Writers, Reviews, and Professionalism

In the ‘What Not To Do In Publishing” episode of the podcast Hide and Create, hosts Jordan Ellinger, Joshua Essoe, Diana Rowland, and Moses Siregar III discussed writers writing book reviews. And by reviews, they made a distinction between blurbing a book and posting a review on Amazon, their blog, or some other website. And generally, they were of the opinion that this was probably not a good practice for writers. Critics and professional reviewers: sure, that’s what you’re paid to do. But writers are not paid to be critics, and so they probably shouldn’t do it for free, either.

They had two arguments against writers posting reviews. First, some people discount reviews written by writers (cough, Amazon, cough), either because writers tend to pull punches (having been the victim of harsh reviews in the past), or they suspect that writers who are friendly toward one another will trade favorable, five-star reviews to boost sales. Second, and more importantly, publishing is a small world, so writing a critical review of a book might seem harmless until you want to sell your book. Then you might realize that your target editor or the agent saw your review, and they hold you in a negative, unprofessional light.

So while I think writers are capable of being harsh towards one another (I mean, have you seen comments flung around in writers’ groups?), and that I think the trading of reviews is less common than some suspect (but I have no way of proving or disproving this idea), I think that second fear is probably legitimate. I don’t want to burn any bridges unnecessarily.

So what does this mean for the site? Well, it means you will see less reviews. But not zero. What you will start seeing are endorsements. I will post about books that I absolutely love. So, for example, you will probably see a post about THE REPUBLIC OF THIEVES by Scott Lynch once I finish my e-ARC (and once it gets closer to publication date). But you will not see detailed reviews for 3- or 4-star reviews. I might tag books with star ratings on Goodreads, but I will save the in-depth coverage for books I love. In other words, the Bambi rule is in full effect when it comes to book reviews.

Of course, this won’t stop me from reading books. I will continue to devour them. And there will undoubtedly be some stinkers among them. Hopefully, I can learn from every book, and those lessons will help me in my writing. But I will probably keep those lessons private.

What do you think? Should writers post critical reviews? Or should we limit to endorsements?