Chat Between Chapters: Authors Writing Book Reviews: Okay by Me or Bad PR?

January 19, 2014 Chat Between Chapters, Featured Posts 37

chatbetweenchapters2

 Is It okay for authors to write book reviews? Or is it bad idea? Do you think author’s reviews hold more weight than a reader’s review? What if an author writes a bad review?

 

Rose review avatar Rose:

Okay so this is something that I have definitely been struggling with lately. I really enjoy reviewing books. However, I am also an aspiring writer. I would like to publish my first book this year and therefore, I have not posted any reviews since making the decision to become an author. First, allow me to say that I have always tried to maintain honesty in all of my reviews. I do not purposely write a bad review. That being said, if there were some things in a book I reviewed that I did not like, I would not hesitate to point them out. I would always try to say something positive about the book as well. My desire as a book reviewer was to be able to recommend good books to fellow readers with similar tastes. How exciting to lead someone to their next new fave book, right? So to answer the questions, on a personal level, no I do not think I should continue to review books if I am serious about being an author. Now, do I have an opinion on other authors reviewing books? Well, my basic philosophy is this: If you have something good to say about the book, say it. Shout it. Spread the news. However, as an author’s word tends to hold weight among readers, I would think it best if the author does not say anything negative that could result in another author loosing money. Does that makes sense? In other words, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.  However, as a reviewer, I say, say what you think and mean what you say, but stay away from cruelty to the author. Judge the book on its own merits. If you do not like how an author has behaved and therefore will not buy their books, that is understandable. But state your issue and let it be. Do not harass or make it your sole mission in book blogging life to torment or otherwise berate a single author. After all, isn’t this supposed to be about books we love?

 

Julie Review Avatar Julie:

This is a really delicate topic I think because I’ve seen quite a few authors reviewing books on Goodreads for example and I think it is alright. I know a few bloggers and authors who do I still see posting book reviews, but I don’t see that often. I definitely understand when an author with a contract through a publisher doesn’t review books, or can’t even, because of a conflict of interest possibility. I don’t know if this applies to indie/self-pub authors though. Sometimes posting reviews, even negative ones, can show what your book will be like. For example if an author’s review is critical of certain aspects of a writing style, then we can expect that person’s book to not have those issues. Also I can kind of see the point that authors should be supportive of each other so a negative review is counter-productive to the author community, but I also think that shows the person is honest and you can sort of trust them as an author to deliver what they say they will. So I don’t really know if it is a big deal or bad PR or something but I can see where it can be a bad idea in certain circumstances. 



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37 Responses to “Chat Between Chapters: Authors Writing Book Reviews: Okay by Me or Bad PR?”

  1. Kemya Scott

    I never thought about this conflict. What if the books you review aren’t in your genre? I don’t think that would be a conflict. But writers are also readers, and I’m sure writers would like feedback from other writers too. So as someone posted earlier, unless the book just flat out sucked, I think it’s ok to post a review.

    Another thing to consider is that the reader of the review isn’t necessarily familiar with the author providing the review. In this case, there’s no conflict. You started a great discussion!
    Kemya Scott recently posted…Follow Me on Bloglovin

    • Rose

      I think I agree. I really wouldn’t care if I was an author and another author reviewed my work. But I do think that if you are an author reviewing another author’s work and you have nothing kind to say, keep it to yourself.

  2. Buffy

    This is definitely something I considered when I started my blog. I don’t like to write negative reviews. I’ll only post about books that I’ve enjoyed reading. I may have some constructive criticisms about the book I’m writing a post about, but I don’t like to be negative. Although, I will do a negative post about a book if it’s offensive such as when the author (not the story) is misogynistic, racist or otherwise horrible.

    I’ll usually put a book down if I don’t like it, though. I don’t have time to waste on books that aren’t good.
    Buffy recently posted…Heat Wave

    • Rose

      Buffy, I agree about putting the book down and not wasting anymore time on something you simply aren’t enjoying reading. I am trying to do that this year and not waste my time. I find negative reviews rather easy to write and uncomfortable to post. I find positive reviews (for books I truly loved) extremely difficult to articulate and yet, I want to post them immediately. I guess you just can’t win. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

    I think it’s quite alright for an author to continue to review books, because most authors are also readers, no? I know some authors who will post reviews only of the books they enjoyed, so as to not make any ‘enemies’ if they don’t like a book and say it loud and clear.

    I can understand that sometimes, it is a hard choice to make, though, since some authors don’t want to see any negative reviews of their work at all. And with publishing houses not wanting two authors published by them critically reviewing the other’s book(s).

    I guess each author has to go with their gut-feeling on this – just like reviewers do. We all have our way of reviewing, our way of telling our followers why we liked or didn’t like a book.

