Wednesday I wrote about the Three Nevers of Social Media, one of which was “don’t flame other writers in reviews.” This then led to yesterday’s post, Should Authors Write Bad Book Reviews? And, I have to say, you were all BRILLIANT. I was traveling all day, nearly going blind reading your debate over this issue on my iPhone. Yet, this got me to thinking….
Uh, oh. Right? *smells something burning*
For the moment, hold your digital tomatoes. Bear with me and just noodle this.
Is is fair for authors to write book reviews?
I am not taking a side because I am still pondering the idea, myself.
[Go to Kristen Lamb's Blog for the answers to these and other questions] or check out her book, We Are Not Alone.
My story: I was a reader long before I became an author. I reviewed like crazy and am an Amazon top-1000 reviewer. Once I was a Vine reviewer, but quit that program because I could never turn down a book, and all my free time was consuming reading and reviewing.
Then I became an author and the rules changed. The first thing I did was go back through my Amazon review pile and delete all the one-star reviews on books. Is this fair to the readers? who had been warned off of some truly bad books? Possibly not. But I was warned that as an author, it would be unfair for me to give one-star reviews because I could be seen as a competitor.
I continued to give reviews because I truly enjoy reading and reviewing. I figured if I stayed with 3 stars and above, I would be safe. WRONG! I gave a 4 star review to a writer friend. I had previously given her a 5 star to the first book of her series. I liked it and thought it was a great story. Unfortunately, I did not like how the main characters reacted to the new challenge and sympathized with a minor character. I mentioned it in my review, because I figured not liking a character is a "reader's" reaction. Any reader can like or dislike a character, right?
True, but when the character is a friend's nearest and dearest creation, they can take it personally. So end result. I lost a friend. I was very sad and depressed about it for a while, and I deleted the review from Amazon as soon as she asked me to. But being emotional and sensitive authors we are, I also deleted the 5 star review to her previous book because I was angry and felt used.
Which gets to the question. Should we give any reviews now that we're "behind the scenes" "insiders"?
If you've been following my blog, you'll see that I still do. But my guidelines have changed. If it is a book I picked up as a reader would, meaning I browsed Amazon or Goodreads, clicked on and bought the book, or loved a previous book by the author, I will give a reader's review, meaning I will talk about my opinion, what I liked or disliked. I will not pick about grammar, story structure, point of view, head-hopping, walk-the-dog, and other things that editors should have picked up. I will occasionally post a 2 or 3 star review if it is a famous nationally known best selling author who I don't know personally because at this level, my reader hat is more important.
If I don't like a book and can't give it a 4 or 5, I'll ask myself. If I didn't know this author from social media--if this author and I hadn't gotten to know each other on a friendly level on forums--would I have ever picked up his or her book? Would I have known about this book? If the answer is no, I would not have naturally read this book, I decide I'm not the target audience for the book and will leave it unreviewed. I also believe I can still be friends with other authors without liking their books. After all, we have a lot more in common being authors and going through the writing process, than whether their genre suits me or their writing style meshes with mine.
That leaves me with the freedom and fun of gushing over books I truly love and can easily write nice things about. Because I don't want to silence myself when it comes to loving books just because I'm an author. I read a ton more books than I write, and when I've discovered a gem, I want the freedom of speech to say something about it. Whether I'm an author or not.
What do you think? Do you think it's fair for authors to give reviews?