Please join the Mermaids in welcoming Romance Author Lynne Silver! Take it away, Lynne…
We all know the adage if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. And generally that’s a good thing. What about when it comes to book reviews on Amazon or Goodreads? Should authors give their honest opinion about books written by fellow authors?
As much as I am a published author, I might be more of a reader. I’m addicted to romance novels and read 2-3 per week. I often want to discuss them, possibly in a public forum, but the day I was published was the day I stopped giving my public opinion about a book if I think it’s anything less than stellar.
I retweet and Facebook share tons of links to good reviews and any promo for fellow writer friends, but it’s been a long time since I’ve had a good discussion about a book. Do I write Amazon reviews? Yes, for members of my RWA chapter, and when I can honestly recommend the book.
I’m not alone in this practice. It’s the dirty little secret that romance authors are stacking review sites and Twitter feeds with promo for their friends. But we rarely go negative.
Why? Because it feels unprofessional to criticize a fellow author in a public forum.
Maybe we should. If I’ve written a sucky book, I’d want to know. Who better to tell me the whys of it then a fellow romance author? I’m still scared though. It feels as though I’d be opening myself up as the terrible person who criticized a colleague on the internet.
What do you think? If you’re an author do you write negative honest reviews? Why or why not? Would you think less of an author who did?
Thank you for hosting me!
It was our pleasure, Lynne, and you raised some great questions! Thank you so much for being our guest today.
Check out the latest release in Lynne’s Coded for Love series with Ellora’s Cave, False Match:
Genetically enhanced soldier Chase Stanton has two jobs in life. One, he must kick ass on all missions for the Program and, two, breed with his DNA breed mate, whoever and wherever she may be. Two problems. Chase learns he isn’t genetically enhanced after all and Doctor Samara Jones, the woman he craves beyond all reason, is likely an enemy of his team and not his true match. Too bad they can’t keep their hands off each other.
34 thoughts on “Author Lynne Silver Swims with the Mermaids: Momma Always Said…”
Wow! Great topic because you are cracking the door on a topic that all authors must deal with. We are a supportive community and it feels like treason almost to go negative in public about a fellow author’s book
Denny, I love your use of the word Treason. Cause that’s exactly what it feels like.
Okay my iPad acted up…the rest of what I wanted to say is that most authors want constructive criticism but I don’t think a review is the place to provide it. Let the professional reviewers do the public thing, and send a private note to a fellow author and say I liked theses things but …
Denny, this is the BEST advice! I wish I would have read your response before leaving my comment—it would have been much shorter!!!
It is good advice, but honestly I’d be TOTALLY taken aback if I got an email from an author out of the blue, saying they didn’t love my book for the following reasons. I think it would upset me. Maybe, or maybe I’d put on my big girl panties and take the info to heart, as long as it was constructive.
Oh definitely, me too, Lynne. I wouldn’t just out of the blue send my personal opinion…only if the author asked and even then I’d concentrate on keeping it positive.
I agree, exactly what I do
I agree with Denny that I don’t think a public review is the place to criticize a colleague. I generally don’t leave reviews unless I really love a book because I’d rather not say anything than to say something negative in a public forum. But I’m the type of person that if an author asked me for my opinion I’d be honest. I’d try to put a positive spin on it and talk about the things I enjoyed about the story, but I would also be honest about the things that took me away from the story.
And thanks for joining us Lynne! Great topic!
Good Morning Lynne 🙂 I’m so happy you are here today and have raised this question about writers rating other writers work on sites like Goodreads. I was thinking about this just the other day and so I’ll be interested to hear everyone’s thoughts. As writers, we’re a community known for helping each other out. Especially in the critique area. It’s what we do in our writing groups and when we judge contests. I think the majority of authors out there probably do want an honest opinion when it comes to their published work. But then again, it’s also a very competitive market, the work is so close to our hearts and I can’t think of a more subjective business to be in. So what a great question as far as authors reviewing other authors! I think part of this equation is that once you become published, you have this feeling that you’ve arrived at some level and it’s weird to then continue to be judged by other writers. But it’s part of always growing and getting better and therefore necessary. I know most rating systems usually give you a star scale from one to five, five being the best. What’s sad is that sometimes, you read a good book that just doesn’t touch you very deeply. What do you do with that? I’ve also had the flip where I read a book most other people rated a 2 but something about it really did touch me and I’d give it a 5.
