Discussion

{DISCUSSION} Authors Reviewing Books

Should authors review books?

This topic was mentioned to me by a fellow blogger regarding a post she had seen. That post discussed how becoming an author had effected the person’s ability to read a book because there were very specific things they were now looking at, many of which have little impact on the enjoyability of a story. As someone who is naturally critical of stories (probably because I write them myself), I found this to be a topic worth discussing. What say you, fellow bloggers/writers/readers??? Shall we?

I suppose the best place to start for this conversation is what differences exist between readers reading a book and writers reading a book, and there may not seem like a lot. After all, writers are supposed to read, too, but they tend to do a lot more when they read (at least, as much as I have witnessed in my experience.)

 

  • Readers… read a story for what it is, the way it is, and judge it based on that.
  • Writers… read a story and analyze the sentence structure, the flow, the voice, and imagine how it could have been done differently.
  • Readers… fall in love with a character or hate a character based on how they interact with other characters and what they do in the story.
  • Writers… fall in love with how well a character was portrayed and how realistic they were and they hate them when they aren’t fully fleshed out or had not enough purpose in the story to even justify being in the book.

Of course, these are not exacts and no one is one is truly one or that other. Readers can become writers and writers are almost always readers, as well. So, really it becomes a blend of the two viewpoints when reading and reviews often indicate toward which side a person generally leans. For example, my reviews often complain about the pacing, how 1D a character was, how minimal the world-building was (or I gush about all these things when they’re done right, but hahah! We all know that doesn’t happen very often. ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

I also have noticed that people who lean heavily towards being readers, tend to leave higher ranked reviews of books. They seem to be less critical and enjoy stories more for what they are where as writers are more likely to judge and be negative. But the question becomes: Do we really need authors/writers reviewing books? Are they capable of being unbiased? Or do they force their style and their viewpoints upon their reviews to skew them? More importantly, if someone is an unpublished author, are they qualified to leave a review?

This can be a difficult topic because the concept of success in writing is vague at best and non-existent at worst. Writers can be successful in a variety of different avenues and for a variety of different genres and styles, meaning there is no real one way to write something. That also means there is no one way to review something. But if someone is considered unsuccessful/unpublished should their ‘writer-oriented’ review be allowed? Is there lack of publication or society deemed success make them less able to write a review that nitpicks the voice and pacing?

On the other side of that, should writers who are published, who are successful, who have a very defined style and a public image and influence be allowed to review books? Does their notoriety actually have a good/bad influence on reviews? Should they be allowed to sway readers towards or away from a book because they didn’t like it?

I ask these questions in particular because people often find reviewers they like and trust and generally mesh with. They rely on that person’s reviews to help them decide whether or not to read something and authors often have a stronger connection or voice to readers so potentially they could sway a large number of readers away from or towards a single book because of their personal views because people like, respect, and trust them.

But what do you think?
Should authors (published/unpublished) be allowed to review books?
Leave your thoughts below!

 


And check out my discussion from last week:
Disney’s Supposed White-Washing

35 thoughts on “{DISCUSSION} Authors Reviewing Books”

  1. I can appreciate how a bad review can hurt a story, but I also think there’s a basic “everyone has the right to their opinion, and to express it in public forums”.
    If someone is irresponsible with their voice, people will realize that, and that person will lose credibility.
    I do believe in reviewing responsibly, but at the end of the day, a person’s opinion has to be their own.
    When I read a review I’m far more interested in the reasons than the rank.
    I’ve seen plenty of reviews that simply praise or criticize without citing reasons, and I generally disregard those reviews.
    I think much of the responsibility rests with the audience, who can choose to learn more about the reviewer, or read more reviews, and use the information they learn to better interpret what’s been said.

    When I review something I try to balance what I like against whether I think many others would share my opinion.
    If my opinion of the story is low, or if I feel that I’m very unusual in valuing the virtues of the story, then that pulls the rank down.
    I generally only give high marks to stories that I greatly enjoy, and feel would be widely enjoyed.

    I also tend to think that many dismiss stories too readily. Few stories are able to execute all the variables well, but most manage to at least get 1 or 2 right.
    If I’m looking for a very philosophical/idea driven story, the fact that the characters are a little flat wouldn’t necessarily trouble me.

