Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Writers Reviewing Books

This morning I read a very insightful article written by author Fiona Snyckers about reviewing books as a writer. I often get asked to review books, publishers even send them to me nowadays and there are many issues that come to the fore. If I know the writer how do I approach the review? If it's a good book- no problem, but what if it's not. What then? I've often taken the cowardly approach and wrote nothing.

Though Fiona speaks about the small South African publishing world, with internet the publishing world all over has become very small. Getting a black mark against your name for bashing some one's book is not a good career move and may come back to get you. And too, is it even correct for writers to judge other books? Isn't it a bit like the bosses at Ford critiquing the new Toyota Hilux?

Here on this blog I don't consider my posts reviews. They're my opinion just like my opinion on my performance in the recent bird count (BTW- the woman called me and was full of praise for my work. I told her the truth about what went on but she would not be subdued). As writers we read, and there are books we love and books we don't. On this blog I speak only about the books I love. Perhaps I'm rationalising it and trying to get away from the label 'book review' but somehow I feel it's different.

What do you think? Is it right for writers to review books? Do you? And how to approach these ethical issues?

9 comments:

Sue Guiney said...

A difficult conundrum, to be sure. That was the origin of my "Great Conversation" posts. By interviewing writers, I can publicize their work, give them a platform to talk about what they want, and not have to actually review. I really write a "proper" review. The ones that I have, though, have been unsolicited (ie Clare Dudman's latest, and Debi Alper's earlier work). That seems to work for me. But I do believe that writers have to expect criticism which I give if I need to - but there is always something good to be said as well. (This reminds me -I'll ask Tania what she wants to do about our famous 3-way convo).

Sue Guiney said...

oops...I should have proofread before hitting submit: I meant to say I "rarely" write proper reviews, not really write them....

Lauri said...

"Famous 3-way conversation" - I Like that! Ha!

This discussion is going on among South African writers on Facebook and someone commented that she didn't like reviews from non-authors since they didn't know how difficult it was to write a book, that and author has the correct perspective. There are plenty of angles from which one can view this issue.

Cold As Heaven said...

I think it's quite natural that writers review books, but the writer should review with the professional glasses on. I think in many cases, the opinion of a writer may be different from that of the average reader. Another example; in my work, which is cience and research, our pblications always go through peer review (by colleagues working in the same field) before our articles are eventually published. It's part of the quality control system >:)

Cold As Heaven

Judy Croome said...

I don't enjoy vicious reviews by readers or another author. There's enough nastiness and negativity in this world without adding to it on something as minor as a book review.

If a reviewer tries hard enough, surely they can find *one* nice thing to say that they really mean? If they can't, then they should simply say "this book was not to my taste, but others may enjoy it."

To keep my review balanced, I try to use the sandwich method of review - praise/criticism/praise. That way the author knows I'm not just a sychophantic fan or vengeful competitor, but am reading the work as intelligently as I can. My latest blogpost is on some reviews I've done, so this is a timeous debate! :)
Judy(South Africa)

Anonymous said...

like I think it would be difficult for a writer to actually sit down and read a book in order to review it when they dislike it, otherwise the review would turn out bad, and people reading that review may end up being biased. then again it depends on how the writer reviews the work,either in regard to their on preference or professional look just as COLD AS HEAVEN mentioned, it really just depends.
I wanted to ask as an unpublished author in Botswana, what procedure would one follow to have their work appraised(manuscript appraisal) and edited?

Lauri said...

Anon- If you want your manuscript edited anywhere you hire an editor unless it's been accepted for publication then the publisher will have it edited for you.

Miriam Drori said...

I thought of this post when I read this one by Melanie Jacobson. It certainly is "a difficult conundrum" as Sue said.

Paul said...

I think a writer can provide a review regardless of their opinion of the work as long as they are honest and objective. I think, at least sometimes, people begin a review by comparing the work at hand to how they would do it, and that leads to conflict.

If you are fortunate enough to have Lauri do a review, you can take her opinion to the bank - she's good, very good.