Friday, February 13, 2015

Author "Slash" Book Reviewer, and Not the Other Way Around

Zoolander - The SlashiesSeveral book reviewers are also authors, which makes a lot of sense. If you read that much and understand what makes good, and bad, novels, it stands to reason you might also be pretty good at writing them.

But there’s another school of thought. If you’re an author, with your work out there, is it wise to nitpick other books? I’ll admit that, personally, I subscribe to this perspective. While I used to review books on Goodreads, now that my own writing is out there, I feel weird about criticizing another book publicly. How can I lament the poor pacing or character development in a novel when I know the pacing and character development in my own books isn’t perfect?

But, to be clear, that’s just a personal choice for me. I don’t think authors necessarily shouldn’t review books, but I do wonder what, if any, additional considerations they should take? What do you think? What are the disadvantages and advantages of being an Author/Book Reviewer?

Lisa: I'm not sure on the answer of whether or not it's wise for authors to nitpick other authors' books, but I am sure  whether or not that's something I want to do. No. As an author, I know what a hard job writing a book is, so I hesitate to publicly criticize someone's hard work. Publicly is the key word here. Authors will talk among themselves about shoddy editing, plotlines or characters: "What was she thinking?" The craft of good storytelling is such a subjective thing, so I think it's a good idea to let the readers hash out their negative opinions on the end product, and this author stays out of it. Yes, I'm a reader also, but I'll still leave the criticizing to readers-only. You could say that I'm doing a disservice to the author, not letting him/her know my opinion. How can a writer improve if s/he isn't hearing what he needs to hear? To that my answer is: When or if I see a story that could benefit from my opinion, I might contact that person privately. Might. It just depends on how receptive I think the author might be.

Karlie: I'm kind of in the middle here - I'm a member of a private book club (we critique each other's work), and we're usually pretty straightforward with each other. If there's something not adding up, well, someone's going to point it out. And that's awesome. I wouldn't have it, or do it, any other way. But as for publicly criticizing someone's work - no. I probably wouldn't do that. As an author, I believe criticizing other works is a great learning experience - I have learned a huge amount from my time in the book club. Other than that, I'm staying out of it.

Dan: This is an interesting question, and one that was debated recently by the Rocket Talk podcast (run by an author and blogger who'd been a well-known book reviewer). There's almost a conflict of interest for people who were multiple hats in the publishing industry, like authors who are also book reviewers, or even editors who are also authors. It's a difficult balance to achieve, especially given the important influence that book reviewers can have on the success of a book.

Personally, I don't do a lot of book reviews, but I have no issue with writing about someone else's book, what I liked, and what I didn't like. Usually my comments lean more toward the former -- if I don't like a book, I'm unlikely to spend time blogging about it. Unfortunately, I don't have nearly as much free reading time as I once did. My time is given over to my own writing, or else beta reading for my author friends or writing workshops. So I'm not sure how many books I could be reviewing anyway!

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