I receive a lot of review books, but I have never once told lies about the book just because I got a free copy of it. However, some authors seem to feel that if they send you a copy of their book for free, you should give it a positive review.
Do you think reviewers are obligated to put up a good review of a book, even if they don’t like it? Have we come to a point where reviewers *need* to put up disclaimers to (hopefully) save themselves from being harassed by unhappy authors who get negative reviews?
This question was suggested by another BTTer, JM who blogs at The Book Stacks. On the blog (this post) she explains what inspired the question. Interesting stuff...
Authors have to understand that by publishing their work, they are inviting others to read and critique it (irregardless of whether they are sending out review copies). Even successful authors get negative reviews, it's in the job description (so to speak). They need to learn to take the criticism and learn from it, use it to help improve their writing.
In any case, I guess that I do my fair share of book reviews (formal and informal). I make an effort not to lie in my reviews, but to be honest and to give each book a chance. That's not to say that I sometimes don't feel guilted (mostly by myself) into softening up some of my critiques.
When I do write negative things about a book, I try also to write something about some aspect of the book that I liked or thought was particularly strong, just so there's at least something positive and it doesn't seem that I'm just trashing the book.
I do think that reviewers--as well as people who publish reviews--feel pressure not to post negative reviews. I know that I've had my reviews (one in particular) edited for harshness. To some extent, though, I think that having a known readership keeps you honest. You're less likely to say glowing things about a book that you didn't let when you know people you know may go get that book on your advice.
I also think that reviewers should be able to choose not to review a book, whether because they didn't like it or don't have anything to say. I know I haven't reviewed all of the advanced reader copies that I've received (but that's mostly because I got overwhelmed by them, having overextended myself, and got indepth-review-specific writers block). I also don't even post informal comments on all the books that I read. Sometimes that's because I didn't like the book. Sometimes it's because I don't think it's worth commenting on. Sometimes it's just because I get lazy or have too many other things happening.