As writers, we generally want to help other writers. If I read something I love, I want to share that with other book lovers.
I guess you either have to be comfortable putting your true feelings out there when it comes to fellow authors’ books or decide to tuck those opinions inside and adopt the policy not to rate others books. Gosh, this is such a hard and tricky question!
I won’t lie, as a newly published author, sometimes Goodreads scares me!
Carlene, your so rigth about this being a subjective business. And, particularly in romance, it’s all about the emotional draw. Which is why several big name books hit the lists- because of their emotional tug, not because of the writing.
If I didn’t like a book, I don’t write a review. Reading is a subjective exercise. As a writer, I know blood, sweat, and tears went into those words on the page. I congratulate the effort and keep my opinion to myself.
Great point about the effort. Only another author knows what it took to get that book published. Everyone gets at least 3 stars merely for showing up and finishing the manuscript!
Blood Sweat and Tears…so true Mary Jo 🙂
Opinions on which book moves us or not is subjective in most cases and negative critiques once a book is written and out there, negative remarks, no matter how well meaning, does more harm than good. It’s my practice not to give critical public opinions on books I’ve read for that reason. When a book is in its formative stages, critical opinion can make a story better, but not once it’s left the creative womb and meets the world. So, great advice, Lynne.
Deb, you’re right about throwing negative energy out into the world. Once it’s out there, there’s no taking it back. Also, there is the consideration that a negative review by a fellow author may carry more weight than a normal reader review. “Oh, Stephen King said he hated that book? Well, I’ll never try it then”
I really like the way you put this, Deb.
Great post! I think Denny hit it right on the head when she said it is okay to have constructive criticism for a book, but when you are an author, the review isn’t the place to give it. For readers, this is different, of course, and it’s frustrating that there’s a double standard there, but the fact of the matter is that there IS. We all have different tastes and styles, and there’s no way we can like everything our fellow author-friends have written. But airing that out in a review is– in my opinion– a bad idea on several levels. If you have something nice to say, great. If not, save it for a private discussion.
If you can’t say something nice… 😉
Kim, you bring a great point…the public review is not the place for a published author to spout their opinion. Is there a good place? I think maybe no.
Agreed– unless an author asks me (and even then, probably only if I know her well enough to gauge if it will be constructive), I wouldn’t even sent a private message to say I didn’t care for it. Personally, I don’t understand vitriolic reviews from anyone. It is okay to not like something. It is NOT okay to ever attack the person who wrote it/trash the work/say hateful things. All authors work hard– and I’d wager many readers have no clue HOW hard. It takes a lot to put your blood, sweat and tears out there for the whole world to see.
And karma comes for us all 😉
The great thing about Lynne Silver is that I LOVEEEEEEEE her Coded for Love series so I don’t even have to lie when I give it five stars, retweet it, like it, share it, stalk it, etc. 😉
Kidding aside, this is a really interesting topic. I’m curious to see what people post throughout the day. Welcome to the lagoon, Lynne!
Thank you Kerri, I love your series too! (Look out world- great things are coming from this author!)
Also look out world, because Kerri and I are starting the English Major’s guide to Romance novels. We’ll be deconstructing novels in our post-modern, postfeminist world, with a help from Foucault and Derrida. I know you all can’t wait.
And since I was “that” English major who took the film classes, I will be doing movie reviews, especially of Lifetime movies made from romance novels. It’s going to be pretty amazing-sauce!
Diana, I love your point. Maybe as a community, we authors need to step up and only write reviews for books that legitamately move us, and not just because the author is a friend.
I’m a reader first, and like Lynn, I miss deep conversation about books. I love to talk about my own stories and those of others, and the ideas and memories and feelings that spring to mind as we read them. But writing reviews for places like Goodreads/Amazon feels like a minefield. I want to talk about what I read and how it’s done and what insights are swimming through my thoughts because of it. I love to read other people’s reviews, and think it’s right to give back. So I do write reviews.
