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A Moment When I Was Reminded I’m A Book Blogger

A few weeks ago I attended a friend’s party. (As far as I know she doesn’t read my blog but if she does, please excuse my discussion.) This friend had told me a while back about her friend, a published author. We’ll call my friend Sarah and her author friend Ellen. At least at the time of telling me, Sarah was in the position of ‘friend who is yet to read the book’ so there wasn’t much to discuss in terms of the work itself.

Anyway, I realised this Ellen was at the party. We don’t know each other, didn’t speak. I don’t know whether Sarah’s told Ellen she has a blogger friend; maybe she has and Ellen decided not to talk books.

I speak of this event because it made me draw a firm boundary in my mind. I realised that in the unlikely but possible case of an introduction, given my role as someone who promotes books, this was a line I couldn’t cross. For me, personally – maybe others find it easier. I’d be comfortable featuring a friend of a friend’s book with full disclaimers added but not reviewing it. A friend of a friend may not be my friend but that mutual connection would be in the line of fire for awkwardness.

What do you think about this sort of boundary, and, if you’re a blogger, have you drawn your own?


Read Diverse Books

March 21, 2016, 1:57 am

Hmm, interesting topic.

I’m still a very new blogger, so I’m not aware of all the subtleties and social etiquette of blogging. Last month, I reviewed the book of a former coworker/acquaintance on my blog but I didn’t put up a disclaimer. I figured that since we’re not really friends and since I bought the book of my own free will, I didn’t have to put up a disclaimer. I hope what I did was OK!


March 21, 2016, 5:51 am

I’d mention the connection, but I wouldn’t hesitate to discuss or review the book on my blog. I’ve met a few authors (it’s a good way to keep me buying your books) and I still review their books. Our book club read a book that was written by someone in her writing group, and I probably discussed it on my blog.

Authors are commonly asked to review other books, even when they are friends with the other author. Disclosure is good, but I don’t think there is a conflict reviewing a friend of a friend’s book, or even a friend’s book. If you know you are biased, you can mention that, but I mention most of my biases anyway.

Laurie C

March 21, 2016, 11:35 am

I understand your point of view. It sounds as though you’re worried that you won’t like the book and would have to give it either a bad review or a dishonest review, neither of which you would want to do. In your situation, I might worry that your friend would find out later that you could have reviewed her friend’s book and didn’t! But I think it’s totally your choice either way. (If I read a friend of a friend’s book and couldn’t write a fair to good review of it, I wouldn’t post a review, but I would be curious in case I’d find a hidden gem!)


March 21, 2016, 12:54 pm

Interesting post, Charlie. I don’t think I have ever reviewed a book by a friend or a friend’s friend. I have befriended some authors online after reading their books and liking them. But when I read their books, I still think of them as the author and me as a reader / reviewer and not as a friend. I think it would be very awkward if I read a friend’s book and don’t really like it – what does one say? :)

Literary Feline

March 21, 2016, 3:45 pm

I think as long as a person states up front the relationship with the author, it is okay to review his or her book. That said, I am uncomfortable reviewing books by people I know well. What if I hate it?

A coworker wrote and self-published a book a few years ago and discovered I had a book blog. He never asked me outright to read and review his book, but he often mentioned his book and I could tell he was hoping I would. He even offered to loan me a copy, which I turned down saying I already had too many books to read. I was ready with my excuse if he pushed–that it would be a conflict of interest. The truth is, I didn’t want to read his book. The subject matter didn’t appeal to me at all–and I had serious doubts about the quality of the book (he had a coworker edit it–not a professional).

Pre-blogging days, I read a book by the husband of a pen pal of mine. I have mentioned it on my blog, but only in a reading retrospective post. It got a little mention, including a disclosure about the author’s relationship to me. It was a book I didn’t like much, and proved a valuable lesson in being careful about agreeing to read books by friends or their relatives.

There has only been one other incident in which I mention a book on my blog written by the wife of a coworker (different from the coworker mentioned above). It was a children’s book I had won in a giveaway. I did not officially review the book, although I was clear in my mention of it how it came into my possession and my relationship to the author’s husband.

My general rule is not to read books written by friends or friend’s of friends. I will read my husband’s books, of course. And I have. But he isn’t published at all. I imagine if he were to publish, I would not write a review of his book on my blog. I might share his success in a mention, but I wouldn’t feel right about reviewing his writing on my blog–nor would I feel comfortable reaching out to blogger friends to review his book.