    And I think reviews are, in their own way, a form of invitation. The author of the review is sharing their thoughts on the story, and as long as they express their opinions in a calm and respectful manner, I can read their remarks, compare them to my own thoughts, and have a nice “conversation” with the reviewer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do agree with your viewpoint, Adam, because I think everyone is entitled to their own point of view. I think just because you’re an author that people know, doesn’t mean you suddenly don’t have an opinion. I guess it’s more of a slippery slope for those people because they actually likely know the authors of the books they’re reviewing and they may need to keep up appearances because of their agent/publisher/publicist. So, it can be a difficult line to tread.

      I find it interesting that you write your reviews in a manner that would be beneficial for other people. That’s not to say other people don’t, but I think other people think more on their thoughts of the book, than their thoughts on the book in comparison to others’ thoughts (granted, I just know my thoughts are going to be different nowadays so I’m skewed in this regard.)

      Mm. I can understand where you are coming from in that finding a perfectly balanced story is nigh impossible, but I think that many books can come close. I suppose I am partly biased in that I have seen too many books where the author seems to… float by on their good points. It’s like they take them for granted and don’t take the time to work on their weaknesses. For me, lazy writing can really bring the entire story down because if the author doesn’t care about the story, why should I?

      Bahahaha! I try to be respectful, but nice… I don’t think that’s my forte. But I’m okay with that and so are the people who read my reviews. No ones reviews are going to be for everyone and everyone has a different style. I just think it’s easier for people with anonymity to state their opinion more freely than someone in the public eye.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree. I think the key is politely stating an opinion, even a negative one, while tempering it, as i think you do. There are some reviews that set out to hear down, while others manage their remarks. I think good questions that evrryone should ask include “Would I say this, in this way, to the author’s face? How would I word it if this was a friend who wanted an honest review? How would I want someone to tell me ‘I really didn’t like this’?”

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Bahahahahaha! I would word my reviews SOOO differently if I was saying it to the author’s face, but I’m a MUCH different person in… person. >.> Than compared to when I’m online. It comes from years of being politically correct and civil with people even though I want to punch them in the face. I mean— o.o But I also don’t tag authors in my reviews anymore and don’t go out of my way to help them see them. I leave my reviews for my readers and they generally prefer the ranty/animated manner in which I review because they offer important information while also being entertaining. ๐Ÿ™‚ (at least, that’s what they say.)

          Liked by 2 people

  2. I never really thought about author reviews in that much detail. I think they might be biased towards books written by authors they are friends with, or published by their own publisher, but of course i wouldn’t know.

    I’m a reader, but i know i do get biased. I have a few favourite authors and just love their stuff so much that sometimes i think i would give a favourable review to a book they wrote even if it’s not as good as their masterpiece.

    When i write my review i give my opinion, and i can still enjoy a story even if it’s not written perfectly.

    I think authors are also people and have the ability to just enjoy stories for the sake of it. But as i said, i wouldn’t know what their motivation is.

    I agree on the influence. I bought many books because i saw Stephen King liked them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha! I like that you gave an example where an author’s opinion swayed you to buy something because I feel that is really the truth of the matter. And I do think that authors are, in some instances, required to rate books highly because they are from the same publisher/agent/etc. However, I find it fascinating when those authors think highly of a book… that isn’t as good as I think it could be. It makes me wonder about the standards of those authors’ own writing. You know what I mean?

      But I do agree that even authors can read and enjoy or hate a book. They are people. In fact, they should be even more intimately familiar with what makes a good story and what doesn’t because that’s literally their jobs to know.

