You’re more than just a book to me: Authors who also review.

28

June 19, 2013 by Heidi

I think that we, as readers, all have an opinion of how we like to interact with authors and their behavior online.  With the ever-growing influence of Social Media, we’re suddenly able to communicate with authors via Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and a number of other outlets, all of which allow us to experience books in new ways.  One topic that’s up for debate is whether it’s appropriate for authors to review books (namely, this gets brought up in reference to Goodreads).  I want to come out and say, yes! I am all for this.

Goodreads Logo

Personally, when I love an author’s work, I tend to think they have generally pretty good taste.  Sure, being in the industry can create a certain amount of bias.  Some authors don’t read in the genre they write in, while others immerse themselves in it.  I’ve found that I love to read reviews from those authors who do read works similar to those they write, or I like to keep my ear out for those author friendships.  For example, when I went to see Susanna Kearsley having not read her books, I immediately knew I was in the right place when she referred to her friends Lauren [Willig] (The Pink Carnation series) and Deanna [Raybourn] (Lady Julia series). Clearly if that’s the writer crowd you hang out with–and I do believe that great minds think alike–I’m going to love your work.

But back to reviews specifically.  At BEA, Janice and I were speaking, and she told me about how Aussie author, Shirley Marr (Preloved) used to review on Goodreads, but stopped reviewing under her author profile after receiving negative pressure from users.  This left me somewhat baffled and disappointed.  Why?  Why is it inappropriate for authors to express their opinions on other authors’ work?  Should authors only post positive reviews?  Why are their reviews held to different standards than bloggers?  Though, I suppose, there are many out there who would love bloggers to only post positive reviews as well (let’s hearken back to Thea’s words at Blogger Con about the very important distinction between critical and negative, shall we?).

The fact of the matter is, for the most part, authors I follow who review do only post positive reviews–and these are very weighted for me!  When I respect an author and their work, I respect how their mind ticks, and I know that I’m likely to love the same things they do.  So, who are some of my favorite author reviewers on Goodreads?

Patrick Rothfuss

Patrick Rothfuss Profile Pic from Goodreads

Patrick Rothfuss–I love this man.  Unabashedly.  Rothfuss doesn’t have a huge social networking presence, he’s quite busy with touring, awesome Kickstarters, organizing massive charity events, and you know–WRITING ABOUT KVOTHE, and this keeps him from things like Twitter. But, the man does review on Goodreads, and he reads a lot.  A lot of SF/F, and graphic novels in particular.  As a graphic novel reader surrounded by bookish friends who don’t always read a ton in this medium, I find his thoughts quite valuable.

Rachel Neumeier

Rachel Neumeier Profile Pic from Goodreads

Rachel Neumeier–Rachel and I have so much overlap in our reading tastes that I can’t help but be excited every time she puts a new book or author on my radar.  Well, except for the fact that that means there’s another book on my radar. (I so don’t need a bigger TBR.)  She reads and reviews a lot of SciFi and Fantasy, and makes excellent recommendations for both older and recent titles that she’s enjoyed.  She’s fantastic about engaging other readers about speculative fiction, and I really enjoy swapping recommendations with her.

Phoebe North

Phoebe North Profile Pic from Goodreads

Phoebe North–While I haven’t read Phoebe’s debut, Starglass (yet!), I totally bonded with her over our childhood love of Pern and the fact that we may or may not have both been active in Pern-based fan-fiction clubs at some point.  Needless to say, she reads a lot of speculative fiction, and is extremely active as a Goodreads user, including full reviews and status updates.  Like Rachel, she likes to use Goodreads to interact with other readers, not merely as a platform for her own work.  Honestly, this just makes me more excited to read her stuff.

 

You can follow these authors and their reviews on Goodreads, but all three of them have excellent blogs as well!  Here is Patrick’s, Rachel’s, and Phoebe’s.  And of course, this is just a quick list–there are many more (like Andrea K. Höst who reads and reviews a lot of mystery)!

Authors reviewing their own books:

Okay, I’ll admit, this is where I draw my line on where it is and is not appropriate for authors to review on Goodreads.  Something about an author posting a 5-Star review for their own work really turns me off as a reader.  I know you think it’s good, you wouldn’t have written it otherwise, do you really need to advertise yourself in that way?

