Shannon Stacey

Writers reviewing writers

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.

Ann says:

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.

HelenKay says:

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.

28 comments to “Writers reviewing writers”

  1. Tod Goldberg
      · August 4th, 2005 at 12:36 am · Link

    Shannon I’m afraid I don’t agree with you for a number of reasons — but first the empirical evidence:
    Number of full book reviews in this Sunday’s NY Times: 9
    Number of full book reviews in this Sunday’s NY Times Penned By Authors: 6
    Number of full book reviews in this Sunday’s LA Times: 9
    Number of full book reviews in this Sunday’s LA Times Penned by Authors: 5

    My point is this: Authors review books constantly because, typically, they are experts in the field. I understand that your friend’s feelings were hurt and that karma is indeed a bitch, but if the karma in question is an honest, forthright review of a book with opinions the reviewer believes in based on their experience with book and their knoweledge of the genre — whatever that genre might be — then bring it on. Claim that HelenKay and Wendy want traffic and improve their own egos all you want, but I have a hard time understanding how their previous reviews you didn’t disagree with now are privy to this. Look, some books suck (I wrote one like that) and some books are good (I wrote one like that, too) and there’s no law that says bad books need to be hidden away like the kids in Flowers In The Attic. Honest and unflinching is what standard reviewing outlets provide — it’s called journalist integrity.

  2. Monica
      · August 4th, 2005 at 1:04 am · Link

    I’m feeling kind of jumped on about this topic. . . maybe it’s hormones, but anyway. . . I don’t think the issue is whether romance should be honestly reviewed, most agree that it should be, including me. Romance isn’t reviewed by NYT or LA Times. It is reviewed at Romantic Times. Their reviews get little flak from authors, and when authors bitch, they ignore it.

    1. My point was that all the honest reviews imaginable, peer-written or not, aren’t going to give romance literary respect. I find reviews value is primarily in usefulness to the reader.

    2. That when authors or readers exhibit bad behavior per reviews, why should the reviewer’s response to criticism be any different than what is expected from the author–silence and/or acceptance (I’m sorry you feel that way, then silence)? Otherwise it’s the pot calling the kettle black to expect behavior from others that you don’t for yourself. (Even when others behave badly).

    3. That many readers don’t agree about what is literary excellence in romance. Ultimately these books are going to be written to suit who’s shelling out the $$$, not to please literary critics.

    4. The romance community is insular and isolated from the greater literary community and a critical peer reviewer could experience backlash, not that it is right or wrong, simply that’s the way it is at this time.

    Those were my points of disagreement in toto.

  3. Shannon
      · August 4th, 2005 at 1:46 am · Link

    Claim that HelenKay and Wendy want traffic and improve their own egos all you want, but I have a hard time understanding how their previous reviews you didn’t disagree with now are privy to this.

    First off, I wasn’t trying to imply Wendy and HelenKay are endeavoring to drive traffic and their egos. They aren’t the only writers reviewing other writers out there. I thought I made it fairly clear that they were very open in their motivation, even quoting their reasons from their About Us page. I read both Wendy’s and HelenKay’s blogs well before they started the Paperback Reader and the progression to the review site is clearly marked along the way. The Real Deal by Lucy Monroe and Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie are the only other books they’ve reviewed that I’ve read. I agreed with them on both books, which isn’t helpful for this discussion. I have not, however, made any secret of disliking the practice in the past. I didn’t start taking issue with it simply because they didn’t like Ann’s book.

    The comments quoted were simply the catalysts for my ramblings, and, as I said, not specifically aimed at Wendy and HelenKay.


    Number of full book reviews in this Sunday’s NY Times I would find suspect: 6

    Number of full book reviews in this Sunday’s LA Times I would find suspect: 5

    I find it difficult to trust a review written by an author whose own book will share real estate with the book in question. (Now, of course, it appears that I’m doubting the integrity of some of the greatest book reviewers in the country, which is not my intention. But I’ve got driveway patch in the basement and an old down quilt to expedite the tarring and feathering.)