      And I would say that I’m in a similar boat where I have read a book by an author, thought it was amazing, and picked up another series by them only to realize it wasn’t nearly as good. I think all authors have good days and bad days. And I, personally, will rate accordingly because I don’t like to give someone a pass for not putting out their best work (that’s not how the rest of the world runs, right?)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. As a writer Iโ€™m just awful at picking apart books. The technical writerly stuff (yes thatโ€™s writer technical speak) really irritates the poop outta me if itโ€™s wrong. As I mentioned in a recent post on this very topic, changes in tense, head-hopping and bad grammar instantly rip me out of a story no matter how interesting the story is. Then I find it very hard to reconnect with the story. Thatโ€™s the curse of being a writer. I used to love JUST reading. Now I canโ€™t do it anymore ๐Ÿ˜ฃ

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha! Jessica, your post is actually the one I was referring to. :p My friend told me about it and I thought it was a very interesting read. ๐Ÿ™‚ But of course I didn’t comment on your post like a total jerk. goes to do that

      I honestly used to hate reading. Hahaha! I was that child, I know. Irony. But now I actually kind of enjoy getting to rant about awful books, but I focus more on the overall picture rather than the little minute things. But I still struggle with my sentences as a writer or so I’ve been told. :p I like fragments A LOT apparently. Hee hee! I probably annoy the bejeebus out of other writers with my fiction. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Very interesting discussion! I would imagine writers are actually more critical of other authors, making it harder to like a story. But on the same note, sometimes I wonder if authors give another fellow author rave reviews because they know each other.
    I don’t have a problem with authors reviewing other authors’ book. But if it was a highly praised book by another well-known author & celebrity, I have high expectations..if I happen to think it sucked, that’s when I question how unbiased they were and wonder: are you sure we read the same freaking book?

    As a blogger and leisure reader, I base a story on the blurb given and compare whether or not the storytelling was just as good, if not better than the description. Sometimes, the description was the best and only good part.
    I do have to also question reviewers who’ve rated A LOT, if not all the books on their reading list 5 stars. I’m all for supporting new and seasoned authors, but come on! There’s no way you thought all those books were fantastic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have the same suspicions you do, and I would also suspect that someone who is a writer/author would be more critical of reviews (God knows I am), because I know a story could be better, I guess, and it feels disrespectful when an author doesn’t put their best foot forward. Granted, I don’t know what was going on while the author was writing that book. Life is crazy, after all, but I just expect more from stories and can’t really enjoy a book when I know it could have been great.

      I feel like a lot of well-known authors are expected to endorse certain newer books because then their fan-base will read it. And that just doesn’t seem right. I don’t know if that author actually read the book, actually liked the book. It can be very difficult to determine who is being honest and who isn’t.

      I am totally with you there. I find a TON of bloggers who have only positive reviews, but in those cases, those reviewers actually don’t feel comfortable writing negative reviews. They don’t want to put that up on their blog because they are worried about the backlash So they end up not posting any and it skews their credibility, in my mind. I am actually friends with a couple of these bloggers and I simply do not read their reviews because, to be honest I can’t trust their opinion to be reflective of what I would think.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hmm..interesting insight! I never thought about it like that..being too afraid of backlash. I suppose some people would rather not cause conflict. Either way, I don’t think all positive or even all negative reviews works. Ah well..to each his own! This was a really great post ๐Ÿ˜Š

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Mm. Agree. It is important to have a nice balance of positive and negative (especially to show your preferences to your readers and they can learn to trust your reviews.)

          Thank you for joining the discussion. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m glad you enjoyed it!

          Liked by 2 people

  5. Interesting discussion topic! Personally I figure so long as you read books for pleasure (or unless reviewing books is your legit job) then you should be allowed to review books.
    An author may be more nitpicky or tough but then just take the critique and use it to change/improve or simply toss it (sort of like looking at the critics’s score vs the audience’s score for a movie on Rotten Tomatoes, like who were you really trying to please?). But I too have noticed that casual readers tend to give high ratings far more easily than writers.

    And no matter an author’s “success” in the industry I think their opinion can always hold some validity because a) casual readers who review also have no “official” foundation for their opinions and b) the industry is such a game of good timing and luck so what does “success” really mean? (It took J.K. Rowling ages to finally get a book published and clearly her stuff isn’t total shit, also some books that’ve gotten all the publisher’s attention and love that I’ve read have been…par or subpar. lol)

    As for famous people who hold a lot of sway (cough Oprah cough) I think that they should be able to share their opinions how they want but I also think they ought to be aware of how much influence they have and be responsible with it. (aka don’t be an asshole just because you didn’t like a book or author and want to destroy them by turning your book club army against them because you know you can. lol)
    What annoys me is when authors or celebs promote and praise a book just because it’s trending. Promote it if you genuinely loved it, but don’t just do it because you want to look current and cool or remain part of the “in” crowd. Also the stereotype of self-published books being trash (because although it’s pretty true (lol sorry it’s just a really saturated market so ya really gotta sift for that gold) it’s not always true (just look at The Martian by Andy Weir! That was a freaking blog post series at first!)

