Friday, December 3, 2010

Reviewing as an Author: to shut up or not to shut up

I apologize for the lack of posts over the past few weeks. I promise I'll do better in the new year, mostly because I should be less busy at work (I hope anyway!). I was trying to finish a book so it made eXcessica's 2011 catalogue. It did (pub date: November 18 far away!). So now, hopefully I can relax a little. And read, a lot. And write some more. Isn't that what a writer does though?
You see, I've been following the discussion at Dear Author about reviewing. The gist of it is that you shouldn't (badly) review a book in your genre because of the possibility of being maligned forever (the term 'professional suicide' was banded about, but I'd rather ignore that one). I don't understand this point of view at all. To be fair, I'd never even thought of it. If you don't read your own genre, you'll never progress as a writer... Or is it just me thinking that?

I also don't get why you shouldn't write a bad review if you didn't like a book. Sure, you're not going to trash it (otherwise, well, I won't be your friend anymore!), but you can still say why you didn't like it and why it didn't work for you. No? 
OKay, so it might be different if you're a professional reviewer. I only write reviews on Goodreads, and short ones at that. But, if I want to write a  review and explain why I really didn't get a ménage novella by Maya Banks that countless others have adored, will that be taken as jealousy by others? Will it screw up her sales? Of course not, it's Maya Banks! I might have liked some other books of hers but not that one, and it's my right to say that. 
Apparently not.

I must admit I'm a bit shocked by this whole debate. I hadn't realized I should keep my mouth shut so I didn't rock the boat. Aren't we all supposed to be in this together? Are authors really that jealous of each other? What do you think? Would you rather not say what you thought of somebody's work, just in case it bit you in the butt later on? Or, would you be willing to explain why it didn't work for you? 

Constructive criticism is something you learn to deal with when you're a published author and you start receiving reviews, good or bad. People might love your work, people might hate it, but it's always better to know... Isn't it?


C.J. Ellisson said...

God post - I haven't read the discussion you're referring to though. I think an author needs to be very careful what they say about another author's work in public.

Constructive criticism, as you said, is good. But only if it is delivered in a professional matter - such as in a private email to an author you know. To offer it up in a public review is considered bad form in a professional setting.

Think of it in regards to competing stores - they both have the same type of merchandise, but may carry different lines and price things differently. For one store to publicly bash the other for any reason could be cause for a law suit.

I'm not saying a review is the same thing, but as writers we need to always be respectful of boundaries.

If you honestly don't like a work, just refrain from mentioning it or reviewing it anywhere. You'd want the same courtesy from a peer, right? Whether we like it or not we are no longer just readers or "consumers" we are now professionals in the field we're reviewing, and yet trying to couch it like we're not and just a consumer.

I didn't know you write erotica too! WTG Gf, I was just checking out your blog when I was on the Networked blog app on FB.

C.J. Ellisson said...

Whoops - damn I hate the no editing feature - meant to say Good and not God!

And I should have read the name - sorry Emma! I thought I was writing to Katie!

Willsin Rowe said...

It's a tough one. Since I'm only an amateur (and occasional) reviewer, I feel quite okay with my decision ONLY to post a review if I enjoy the work. This is motivated by the "if you can't say anything nice..." philosophy. I think when you're a writer who reviews, you're already a little compromised. Constructive criticism is always good, but in many cases is still just opinion-based.