By: Leonard Tillerman
Essentially, constructive criticism is the process of offering valid and well-reasoned opinions about the work of others, usually involving positive comments and a series of next steps, in a friendly manner rather than an oppositional one. (6) It is also one of the most valuable things which a book reviewer can provide to an author.
One of the most common debates out there in the book publishing/ reviewing industry is whether constructive criticism should be included in a book review. Afterall, if you are given a low rating for your work… don’t you deserve to know why? There are definitely two opposing viewpoints about this question. Indeed, I was personally involved in a Twitter debate about this very conundrum and it got downright nasty at times! To muddy the waters even further, I would say the answer to the question is yes and no. I realize that is a bit of an annoying response… but bear with me. We all must remember that book reviews are not written for the author. They are targeted towards other readers. The offer is an opinion as to whether the reviewer believes the book is good or bad and worth purchasing. They are a reader, not a paid editor.
All that being said, this does not mean that reviews cannot be very helpful information for you as an author. A well-written and honest book review will provide a writer with a treasure trove of constructive criticism. While the reviewer is under no obligation to provide such information, many do anyways. For instance, perhaps there is something seriously missing in your work. Maybe the characters are flat, the plot too predictable or your work has a flawed structure which inhibits the flow of your writing. This is not the time to let your ego get in the way. The reviewer may actually have a point, particularly if this criticism is repeated by other reviewers. If that is the case, you may have some revising to do. Do not see this as a reason to quit. Rather, use it as an opportunity to grow. You have just received some very constructive and valuable input from readers. People pay top dollar for this type of thing! Use it for everything that it is worth and grow your book into the best it can possibly be!
Tillerman’s Tip: Although book reviewers have no obligation to provide constructive criticism, the good ones do anyways. While the input may sting a bit… if you see definite patterns in well-written reviews… Use it!
Tillerman’s Tip #2: There are a number of – for lack of a better word- “Troll Reviewers” out there. They deliberately provide very low ratings in a review of less than a paragraph. This is not an example of a quality review which will provide any type of value to the author or the readers. The vast majority of individuals can see through these type of “reviews” very quickly. Disregard and move on.