But I hold myself back. If I wouldn’t give a book a 3-star rating or above, I don’t write about it—sometimes I don’t even mark it “read.” I never mark a book “did not finish” when the fact is I don’t finish about one-third to one-half of the books I start reading.
That’s because for authors GR/AMZ is marketing, not conversation. I tell myself that my 3-star reviews (which means “good book, you’d probably like it”) are adding to the total number of reviews, and so helping the authors get publicity on sites that require 20+ reviews on GR before they’ll talk to you. But I do worry that the writer sees the 3-star and thinks I’m criticizing her. In a way, it’s like when readers confuse the characters in the book with the characteristics of the author herself. Actually, I think *this* book was worth 3 stars and I think everyone who writes for public consumption is a marvel and model of bravery.
For me, reading is just the start of the conversation. I love to point out cool story structure, great lines, and deep emotion in what I’ve read. Should I do that only if the author is dead or a stranger, or if the book is flawless?
With pseudonyms, “author personas” online and at conventions, and our self-policed mandate to say nothing “bad,” I have the feeling we only ever allow ourselves to be authentic in our novels. It makes me tired to be always swimming in the shallows in public.
Nicky, I LOVE your line about we only ever allow ourselves to be authentic in our novels. I ddin’t realize until you said it how true it is. I never post political stuff on facebook, no matter how badly I might want to. What if I have a reader who sits on the opposite side of the fence? The Coded for Love series delves into serious hot button medical issues. I let my characters say things I’d never post on facebook
Fantastic topic, Lynne! And I agree that I wouldn’t give a book a negative review, but I’m afraid I’m with Carlene in that I don’t think I could even send a private email to another author whose book I didn’t like.
I was actually, very awkwardly in this position recently. I asked for reviews of a new book from a group of writer friends and one said she’d be happy to swap reviews with me. She read my book (a novella so it didn’t take her long), and wrote a very nice review. I then read her book and it was… well, I had a really hard time getting through it. But I had promised to write a review! I did the best I could and lied through my teeth in the review I posted. What else could I have done?
But it taught me a lesson — never agree to swap reviews with someone whose work I don’t already love!
Oh Merry, that is a tough one! Thank you so much for sharing what you learned in a sticky situation with the rest of us.
Meredith., I was once in the same boat. I gave it 4 stars and sandwiched a good amount of constructive criticism in between sentences like “Interesting concept” and “lots of love scenes”
I’ve come to the conclusion that my reader self can never entirely distance herself from my author self, thus raising the specter of conflict of interest. I don’t review. Period. If I give a positive review, somebody will say I’m just boosting a buddy, if I give a negative review, I’m slamming a competitor or a buddy’s competitor. And because I cannot be objective about my own motives, it’s easier to leave the reviewing to others. That said, Amazon–that recently self-proclaimed pillar of reviewing ethics–pokes me regularly to review books I’ve purchased, even my own. I refrain, but oh, the temptation…
Oh yes…the temptation, especially when they’re poking one to do so!!! Thanks for stopping by Grace and sharing your thoughts with us. I think your stance is a safe bet for an author to take.
A few more thoughts:
1. I wonder if, after someone reads one of my glowing reviews on GR and buys the book and then hates it, would their reflections on my books change, too?
2. Stephen King recently reviewed Margaret Atwood’s new book for the New York Times, and there’s a long history or authors reviewing work by other authors. Why *don’t* romance authors do the same? Is it a patriarchy thing? An “old-world” thing?
Hi again Nicky! I just had to giggle at this because the other day I was telling Lynne (who does fabulous reviews) that mine are so plain and boring, even when I love something. I’m good to get out something like, “I really loved this book.” or “It was thoroughly entertaining.” So I doubt my reviews are helpful anyway!! Thank you so much for chatting up this hot topic with us. I think at the end of the day, we are a helpful bunch and just want to continue to be so.
I agree with all the above. I have been known to give a 2 star movie 5 stars, and vice versa. But I still like to read the reviews, Carlene, I’ve never read anything you wrote and considered it boring!
Aww, thank you! xoxo
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