Today, I read this post about upheavals in the Amazon's reviews. I've been following Anne's blog since time immemorial, and her tips have helped me out so much, both in terms of using the blogging platform, and in keeping an eye on things in the publishing industry too. What's more, she's a very determined and self-sufficient lady, who usually knows just how to suss out the issue and step all over it, providing great comfort to the reader.
So, to read this . . . you can just imagine how I, soon-to-be new author on the 'Zon-sphere, felt about this. Especially as I brought up a question that's been bugging me for yonks.
Should authors write reviews?
On a grand scale, this is a daft question - who else would form the panels for literary prizes? - but on a more specific level, I've been conflicted over this ever since I posted my first book review all those months ago.
Arguably, authors can be very biased. We could very well be trying to downtalk a "competitor", or use sneaky forms of self-promotion. We might be paid. We might just be nasty people who don't like it when someone else's book is doing better than ours.
Also, is it really professional to have reviews about your own personal feelings on a book roaming about? It's all very well to talk about in passing, but to write whole reviews on it?
Reading Anne's post, however, kicked me over the threshold that previously I'd only prodded with the very tips of my heaviest steel-toed boots.
Every writer was a reader first. Every writer had a favourite author they would hold in pride of place on their shelves and curl up under the bedsheets with at night. Every writer has waited excitedly for the release of a long-anticipated book, and squee'd excitedly with their fellow fans upon its release.
Besides, one might argue, authors could almost make better reviewers than non-writers. I know I've certainly found myself eyeing the construction of plot twists, keeping tabs on the opening stages of character development and rewording awkward sentences in my head since I really got into my writing about five years ago.
Of course, readers are more than capable of doing this too - by no means are they all sheep of the same breed - but authors, who have a greater understanding of the technical side of writing, and who can perhaps relate personally to executing a difficult climax or type of narrative, might have a little more insight into reasons why a certain book is the way it is*. I've certainly forgiven Susanne Collins a few of her oft-bemoaned evils since trying to write convincing short-term death scenes of my own.
(* = note: However, nothing will EVER make me forgive James Joyce for the impenetrable labyrinth of creamcrackery that is Ulysses.)
Therefore, authors-to-be, don't be afraid to write reviews; you have every write to critique the works of your fellows, just as they have every right to do the same to your own works. What's more, while Amazon and others of its ilk may be going through squicky patches on the subject, there is no reason to fear writing reviews on your own blog. It won't make you look unprofessional or snarky - I know I'm certainly more inclined to relate to and be interested in an author who has a thing or two to say about other books beyond their own!
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a pressing meeting with a shelf full of paperbacks begging for my attention. One or more of them may soon be making an appearance in my review sidebar, too.
~ Charley R