The Story Siren has a post up about author/reviewer relationships; and since it took seven tries to write a comment that wasn't the length of This Is All: The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn, I knew I would be writing something up here.
Story Siren's question: Are author/reviewer relationships a good thing or a bad thing? And she goes on to ponder things like a reader being a fan, and how being friends influences reviews, etc. Reviewer X continues the conversation, concentrating on the idea of 'negative' reviews. Both blogs have some interesting comments, with a variety of perspectives.
To back up a little, I've written before about reviews and reviewers and bloggers: We Don't Need No Stinking Book Reviews; Another Article About Those Darn Bloggers; bloggers represent a dead end; and you may remember when Critical Mass's Ethics in Book Reviewing post, which I thought I wrote about, but apparently not. I think a few years back there was something about reviewers and friends reviewing books? Anyone remember? I'm just finding stuff like this.
And for the record? It is different when we're talking "professional reviews." Among other things, those reviews are for journals where the reviewer does not select the book(s) they review; an editor is involved in the process; and the review is written for journal requirements and guidelines (i.e., it's not about whether the reviewer likes the book, it's whether the book is being recommended for purchase or is a good work of literature, etc.) See Carlie Webber's recent post at Shelf Space).
Topic. And I mean it this time.
Authors and bloggers are part of today's book community; as such, they will be friends and friendly. The level may vary -- a Twitter friend versus a real life friend. Sometimes someone may be both. It's a bit ridiculous to say there should be an iron curtain, especially as some people start as bloggers and then may become published authors; or authors may also blog about books.
I'm a big fan of transparency and awareness. So, if you're friends with an author whose book you review or discuss on your blog, mention it. It doesn't have to be anything huge; and of course there is a difference between being friendly -- some tweets back and forth over favorite TV show and the like -- and going over to someone's house for dinner.
Is it necessary to disclose who you follow on Twitter? Friend on Facebook? Comment back and forth on blogs? No. It depends on the level of the relationship. When I review my friend Christine Marciniak's book, I'll mention that we've been friend since fifth grade. If I review a book by Coe Booth, I'm not going to say "BTW, we follow each other on Twitter and sometimes send tweets back and forth." I'm not going to say, "this author left a comment on my blog three months ago and now I'm posting about her book."
Use your judgment (and for the most part, bloggers do use their judgment and think about these things). As always, the good rules of thumb: "If I was reading this blog post, would I want to know this about the author/blogger relationship?" and "Do I think I may be influenced by that relationship?"
Which brings us to awareness: being aware of how that relationship affects how you're blogging. If the authors you know are ones that you're reviewing, make sure you review some books by authors you don't know, for instance. A much harder issue is when the book isn't good. Some bloggers don't post reviews of books they don't like because, since blogging is voluntary, they don't have to finish the book. So that's an easy answer.
But.... but you finish the book. And you think there are flaws. And you know, if the author were anyone else, you'd post a critical review. That is the real issue.... and that's up to the individual blogger how to handle. It's a tough one; it's a real issue. But c'mon... we are still all part of one community. So we can still be friendly and friends.
While I tend to be a "I didn't finish it so I'm not going to snark about it" blogger, I do like snark. And I appreciate accurate, critical reviews. Because -- sometimes, the book isn't good. I'm not saying "oh, I didn't like the book", which is a different post. I'm not talking reviews that tell me more about the reviewer than the book. I'm talking when characters are weak; plotholes abound; writing is choppy. And guess what? I want to know that! I don't want to waste time and money on a book that isn't all that.
Which brings me to the authors in the relationship. Yes, I understand that the book is your baby. Yes, I know it was a lot of hard work. Yes, I know the dread of "omg what if someone hates my book." I'm right with you, sweating over reviews, waiting for royalty statements. (Remember, I cowrote Pop Goes the Library). Don't respond to reviews you don't like. Don't pressure bloggers for reviews or feedback (and yes, even a status email can be seen as pressure). Don't get angry at the idea of reviews being anything other than positive and rainbows.
© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy