The OF Blog: Should authors post/publish reviews?

Monday, July 09, 2007

Should authors post/publish reviews?

Here is something to consider: should authors publish reviews of other writers' books/novels/etc.?

I happen to have met a writer, who while writing her own books, at the same time publishes reviews in an online ezine. She claims and really abides by the rules she set for herself, that she never reviews works of fellow Polish writers and as such concentrates only on foreign translations. To me, that sounds like she does have a feeling that this situation is controversial and tries to build some sort of Chinese Walls that would prevent her from various accusations of being unfair (I've seen a few).

This (author as a reviewer) seems to be a fairly popular practice, especially online, but is it really good for writers? Is it good for the market, readers, objectivity?


Larry said...

It depends on the author and situation at hand. Some of the best critics are those who are researchers/colleagues. In reviewing historical monographs, always best for fellow historians of that period/type of history to do the reviewing, since they have the expertise and knowledge of the body of work done in that field.

In fiction, that depends again on the author. Some critics, like John Clute, are occasional authors, but are known primarily for their reviewing. Same for editors such as Nick Gevers (along with Clute and a couple of others, these are the best in the business for writing the types of reviews that I learn things from besides whether or not the plot is a good one). Charles de Lint is a regular writer for Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine and his reviews are generally fairly good ones.

The only time that I would question is if authors review personal friends and don't reveal this fact or if they are just reviewing "in-house" for their publisher. That can get a bit dodgy at times, but I've found a lot of excellent authors thanks to other authors mentioning/recommending them in interviews or on their blogs (Jeff VanderMeer is one that I owe a huge debt of gratitude for introducing me to quite a few talented voices, for example).

So I would argue that for the most part, it is an acceptable thing, provided that their opinion is stated and argued eloquently and honestly.

Vanin said...

I'm more afraid of the situation when an author publishes a negative reviews as compared to a positive one. You see, when Charles de Lint*, for instance, posts a positive review all he risks is that readers disappointed with the recommended title will be very wary next time they see another recommendation by him, but when he flays someone's book, situtation is a bit different. Such a reviewer risks his objectivity will be questioned more than in case of any other positive review, since he's critisizing his direct competitor.

As a result of that, authors may abstain from writing negative reviews and we will receive a bunch of one-sided, sugary opinions.

Anyway, for me it is a very touchy subject and I'd risk saying that the possibility of a potential conflict of interests is just too big to justify a writer-reviewer situation.

* I'm not implying de Lint is in any way unfair, the name was picked from Larry's comment

Carl V. said...

I would prefer authors only share their opinions on the stories they really liked. I wouldn't want them to quite altogether as I have picked up many a book that I ended up really enjoying based solely on the fact that an author I admired recommended it.

Roh said...

I think I tend to back up a little when an author makes a negative statement about a work (John Connolly said in a review that Terry Pratchett's lack of chapter breaks in the discworld novels detracts from the quality of the works. It annoyed me, especially since I don't agree).

It isn't actually fair of me, I think. Just because one writes doesn't mean one loses the ability to feel and judge for oneself.

So long as they don't drag their own works into the review, I think I shall try to read the review with an open mind. Just like I would read something posted here.

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