    Honest and unflinching is what standard reviewing outlets provide — it’s called journalist integrity.

    I don’t remember having an issue with honest and unflinching reviews. Does the romance industry suffer a shortage of them? Yes. Especially when it comes to electronically published romances. I don’t think I’ve ever read a negative review of an e-pubbed erotic romance, and yet I’ve read a few bad ones. (And no, I’m not going to mention them by name.) Does it hurt our credibility? Yes, it does. And it’s doing both the readers and the authors a disservice. Would I like to see more honest, unflinching and credible reviews in my genre? Yes, even if it meant my book getting shredded because it is about integrity. Yes, authors of a certain genre are probably the most qualified to judge that genre. But if I see a review in which Wanda Wiggle trashes Suzie Swizzle’s newest book, which is, of course, competing for sales with Wanda’s, how much credibility will I give that review?

    I don’t want to see Jeffrey Deaver reviewing Broken Prey. Quite frankly if he raves, I’ll assume he and John Sandford are buddies, and if he rants I’ll think “Well, yuh. Lucas Davenport’s probably kicking Rhyme’s ass on Amazon.” I’d more than likely dismiss the review and, quite possibly, the reviewer.

    Do I think the practice of writers reviewing other writers is some evil conspiracy to make them look bad and ruin their careers and steal their sales away? Of course not—I’m not a total fucktard. We have the RWA for that.

    It’s simply one that I—personally—don’t care for.

  4. Ann
      · August 4th, 2005 at 5:54 am · Link

    Monica wrote: That when authors or readers exhibit bad behavior per reviews, why should the reviewer’s response to criticism be any different than what is expected from the author–silence and/or acceptance (I’m sorry you feel that way, then silence)? Otherwise it’s the pot calling the kettle black to expect behavior from others that you don’t for yourself. (Even when others behave badly).

    Ann writes: Go, Monica!

  5. HelenKay
      · August 4th, 2005 at 6:15 am · Link

    To be honest, I didn’t think I was whining or complaining about Ann being upset. I said on her blog and on mine she had every right to be angry. I specifically commented on her blog so she would have the opportunity to say whatever she wanted to me.

    The point of my blog entry and the directions of the comments went to whether or not people who write books have a right to review them – an issue separate from Ann. My view is we do and we should. Really, up until now, despite the fact we’ve had other negative reviews, we received mostly positive feedback. I understand other people feel differently about the idea of authors reviewing – I’ve said that about 10 times, too. I’ve had this discussion on my blog since before I ever got The Call.

    The part I don’t understand is why my motives aren’t questioned until there is a negative review, then what I’m doing and why is up for debate. Of course I don’t have anything personal against Ann. As I said on her blog and I think on mine, she and I communicated in the past via email and I always found her to be very nice, I’m looking forward to her next book and I wish her well. There is not personal vendetta. I don’t have a book out, so we’re not competing for readers. And, of course setting up the site has nothing to do with blog traffic. I don’t understand that suggestion at all. I don’t get paid depending on the number of people who visit. I don’t think trying to post honest reviews under a separate blog has anything to do with increasing my sales numbers for a book that won’t be out for 9 months. I view them as separate things and, in fact, if some of the comments over the last two days are any indication, the review site will have the opposite reaction. See, I keep hearing things like “bad karma” and received an email that said I’d pay when my book comes out because she’d make sure, regardless if it was any good, that she said bad things about it. I just don’t understand the reaction. Or, maybe, why the delayed reaction since we’ve been reviewing for quite some time now.

    Thanks for letting me say my part.

