Spoilers in Reviews

Alert buttonI’ve run into this a lot and feel the subject needs to be addressed.  There are book reviewers out there who fail to put spoiler alerts and often give away key plot points, including the ending.  This is detrimental to the book, potential readers, and the author.  Many people, including myself, are less likely to buy a book if we already know what will happen. The point of reading a story is to take the journey and discover what happens as we go along.  Sure, we all try to guess what will happen, but it’s the anticipation of seeing if we are right or wrong that makes it so much fun.

Yes, there are some people out there who may not have considered this or prefer to know what will happen in a book ahead of time.  A couple of people I know actually read the end of the book first before starting at the beginning.  They may even be the ones that like reading reviews with lots of spoilers.  While this is weird to me, they are free to make their own choices.

My problem is revealing plot points/endings to those of us who don’t want them is rude and inconsiderate.  Most of us prefer to be surprised.  Not to mention it more than likely results in an author losing sales.  Whether you enjoyed the book or not, and are revealing certain points to make an argument, there will be those who don’t want to know.  Let them have the chance to discover the story for themselves.

Another alternative is to mark the portions of your review that give away too much as being a spoiler.  Then at least people can skip that part if they don’t want to read it.  I’ve done this in cases where I really felt something in the latter parts of the novel needed to be addressed.  I put a clear ***Spoiler Alert*** so no one would accidentally read it.  Most of the time, though, I just try to be vague while still addressing a concern or a scene I really liked.

A good rule of thumb you can use for full length novels is to not reveal anything too specific beyond chapters two or three (depending on when the twists and turns start).  Also, if it’s in the novel’s synopsis you should feel safe writing about it (provided you don’t go too far and reveal the outcome).  For novellas/novelettes you don’t want to give away anything beyond the first chapter and should probably even use care there.  A good reviewer can give an opinion without revealing too much (or at least mark it with a spoiler alert).  If you know you have reviews where you may have said too much, PLEASE go back and fix them or add alerts.  Do it for the good of all the readers out there who don’t want a story ruined for them.  It’s just a common courtesy.

I truly believe this is a major issue within the reading community and it needs to be addressed.  On Amazon you can report the review, but this option isn’t always available on other sites.  If you are with me on this, I’d love it if you would discuss this on your own blogs.  Spread the word (and encourage others to do so) until everyone understands that unmarked spoilers are wrong.  There will be a few rebels who continue to do it anyway, but maybe we can shame them a bit by making it a public discussion.  Feel free to quote me or reblog this if you don’t have time to put it into your own words.  So long as you’re helping address this issue I’m happy.

Also feel free to leave a comment below or add your own thoughts.

~ by Suzie on January 26, 2013.

25 Responses to “Spoilers in Reviews”

  1. Well said, as usual :).

  2. Very good article. Thanks so much for posting. Authors don’t like spoilers posted either. It’s as you said, the reader should be allowed to experience their own journey. I visit your site often and love it. Well done, even thought I don’t comment much.

  3. I guess I should go update my review of Oedipus Rex …

  4. Excellent post, Susan! I agree wholeheartedly. Some people who leave reviews ramble on far too much about the book content, and sometimes divulging too much. I prefer reviews to be more to the point with regard to how much the reader has enjoyed the book and why. A good recommendation and 4 or 5 stars awarded, plus a few compliments about the overall quality of the writing and charcterisation etc. is sufficient imo. No need to go too much into describing the plot, with the risk of spoiling it for others. That infuriates me, especially when it’s one of my books! When I review a book, I can’t be bothered to say too much about the actual plot, although I do sometimes like to mention whether or not I could empathise with one or more of the characters. The overall impression of the storyline for me is the most important thing to get over.
    Good idea about the ‘spoiler warning’, but how many people would be decent enough to give this. And anyway, why have the need to do it in the first place!!! Some people put ‘spoilers’ in out of spite, I think.

    • Hey, Jan. Thanks for commenting. There are some people who ramble on and give away too much, but I’m one of those people who does enjoy an in depth review so long as it doesn’t give away too much of the plot. There is certainly a fine line. On the other hand, I was looking at a book recently and considering buying it. One guy left a two line review (very short) and literally gave away the main plot twist. Obviously, no matter how brief a person is, they can cause damage if they say too much. It ruined it for me and I didn’t buy the novel, which is sad. Luckily that author was having terrific sales (her book was on the top ten on Amazon), but I imagine I’m not the only one who passed over the book because of that review. It does seem malicious to me as well.

