Conundrum: Should Authors Wear the ‘Reviewer’ Hat? (Part 2)

Hello again, and thank you for stopping in a second time this week. Here is where we left off (should you be a blog-post behind and want to catch up 🙂 ).

I’ve posted plenty of ‘thoughts on books’ at this blogsite. (They’re categorized under ‘Reviews’ and ‘Thoughts on Books”, but I no longer consider them formal ‘reviews.’ Perhaps I don’t feel qualified to ‘review’ someone else’s work. MHO maintains that critiquing someone else’s story implies I know something more and maybe that just ain’t so. )

Aside: Remembering to post my thoughts at bookseller sites is a whole ‘nother ball-of-wax. Kind of messes with the reasons why one writes them in the first place. 🙂

Like Carrie Rubin, if I do blog about a specific book, I’m going to keep it positive. Most authors invest a lot of time, effort and heart into their works. It’s no fun to feel all that input trashed by someone who didn’t like it.

I know first-hand how it feels to be on the receiving end of some really nice reviews. I’ve also had lower-number-star reviews. These were generally kind, but suggested my debut novel was just okay. (I appreciated the kindness and took the positive out of the reviewer’s thoughts.)

So how do I handle it when my (Ahem!) constructive feedback outweighs the encouraging thoughts?

One: If the book just doesn’t do it for me—even if I promised a review in exchange for a copy of the book—I’ve gone one of two ways. If I can get through it, I’ll keep it positive and hone in on the good stuff. Recently though, I emailed an author with my concerns and why I couldn’t FINISH his/her particular book. (Not that I received a response. Shoulder shrug.)

Two: I will voice my issues with a story in a blog post. I plan on doing so next time—namelessly. Not to trash the author or the book, but to offer suggestions to other writers about tactics, etc, that put me off as a reader, but as a reader-turned-writer too.

And this is where things get mucked up for those of us who wear the author/writer/reader hat. Is it a conflict of interest to consume the very product I produce? I’ve yet to meet a writer who wasn’t an avid reader. (I imagine most of us remain the latter.) My problem: my increasingly critical writer/editor side has messed with my willingness to slog through work that isn’t up to the standards I’ve learned—or have been told—should exist.

Finally, if the reader/writer ‘reviewers’ take that step back and don’t offer their opinions on fellow authors’ works, I think we’d be losing a host of highly insightful thoughts into what makes a book palatable. After all, I’m thinking we be the toughest nuts to crack when it comes to deeming a story a ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ read.

Should we post constructive thoughts, or just the glowing positive thoughts—at our blogs, review and/or bookseller sites?

If the constructive feedback is not terribly discouraging, disparaging and not necessarily overriding the good in the story, sure. I.e.,  ‘this worked for me, but I might have preferred if the author had…”

Hain’t ya glad I didn’t dump all this into a comment on your blog, Carrie?

Your turn, friends. Can’t imagine we’re lacking for thoughts on this. Let ’em ride! 😀

Happy rest of the week and weekend,

Joanna

 

 

 

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15 thoughts on “Conundrum: Should Authors Wear the ‘Reviewer’ Hat? (Part 2)

  1. I have a hard time even saying what you mention at the end. Sure, it might be easier if you don’t know the writer, but if she or he is part of your blogging community, I couldn’t do it. I’d rather send an e-mail and have my say in private. 😦

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    1. I am so with you on that, Tess, and also among the reasons I don’t go the ‘review’ route often. I would never trash anyone publicly–or privately. I also don’t like feeling “cheated” by a review that makes a book sound awesome, but isn’t–at least to me. (Soooo, I don’t want to be put in a position to do the same.)

      Kind of goes back to a lot of this being all MHO and/or inherently subjective anyway.

      Did I make ANY sense?

      Thanks!

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  2. I don’t have much else to say on the subject, but I have been surprised to see reviews by other writers that tear apart the writing of a book. I would worry about doing such a thing, because who’s to say my own writing is any better? None of us can be as objective about our own books as we are others’. That being said, readers have a right to their opinions, and if they didn’t enjoy a book, they have the right to say so. But perhaps they should focus more on analyzing the book from a reader’s standpoint rather than simply supply a critique of the writing itself. That seems more the job of an editor. But I understand there is not a clear line. The writing is, of course, at the root of how well we enjoy a story.

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    1. Not sure I fully understood re: readers and analyzing the story from the reader’s standpoint, Carrie. Did you mean a writer analyzing from the reader’s viewpoint, vs. focus on the writing when giving a review?

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        1. Sometimes I wish I could just be a ‘reader,’ but writing/editing experience makes it very hard for me to separate one from another. Makes me wonder if I would have been as tolerant as I used to be if I hadn’t gotten into writing. I’m thinking that my AADD (‘acquired’ attention deficit disorder 😉 ) might have messed with my willingness to read anything either way. Good point, though. Thanks again!

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  3. I have trouble publicly “critiquing.” When I review, I’m suggesting a book that I liked to readers who enjoy what I enjoy. If there’s something about a book that I found difficult (and I have before) I just put up a little warning about it. Usually when it goes overboard to the violent or intimate.

    One time after I really hated a book, I used it as a short series of what readers hate about books. I never named the book or author (don’t even remember the book’s title) but I carved it to pieces – as a reader more than a writer. To me, it was a safe way of letting my opinions be heard without ripping someone’s “baby” to shreds.

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    1. Perhaps you knew me (well!) in another life, Marji. You’ve given my thoughts the exact words I needed twice now.

      Any unsolicited ‘review’ I post is exactly what you’re describing–sharing about and/or suggesting a book that resonated with me in some way.

      Hmm–‘venting’ about a book I didn’t like:

      I had the privilege of hearing author Jane Porter speak. What I remember most was her advising the audience to never underestimate who our writing might reach. I have some ‘venting’ coming up, so I guess our blogs can be a place to express frustration? And maybe someone with writing aspirations might hopefully get something from it? Who knows?

      Thank you!

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  4. I will say this, when I’m asked for a review or even feedback from a fellow author, I always look for the positive. There is always something good you can talk about. If it is a review, I stop there. If it’s a critique, then I point out places where I was pulled from the story and make a suggestion. They are always suggestions. The writer has to make the final choices. It’s his or her story.

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    1. Great points, Stacey, especially the final one. I tend to include both, but try to always lean on the side of positive, and honest as possible.

      Critiques, to me, are learning tools. I’ll be critiquing/venting next. Sometimes, “ya gotta” 😉😁

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