  6. Erica
      · August 4th, 2005 at 6:40 am · Link

    I’m with you, Shannon . . . .
    It’s NOT that I think all reviewers have to say that every book is wonderful. It’s that I happen to find that very often the anonymity of the web gives some of these sites, which are aiming to get traffic and (sometimes) are very ego-driven, a very “snarky” take on books.
    I don’t necessarily think the romance community has to stick together. Face it, there’s a lot of cr*p out there. On the other hand, I do have to respect someone working hard to get her first book published. And so if I was to be critical, I would try to do it in a non-snarky constructive way–which is NOT what most reviewers tend to do. Reviewing, as an “art” form lately, seems to be about how clever and how biting the reviewer’s wit can be. I’ve also seen a new trend in which reviewers seem to get “personal.” One of my best writing pals had a review of her otherwise well-received YA, in which the reviewer said she felt bad that buying the book “encouraged this writer to write more bad YA fiction,” as if THIS is the kind of comment that you need when choosing whether or not to purchase a book.
    So . . . I guess my take is if the review is a poor one, it still shouldn’t be about personally elevating the reviewer and denigrating a struggling, living-breathing human being writer. We DO put our stuff out there, but karma IS a bitch as Shannon said.

  7. Jorie
      · August 4th, 2005 at 7:20 am · Link

    Ineresting discussion. But I’m not sure just writers are suspect reviewers. Non-writers can also befriend writers, or take an author in dislike. Quite frankly, the more reviews I read, the more I realize how subjective it is.

    While I personally don’t write up bad reviews on my blog (at least at this time), I don’t agree with the bad juju part. Unless said reviewer/writer freaks out when their baby receives a less than glowing review. Then glass houses makes sense to me.

    The thing is writers are very often readers, and very often readers who like to think about why they liked or did not like in the book they read. Some of them make great reviewers. To me the divide between writers and reveiwers doesn’t quite make sense. (Not to say that every writer wants to review, of course.)

  8. Alison
      · August 4th, 2005 at 7:43 am · Link

    . . . and received an email that said I’d pay when my book comes out because she’d make sure, regardless if it was any good, that she said bad things about it.

    Oh good grief. How can anyone take us seriously when we attack each other in such a childish fashion!

  9. Shannon
      · August 4th, 2005 at 9:49 am · Link

    See, I keep hearing things like “bad karma” and received an email that said I’d pay when my book comes out because she’d make sure, regardless if it was any good, that she said bad things about it.

    That’s just downright unprofessional. When I say karma’s a bitch, I don’t mean it in a concrete “You gave a bad review so your books gonna get shredded, nanny-nanny-boo-boo” way. I mean it more in a “Do unto others…” kind of way.

    I’m not sure how people have come to the conclusion that everything in that post is an attack on HelenKay and Wendy. IN GENERAL, GLOBALLY I don’t care for the practice. Did I say they’re the ones trying to drum up traffic? No. I did specifically point out their motivation, which is more integrity in romance reviews. I’ve read the damn post about a dozen times, and yup—that part’s still there.

    Is this a knee-jerk reaction to Ann getting a bad review? My reflexes aren’t totally shot and yet this post wasn’t written on July 23rd, when the review went up. The progression: This is not a new issue for me. Don’t like it. Never liked it. I intended to make writers reviewing writers the topic of my next RTB column. Then Ann posted about the review, and HelenKay responded, and Monica’s in there, so I figured the conversation would be stale by the time RTB came around, so I may as well blog about it.

    Personal vendetta? Not sure where that comes from. I certainly didn’t accuse you of targetting Ann on a personal level. I don’t believe you gave her a bad review just to be bitchy. It’s not All. About. You.

    Non-writers can also befriend writers, or take an author in dislike. Quite frankly, the more reviews I read, the more I realize how subjective it is.

    Excellent point, Jorie. Another one that makes me grit my teeth is editors reviewing. How is that objective?

    Okay. This how I see it (when in doubt, embrace baseball. It explains everything)

    The writers are my Boston Red Sox. The umps are the editors. Sports writers and the guys in the booth are reviewers and the crowd in the stands represents the readers.

    You damn well shouldn’t be seeing an ump telling the 6 o’clock news that Johnny Damon played like shit against the Yankees last night. You expect the sports writers to critique the hell out of their performances.