What I do like, is when authors post about their books in the review section without giving themselves a star rating.  For example, last week Phoebe North posted the story of her story in her review of Starbreak (the upcoming second book in her series), which was really touching.  Again, Andrea K. Höst also posts these types of explanatory updates on her books, which is a great way for us fans of her self-pubed work to stay in the know as to what she’s working on and when it will be available.  And then there’s Patrick Rothfuss’ review of the The Doors of Stone, the final book in his Kingkiller Chronicles, which is currently being written.  This review left me in fits of giggles, and is one of my favorite things ever. A definite must read, particularly for Doctor Who fans.

So that’s my two cents.  I understand why many authors don’t review books–there’s a lot of diplomacy and politics I didn’t go into here that authors inevitably have to face–but I personally really enjoy those who do.

Do you follow any author’s reviews? If so–who? Do you have any particular feelings about authors reviewing others’ work or their own?
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28 comments »

  1. Patrick Rothfuss. That’s all I have to say. He’d be a brilliant reviewer and one I’d follow even if he was not Patrick Rothfuss.

  2. I do think authors should be able to use Goodreads, and it’s really sad that Shirley Marr was chased off. However, I do try not to be friends with too many authors on Goodreads, only because I often doubt the reliability of their reviews, because they do only post positive opinions, and I know there’s often pressure to help promote books by their friends, so it’s hard for me to know whether that five star is because the book truly blew them away or because that author is their best friend.

    One author who’s opinions I respect but don’t always agree with is Tamora Pierce. She’s one of the only authors on Goodreads who will give one and two star ratings, because I guess if you’re Tamora Pierce you don’t really have any fucks to give. I’ve added a lot of lesser known fantasy to my list because she gave those books four or five star ratings and I know that means something coming from her.

    Even though I’m not often friends with authors on GR, I do like for them to be there. It’s a great way to interact, and I don’t think the answer to the blogger/author drama of the last couple years is segregating authors from the reading community; it’s learning to respect one another and being less easily wounded.

    Also, while I wouldn’t not read a book because the author rated it five stars (it’s their prerogative), it does seem in rather tacky, since you’re upping your average rating artificially.

    • Heidi says:

      That’s an excellent point about questioning the reliability of people who only post positive reviews, and I’m CERTAINLY going to be following Tamora Pierce from now on.

      I completely agree as well that the answer to drama isn’t segmenting the community, it’s remembering to respect one another and the reality that there are real people on the other sides of those computer screens.

  3. Great topic! I think authors should feel comfortable reviewing other books. Or at least writing about them. There are so many books that I’ve picked up just because an author’s name was attached to it. But just like we’re a community, authors are a community. I think they should be able to write about books they’ve read and loved/hated. However, I think it’s in poor taste when they review their own books. Obviously they’re going to give their book a 5 star review! It’s probably a touchy subject, and maybe sometimes a conflict of interest, but I don’t think we need to run authors off of Goodreads for posting their opinions! No one runs bloggers/readers/whoever off for doing that!

    • Heidi says:

      Thanks, Candice! I’m the same–I’ll often pick up books based on an author’s blurb or recommendation. Well, SOME people would like to run off certain bloggers for posting critical opinions of books, but I do think there is a balance to be found in both the reading and writing community as far as being respectful but honest as to one’s opinions.

  4. I used to LOVE Marr’s reviews and they helped me to find so many amazing Aussie titles, so it was a real shame she stopped. I love Rachel and Phoebe’s reviews, though, and I’ll have to start reading Patrick’s for sure. I really like when author’s review books too, just not so much their own. I know Rae Carson often writes short thoughts on books she reads and a sentence or two for hers with a 5 Star rating, which isn’t bad either. Brigid Kemmerer does that too. It’s only the author’s who look for negative reviews of theirs, who interfere in that author/reader space that bother me. Otherwise, I LOVE hearing what author’s have to say about other novels. Wonderful post, Heidi – this needed to be discussed! :)

    • Heidi says:

      I believe Marr DOES still review, but under a different name/account, and I honestly don’t know what that is. She’s a total sweetheart though, so I’m betting if you asked her on Goodreads she’s respond!

  5. Li says:

    Thanks for sharing your favourite author reviewers – not that I need more recs really…

    I personally understand why authors only post 4/5 star reviews only – it makes sense from a professional point of view and I’ve no issues with that (provided that they’re honest positive reviews). It’s nice to understand what works for them and not. I personally haven’t seen any 1/2 star reviews from authors – I obviously need to search out Tamora Pierce’s reviews!

    I’m with you on authors giving their own books 5 stars though – meh. At least GR makes it obvious it’s from the author.

