Sunday, February 6, 2011

Why Authors Can't Really be Book Reviewers

I've had a thought musing in my mind over the past several months. I worried that I was the only one who felt this way. I even wondered if people would judge me for having this opinion. I kept it to myself.

Then I came across this discussion over at Stacia Kane's blog. WARNING: I keep this blog all things PG, but that post has a touch of language in it.

The discussion is about if you are published, soon to be published, wanting to be published ... should you review books?


See, I used to do that a little bit but realized the children's publishing community is a small world and I started wondering if giving reviews of other novels was a good idea.


I'd like to say that I absolutely love every book I pick up, but that is not honest or fair.

No one does or should
.

But I think as authors (and I would propose aspiring authors as well) we need to think about how we present ourselves within our professional community.


If I adore a book, I'll feel free to shout it out.
If I don't so much...I'll keep my lips sealed.

It is a professional courtesy
....and maybe a little bit of hoping that other authors will extend that same courtesy to my work. Let the book review sites be honest. Let them review what they desire, say what they desire, rate things as they feel they should.


As writers, it is a line we should give serious consideration before crossing.

Question: what do you think about this? it's okay to disagree...let's have a discussion!

24 comments:

Natalie said...

I agree 100%. In the writing world, if you can't say something nice you shouldn't say anything at all. You never know when the author of the book you panned will sit next to you at SCBWI.

Stephanie Faris said...

I think it's best to stay out of reviewing if you're an author or aspiring author. It's tough, because authors are generally avid readers and want to support other authors but I really do believe in this case, the old adage applies that if you don't have anything nice to say, you shouldn't say anything at all.

Solvang Sherrie said...

I only review books I like. It gets tricky on sites like Goodreads because initially I thought of it more as a place to keep track of my true opinions on books. But with so many people friending me and reading my reviews, I've had to do the same thing I do on my blog and only comment on books I like. I won't say good things about a book just because I know the person who wrote it either. I want people who read my blog to know that if I recommend it, I truly like it.

Tess said...

Natalie: exactly! I went to a conference, met an author and she said, "thanks for the 4 star review on goodreads". Luckily, I really liked her book and gave it a good review...but, boy did that experience make me stop and think!

Stephanie: sometimes those old sayings are timeless for a good reason.

Sherrie: me too..that's what I want to do. Celebrate all the books I love...be positive...and let people know that, if I do recommend a book, it is because I truly enjoyed it.

Mary Campbell said...

I do book reviews sometimes and Teaser Tuesdays, but only on books I like. Actually some Teaser Tuesdays can turn out to be books I don't like, but they're only teasers and not that important anyway. My philosophy is - if I don't like a book I'm not going to give it any publicity good or bad. I do however let people know about the content of the book, like if there was some language or sexual situations that went a little too far - especially in YA. But I only do that if I liked the book in spite of those things.
I agree with you - the writing world is a small world - we need tread lightly.

Jennifer Hillier said...

I'm not a skilled reviewer to begin with, but I'm definitely uncomfortable with giving a book a less-than-good review. I just feel like it's bad karma or something! Glad I'm not the only one who feels this way.

Martin Willoughby said...

I do book reviews for hub magazine and it's suprisingly difficult to give bad reviews to books as there's always something to like and admire. Generally I tend to critique it when I'm not over impressed, but that is rare, and show what could have been done better.

What I will never do is criticise the writer or claim that they are not worth publishing/reading again.

lotusgirl said...

That's why I quit doing reviews for a long time, but so many of my followers liked the reviews that I brought them back, but now I only do positive reviews on my blog. I'll only review something I really liked.

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

I put up a post about this on Friday. I hadn't realized at the time how much of a hot topic it recently has been since Stacia Kane put up her fantastic post about it. Things change when you get published. That's all there is to it. Even before you get published it's a good idea to decide where you're going to stand on things like this. It's a hard decision, and doesn't seem fair in some respects, but when all is said and done, professionalism should trump all, in my opinion.

DL Hammons said...

I follow every Mom's golden rule...if you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all. Sometimes a silent void speaks volumes by itself. :)

Tess said...

