When searching for the next book I want to read, I always turn to book reviews. It’s gotten to the point where I specifically look for certain book reviewers I trust, and see what they rated a book before considering reading it myself. Without reading book reviews, I’d start a lot of novels I should have never picked up in the first place.
The vast majority of book reviewers are laypeople, meaning they’re your average Joe, or, for the purposes of this post, non-authors (people who haven’t gotten published). However, what happens when someone is an author? Should they post book reviews? What if they start out unpublished and post reviews, and then become published? Should they take down all their reviews or just the bad ones?
Author Kristen Lamb posted on her blog the Three NEVERS of Social Media for Writers. In this post she talks about avoiding posting distasteful and crude online comments, including being rude on Twitter, and never writing bad book reviews. She believes that a person cannot be both an author and a reviewer.
On one hand, I agree with her. Authors should support each other and one big way to do that is by not posting bad reviews about another author’s work. And, while an author is only human, just like actors and singers and politicians, their opinion – in fact this is the case with anyone who’s looked up to – holds more weight than an anonymous person.
Not to mention that authors tend to think about point of view, character arcs, setting, plot holes, etc. a lot more in depth than most readers. Sometimes this makes enjoying a novel more challenging because authors focus on the smaller aspects of a novel that many lay readers gloss over or accept as part of the fictional world. Readers are reading for enjoyment, and if they find a novel entertaining, regardless of the plot holes or flat, stereotypic characters, they’re more likely to rate a novel favorably. Authors are more likely to get distracted with nit-picking. (An example? In a book I read, character B doesn’t own a cell phone. However, five pages later, character A texts character B. How? I have no clue, but it happened, and I ended up ranting to my friend for a few minutes about how irritating it is to find small inconsistencies like these in novels. My friend laughed and shrugged off my annoyance, telling me to just enjoy the story.)
Because authors are familiar with the craft of writing, they more readily spot problems within the text. Honestly? That kind of sucks.
But it does make a decent argument for why authors should not post bad reviews. Perhaps, authors shouldn’t post book reviews at all.
On the other hand, authors are people. And just because they’re published doesn’t mean their voices should be squashed. One of the great things about authors is that they tend to be voracious readers. They devour books, and if they end up liking a book, then it usually means that book is one to put on your reading list.
I’m not attempting to state my opinion on this matter – I’m conflicted as to where I stand – but I am curious to know what others think. Should authors remain silent when it comes to reviewing books, or should they be able to express their opinions? Should they only express those opinions when their thoughts are favorable?
(Photo courtesy of jay thebooknerd.)