Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Reviews & Authors: Between They Shall Meet

I touched on this issue on my own blog not long ago. Since then, a few authors have spoken in regard to the same thing. What am I talking about? The changing relationship between reviewers, book bloggers, and authors.

Nowadays, it's very easy for authors to rub elbows with book bloggers. On Twitter, it's a common occurrence. When a reviewer reads a book they like, they might follow the author. Or, if the author likes the reviewer, they can do the same. A quasi relationship develops. They talk, they mingle, and suddenly it becomes an area of grey. The trouble is, what happens when authors have been burned by reviewers, or find that they no longer want to respond to them or interact with them because they find their opinions of their work (or the work of others) snarky, rude, and without any redeeming factors that will assist an author in becoming better at their craft?

Personally, I think it's a double-edged sword. I'm a people person. I LOVE people. Don't believe me, ask Madelyn Ford. When we met, she told me straight out she didn't talk on the phone. Now? We talk every single day (she can't escape me, mwhahaha!). So when book bloggers started following me on Twitter, I reciprocated. Soon, I was talking to several of them. I didn't find it an issue. After all, some of them like my work, some don't, and others haven't even read my stuff.

With that said...

I've been fortunate. Those who dislike my work approach it with tact and respect. I've never been flamed on a book blog, nor have I been raked across the coals. If people disliked what I created, they stated why, mentioned what they did like, and left it at that. However, I know of a few authors who, after receiving very nasty reviews, have vowed never to submit their books for review again. I suppose that's bound to happen. Not all people review in the same manner.

I will say that I think that as time goes on, the relationships between book bloggers and authors will change. Why? Because authors are becoming frustrated with their inability to respond (even if they remain professional) to a negative or mean spirited review. This is considered bad behavior. Even if the reviewer has no such qualms about speaking out and saying whatever they'd like. Don't misunderstand me, reviewers have every right to their opinion. However, when you have such a huge chasm, one in which one person is granted a freedom another isn't, problems are bound to arise.

Recently, I've been trying to decide what to do when it comes to book reviews. When I started, I contacted several bloggers to ask if they were interested in reading my books. Now, I'm aware of which reviewers enjoy my voice and work, as well as those who don't. So the question becomes -- do I submit a review request? Or do I wait and see if I'm contacted about the book? No longer am I totally nameless in the writing world (that isn't to say I'm well known, just that I've developed a small following of readers) so is it really necessary to put myself out there (it is EXTREMELY difficult to request a review)? Do I have to put myself through the wringer as I wait to see if people like what I write? Is it better to allow them to come to me versus the other way around?

The simple answer is I don't know.

In this new age of reader/author interaction, it was only a matter of time before things like this became an issue. Back in the day, publishers submitted books for review (and most still do). Now authors are responsible for doing their own promo, this includes getting their name out there and contacting people to read their work and spread the word. It's a tricky bridge to cross. Authors have to do what they have to do, but if they decide to distance themselves from book bloggers and reviewers, is it a bad thing? Or simply a personal choice?

Another issue is the "reviews are for readers, not authors," thing. Most reviewers maintain that their reviews are to inform other readers about books they like and dislike. However, some authors have been quick to voice (even if it's behind closed doors) that book reviewers have a mob mentality. Like the popular crowd in high school, if one of the most liked students loves something, others will most likely love it as well. Because, let's face it, no one likes to be the "loner." Don't believe me? Let's just say I remember speaking to a book blogger several months ago who read a book, stated he/she disliked it, and was immediately bombarded with comments such as, "How could you NOT like this book?" When things like this happen, it becomes less about honesty and more about fitting in with the crowd. If this is true, then if a book receives a negative following, an author is bound to retaliate at some point. Just sayin'.

I, for one, hope there can be a common ground. Authors create stories to keep readers entertained. Readers provide authors with money to pay their bills. It's just the way the world works. I would like to point one blog by one of my favorite authors, Lilith Saintcrow, who addresses this trend. She has some excellent points.

Review Does Not Mean Immune

I'm curious about what you think about the entire situation. Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Now, for that eye candy! Happy Hump Day!


Sharon S. said...

That is a tough question about submitting your book to review blogs. I would send to the blogs that liked your last book, first (cough,cough,hint,hint;). Get those good reviews out there first to drum up some buzz for it Then ask the blogs that like your work to suggest other blogs that might like the book too and send it to them. Maybe your publisher will have a list of sites they can suggest.

J.A. Saare said...

Hey Sharon,

I know of the people I can send them to, the issue is the current stress between authors and readers. I saw a great post today about it, actually. Authors can't say it, but a reviewer did:

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