    • Heidi says:

      Haha, I KNOW! I almost hate when I find another person whose recommendations I love because it just makes the pile bigger.

      I agree, I don’t mind an author posting positively as long as I can believe what they have to say. I’m going to be checking out Tamora Pierce’s reviews as well!

  6. Sarah says:

    I have no problem with authors reviewing books on Goodreads or in other places. I’ve enjoyed Phoebe’s reviews for a long time, and there are a few other others I follow who are pretty interesting in their reviews. I think it’s interesting that there seems to be pressure among the writing community that they only post positive reviews online, when authors have always been reviewers in traditional publications.

    The one thing that really bugs me is when an author posts a glowing endorsement of a book because they’re an agent-/publisher-mate of the author out of a sense of obligation. (Sometimes it’s pretty easy to read between the lines on those, too, which is semi-amusing.)

    • Heidi says:

      That’s an EXCELLENT point about authors always having been reviewers in traditional publications, and how the online atmosphere has changed what people expect of them protocol-wise. I always look for what a blurb from an author says on a book, not just who it’s by, because yeah–some of them are pretty obviously diplomatically supporting someone.

  7. What a great topic, Heidi! I’m with you in loving when an author reviews the books they read. And though I’d love to see their honest opinion, negative or not, I can totally understand why such a public figure would only highlight positive reviews. Both because of backlash and also because they may know the fellow author. But I agree, that a beloved author who also reads the kinds of books I like, is an opinion that I value.

    It honestly doesn’t bother me when an author gives their book 5 stars. I mean it’s a little silly, but it wouldn’t turn me off from picking up their story. Hopefully authors think their own books are awesome, because if not, they shouldn’t be publishing them. It’s authors that get angry at low reviews, who’ve gone too far. However, I do LOVE when authors talk about their book in the review section. Rothfuss’s review of his book 3 is hilarious! Thanks for this insightful discussion.

    • Heidi says:

      I can totally understand why some authors wouldn’t post more critical reviews, and I don’t mind. In my mind, they could easily just not post about books they disliked. Isn’t Rothfuss’s review amazing? I love it.

  8. I am friends with a few authors on Goodreads but I was friends with them before they were published in most cases. I’m sure I’m friends with some self-pubbed authors that I don’t realize are authors but it’s irrelevant to the comment I will make. Sharing a love for similar books is really satisfying, but I find that it is really what reader’s *don’t* like that helps me understand their tastes and how their interests relate to me as a reader. I don’t care to follow a lot of authors on Goodreads (or anyone who only posts positive reviews) because it just feels artificial to me. When someone likes everything, or we’re not given the other half of the situation, I feel like I’m being duped. I also feel like many authors on GR post 4-5 star reviews for writers they know, people who share the same editor or publisher, people they blurb, etc. and that reads dishonest for me as well, even though sometimes I’m sure they honestly like the book/s that much and it’s totally genuine. In general, I don’t trust anyone’s reviews on Goodreads unless their average rating is between 3-4.

    • Heidi says:

      Yes! That’s such a good point about knowing what people don’t like. I feel like with a lot of my reading friends, knowing who doesn’t like the same things I don’t like can help me to gauge more than the other way around. I completely agree that you have to be wary of the honesty of reviewers who only ever post positive work. For the ones I follow who do, I feel like I’ve learned enough of their reading tastes to believe them.

  9. Many times the notion of writers being readers is neglected, so when I see an author on Goodreads reviewing other books, I am happy. It shows that they are comfortable with their audience. It makes me feel more connected to them, and I get to learn more about them. However, as Flannery and many others have alluded to above, there are authors who just do this to help out their friends or those they endorse. But this is something that is inevitable. There are just those who cannot resist being dishonest. It is up to us to define when we think an author is legitimate in his or her reviews.

    • Heidi says:

      Yes! I feel like my favorite questions at author events are always the ones that ask them about what they like to read. I find this so interesting.

  10. I’m a failure at the reader-author interactions. I just get so intimidated by them! I haven’t read anything by these authors, but I definitely am planning on reading some Neumeier and Rothfuss soon. And for the record, I agree with you. Why shouldn’t authors be able to review books? Once you’re a published author, does that mean you can no longer be a reader? I do follow a few authors on Goodreads and I love seeing their ratings (and possibly) reviews as I’m looking up different books to read. If I respect the author’s own works, I do think it makes logical sense that I’ll tend to like the books they like. I agree with you on all of this, Heidi! :)

    • Heidi says:

      Oh Amanda, I totally understand! I get very intimidated by authors as well, and don’t talk to them nearly so much as I know other bloggers do. The few I’ve formed some sort of relationship with, however, are wonderful.