    The people in the stands? They’re the heart of the team. That’s who they play for. And that crowd is fickle. If you’re on the top of your game, you can’t buy yourself a drink in New England. If you drop the ball, you’re on the shit list. Just ask Bill Buckner. The team works under the eagle eyes (*snort*) of the umps. They absorb both the praise and the condemnation of the sports writers and pundits. They strive to hit that long ball for the home team so the fans will cheer and chant your name.

    You don’t go into that post-game locker room with a microphone and hear Varitek saying “Hey, Damon played like shit tonight. He had no speed and he missed that easy fly. Who the hell trips on grass? And don’t get me started on his batting. He was channeling Tiger Woods tonight!”

    I’m sorry if it pisses people off…rephrase: It’s unfortunate if it pisses people off, but it’s how I feel. Do I think less of Wendy or HelenKay because they’re reviewing romances? Of course not. And you certainly won’t see me shredding HelenKay’s story in some kind of juvenile retribution. It’s just an opinion on a reviewing practice. That’s it.

  10. Shannon
      · August 4th, 2005 at 10:48 am · Link

    Okay. I’m feeling pretty crappy here. It was never my intention to make it look as if HelenKay or Wendy had done anything wrong or that I was pointing a judmental finger at them personally. It was just a topic of discussion. And there is no right or wrong, obviously. This was just my opinion, and that and a quarter will get me into a pay toilet.

    I’m sure the timing makes it appear more targetted than was intended. The links to the comments were current and relevant to what I was trying to say. If I’d blogged about this last week, or if it had remained my chosen topic for my 8/14 RTB entry, it probably wouldn’t have seemed so adversarial.

    It was a topic that had been simmering in the chum bucket, and Ann and HelenKay’s discussion brought it to the top.

    I stand by my opinion totally, but I really don’t want to appear as if I’m persecuting anybody else for doing it differently. I understand the logic behind writers being good judges of their peer’s work. I do “get” what they’re trying to accomplish.

    I just disagree, and that’s okay.

  11. Charlene T
      · August 4th, 2005 at 10:54 am · Link

    “We have RWA for that”. :lmao:

    I have to agree that writers reviewing writers is an issue fraught with peril. I don’t think ignoring bad books (or calling them good when they aren’t) does anything to improve the genre, but then again, I find that editors and publishers are remarkably good at doing that for me. Honestly, in my opinion, very few truly bad books get published. And what I think is bad somebody somewhere obviously loved and believed in. I can remember the last time I read a wallbanger. It was about 5 years ago and it wasn’t a romance.

    I haven’t read Ann’s book so I can’t say if I’d agree or disagree with the review. But having read several of this year’s EC author debut books, the books getting published by first timers are not just good, they are outstanding. So I’d be surprised if Ann’s book wasn’t up to the same standard. Opinions are, of course, subjective!

  12. Helenkay
      · August 4th, 2005 at 11:18 am · Link

    Shannon – I took what you said as a statement of your opinion, not a personal attack. I was just offering mine since you quoted me. I, too, was talking in a global sense. I respect your views on the issue of writers reviewing reomance, I just disagree. We’ll just have to agree to disagree and from the few communications we’ve had in the past, I’m sure we’ll be able to do that in a mature, respectul and non-personal way.

  13. Kate
      · August 4th, 2005 at 1:27 pm · Link

    I think the Monica method of dealing with bad reviews works. Visualize and move on.

    Reviewers–whether they’re writers, mechanics or zookeepers–approach a book as a reader. If they try to do their job any other way they’re not serving the book or their readers. Granted, they should make their own prejudices clear but beyond that they’re not going to be taken seriously if they pussy-foot around.

    My books have gotten bad reviews and meh reviews. It comes with putting your stuff out there. Hurts like hell and loathing the reviewer, at least for a few hours, is the only fun part.

    Of course I should talk–I’ve stopped writing reviews, at leasnt in any genre I write because I know it hurts like hell (and I don’t want anyone thinking I’m looking for a returned favor).

