Authors Reviewing Other Authors

I generally make it a rule not to rate or review books written by my author friends (unless I’m blurbing a book). I find that I’m too emotionally attached to the works to give an honest assessment. (Note: Amazon has made it a policy not to allow authors to review other authors, because they are deemed to be in direct competition with each other.)

However, I DO rate books on Goodreads written by authors I don’t know — you know, the dead ones, the famous ones, the ones who are far too busy raking in the dough to notice my little ol’ estimation of their work. Without that emotional attachment to the author or book, I feel like I can just write what I think, which (I hope) is helpful to others who look to a book’s reviews in deciding whether or not to read it. And that system is just fine and dandy when I like a book — slapping a five-star rating onto a book is joyous and fun. All is right with the world. However, when it comes time to give a one-star rating or a poor review, I find myself getting anxious, like I did with today’s review for Dan Brown’s INFERNO:

Inferno (Robert Langdon, #4)1 of 5 stars This is the first audiobook I’ve listened to, so — to be fair — quite possibly it was the nature of “listening” to a book that wasn’t for me. However, I threw in the towel after about 4 and a half hours of listening. So disappointed. I absolutely loved THE DA VINCI CODE and really liked ANGELS & DEMONS. I had started THE LOST SYMBOL when it came out, but didn’t get far into it, because I found it to be more of the same, and I guess that’s how I feel about this book. Unfortunately, it was just taking too long for things to get going. What a bummer.

I feel incredibly ambivalent about this review — any bad review, for that matter. Sure, I didn’t like the book, but I keep thinking about that old adage: “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Particularly because I KNOW how hard it is to write a book. (It’s crazy hard.) And I KNOW how hard it is to receive a poor review. (It’s crazy harder.)

Some of my author-friends don’t review books at all, but I’m not sure that I want to go cold turkey. And I know of one author-friend who only reviews books that she loved, so her Goodreads profile consists of only five-star reviews. I can see why she does this, but, as a reader, I would want to express ALL of my opinions, good and bad. After all, there’s really nothing wrong with a bad review, right? All it means is that particular book did not connect with that particular reader. And as long as that review doesn’t consist of a bunch of name-calling or nastiness, there’s something of value to be learned in why there was no connection, isn’t there? But if that’s true, then why do I feel so crummy?

Authors, do you have a policy on reviewing books?

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4 thoughts on “Authors Reviewing Other Authors

  1. I’m not published in fiction so I’m not on the receiving end of reviews yet, but even so, I don’t like doing them. Individual preferences and biases mean that what I like or don’t like may be very different from someone else. Unless a book is outstanding I don’t offer an opinion. I usually prefer being an influencer for my friends’ books… announcing releases, doing interviews, etc.

  2. I do review books. I was a reader long before I was an author. I read fiction (mostly) and write non-fiction. I would never make a review personal and generally do not review books that I couldn’t find anything at all to like within the pages.

  3. I agree with Doreen, I was a reader before I was an writer. I feel if your work is out there in public, and able to be reviewed by, lets say, The New York Times, why shouldn’t I give it a shot? However as an unpublished writer I have become aware of how sticky this becomes.

    I have to admit, although I have only written a few reviews on Amazon, most are negative. I don’t bad mouth authors or make sweeping negative statements, I finally realized that need to ‘vent’ comes from the disappointment of reading a book which doesn’t deserve all those 5 star reviews that your friends throw about.

    I have read some Really Terrible novels by well known, best selling authors, and I definitely feel cheated when they are filled with unlikeable characters in unrealistic situations rife with bad dialogue and horribly ridiculous plots. And yes they all had many five star reviews. (At this point, I have bought into the collective “writer’s guilt” and I won’t even mention who the authors are.)

    As for our collective “writer’s guilt’ I find it very unsatisfying to read something and not be able to discuss what I think with the one group who should be most willing to praise or criticize it: other writers.

    As for your opinion of Dan Brown’s ‘Inferno’, I have to agree. It really dragged on and I feel the constant art history lessons, although enlightening, slowed the pace considerably.

  4. I review when I feel compelled to but mostly my reviews are on Goodreads. I rate almost all the books I read (star rating) but will only write sentences if the books demands it. Though subjective, reviews do help some people when deciding to buy a book, and if anything they help authors become more visible in the online, social media community. There are promotional opportunities for writers that will only consider a book with 10 or more reviews. Arbitrary or not, that’s how they have decided to sort the wheat from the chaff. I think budding authors need reviews more than famous authors who already have wide-spread appeal. New authors need a certain degree of support and sure, reviews can be biased and personal but it’s how “the game is played” so many readers are used to that system.

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