Jeanne Griggs

March 22, 2016, 1:16 pm

I mention the connection, and like the others who have commented here, might worry that I wouldn’t like the book–if that were the case, I probably wouldn’t post the review. So, for the author, no free publicity…but no darts from an unexpected direction, either.


March 25, 2016, 4:38 pm

Definitely awkward especially if you didn’t like the book in question. I think I would have avoided the introduction too!


March 29, 2016, 9:56 am

Read Diverse Books: I think in that situation it’s really down to how you feel. If you feel you probably should have put a disclaimer, that’s a sign you should have. I think your situation is in the grey area.

Beth: Thanks for your input :) I think your idea’s a fair one; it is a book after all, that readers may like, so with a disclaimer you’ve laid all your cards on the table. That’s true, authors do review books. You’ve made me think of something – if it’s a friend of a friend (or maybe even a friend who uses a pseudonym) and you didn’t know of the connection at the time, are you thus bound to add a disclaimer when you do? On one hand it seems pointless – the review wouldn’t have been biased – but on the other hand you wonder if it would cause a problem later if you didn’t.

Laurie: You’re onto something there ;) One of the things I think we all learn pretty quickly is that giving a negative review, however honest and objectivity written, can cause discomfort and that discomfort will be higher the closer we are to the person. In this situation my friend knows I blog – I believe that was the beginning of the conversation that led to her telling me about her friend – so I suppose she could think that. That’s a good way to deal with it, to not post if you couldn’t write fairly – and I’m glad to hear you’d read it anyway in case of hidden gems, because that’s part of my thinking, as I said to Beth: you want to be honest as to bias but if you truly think readers will love the book there’s almost a second line to draw, above the first, that says ‘regardless of connections, book comes first’. A bit like that ‘read the book without regard for the author’ thing.

Vishy: Exactly – if you didn’t like the friend’s book it’s awkward, even more awkward than if you did like it and had to worry about sounding insincere – I reckon that blog readers and of course bloggers learn pretty quickly about the whole bias thing, the way it’s uncomfortable, and will read the review with that in mind, but on the author side… You’ve made me think of something with your befriending authors after you’ve read their books – the way it might be uncomfortable to read another book in future. (I’m going to take on board your feeling of reader/reviewer, remember it in future.)

Literary Feline: I feel the same way. Disclaimer = all good, but it’s still uncomfortable. That sounds like a massive elephant in the room issue and I think you did the right thing; knowing you couldn’t go there and adhering to it (that you didn’t want to read it is just as relevant as a worry about conflict of interests).

Oh those lessons! Hard but yes, so valuable. I’m under the impression that blocking time for researching – summary, extracts, etc, is worth it. Discussing it a bit with a disclaimer sounds a good way of dealing with it. The second situation, the co-worker’s wife, sounds very fair. Thinking of giveaways, perhaps that’s a category of post, so to speak, that is easier in this respect because you’re not promoting it in a usual way and are truly offering something for free, and to people who don’t have the connection to worry about.

Oh definitely, if your husband finds success I think you’d almost have to mention it – the line there almost breaks apart because then you’ve to consider that readers are interested in what’s going on with you, as a blogger, and would be happy to hear about it. Yes, a review would be odd there, and bloggers would, unfortunately really, have the connection with you. (I often wonder about bloggers who write books – it’s awesome but the pool of reviewers must be a lot smaller for them.)

Jeanne: Yes to that; I wonder if saying to the person upfront that you’ll read it but might not review it if it would be difficult would be fair (problem there is they might wonder if there’s a point at all). True; in that case good publicity or none is the way to go.

Stefanie: Yes; it would be a problem. I’m glad to have had the thought for all the discussion it’s created and to have had it left at that.


March 29, 2016, 8:05 pm

I was thinking of this the other day. I was at a SF convention (Norwescon) and an author on a panel had sounded interesting so I went up to him afterwards to ask if I could read the back of his book (he had brought a copy to show who he was). And he just handed me a copy!

So now I’m already strongly biased towards this author, because that’s even more fun than being sent a book for review. But I definitely plan on reviewing the book, although I’ll start with where I got it. And I sure hope I like it, but if I don’t, I’ll probably talk about who would. A lot of times when I don’t like a book it’s because I’m not the right audience.


April 4, 2016, 11:21 am

Beth: In this case I think you’re out of the grey area; you’re understandably biased but who knows if you’ll enjoy the book or not and you didn’t go there with prior knowledge. It’s an interesting thought, though, because it goes straight to that question of how much disclaiming is too much is that ‘worried about stating biased’ way. Your added interest and information about the event would add to your review :)



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