What actions do you take after posting up a review you’ve written? You likely promote it in some way, putting up a link on Twitter, posting it on Facebook. As bloggers, when we take time to write an article we tend to want to let people know about our creation. But how far do we take that notion of telling, and does the notion extend to the writer of the work you are citing?
Sending a review of a book it the author who wrote the book is a topic that has been discussed before, but the recent contention over paid reviews brings it to the fore again. It disputes that other oft-discussed topic of whom reviews are for. Because if reviews are for readers then we ought to keep them between ourselves and other readers, bloggers, but if the authors are requesting reviews, paid or not, then mightn’t our work be of interest to them? Online news tell us that authors ignore reviews, but in my experience there are many who appreciate knowing that people are reading and writing about their work.
So if reviews are still written for readers then we shouldn’t be sending them to authors – but what about the author who finds your review all by themselves? I am a fan of Elizabeth Chadwick, and once when I posted a glowing review I awoke the next morning to find she had tweeted the it to her followers. This before I had even promoted it myself. Somehow she had found my review, which had been posted only a couple of hours earlier, and remarked upon it. In this case the choice of letting her know had been taken from me, but it’s not as though I can be upset; my blog is public. It make me ponder, however, on the next review I wrote of her books – I always strive to be honest to my readers and if she’d found my reviews in the past what was to say she wouldn’t see my next, more critical, review? Considering I decided to post it, maybe she did.
This episode makes me think of a direct consequence of intentionally letting an author know about your work. If you tweet them a positive review, what do you do about any negative ones in future? My personal jury is out on this one.
In regards to negative reviews I am fully of the conviction that one ought not to send them to the author unless the author has explicitly asked (more on that later) to be notified of your opinion. If I decide to tweet the review to the author that review must first undergo a vigorous quality test – quality test as opposed to an edit or re-write because I never change my words to suit an author. A tweeted review to an author must be of a high rating, 4/5 or above, and in addition I will invalidate any piece of writing that contains harsh criticism. There is just no need to send negative or overly critical material to an author who is otherwise oblivious to your existence. All you would achieve is upset.
But what do you do if it was the author themselves who commissioned your review? You really don’t have much choice in this situation besides declining to review or lying (in the case that you didn’t like the book). Declining the review after accepting the work tells the author you didn’t like it, even if it is the lesser of two evils. And lying won’t get you very far with your readers. If the author has requested the review they must be prepared for possible negativity.
Lastly, is such contact between an author and a blogger appropriate? This question coincides with the content of my post on bloggers commenting on author blogs – is tweeting a review and initiating contact in such a way too familiar, forcibly friendly? Indeed if we take to heart the words of the authors who do not like to read reviews, ought we to be seen but not heard?
We are unlikely to come to a common consensus on this subject unless authors everywhere unite to give us a verdict as surely the more appropriate opinion is theirs, the ball should be in their court. Therefore in absence of this I believe that each blogger needs the freedom to create their own rules and boundaries, this post is simply a discussion. As for myself I appreciate the freedom to decide if I even want to consider promotion in the first place.
So it’s over to you – do you tweet authors your reviews, and what’s your reasoning behind your decision?
August 31, 2012, 2:32 am
I don’t. In fact, I prefer not to have contact with the author about his or her books. They have, of course, occasionally found my reviews and either tweeted to me or RTd, but I don’t encourage that.
On the other hand, I have authors I visit with on Twitter, but I don’t review their books. It’s just a personal ethics level. Plus, it takes away some of the awkwardness that could come from communicating with an author via Twitter and then disliking his or her book.
But again, that’s just my personal policy.
August 31, 2012, 8:28 am
To be honest I don’t do this because I’m just.. too embarrassed most of the time. I find it awkward enough to include a publisher in my tweets (which I do when I received a review copy from them), but the author? I don’t know. I don’t think I could because of all the awkwardness I’d feel.
August 31, 2012, 12:31 pm
I don’t really mind it if they find the review and retweet it themselves (as you say blogs are public, so once the review out there it’s everyone’s), but I also feel awkward tweeting it at them directly. I guess I’d feel I was writing FOR them if I did that, whereas I want to make it absolutely clear that my posts are for other readers.
August 31, 2012, 2:46 pm
I don’t usually contact the author. If they are interested in reading reviews of their work it is easy enough to find my blog if they so wish. I’ve actually found that authors that directly requested a review from me often come and find my review of their work.
September 1, 2012, 5:49 pm
I actually read a book recently, where I knew the author was on twitter (and I told her how much I loved the book) but for some reason that stopped me writing a review. I couldn’t bring myself to do it, even though I loved the book.
I recently read somewhere that reviews are not for the author but for the readers, so I think I would perhaps avoid contacting the author. I would also worry that I completely missed the point of their book.
September 2, 2012, 2:12 pm
Jenn: I think I’m in personal agreement with your ethics level on reviewing authors you know, there are a couple of books I would love to read but I know I wouldn’t feel too comfortable reviewing them, unless perhaps I wrote a full disclosure at the beginning. Though even then all you’re doing is straight out promotion. A couple of times I’ve had one of those awkward occasions you describe, it’s enough to make you re-think.
Iris: Yes, it is embarrassing sometimes, I really think it depends on who the author is, and knowing their general view of reviews helps. Strangely I find I feel the opposite, I’m more likely to be uncomfortable with tweeting the publisher, which is odd because your statement makes perfect sense!
Ana: Yes, there is that, who are you writing for. It’s definitely my sense of wanting to let people know that their work is being discussed that makes me want to tweet, when I do, but beyond that it is difficult. And you don’t want to change what you write to suit.
Jessica: I suppose that’s easier than having to contact them yourself, especially in the case of a bad review. Contacting when you’ve not been able to be completely positive is so difficult!
Alice: I imagine the pressure was on, I seem to remember doing that recently and finding the review very difficult (ARC, needed writing regardless). Missing the point of the book is something I wonder about every time I write a less than glowing review… It’s definitely a good reason for not letting authors know about negative reviews.