Tuesday, September 04, 2007

More on the Wearing of Hats

In today's review Jane says to the author "I’d like to thank you again for sending me a copy of your latest book to read. However, when you read my review, I don’t know if you’ll still wish you’d sent it." I know the feeling, from both sides.

To be honest it would be easier if publishers were just publishers, writers just writers, reviewers just reviewers etc etc. But e-publishing is a cozy community. One reason I don't say publishers shouldn't be authors (although it is a conflict of interest) is that I am both a writer and a reviewer (although it is a conflict of interest). Both situations are not necessarily a good idea, but there is room in my philosophy for a lot of things that are not necessarily a good idea--just to keep life interesting.

The only groups that should be the same are readers and reviewers. And reader-reviewers don't get an easy life either because we are so used to reviewers giving sweetheart promo reviews that one that is mixed or tear-a-strip-off critical tends to come as a real slap in the face. One thing we should all remember is that the slap was to the book, which really should not be a proxy for any part of one's anatomy or extended family. If your book feels like your baby it is really not a good idea to post it to people you met over the internet--whether you think they are your friends or not.

So when a fellow author and acquaintance or friend (depending on how you measure relationships conducted entirely over the internet) sends me a book to review I get out my reviewers hat (it is black and very pointy) and I get something of a sinking feeling. I really hope I will like the book, but if I don't I'm not going to lie about it. When reviewing one must act like a reviewer, whose duty is to the readers of fiction, not its writers. (And okay, I don't like negative reviews of my books either but I try to sulk in private.)

That is why once I have cleared my to-be-read pile I will be avoiding that particular nexus of obligations. I'll still review, but never, ever books by people I know--at all. I swear, I need to either read less or make less friends because finding M/M ebook authors that aren't at least acquaintances is becoming pretty difficult these days.

So my bottom line is, be aware that giving critical reviews my lose you author friends, and sending books to reader-reviewers may lead to someone telling you you have an ugly baby.


Dayna_Hart said...

Yknow...the Book as Baby thing has always kind of worried me. I mean...I understand the metaphor...but people who really, truly believe a book and a child are somehow the same...well, that's scary to me.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

That's why I review so few books. But when someone reads mine, I try (try!) to always take what they say as constructive criticism and something to learn from. Try.

Anonymous said...

I certainly understand the dilemma of not wanting to be less than glowing when commenting on the book of a friend or even acquaintance.

However I would like to think that authors whove've had a few books published(I'm lumping myself in there) would accept a review listing a reason why that particular book didn't work for the author/reviewer for what it is--the opinion of one reader instead of dwelling on assumed slights or insults.

I can sympathize with newer writers being upset. It takes a bit of time to build up the thick skin.

veinglory said...

There you go, the valuable service reviewers provide--epidermal strengthening ;)

I still don't like bad review but they are... not a necessary evil--more like a benefical unpleasantness. Like a vaccination....