  14. Kate
      · August 4th, 2005 at 1:30 pm · Link

    PS and this isn’t a review but . . . I really enjoyed Layover. I love Ann’s voice.
    PPS I know Ann. I’ve even met her.

  15. Ann
      · August 4th, 2005 at 5:45 pm · Link

    Kate you sycophant :love:

    HelenKay, I just want you to know that when I said, “Go Monica!” I also meant that in a global sense. She’s right in that there *is* a sense that when writers get poor reviews, they’re supposed to stay silent and suck it up. I thought about that as I wrote my blog, wondering if I should stay silent or open my heart for the whole freaking world. I’m a very private person. I don’t like to broadcast my wounds. I don’t even like to tell my dog’s name on the Internet. LOL.

    But I’m glad I spoke out in this instance. It’s created a discussion that needed to be created. And if the numbers on my blog are any indication, I got more publicity from opening a vein than I would’ve from taking out a Sunday ad in the Times.

    Helen, I’ll say it here because the whole world reads Shannon’s blog, I hope your book creates such a buzz. And if you need me to help by panning it….


    I am so there for you! LOLOL.

  16. Ann
      · August 4th, 2005 at 5:47 pm · Link

    That last line was a joke. In case anyone doubted that fact.

  17. SB Sarah
      · August 4th, 2005 at 7:51 pm · Link

    I don’t pretend to understand the groups of jr-high-esque people who would find something nasty to say even if they had to dig through three readings to say it. That’s just dumb. But of the question as to limiting who should and should not review a romance novel – before AAR, before SBTB, before PW, were there that many sites that reviewed romance novels fairly? Weren’t the majority of sources the types of reviews generated solely to provide a cover blurb, similar to fake or small-market movie reviews that exist solely to create a quotable excerpt?

    SBTB certainly doesn’t exist for traffic’s sake. We felt that there was a lack of variety of sites offering fair reviews of romance novels, and really: before AAR, SBTB, and PW, who was reviewing romance criticially, other than editors and agents? Who was saying, “I hate this plot device and find it insulting and denigrating to women to have the hero rape the heroine” for example.

    It isn’t like you could crack open the NYT Book Review and find a discussion of Nora Roberts or Julia Quinn. Some newspapers might have offered reviews of romance novels, but even then, such as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, would offer it in a tone that suggested disdain or obligation to satisfy the beach-reading needs of the women readers.

    So in the end, it seems the role of critic fell on the readers and the fans of the genre. We know what we want and we know what we like, and we want to be able to say so.

    Moreover, if this were any other genre, would this be a debate?

  18. Shannon
      · August 4th, 2005 at 8:56 pm · Link

    I’ll just repost my comment from the Smart Bitches blog here:

    I was not implying you did this for traffic. What the hell do you need traffic for? Are you selling something I missed? I was saying that the success of your blog, with your frank and snarky treatment of romance novels, might inspire somebody else to attempt the same in order to achieve your level of traffic.

    And I believe I mentioned my agreement with the lack of strong, honest romance review sites. The fact that I squirm a little when I see a writer picking apart another writer’s work doesn’t mean I want every review site to offer up cheerleading puff pieces. I wasn’t discussing reader/reviewer sites at all, other than to point out the popularity of Smart Bitches and how that might appeal to a writer looking to up her stats. And no, since it seems to be “Let’s just assume Shannon’s being a flaming bitch today” day, I wasn’t referring to Paperback Reader at that point. As HelenKay pointed out, it’s seperate from her own blog, so it wouldn’t drive traffic to her. I also don’t find Helenkay and Wendy’s reviews to be particularly snarky, either, whether I agree with one or not.

    The bottom line–I, personally, am uncomfortable with author-written reviews. I’m not trying to limit shit. I’m not trying to lead some dumb-ass movement against reviews written by authors. Who the hell cares what I think?

    And I think I stuck my foot in it well enough without having what I said twisted around into something I didn’t say.

  19. Shannon
      · August 4th, 2005 at 10:25 pm · Link

    I’m just going to apologize for this discussion at this point. Considering how many people I like and respect that I’ve managed to piss off, it’s become quite clear to me that my communication skills may be quite faulty today.