    …I’ve gotten off topic. LOL ANGELA.
    Anyway, that’s it for me (๐Ÿ˜œ #alwayssolongwinded)

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Lol..I don’t have faith in Oprah’s picks or Reese Witherspoon. I’ve bought raved about books just cause their name was on it and it did sound like it would be a genuinely good read, but turned out to be dog poo. ๐Ÿ˜•

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I think you have some valid points here, Angela. Writers are likely to be more critical, but they may also have written in their contracts that they are required to support certain authors/books. As such, their opinion may not be honest or valid. And I also look at it from the standpoint of how negatively I review books. If I were a published author and found this many blah or awful books in the world, I would likely never be able to review publicly again because my opinion may sway someone away from another author.

      Also, I know JK Rowling is considered the ‘gold standard’ of never give up on your dreams, it will come in time, but I really wish people didn’t. JK Rowling did not actually have to struggle that hard or wait that long to be published. Hundreds of authors wait ten times longer and/or never get published, but write far better than she does. She got lucky. And luck is half the battle in the publishing game. So while people may use her as their form of inspiration, she is not the true standard.

      Well, the ‘don’t be an asshole’ should kind of go for everyone, famous or anonymous, don’t ya think? Hee hee! I mean, you can dislike a book without being rude about it. More importantly, you can dislike a book without bashing the author and too many reviewers don’t seem to understand that, which is extremely rude and creates a hostile environment for everyone.

      Oh! Self-published vs traditional published = bad vs good is such crap! I have seen some (too many, honestly) books published by one of the Big 5 publishers and they were awful! And there are plenty of amazing self-published books out there. It really goes back to people sticking too closely to their age-old beliefs that because a couple people thought a book was good, that means everyone will love it and because the gate-keepers didn’t like a specific book (for any of a hundred different obscure reasons), it’s trash. Sometimes, it really is just bad timing.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Are writers also influenced by who their friends are? By if a book is coming from their own publisher? If they Iโ€™ve a good review will they get one in turn? Just wondering. I do know that I read a book and review it for pleasure only. Iโ€™m not getting anything in return except maybe a free book? That doesnโ€™t influence whether I like a book or not though. Interesting discussion!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know, this has been a huge question of debate during this discussion and part of me has to think that yes, there is some bias. I think they are required to support other authors from their publisher or agent. Is it fair? Is it right? I don’t know, but I suppose we’ll never really know the truth.

      Same here. Even if I received a book for free exactly for my review, I am going to be completely honest in my review. A good story is a good story and a bad story is a bad story. Simple as that. I will not risk my credibility as a honest reviewer by skewing my reviews for money or perks or notoriety. It’s just not how I want to operate.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Interesting question this, I hadn’t thought about it. For me as a reader I like a book or I don’t, I’m not into being picky about all the technical aspects of writing and structure and all that kind of thing. To be honest I think writers can overthink things a bit and not enjoy a book for what it is. A typical example is the Martian, where if you think as a writer you could pick loads of home sin it. BUT I didn’t becasue I enjoyed it.
    The other thing is from the author point of view, if you’re reviewing someones book that could be intruding onto your turf – for the sake of business if the book is really good will you give it a great review and risk having someone outshine your work?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Being an author who reviews books must definitely be a slippery slope because there is so much you have to worry about. Your publisher. Your agent. Your business. Your competition. If you endorse another author’s book, there is no guarantee they will return the favor. Meaning you don’t really get anything out of it besides being a nice person. But maybe that’s what it’s all about. Who knows.

