This is a topic that’s come up before, and now it’s come up regarding Paperback Reader’s less-than-flattering review of Layover by Ann Wesley Hardin.
Now…1—This post is inspired by their discussion but not directed at it.
And 2—In the interest of full disclosure, Ann is my friend. A pre-sale, pre-blogging actual friend. That’s not incredibly relevant to what I’m going to say, but I thought I’d just throw it out there.
I’m sitting here, trying to understand why someone who belongs to the sistah-hood of struggling, blood-stained, published romance authors would trash another author’s first book.
I’ve mentioned several times—here and other places—that I think writers reviewing writers is a bad idea. Bad ju-ju. I cringe when I see authors—aspiring or published—shredding another author’s work.
The more confusing idea was the theory that I somehow had an obligation as a fellow romance writer not to say anything bad about a romance book. Ever. To take this another step, that would mean as a writer I have to turn off my reader abilities or run the risk of hurting the genre. I could not disagree more.
Ummm…no. Do you think Nora doesn’t dish wallbangers with her buds? But she doesn’t seem to feel a need to post those opinions in a public venue, either. Of course we don’t lose or turn off reader abilities as authors. There’s a big difference between not liking a book and discussing certain aspects of unnamed problematic book, and dragging a fellow writer’s book through the mud publicly.
I think, for me, it’s a people in glass houses…or a let he who is without sin cast the first stone—or some such saying—thing. I don’t really know how to explain it. It just seems wrong to me.
The motivation for doing such a thing? I’m a cynic, so my first reactions are always 1) traffic. Look how fast The Smart Bitches shot into the stratosphere of must visit blogs with their frank and honest dissection of romances, which spark controversy and discussion. Well…they’re readers. Or maybe even an ego-boosting 2) If I’m a good enough writer to spot your mistakes, I must be better than you. I would imagine that in some cases, a published author tearing up another author’s work probably looks like sour grapes to readers.
In the case of Paperback Reader, I don’t have to wonder about their motivation because they’re pretty up front about it:
We complained for awhile on our individual blogs about how even slight criticism of a romance novel touched off rants from everyone in the community because you just don’t speak ill of romance novels and ruin the united front. We should all agree that’s ridiculous. Reading romance doesn’t mean you leave common sense and good taste aside. Then, we had an idea (Wendy had the idea, actually) – why not give it a try. Show that we can write reviews about romance books that are aimed at informing readers as well as giving constructive feedback to authors. Are we always right? Well, no. These things are subjective. These are our opinions and, frankly, there will be times when we don’t agree with each other.
I understand being frustrated with cheerleading review sites. It does hurt the credibility of the industry. But authors and readers can actively and vocally support review sites/publication which give honest reviews, and voice their displeasure to the powers that be of those that don’t. And this is all just my opinion, but I truly believe in writers writing and reviewers reviewing.
And karma’s a bitch.