    Does Mercury being in retrograde apply to blogs?

    So HelenKay, Wendy, Sarah, Candy, Ann—I’m sorry. I was simply going for a light opinion piece using Layover as an example—a jumping off point—and I very clearly missed.

    I think I’ll stick to inane ramblings with lots of penguins for at least a week or so.

  20. Ann
      · August 5th, 2005 at 5:09 am · Link

    You didn’t piss me off at all, Shan! But, if you feel that badly, I’ll let you buy me a drink at RT. :coffee:

  21. Shannon
      · August 5th, 2005 at 7:22 am · Link

    Belly up to the bar, babe!

  22. Shannon
      · August 5th, 2005 at 8:14 am · Link

    See Shannon.

    See Shannon get called a fucktard.

    See Shannon not give a shit.

    Back to :type:

  23. Karen Templeton
      · August 5th, 2005 at 12:31 pm · Link

    Re: Writers reviewing (see me stay on topic, which in itself is a rare and wonderful thing :nod:):

    I’m of so many minds about this, I’m surprised my head hasn’t exploded. Personally, I don’t do it (other than to talk UP a book I love), mainly because what bugs me as a writer (and an anal one at that!) isn’t even going to be noticed by most readers. Like passive sentence contruction, fer instance. :hide: In any case, I’m more comfortable with recommending books, and explaining why I loved them, than with panning them.

    However. Reviews happen. And writers reviewing their peers’ work is a very long-standing tradition. Granted, the system is fraught with potential problems — if you hate the reviewers’ books, for instance, how likely is it that you’ll take their reviews seriously? — but at least one assumes the reviewer does have some grasp of the process. Not that there aren’t some excellent non-fiction writing reviewers, but in theory, at least, a writer-reviewer probably won’t take a writer to task simply for using first person POV, or flashbacks, or any number of perfectly acceptable devices, unless the writer has not used those devices WELL (in his or her opinion). My biggest gripe is with badly written reviews — inaccurate, spoiler- and cliche-ridden reviews that don’t even display a mastery of seventh-grade level English. In that case, I have to say I’d rather be the recipient of a well-written, thoughtful, negative review than a lame, positive one that no one will take seriously.

    Still, my gut feeling is that relatively new authors who haven’t yet had time to garner the respect of readers and their peers alike might want to consider the impact on that readership if they choose to pen a negative review. In fact, there was a recent flap over a first-time novelist’s panning Melissa Banks’s second novel in the NYT Books Review — in part over the superior tone of the review, but the subtext seemed to be that perhaps she hadn’t yet earned the *right* to critique another author’s work. For good or ill, where you are on your career ladder definitely influences how seriously others take what you have to say. Trust me, I know whereof I speak on this one. :roll:

    That said, romance seems to be the only genre in which peer reviews are frowned upon. The closest thing we have to judging each others’ work is the RITAs. Whether this is a good thing or not, I don’t know. I suspect many of us don’t, and wouldn’t, do it because we simply don’t need the headaches which would inevitably ensue. We also know how blamed hard it is to actually produce an entire novel, and how easy it is to spot flaws in others’ work — and how seldom a review pointing out those flaws really ends up being useful in future work, no matter WHO writes the review.

    So there you have it — authors are probably better qualified to review their peers’ books than most (not all!) non-writers, but to do so is to navigate a potential minefield. Which means this is a post with absolutely no conclusion.


    Karen T.

  24. Sharon
      · August 5th, 2005 at 1:43 pm · Link

    FWIW, and maybe because I’m not personally involved or particularly give a fuck about the topio, I think your opinion was well articulated. I didn’t take it as a personal attack on anyone. And though the people who disagree with your POV have spoken loudly (and equally as articulate) it doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other people out there who agree with you. I know a LOT of very intelligent people who simply aren’t comfortable handing out criticisms of other authors’ works. They are also of the mind that readers and reviewers give plently of input without their two cents being necessary.