  5. Good post! Sweetie is particularly sensitive to spoilers as a former indie film-maker too. I’ll read them, even if marked, because the story for me is more about the journey than the ending – but I know I’m weird! There are times in a review where I have to discuss an ending, but I try to keep it vague. I agree, though, that they’re seldom needed in a review.

    • Lol, Debra, you’re one of “those” people. My grandfather and mother-in-law both read the endings to books first. They say they just can’t help themselves, but for me, I’m all about the journey. It’s okay to point out some highlights that you enjoyed in the novel so long as they aren’t giving away the plot outcome. I think many people can appreciate that. It’s just good to avoid saying things that might spoil it for others. Like you said, it’s seldom needed in a review.

  6. I completely agree. I even wrote to Amazon and suggested they improve their site to give Reviewers the option to hide their reviews (as you can do on Goodreads)… Unfortunately, there would seem to be more than a few people around who appear to take some form of twisted pleasure from being plain spiteful. This subject is one (of many) reasons I don’t read or write reviews any more. The only up-side, for any writers that might be suffering from this, is: I’ve not seen any evidence that suggests that review content materially affects popularity …

    • It’s tough to say how much reviews affect popularity, Anthony. It sure didn’t hurt Fifty Shades of Grey, but it might for some lesser known authors. Of course, some novels become popular because of controversy. I think it may depend a lot on content. I’m a firm believer, though, that giving away plot twists or endings is wrong and there is no excuse for it. Everyone knows you shouldn’t do it. How many times have we said “don’t tell me how the movie ends, I want to see for myself”? Because it’s the journey, full of surprises, that most of us enjoy.

  7. Suzie: First, I never write “spoiler” reviews, unless of course we’re referring to indicating that the protagonist lives (and, for the record, I abhor stories where the protagonist does not live, so would welcome any review that gave me a heads up). That said, though I wouldn’t disagree, I don’t feel nearly as strongly about the issue. I think most readers have a tendency to skip reviews if they’re bothered by spoilers. Even so, I worry that putting even more hurdles around the review process will limit reader feedback even further. As it is, it’s very difficult to gather reviews, and for indies and lesser-known authors they are crucial to convincing buyers to give the work a try. To disuade more readers from providing feedback could remake the current marketing mountain into an unsurmountable, sheer cliff face. Amazon’s tagging is a good example of how indies have already lost a reader-navigation tool; I just don’t think the benefits of creating content rules around reviews would outweigh the accompanying problems.

    • Tim, I’ve always thought your reviews were well written. If the main character dies, I’d sure as heck want to know. We can agree on that. There are some things that affect our enjoyment of a story too much to not know ahead of time. Then again, if I’d known so many main characters would get killed off in Game of Thrones, I might not have watched the show or read the books. Amazingly, George R.R. Martin pulls it off well, but most authors don’t. There is a series I was reading awhile back where the love interest dies. He never comes back, though the author spent several books developing him and getting the reader attached. I never would have read that far in had I known. It still irks me. I refuse to buy or read any more into the series. The author lost me by doing that, but she still has a gazillion fans, so I guess it didn’t hurt her much.

      As for reviews with most other types of spoilers, I’d rather there be no reviews anywhere than see the ones that give away too much. Readers know dang well what they are doing when they put too much information in without marking it with an alert. It’s usually done maliciously. I think we’d all be better off without those types around. Anyway, all serious reviewers are very careful not to giveaway major plot points or endings. It’s really not that hard.

  8. Reblogged this on We write so that we don't talk to ourselves.

  9. Great post

  10. Sometimes people also seem to forget if they are reviewing a sequel that not everyone has read the first book, so they give away major plot lines, for example, “John and Henry are now trying to deal with the death of Tom.”

    • Oh yeah, sequels in a series are very tricky to review. Definitely something we should all be careful with. Thanks for making that point, Becky!

      • Good point, Becky. My latest novel JOANNA, is a spin off sequel to the previous book… so I hope I don’t have that problem if and when people choose to review it. Even though both books stand alone and can be read in any order, it could be tricky if certain facts are divulged. Had one 5* review for it so far, and that was OK. Fingers crossed others will be as considerate.

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