You know, as you guys talk about this I realize I'm not alone in my feelings and that is a great and wonderful thing!

Still, I think we could all also agree that book review sites ARE important and those that claim that right should not ever feel bad about stating their true (though like Martin and others have said ... no need to be downright mean) opinions on what they read.

I just think writers need to give thought before putting on the reviewer hat.

Do I keep my goodreads acct and just focus on the "good"? Or do I let it go completely? will people care about my reviews if I only post 5 stars? does that give me less credibility?

just wandering questions...

thanks for weighing in!

Mary Aalgaard said...

I like this discussion. I love promoting books that I love. But, not ever book is for every reader. So, I don't do much reviewing.

Nisa said...

I do think we should always be kind in reviews, but I like to know if a book's content is clean and usually no one is reviewing that, so I do, If it swears or has sex/violence, I write about it. I definitely try to say what I love about the book as well though. When crits are offered amidst compliments I think it's easier to not take offense and to really see what the critic is trying to say.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Tess, I have thought about this post for days. Thank you so much for sharing.

WindyA said...

It is such a delicate line to walk, but you're right. A reader will not love everything they read. It's just the nature of writing as an art. There's so much subjectivity. Which I think leads to say sometimes, it is just better to go with "nothing nice to say don't say anything at all." But then, I feel like that's not always honest either, because then it comes across a bit "wow, this person likes everything they read." I used to review. Now I don't. I will give star ratings on GoodReads though, but I'm even pretty cautious about that.

ali said...

I am 100% with you on this one. With reviews I try to follow the "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all," line of thought. If I'm giving a book 4 or 5 stars, I'll add my comments in the review section. But if it's three or less, like you, I keep my mouth shut about it.

Wouldn't want something to come back and bite me in the hiney later on!

Heidi Willis said...

This is such an interesting discussion because it's come up in my life a lot in the past month.

At my MFA program, several teachers said it's vital for authors to be book reviewers. As I write papers on books, I can certainly see how writing about them makes me learn much more than just reading, but to make that public would be a totally different scenario.

At the AWP conference this past week, I went to a panel on book reviews, and one of the panelists says she only says good things in her reviews and one of the audience members practically assaulted her over it. He kept insisting, "People rely on book reviews to be honest." This, too, is true.

I've begun writing about the books I'm reading for grad school on my blog every Wednesday, but so far it's been easy because I've loved all of them. If there's something I don't like, I try to couch it in "In my own opinion," or "This just didn't work for me." Knowing, of course, that for someone else it might totally work.

I guess at this point, I review because I want to share good books, and I try to write them the way I'd want people to write about mine. Honestly, but gently.

Heidi Willis said...

I just read this and thought of you and this post. Very interesting article by an author about bad reviews:

http://www.themillions.com/2011/02/on-bad-reviews.html

Ashley Graham said...

I've actually thought a lot about this, too! Several times, I've thought about reviewing a book on my blog, for example, and decided against it if I wanted to give it a not-so-good review. If I were to get published someday, I wouldn't want another author looking at me negatively or end up bashing me because I first bashed him or her. I suppose it'd be a good way to make a lot of enemies out of your fellow writers, too.

I think it'd probably be best to review a book underneath a pseudonym if you absolutely have or want to, even if you're doing it on sites like Amazon or Goodreads.

L.T. Elliot said...

I do agree with you on this one. Keep quiet if you don't like it. If you love it, share it. I'm going to read that article though because I didn't hear about all this craziness!

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

I definitely agree!

Abby Annis said...

I agree with you. If I love a book and have good things to say about it, I have no problem promoting it. If I have any major issues with it, though, I won't even mention it. Great post!

Sarah Skilton said...

I only post "recommended reads" on my blog. If I don't care for a book, I never mention it publicly. I think it's imperative to be supportive of other writers, but I also appreciate critical thinking at books clubs or other private venues -- otherwise, what's the point in discussing anything if everyone loves every aspect of every book? :)

Tess said...

Thanks for weighing in, all! I was worried for too long that I had over thought this but this tells me I hadn't....that others have the same feelings about that line as well. We all want good book review sites, for certain. We just need to find our place as authors in that realm.