  25. THIS! Christine
      · August 5th, 2005 at 1:46 pm · Link

    This may not be on topic, but it has something to do with the notion of what constitutes (according to some) a good, bad, or literary romance novel, and the notion that until we (as a genre) elevate someone to excellence then the genre as a whole is doomed to low-brow status.

    I watch with interest when blogs I frequent mention their ‘must buy’ authors, their excellent, A1 list. Most of the time they’re authors I’ve never read, and sometimes never heard of. I have my pangs of inadequacy that I’m somehow reading lesser, low brow pap, but then my ego reasserts itself. Bottom line is I read for ENTERTAINMENT. Likewise movies. Entertain me or I will tune you out, turn you off, put you down. I’ve been burned many many times (thank you NYTimes BS list) into buying books that were so unbelievably banal I felt completely ripped off and wondered WHY! why is everyone touting this title as the second coming in literature?

    Okay, I veered away from romance there, but I think my point is (did I have one?) tastes vary. If they didn’t we wouldn’t have the amazing genres and sub genres that exist today, and no one should be made to feel bad because they read Nora, or absolutely love the ‘secret baby’ scenario, or whatever premise turns their crank, by anyone. Period. Again, we have the NY Times for that.


  26. Candy
      · August 5th, 2005 at 2:34 pm · Link

    I’m just going to apologize for this discussion at this point. Considering how many people I like and respect that I’ve managed to piss off, it’s become quite clear to me that my communication skills may be quite faulty today.

    Eh, it was a simple misunderstanding. I mis-read something you wrote, you cleared it up, I felt like a doof for mis-reading you, struck out what was said and apologized. So please don’t feel bad, and please don’t feel like you need to avoid controversy. I enjoy a good debate now and then. It’s brrrrisk. It can suck if it gets personal, but a lot of times I think it’s just touchiness and a little clarification usually takes care of that.

    I didn’t think you were trying to start an anti-author-as-reviewer brigade, by the way. I disagree with you, but hey, I disagree with HelenKay and Wendy about the heinousness of fanfic, and we’re still speaking to each other.

  27. Erica
      · August 5th, 2005 at 2:48 pm · Link

    I’ve read the comments here with interest, and there’s definitely validity to both sides. I think Shannon did a wonderful job with her baseball analogy of articulating why she’s uncomfortable with the practice.
    I think reviewing is subjective, and if you’re going to put your stuff out there, you need to be conscious of that. Some reviewers are articulate and very clear about why they dislike (or love) a book. Some are snide and condescending. I know which kind of reviews I like to read. That said, there are reviewers definitely guilty of not leaving their prejudices at the door. I’m not talking about pointing out cliches and wooden dialogue, but reviewers on a clear bandwagon. My best-reviewed book had one review so out of whack that I had a hard time even wrapping my mind around the woman’s points, which bordered on hysteria. Then another writer sent me the reviewer’s web page. Turns out she’s a born-again Christian (nothing wrong with that) who “hates” premarital sex or graphic sex in novels. So why was she reviewing a book with a central theme of incest on a teen girl (this was not a romance but a crime saga)? If she had stuck to clear, slaient points at hand, then fine. We agree to disagree, but she hadn’t. So I think the idea that we can’t peer review is maybe too restrictive, but there are those who can do it with clarity and with a sense of objectiveness and those who can’t. I don’t think the review that started all this was particularly horrible, frankly, but there are enough reviewers and bloggers out there using the web to grind an axe or two . . . and hopefully book buyers are savy enough to know the difference.

  28. Jaynie R
      · August 15th, 2005 at 4:35 am · Link

    Poor Shan – did you go a bit :crazy:?

    Personally – I had no problem with the review – I didn’t think they bashed the author – just the book. I’ve never understood the whole “don’t review others once you are published” thing – I’m not looking forward to having to only gush once I’m published.

    I don’t think you posted anything particularly wrong either Shan.

    So when am I getting the were-penguin story? :penguin:

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