Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Should Authors Review Books?

Yes.
And No.

I'm torn. As a writer, I read tons and tons of books. I'm a reader too. Why can't I tell the world about the latest book I've fallen in love with?

I rave about the books I love.
I don't mention the ones I don't.

BUT

As a writer, penning a review will automatically put me in conflict. If it's a book by a friend, will I give it 5 stars no matter what? No. I recently gave a book by a friend 4 stars because - after acknowledging what a great book it was, I gave it 4 stars because I said that was more believable than a friend raving and giving it 5 stars.

Which is bonkers.

ON ONE HAND
I love books, and love sharing the love of those books with others.

BUT
after a while all my books on goodreads and Amazon show only 5-star reviews, so I look like I rave and shout about every book I read. Obviously, I don't. I read a lot of books that don't appeal to me, but I only end up reviewing the ones I love.

AM I DECEIVING EVERYONE?

Yes
and No

Here we go round in circles again.

I don't 'slag off' books. Last year, I did give a book I was reading a less than stellar comment. My problem was that I made comments as I was reading the book, which is a dangerous thing to do. The comments started off glowing (as I fell madly in love with the book) and then tapered off into the "wait, what?" territory as the book took a strange turn and the structure, for my liking, fell apart.

Guess what happened? I got an email from someone in publishing saying how much they didn't appreciate the comments about a fellow author's book.

That made me feel like throwing up.

So then I removed every less-than-four-star review from Goodreads. I mean, I'm not a full-time reviewer, so it's not my job to review every book I read, right? So I stuck to only raving about the rave-worthy ones and didn't bother with the others.

THIS YEAR, Kate Cuthbert spoke at the RWA conference on the gold coast, recommending all authors to get off Goodreads. Why? Because we'd always be conflicted. If we only say nice things, we're not honest. If we only review the books we love, we're still not being honest.

BUT I STILL LOVE TELLING PEOPLE ABOUT BOOKS I LOVE.

So yes, I am conflicted. I'm going to have a bit of a think about this, because if every author stopped reviewing books on Amazon and Goodreads, I reckon half the reviews would disappear.

Authors hang out in writer circles and make friends with loads of other authors. It's impossible to be impartial. Personally, I like to help other authors out. If I like their book, I like to tell people about it. When they're a good friend and they've been wonderful ... sometimes their books just aren't for me. But I won't write a negative review because I want to still be their friend. Every author feels this at some point.

And I don't have time to read every book. Just because I haven't reviewed your book, doesn't mean I hate it. Honestly.

There are rumours aplenty that Amazon is going to remove author reviews. No absolute statement yet, but a few emails back and forth . . .

I'm human. When someone tells me I can't do something, it gets my back up and I want to do it. BUT, over the past year, I've come to realise that as much as I love books, I don't think I can review them any more. Not a proper review, per se. BUT, when I love a book, I still want to share the love.

I'm still working it out.

What do you think? Do you think authors should review books?

*update: Lordy lordy, massive typo in the headline. Can't even spell revewi, reveiw, review!

7 comments:

Stephanie @ Read In a Single Sitting said...

Great post, Ebony. This is something I've been thinking out now that my book is floating out around on publishers' desks. I'm thinking about moving RIASS more towards features and interviews, or reviewing only in genres that aren't my own. Or perhaps even focusing more on themes and issues in books rather than actually reviewing them.

As a blogger I'm similarly conflicted about reviewing books by authors I know, whether in person or online. You know I'm a huge fan of Ondine, and I'm dying to read the third one, but I think I'll feel iffy about reviewing it since we're buddies.

(PS, you're not alone about that grumpy email from someone in publishing. I know of another author who has received a similar note.)

Ebony McKenna. said...

Oooh, You've raised a good point Stephanie,
you were blogging and reviewing for ages before the book went out to publishers ... it's only a matter of time before you join 'our side' and . . .

yes, very tricky.

And for the record, for everyone else, we didn't meet in person until long after you reviewed the second Ondine, LOL! And the problem is, now we are friends, so ... yeah, that probably would colour your review.

What about reviewers who end up making friends with published authors - because they admire them so much? :-D

Maybe reviewers should only review books by authors they can't stand. Yeah, that's the answer!

Stephanie @ Read In a Single Sitting said...

Ha! Yes, I'll confirm that about Ondine! No nepotism there! :)

You know, as much as it pains me to say it, I bet a site that'd dedicated to absolutely shredding books and their authors would probably be hugely popular. People seem to like train wrecks!

Ebony McKenna. said...

Book shredding . . . ohhhhh, I found loads of sites.

This one is hilarious. It's really bad reviews of "good books".

http://badreviewsofgoodbooks.tumblr.com/

Cathryn Hein said...

This is such a dilemma and I'm such a sook that I made the decision early on to not review or rate any books anywhere. I'll happily rave about a book I loved in a tweet or Facebook comment and in person, of course, but that's about it. So much safer!

Ebony McKenna. said...

I think that's probably the sensible option.
Mentioning books I love on twitter or fb, or here on the blog (where I blather about all sorts of things anyway) is something I'm already doing.

I can see myself deleting my Goodreads reviews in the near future.

Heather said...

I definitely think they should. It goes back to that do for others what you want them to do for you. However, I think reviews still need to be honest. I'm like you, I only review books I love and I'm comfortable with that.