    Good luck, Rose 🙂
    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews recently posted…Discussion Thursdays with Luxa: When Favorite Books have Babies

    • Rose

      Thanks Lexxie! And yes, I think it is safe to say that most all authors are readers as well.

    • Rose

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Mariko. This is along the lines of what I was thinking.

  4. Charlotte @ Thoughts and Pens

    I am not really sure how things work when the authors are the ones writing the reviews. In my opinion, being an author shouldn’t stop them from writing reviews for other books whether the review is positive or not. The important thing is that they should be objective about it.

    Negative reviews may mean bad for business of other authors but let’s look at the positive side of things. The author’s writing skills always needs improvement even if she’s already as famous as JK Rowling. How could she improve when the reviews of her books are all positive? Sure, there might be negative reviews from bloggers. While that is very helpful, I think it would be much helpful if the negative review is written by a fellow author.

    Through negative reviews, authors can help one another improve their craft because first and foremost, they are the masters when it comes to writing. I must say that negative reviews are a great tool to swap writing techniques and to coach other authors of their writing. Negative reviews can be really helpful for debut authors I suppose.

    Lovely discussion, Ladies!
    Charlotte @ Thoughts and Pens recently posted…Book Review: Cruel Beauty

    • Rose

      Charlotte, I never considered this angle. This is true. However, I suppose I feel that helpful negativity, or constructive criticism should only come after the author has solicited a review from you (assuming “you” is a writer) Few people like the receiving a advice without having first asked for it.

  5. Leah @ Books Speak Volumes

    This is a really interesting topic that I hadn’t thought of before. I know a few authors on Goodreads, and having read and enjoyed their books, I enjoy seeing their thoughts on other books I’m interested in reading. On the other hand, I can see how authors wouldn’t want to be seen as putting down other authors, their peers, with bad reviews. You both make good points!
    Leah @ Books Speak Volumes recently posted…Jazz Age January: Careless People by Sarah Churchwell

    • Rose

      Thanks, Leah. Yeah, it is hard to know exactly which way is right. You want to review honestly, but at the same time, you do not want to put down anyone else, less someone think you are trying to exalt yourself. Thanks for sharing!!!

    • Rose

      I mostly agree with you, Alison. But, playing devil’s advocate here, what if the book really really sucked? How can one politely say, um, the book sucked. ?????

      • Alison

        HaHa! Yeah, I’d probably refrain from talking about it if it just straight up sucked. But, I wouldn’t bother reading the whole thing either if it didn’t have ANYthing worth continuing on for. So, I think if you make sure to highlight those redeeming qualities in an encouraging way, then you can usually keep from offending people. There are always those people that are so easily offended that they’d get ticked at a good review,though. But, they are worth worrying about.
        Alison recently posted…Indie Author Book Blast & Giveaway

  6. Monika

    I’m definitely okay with seeing reviews by authors. I love to know what books my favorite authors enjoy reading. 🙂 I agree with the others that they should maybe avoid negativity… I think one can be honest without being too negative.

    ~ Monika (another fellow “tribe” member)
    Monika recently posted…It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

  7. Kelly

    I think it’s perfectly ok for authors to write reviews. They may even been even more astute than a regular reader because they know what to look for in terms of craft, structure, etc. I enjoy reading author reviews in the NYT book review and I think it’s part of an author’s job to read all the time. If they’re not reading, they should be writing. And given how much author’s read it’s not surprising that they’d have thoughts to share! I know the author Erika Robuck has a blog where she reviews historical fiction. Do you know any others?

    • Rose

      Kelly, I do not. I liked what you said about reading being part of an author’s job. Good comment!

    • Rose

      Thanks for sharing Kerrie. I have really wrestled with this question. It is nice to hear feedback from someone in a similar situation.

  8. Andi (Estella's Revenge)

    I don’t think I ever considered whether an author should write reviews or not. I don’t think I’d have a problem with it, though writing a negative review could certainly create an uncomfortable situation for that author if they have interaction with the negatively reviewed author. But if you’re fair and even-handed and provide rationale and balance in the review, I don’t think it should be a problem. Mainstream authors certainly don’t seem to have any second thoughts about in the the NYT Book Review and other outlets. 🙂

    Great discussion.

    –Your fellow “tribe” member
    Andi (Estella’s Revenge) recently posted…#CoverHo: Best Winter Covers

    • Rose

      Andi, you make an interesting point that NYT authors and other traditionally published authors are often quoted on other traditionally published author’s books. This is a form of reviewing. And yet, I think of an indie author reviewing other indie author’s works and it seems wrong, somehow, or at the very least, incredibly risky. Perhaps it is because people see traditionally published authors as having “made it” while indie authors are often seen as amateurs and therefore, should not be reviewing? What do you think?

