Thursday, 10 January 2013

On The (Re)Views of Authors

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


  1. Hi, this is Quirk. I just wanted to pass on a message from Liam: if there's a way to unsubscribe someone from your FeedBurner email subscription, please unsubscribe him [Liam]. It's nothing personal, he assures you, but he's not getting anything from you. The email he used was liam.wood[at]optimum[dot]net. If you could do that, Liam says it would be great. If not, Liam says he will burn you to a crisp and feed your ashes to his sentient kazoo. And now he says to tell you he didn't actually tell me to tell you that. He changes his mind too often.

    I personally wanted to let you know that my blog has a post up-- just in case you wanted to check it. I'm rather proud of it. I had to torture Liam to get the correct HTML codes for some things (which he says he gave freely, but I doubt that-- wouldn't that mean that the intensive Latin session was voluntary?), but I got it up. I'm awesome. Also, I wanted to know how you put up the widget you have on the right of your main text-- the one labeled Author's Darlings-- and how you get it to have the first lines. Does that come with it?

    Anyway, Liam just read through your post and he says it's good. He thinks that writers should write reviews because of a few things you briefly touched on-- one, that a writer can better perceive what makes a story great instead of making a statement of good versus bad and stopping there. Two, that all writers started out as readers who wanted to learn from the books they read-- someone with that mindset wouldn't bash a respectable author simply out of spite. And three, that writers should write whatever they want, and Quirk should keep his nose out o-- wait. Never mind that last part.

    1. Haha, hi Quirk!
      I can try and deal with the email subscription if you fancy, though I'm not entirely certain how.

      As for the widget - if you go to Design, then Blog Layout, then go to one of your sidebars and click Add Widget, my "Author's Darlings" is a "Popular Posts" widget with the name changed. Enjoy!

      Please relay my thanks to Liam for his views, too! They are always appreciated.

  2. Oh, I never thought about authors having alterior motives for reviewing books before. It's an interesting thought. But I agree--your going to read a book review, you might as well read one from someone who knows about books, and who better than an author? Good post. :)

  3. Yes the whole Idea that authors are out to get each other's sales like one toothpaste over another is simply... RIDICULAOUS!

    Seriously - a reader is probably to try your books if you bash her/his favorite author, so being mean spirited just doesn't make sense. - the there's the back scratching, which I suppose is more likely to happen (I'll give you a 5 star if you give me one) But really? unless that author tends to read your type of stuff, it doesn't make sense. And even then they ought to be perfectly honest.

    Anyway that's enough babble from me. Tim to head out to get my daughter and her friend to Tae Kown Do. :}

    1. Well said, mine fine friend!
      And best of luck to your girl at tae kwon do!

  4. I am absolutely decided on the fact that writers make good reviewers. The best! They understand, as you say, the treacherous and difficult ravines of killing a character with empathy and originality; they get how fickle those sentences that just don't quite work no matter how much begging and reworking you do are. Writers, in the end, understand writing. Who better (indeed, who ELSE) could you come to for help with your words, criticism, and, ultimately, reviews of your work? Thanks for posting and securing my opinion on the subject. (:

    1. Thank you for eloquently setting out my post in far fewer words than I could, haha!

      I'm glad you like the post, too! I had an awful lot of a hard time deciding on the title, hee hee!