      Just because I write, I don’t think I’m super technical about my reviews. But I do expect very basic things: character development, world building (even contemporary has it), a plot, forward movement of said plot, an active main character, etc, etc. Do I care about your ability to write? Not usually unless it impedes upon the story, but even the most gorgeous writing can’t make up for lacking in the other basic areas (and I have read some books that attempted to do this.)

      Like

      1. I’m with you on the writing, I would rather it was a good plot than technically great writing. I think it’s best to help fellow with their work. You know good karma and all that…

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I follow Rick Riordan on Goodreads (I don’t know why, I have no recollection of doing this), and I notice that he reviews a lot of YA and Kids books, but he ALWAYS gives 5 stars. On the one hand I have a lot of respect for that, because like you said, he could really ruin someone’s career by giving them a bad review, he has a lot of influence. But on the other hand, they can’t all be five-star books to him. It comes across as fake. I don’t know, I think personally I would rather him not review books at all, unless something comes around that he REALLY wants his fans to know about and read.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience, Katie. I’m really happy to see that this does happen (because I was kind of going off hypotheticals :p ). And I agree that it would come off as fake. I actually feel this way when I see only positive reviews on a bloggers site, but that’s just me, I suppose. Hee hee! And I think it is a shame that authors may not be allowed to review books, but they also need to understand the sway they have. (And this is something I will hopefully have to think about in the future so it’s nice to get readers’ perspectives on it.)

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Hey! Very interesting post. I’m starting up next week a new segment on my blog called “The Writer’s Way to Review” so the timing on this post is perfect. I see both sides as a writer and frequent book reviewer. I like to think that I can separate myself from the review, offering both positive and negative feedback in a constructive manner. I rarely swoon over am amazing writer, but I also won’t ever bash one for being bad. I try to find a middle ground… it ultimately comes down (for me) to 2 questions when I review: (1) Why am I reviewing the books? Boredom, make friends, share knowledge, thank the author, etc. The answer is important to your style as a book reviewer, and (2) What am I comparing the book to? My own ideals of a story, what I thought should have happened, other similar books, author’s past books, etc. I look forward to all your responses!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hey James! I’m glad this post came at a good time. That sounds like a very interesting series you’re going to start. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I don’t usually write reviews in the same manner as you seem to be discussing here: constructive criticism/feedback because I have found that authors do not generally read the reviews, other readers do. As such, I find my reviews should be both informative and entertaining with a dash of personal connection. I also review books for myself. I like having an archive of my thoughts that I can look back on when someone asks me because, after a while, it’s hard to remember your thoughts about every book you’ve read. ๐Ÿ™‚

      As to what am I comparing the book to? I wouldn’t really say anything in particular and when I noticed that I was starting to compare (in fantasy), I took a hard step away from them because I don’t like to think better or less of a book just because of what I’ve recently read. I want to judge a book on its own merit for its ability to entertain, be well written and accurate, and a variety of other criteria that I find a good book to have. I have also stated before across my blog that I have high standards for books because I believe publishers are not currently putting out the best work authors can provide. They are falling into tropes and lazy writing and no one really seems to be calling them out on it. I just feel like too many stories (in YA, at least) are kind of… pathetic. So I am more critical of them. I don’t think a book for younger readers should be any less good or well-written than a book for adults. That’s just silly. But it’s also the manner in which I wrote my own novels so… I guess I’m biased. Hee hee!

      Thank you for offering such a thought-provoking comment, James. This is fun to discuss, especially being both a writer and reader. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I appreciate the opportunity. You’ve raised many good points here. Writing a review to keep a journal of your own thoughts is very important, too.

        I haven’t read a lot of YA, but when I do, it’s usually after lots of recommendations from others. So hopefully those have been all the well written ones. I look forward to more topics and posts like this one with you!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Mm. It is. I never realized just how nice it was to have my reviews until I looked back on books I read years ago and couldn’t remember what i thought of them. :p Also, writing reviews every Sunday ensures that I keep reading, no matter how busy i get. ๐Ÿ™‚

          Ah. Yes, that is probably a good choice. YA is inundated with a lot of BAD fiction and BAD writing. I think it’s one of the reasons I’m so harsh on the age group and why I post my negative reviews. I expect more.

          Liked by 1 person

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