Thursday, June 7, 2012
Authors reviewing other authors
I enjoy writing reviews but that hasn't always been the case.
I used to be influenced by a true story I read from Joyce Meyer. She'd been feeling flat and downcast for weeks with no idea why. Her husband, Dave, suggested that her doldrums started shortly after she'd verbally critiqued the style of another preacher. Joyce and Dave had been discussing his delivery and content in detail after the event. At first she hotly denied that could have anything to do with her misery but figured out later that it made a lot of sense. God doesn't regard it lightly when we take it upon ourselves to judge or assess the merit of others and particularly of people in the same field we are. Her words struck home to me and I decided I'd steer clear of reviewing other fiction authors' books.
Some time later, I had a completely new thought. I couldn't help appreciating the generous spirit that comes behind an act of writing a review for an author. Writing an encouraging review after finishing a book I'd enjoyed was a gift I could make both the author and potential readers. I dearly love it when people do that for me. Suddenly, I really wanted to bless others the same way. Words are my preferred currency and reviews seemed another good outlet for them, along with novels and blogs. When I write reviews, I like to focus on the positive, excellent things I can find to say, maybe touching on other areas that the author can choose to consider if they please.
Lately, I've come across feedback from a few different sources suggesting that it is a faux pas to write reviews for friends. That was a blow for me because many of the people I've written reviews for have become friends over time if they weren't to start with. We like to stick together in our industry, and we all keep writing books. I'd feel sad to have my voice silenced in a way I can actually bless and encourage others who are also plodding on trying to use stories as their gifts to the world.
I can understand part of the wisdom behind the advice. When you write reviews for friends, do you feel restrained from saying some things so as not to risk hurting their feelings? We can also move into an area where a sense of obligation becomes an issue. If an acquaintance gives your book a 5-star rating and you feel theirs deserves a 3 or 4, what do you do? Also, I've had people who have told me they've got hold of one of my books and then announce, "I've finished," without a review or feedback of any sort forthcoming. It's difficult not to feel crestfallen in these circumstances. We're imaginative people.Our minds can begin teeming with all sorts of gloomy thoughts such as, They know how hard I worked so if they're not doing anything for me, they must think it's awful!
Is it possible for people to sabotage the credibility of their friend's book with their good intentions? I always read Amazon reviews before committing to buy books, and sometimes come across a very low rating with a comment such as, "It's obvious this person asked their friends to spam us with bogus glowing reviews of this very mediocre book. Please do yourself a favor and pay no attention to these 5-star reviews all posted within the same week." If I am to continue to write reviews, I'd prefer mine to be known as honest, well-written and trustworthy that don't play havoc with readers' expectations and lead them astray.
I'd love to know where others stand on this issue of writing reviews for friends and acquaintances. At the moment, I feel that the opinions I express in reviews can still be good and useful, regardless of how well I know the author.
Paula Vince is an award-winning fiction author and homeschooling mother from the Adelaide Hills of South Australia. She writes contemporary drama/romance with aspects of mystery and suspense. Please visit her at www.appleleafbooks.com or www.justoccurred.blogspot.com.
Posted by Paula Vince