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My Responsibility As A Reviewer?

November 4, 2016

The email was both unexpected and long awaited.

Rodney, I noticed your review of Primal Leadership. My new book targets the same audience. Would you consider reviewing my book?

Writers write. It’s what we do. After running away from the title of “writer” for a long time, I finally embraced it about three years ago when I committed to scribble down a few words every day and throwing them out into the void. You always wonder if people are listening. You hope that they are. My blog posts to Facebook, LinkedIn, twitter and of course goes out to those of you who have signed up for my email list. 

Feedback is the reward for putting in the work. I’ve had people violently disagree with me. I’ve had people wholeheartedly agree with me. Often I’ve had posts that garnered a few likes but mostly just went their way without eliciting a response from anyone. 

This email was the ultimate feedback. Someone was saying, “I’ve seen what you do and I’d like you to do more.” If not “arriving” it at least symbolized that I was on the right path. It also gave me pause. 

I understand what the author is doing. (And I’m intentionally not mentioning the author or the book at this point. Look for a review in January.) In the age of the Interent, we are all self publishers and self promoters. The author was going out to find people who might be interested in reviewing his book. He will provide my review to his readers, thereby potentially expanding my audience and I will share my review with all of you and you might be interested in becoming a fan of his. 

It’s a perfectly reasonable business model. There is nothing in the least questionable, or even unsightly about it. And yet. . .I have a nagging question. What if I don’t like the book? 

I’ve reviewed many books over the years. Mostly, I pick books that I already have read. I “review” them, but the reason I’m reading them is because I already know I like them. Occasionally, I’ll find a book that I don’t like as much. Two examples are “The 4 Hour Workweek.” I hated it. The author, in my opinion, was advocating the worst kind of anti-social behavior and fraud. I also didn’t enjoy the “The Traveler’s Gift.” It was overly simplistic. I can think of a couple more popular business books that I didn’t like when I read them, but I haven’t actually reviewed. (“Who Moved My Cheese” and “Leadership and Self Deception.”) 

The point is that I don’t like every book I read. I’m sure none of us do. When I’m buying and reading the books myself I feel no compulsion to point my review one way or the other. But, this is a new experience. The author is now a real person. And he’s a real person that has asked me for a favor. Of course, he wants an honest review. He also thinks his book has valuable information for his readers. But, so did the author of “The 4 Hour Workweek” and “The Traveler’s Gift.” 

If I disagree with his content, will I have the courage to be honest? Will I be able to resist the urge to spare his feelings? If I don’t deliver a “good” review, do I risk not getting future requests from writers? 

I don’t know.

As a member of Toastmasters, I get plenty of experience writing and delivering speeches. But, equally important, Toastmasters gives me the chance to practice evaluating speeches given by others. During the evaluation portion of the meeting, the evaluator gets 2 minutes to provide helpful feedback, but also point out areas the speaker could have improved. It’s a stressful role. No one wants to offer negative criticism. We’ve become adept at “softening the blow.” And yet, the times that I have been most effective as an evaluator, and times the feedback has been most valuable for my own speeches, it has been direct, specific and succinct. 

I hope this will be a valuable book that I can recommend to you without reservation. More likely it will be a book that has valuable insights that also includes areas I think can be improved. Hopefully, the author will respect the fact that I’ll do my best to be honest, unswayed by the fact that he sought me out for a review. 

In any event, it was certainly a honor to be asked.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

From → Book Reviews

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