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To Review, Or Not To Review? That Is The Question


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As writers and comic book content creators, we are asked to review products all the time.

Most agree and give a review without a second thought. What happens when you read something that, along with not being that great over all, you find offensive and problematic?

And what if you are a content creator who prides themselves on leaving out the stuff you don’t enjoy in order to maintain a positive atmosphere?

How to Know What Opportunities are Worth it for Content Creators and Which are Not?

Do you do the review and potentially draw negative attention to a company as well as bringing a negative piece of content to your followers?

Followers who are used to nothing but positivity and support from you? Or do you just not do the review and avoid that company in the future? Or am I overthinking the whole thing?

What Do Other Creators Think?

Reaching out to your peers is often the best way to gain broader perspective on a subject such as this. One creator I spoke with had a lot to say and seems to see both sides of the situation.

Getting offered a free book in exchange for a review is always kind of exciting. It can make you feel seen as a creator, but it’s also a double-edged sword. It can create an obligation in your head to be kind or give a good review even if that was never discussed with the publisher. That’s why I’ve turned down every free book I’ve been offered (granted there haven’t been many offers). Each time I’ve been offered a free digital book I’ve asked if I can buy a physical copy instead. I’m always willing to give indie creators a chance and new books a chance. I’d rather spend my own money and then only post a review if I want to versus feeling obligated to create something I either didn’t want to make or don’t feel authentic about. 

I definitely do see the benefits of these reviews from both the side of the content creator and the publisher. As a creator you’re getting something to make content about and a free book. From the publisher’s end, you’re getting nearly free or free publicity for your book. I think an honest conversation needs to happen in regards to these offers though. It’s easy to say “here’s a book in exchange for a review” but I think what more publishers and creators need to make clear is that any review should be an honest one. And an honest review might not be positive.

Whenever I’ve been sent offers for free books my thoughts always go to “what if I hate this?” Taste is subjective and I might not mesh with the writing or art. And worse than that, what if the book has racist or sexist aspects? I wouldn’t feel comfortable promoting something I knew went against my values even if I got the book for free.

I think critical and negative reviews can be valuable but not everyone wants to be the type of creator who focuses on that, and that’s fine. It’s not toxic positivity to not want to post something you don’t enjoy making.

That’s where an honest conversation needs to happen before any content is posted or any books are sent (I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable even featuring a book sent to me for free by a publisher in a haul). Is this publisher aware any review posted will be honest and honesty isn’t always positive? If the publisher isn’t ok with that but still wants to send the book then they need to be prepared for NOTHING to be posted by that creator if they’re not comfortable posting a review.

Jessica Ponte@saucers_and_sorcery

As a content creator it is indeed exciting when a brand or company reaches out. It can feel like an obligation as well. The fear of burning a bridge or never getting another offer can pressure creators to talk about or do things they just may not be comfortable with.

The fear of failure or rejection is a powerful motivational tool. Many companies know this and some take advantage of it.

I personally feel like before agreeing to give a review you clearly state that you will give an honest opinion, even if it’s a negative one.

Tony Abdullah@mrmarvelite

This is normally your insurance policy as a content creator reviewing products. If both parties agree to the fact that the creator is going to give an honest opinion, no matter how good or bad.

That being said, some may not have the confidence to make this assertion. When just starting out, or if it’s the first time a brand reaches out, the pressure to give a good review is there.

You want these brands and companies to continue to reach out in the future. A negative review might deter that company from wanting to pursue further business arrangements.

Don’t think I’ve ever given someone a bad review – but I’ve definitely had people complain about how their story was portrayed and how what “they” wanted in the story wasn’t featured as prominently as they would have liked – but in the end they don’t get to approve the content you create – the creator has to have a creative license to create what they feel is right and say what they feel is right, as long as it’s constructive and truthful. Otherwise, you fall into the pay for play mentality and can quickly lose credibility among your followers.

Michael Rothman – @superherotok

Thought To Leave With

There are a lot of moving parts to deal with as a content creator dealing with brands. Including numerous things to think about when deciding to do a review. Is this going to be good for MY brand? Can this company open doors and opportunities? Are those opportunities worth potentially turning off some of your following? Do you even do the review at all if you find the project problematic?

These are all things we as creators have to decide for ourselves on a case by case basis. My personal opinion is if you’re a person thinking of doing a review, just make sure it’s something you would actually feel comfortable giving a platform to. If you find a short film or a book or something problematic or offensive, it’s okay not to do the review.

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Jeremy Bowersock
Jeremy Bowersock
Hi there, my name is Jeremy and I'm 32 years old from Ohio, and I LOVE comic books! I'm a content creator on TikTok. I also host two podcasts (Crossover Comics Podcast and The Comic Press Podcast). I'm so excited to have the opportunity to shar this amazing world of fandoms with the rest of the world. I want everyone to be able to enjoy and embrace their most nerdy self!

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