  9. Lizzy

    I think that authors should review if they want to, but they have to be very careful.

    1 — Don’t participate in review exchanges with other authors. Even if your honest, it makes you look bad.

    2 — Abide by the rules of the review site. For example, Amazon does not allow authors to post negative reviews of books in the same genre that they write.

    3 — Don’t review books by authors you are friends with. Even if you’re honest, it looks bias.
    Lizzy recently posted…Need to Write Reviews List for 2013

  10. Danie @ The Bookish Brunette

    I’m on the fence, but for sort of a different reason. I don’t know if I’d say that I value an author’s opinion more than a blogger’s. Actually, I think it’s a case by case basis, at least for me. I have a few bloggers whose opinions I always ask, because they have the same taste as me, the same likes and dislikes, etc etc. If they say I will like the book, 9 times out of 10, they’re right. With an author, that’s not always the case. I follow authors because I like what they’ve WRITTEN, not for what books they read. With bloggers, it’s the opposite.

    Then,(and Julie and I were just talking about this briefly on Twitter), it’s kind of like a job interview almost. With an author reviewing a book (especially one where the author writing the review is friendly with the author who wrote the book), it’s almost like giving your best friend’s name as a job reference. Of course they’re going to say nice things – they want you to succeed! On the flip side of that though, you don’t want to say another person would be crappy at the job, because that almost makes it seem like you think you’re better than everyone.

    So ultimately, I think it’s a really fine line to walk. If, as an author, you choose to review books as well, you never want to gush too much, or come down too hard.
    Danie @ The Bookish Brunette recently posted…The Sunday Post (5)

      • Rose

        I do have a few author’s I will read almost anything she recommends. Tammara Webber is one of these authors. She seems to like to read gritty contemporary YA and NA romance. I love her taste in books.

  11. Rebecca @ Love at First Book

    I think it’s 100% okay for an author to write a book review. I do think it weighs more highly than a “regular reader” because it’s someone in the spotlight that we look up to as a model in literature. I believe that all reviewers should be gentle when reviewing negatively, because even if a book is HORRIBLE, it’s still someone’s book baby and has to have some good qualities hidden inside it. I think a fair review tells all of the goods and bads about a book, even if some of the bards are harsh, they need to be honest and offset by a positive or two.

    Thank you for linking this at the Spread the Love Linky Party – I also pinned it! 😀

    Rose, do you have a Pinterest account? I always tag Julie in the pin, but I wasn’t sure if you had an account, too!
    Rebecca @ Love at First Book recently posted…Spread the Love Linky Party: Co-hosted by Doing Dewey

    • Rose

      Rebecca, I do have an account but cannot for the life of me remember how to sign in or even what my sign on was. I need to set one up. I am procrastinating. Good comment btw… I agree that an honest review has both the good and the bad and being gentle with the bad is definitely a must. Not just to be kind, but because there is no need to bash another author simply because you did not like the book.

  12. Braine Talk Supe

    Yet another great discussion ladies!

    Yes it is tricky because an author’s voice is louder than an average reader/blogger. Whatever the situation is, whether the author liked the book or not, I think it’s important to keep it in perspective and constructive. Or just mention the good points and skip mentioning the bad parts. Maybe not get too nitpicky or skip the comment part and just give a rating.

    At least that’s what I will do if I were an author reviewing a fellow author’s book.
    Braine Talk Supe recently posted…Bought Borrowed & Bagged #84

    • Rose

      Thanks! yeah, it is really hard to say how to handle this. Sometimes I feel like if a reviewer is only willing to say nice things and never comment on what didn’t work for them or what they didn’t like, then they are not a very reliable reviewer.

  13. Holly Letson

    I don’t mind seeing reviews from authors about other authors’s books, so long as they are open and honest. Having said that, I don’t think authors should rate/review their own books.

    • Rose

      Holly, have you actually seen an author rating his/her own work? Wow. I do not think I have ever seen that. I agree that authors probably should refrain from reviewing their own work.

      • Holly Letson

        Yes, I have seen it happen a few times on GR, where authors 5-star their own books, and say something like “It’s my book, so, of course, I love it! :)”. ( https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/207071706?book_show_action=false is one such example. ) I doubt their one 5-star rating raises the rating of the book(s) much. I just prefer for people that read the book to be the ones reviewing them, that way they can tell me what they liked/disliked about it. I don’t think an author could do that about their own book, no offense.

        • Rose

          Holly, I agree. And now that you have mentioned it, I think maybe I have seen that on GR before. Yes, I, too think it would be hard to review your own book objectively.

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