers and readers can connect. But not all reviewers are equal. Wendy does intelligent, thoughtful reviews detailing what she likes and doesn't like about a book. Some blogs do nothing more than summarize a book, like they copied it from the back cover or Amazon site.

    Check out the book blogs carefully, and choose those who are professional, thoughtful, who include publishing information and the links so readers can click right there and order.

  26. Well done! Excellent points all around. I'll be putting my book out in the world soon, and of course I hope it will be well-received. But I do know there will be those whose cup of tea it isn't, or who just don't like it. I have to remind myself that I don't like everything either, even things that millions of other people love! That's what makes the world go round. Also read an interesting post about negative reviews - they can actually help you because someone might say "I didn't like it because it was too dark, " and you might say, "OH! I LOVE dark stuff! I think I'll read it!" So, there ya go!

  27. Thank you Wendy for hosting Karen.

    Karen, I always listen to your information and "good sense" when you talk about books and writing. I depend on you gals for my reading material.

    Some wise tips you have put forth. Thanks.


  28. I can't wait to see your book Melissa. Be sure to read review blogs before you submit reviews for them. You kknw...get a feel of the style and content you like.

  29. I do review books on my blog. I focus on the positive things about the book. If there's something that bothered me or I didn't like, I'll say it, but I keep in mind that something I didn't like may not bother someone else. If I hate the book, I don't review it. I'm not out to make a "name" for myself as a reviewer nor am I ready to crush another writer. In that sense, I am not a professional reviewer.

  30. Great advice, Karen. I am careful when I do reviews because I understand how it feels when people say less than favorable things about what I've written. But I need to be honest because otherwise I'll lose credibility.

    Reviewing is subjective. From what I've noticed, most books on Goodreads hover between 3.75 and 4.4. Very few books make me gush, so I look at the first gushing reviews with skepticism, thinking they're friends. Even the most revered books have bad reviews. As a reader, I like to know the good and the bad perspectives.

  31. When I started on goodreads I started rating too many books at 5 stars...after reading a few blog posts about it I realized the 5 stars go to books I want to gush over...If I'm in LOVE with a book you'll see it on my blog, twitter and facebook. I thought Farm Girls was a wonderful great book. I wish I had read it before my daughter did her homesteading project, so I could have had her read it. :)

  32. I used to review books for R&T, but now I don't anymore. I will go to Amazon and review unless I just didn't like the book at all and then I just quietly put it away and pretend I didn't read it *laugh* -- great guest blog!

  33. Much better than trashing it Kat. LOL

  34. Karen you are so right. As a reviewer I cannot tell you how I wish some authors would have tougher skin. I give them a book review and somehow they just can't take it.

    You hit alot of good points but that one hits so close to home. Good guest choice, Wendy. :)

  35. Obviously, reviews are needed and help folks a great deal. Sometimes though, I think there is a problem with it. It's hard for me to describe, but it's like when a person takes a photograph and then massages and post processes the image so much, that the original "shot" is gone. I feel the results of that when I when I read also. Not everyone tells a story the same way and perfect sometimes detracts from a story. Great post. Love Karen and her writing...

  36. "A reviewer’s main objective should be to share the experience, so readers can determine if this is a book they would enjoy."

    I couldn't agree more!

  37. What a wonderful post. Karen is great. I loved her book: LIGHTING CANDLES IN THE SNOW.

    There are a lot of great points made - thanks for sharing.

    I agree that the review has to be truthful, but not cruel. There has to be something good about a book. I as a few here have mentioned only read books I know I will like. If a book turns out to not be what I thought, I usually don't finish it or say something good about the book but I won't "trash" it.

    Silver's Reviews
    My Blog

  38. Great post on reviewing. I just read a review where the reviewer said, 'the charters were not deep but I loved the charters'

    I don't even know how to make head or tail of this sentence!

  39. Oh my Nas, where does one begin.
    Murphy's law.i always get something wrong even if I've pre edited a thousand times but through out the first couple of hours I read again and weed out. Editing is such a difficuly thing for me. Most times I wish I had a second pair of eyes at my disposal.


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