Writing Resources

Why I Seldom Write Reviews

Long time readers may have noticed that I used to write reviews somewhat regularly on this site but that I seldom do so anymore.

It is not because I’m a lazy bastard.

Basically I’ve received a lot of advice (in regards to writing reviews), from the workshops at the Writers of the Future event to more private correspondence and all of it basically suggests that reviewing other writers will only lead to hurt feelings and worse, possibly damaged professional relationships down the road. A writer might be pissed off at a negative review, or that writer’s agent, or that writer’s publisher.

So I don’t write many reviews.

Of course every once in a while I have to question this decision. The main reason being that the current writing community on Amazon seems heavily fueled by writers reviewing other writers. The few Amazon reviews I have received have mostly been from other writers and I admit I feel a bit guilty about not reciprocating a review.

I’ve also been told multiple times I’d get more reviews if I wrote more reviews.

But I think this is a fundamental problem. Writers should not be reviewing other writer’s work (unless said writer was and continues to see themselves as a professional reviewer… I don’t).

If a writing community can only exist because writers (and not readers) are reading, reviewing and promoting each other’s work, then that writing community has failed, hasn’t it? A writing community should be serving readers. And be, in turn, served by readers.

Readers should be writing reviews. But then how to get more readers and consequently more reviews? I’ve bought review copies for numerous potential readers but 90% of them have never written a review. I’ve tried to be more active on various online forums but again this seems counter intuitive because if I’m spending all my time online then I’m not writing. And I want to write.

I’m considering spending money on advertising to attract more interest in my game design manuals but most advice suggests that advertising spent in this way *without* reviews is a waste of money!

Anyways, curious what thoughts others have on this. For now I’m going to continue to limit my self publishing efforts to non-fiction. My fiction will continue to be offered to publishers. Despite the changing state of traditional publishing it still seems to have the largest potential of creating an audience for a writer who wants to focus on writing.

Former lead designer at BioWare (Dragon Age: Origins, Neverwinter Nights). Creator of Raiders of the Serpent Sea.


  • sharkbytes

    Well, I hear you, but you solicited a review from me, and I know for certain that you made one sale as a direct result of that. I’m a writer and a reviewer.┬á It is a bit of a balancing act to review things honestly, but I don’t see how I can expect people to support me if I don’t support them.┬á I think of it as “seed” review planting. Then when I pick up some from strangers, I’m really tickled.

  • Brent Knowles

    And I think that works for some people, absolutely. My worry is that if I write an unflattering review (maybe not negative but not overly positive)… what happens then?
    I know in the traditional publishing arena it has turned ugly.┬áIn lieu of reviews I *do* try to show support for those writers who have reviewed me by mentioning them occasionally online or other more indirect ways of bringing them to other’s attention. And I do try to at least purchase some of the work of others of course.

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