Last week at my RWA Chapter meeting, we had the awesome Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books come and speak to us. While she had plenty of informative and entertaining things to say, and had the power to send our waiter running back to the kitchen several times with a red face, she brought up the topic I’d like to discuss today, and that has to do with reviews. Most of it was letting us know how all reviews – even the 1-star ones – are good (even if they don’t feel that way), but she briefly touched on the topic of how she believes authors should be able to review the books of other author’s honestly. So what do you think?
Should authors be able to review books honestly?
I’m one of the authors that will rate some books I enjoy on Goodreads, and may occasionally leave a review if I really loved a book, but for the most part, I’ve moved on to doing nothing. While a very small part has to do with lack of time, a lot of it has to do with knowing it isn’t in my best interest, professionally, to voice a negative opinion of other author’s books. The potential backlash isn’t worth risking my career, so I keep my trap shut.
And I’m hardly alone. Many authors have taken to not reviewing books they would only be able to give a negative review to for fear of retaliation and the impact it could have on their career.
But should we have to?
Yes, we’re authors, and I guess because of that, we’re competitors in a way (just ask Amazon, who has a habit of removing reviews by authors for that reason) but we were readers first. Many of us wouldn’t even be writing if we weren’t inspired by the worlds created by another author at some point in our lives. We all have opinions on what’s good, what’s bad, and what has the potential to be better, if x, y, and z are executed in a different manner. In that sense, we’re no different than our non-author peers.
We do, however, feel a lack the freedom to share our opinions as they do because we face possible repercussions, which can be an simple as name calling (you’re just jealous, petty, etc.) to outright career killers, such as a couple hundred readers ganging up to down rate a book. I’ve seen it happen, and it’s awful.
So, to avoid that kind of fate, we go on Goodreads and Amazon and rate books we like or love, but when it comes to books that we don’t love, book that have serious flaws, plot holes, or an obvious lack of editing we back away slowly.
I wonder, however, what good that does? If all we give is positive reviews, it seems we devalue the credibility of our four and five star reviews, because, by all accounts, we’ve loved every single book we’ve ever read. Positive reviews don’t hold much weight when you have no negative ones to compare it to.
So you tell me, should authors be able to post honest reviews?
Is it okay to review books outside of our category/genre, but a conflict of interest to review books in the same category/genre as we write?
As readers and writers, do you only rate books you loved? Or do you see any merit in rating books you don’t?
Readers, do you put much stock in an author’s review anyway? Are you at all influenced by their opinions?
Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts!