Monday, September 16, 2013

Thoughtful Reviews R Us!

Here is my history:

1. Started reading romance novels obsessively about fifteen years ago, participated on numerous reader boards.

2. Started a blog and reviewed romance novels for public consumption about five years ago.

3. Became a published author shortly thereafter...about four years ago.

4. Continued to read, review, blog, write, and publish.

So I started as a reader, I became a blogger/reviewer, and then I became an author. It never occurred to me to stop voicing my honest opinion about books just because I now write them. In fact, I think the reviewing community needs MORE authors to voice their opinions. Have I ever had back-lash? Yes, but minimal. Most authors are professionals.

Observations about bloggers/reviewers....

1. Some are reader-consumers who like to talk about books. They buy their own books, they have no ads, no sponsor spots, do not accept free ARCs, do not have any sort of relationship with publishers, authors, or publicists. There are very few of these left in romance. I call these "OLD SKOOL BLOGGERS"...their issues and concerns represent Joe Schmo Reader. Is the book too expensive? Is it available everywhere you want to buy it? Was it released on the promised date? Consumer issues.

2. Some blogs are a business. They have ads, paid sponsor spots, accept free ARCs, promote authors, participate in blog tours, do interviews and other promotional items. Since they get free books--months in advance--they have a different set of issues/concerns than consumer reviewers. They don't care about price, availability, or release date delays. They have business concerns: traffic to their site, getting promised ARCs on time, authors following through on blog tour details, etc. I call these "BUSINESS BLOGS."

3. And then you have everything and anything between these two ends of the spectrum.

Additional observations:

Some reviewer/bloggers have no idea how to write a review. They write something like "SQUEE! THIS IS THE GREATEST BOOK EVER!" It's a nice thing to say. It's an opinion about something. But it is certainly not a well-thought-out, well-written, critical review about anything. Nevertheless, they, just as any old consumer who leaves a review at Amazon, are entitled to their opinion, and can express it in any way they see fit.

Some reviewer/bloggers are well-educated, thoughtful, and present a critical, well-supported book review. They use examples from the text, they use terms like "character arcs" and "external conflict" and actually know what those mean. Not only are they familiar with this genre, but they are well-read enough in other fields to get the big picture.

And you get pretty much everything in between these two extremes.

Now, for the kicker.

Should authors review? Well, let's think about it for a minute.

Who would be the best possible person to understand craft issues, trends in romance, how to structure a novel, specific literary devices, etc? Maybe someone with a degree in writing? How about someone who is immersed in the industry? How about someone who writes books?


Hey! That just might work!

She would be on top of trends, understand the big picture, have a clue about pacing, conflict, character arcs, story arcs, and literary references. Since she's a WRITER, she might be able to WRITE a good review.


I am NOT saying that authors are the only ones who should be writing reviews. I've seen thoughtful, excellent reviews written by kids, teens, business bloggers, consumer bloggers, and even by someone's grandmother.

And I have also seen authors write excellent reviews. Not blowing-sunshine-up-someone's-ass-reviews, but critical, well-reasoned, supported analyses of books.

I have a huge amount of respect for authors who are not afraid to voice their honest opinions. I don't look at authors leaving honest (sometimes harsh) reviews as "spreading negativity." I look at it as someone who is an expert in the field of fiction giving a respectful opinion on a book. Period. That's what reviews are supposed to be.

I can't imagine someone more qualified to be a romance reviewer than a romance author.

Do chefs review restaurants? Yes.

Do artists review art shows? Yes.

Do writers review books in well-respected journals and newspapers? Yes. No one is questioning their motives or agenda. They are often the best person for the job, for obvious reasons.

Not every author is good at reviewing, or interested in reviewing. And that's fine. But for the writers who are passionate readers, who have an opinion and want to express it, I sure hope there is room for them in this big bunch of voices.

God knows I'm not going anywhere.

Loud and proud,