  11. Pixie says:

    Loved reading this article. It’s a bit sad really that often many authors feel intimidated to not review because they think they’ll get in “trouble” or something of that nature. I love seeing an author review books as well. You’d think if they’re writing as much as they are, they’re reading too, and I like to know what they’re into. *shrugs*

    Great post. Would’ve went into more of a discussion but I’m about to pass out and it’s the middle of the night. O_O I’ll be sure to visit again soon. Lol! :)

    <3
    Pixie

    • Heidi says:

      Thanks, Pixie! I agree, I just love seeing what authors I enjoy reading are reading–sometimes it’s such a surprise!

  12. This is an interesting topic and many authors seem to have different opinions/approaches. I think they can all do as they wish and understand a lot of different approaches. As long as authors are pleasant to reviewers of their own books (or ignore them completely) I’m fine with their choice on the matter as long as they act with honesty and integrity. In fact, I think there are a lot of different nuances to the author and reader interaction and to the author as reviewer role, so much I could probably write my own post about it!

    I’ll have to check out these author’s reviews on Goodreads. I’m just starting Starglass by Phoebe North.

    • Heidi says:

      I totally agree, Molly. I think authors should be able to do their own thing in this regard, and it saddens me to see some have backed off because of pressures not to be upfront and honest about their reading lives.

  13. I thought Sherwood Smith had a clever take on that, and Alexis Hall has now picked up on it – of writing reviews which do explain what they liked or didn’t like about the book BUT not giving any star rating.

    So when you browse through the reviews, you’ll get in-depth info and on the other hand the stats for the book on Goodreads are not impacted one way or the other.

    Those writers who have written five star reviews for their own books that I know of have usually done it for backlist ebooks out for a decade or so, at the time when GR didn’t automatically deduct the rating of the original author – basically to make people interested in clicking the link to the book. Whether that’s useful, I have no idea, but from what I gathered that was the original thought behind it.

    I’m quite chuffed about the author friends I have on GR, because they all asked me first ^^ – my time on LJ and commenting on their blogs meant they already know whether they liked me or not, heh. The connection to favourite authors that would have been impossible before the internet is one of my most favourite parts of the whole experience (and that I got to help some with bits of their books).

    TL; DR: authors should review, but not if it becomes a burden to them (maybe make a different profile for private books? No idea what the solution for a situation like Marr’s would be).

    • Heidi says:

      Yes! I think writing reviews without a star rating works excellently. It’s part of the reason I don’t have a rating system on my blog, even though I do rate on Goodreads.

      And yes! All of the authors I’m ‘friends’ with on Goodreads asked me first, and all of them assured me they just wanted to chat books and not just get me to read their own.

  14. Leave it to you, Heidi, to shine a light on a relevant, interesting, thought-provoking topic. Because I know that lots of authors either feel pressure NOT to review, as you found out at BEA, or they simply avoid it from the outset so that it’s never a THING. Which–again, I agree with you–is a shame.
    Your example of why you feel this way is spot on for me: If I like an author, and he or she recommends work by other authors, either in a review or some other setting, I’m instantly interested in reading that work. Sometimes other authors are an author’s best PR. For me.
    To me, authors are like expert witnesses in a trial. Their opinions hold more weight because, HELLO! They know what they’re talking about because they do it too, and they know what’s good, noteworthy, exceptional, etc. It’s their job to know those things, even if they know them first and foremost for themselves. So when I see an author, especially one I love, give props to another, I trust that they’ve applied all of their skill and knowledge and found that work to be AWESOME.
    Also, there’s something really endearing to me about authors who love to read. It’s nice to have that in common with them. I mean, obviously, who would write books if they didn’t like to read them, but I don’t think I’m explaining myself well. It’s a camaraderie thing, I guess.
    And I agree about reviewing/rating your own books. I see authors who I do love do it and it always makes me cringey.
    Most excellent topic, my dear.
    (PS. KVOTHE. And that man’s beard is MAGIC. I love it.)

    • Heidi says:

      OMG I LOVE what you said about authors being like expert witnesses at a trial. This is SO TRUE. I always get shocked when authors say they don’t read. How can you not?! I love when they read so randomly out of the zone they write in though, for example Leigh Bardago reads a lot of military history which is so random and wonderful.

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While the source for each book I review is posted within its review, please assume unless otherwise stated that books reviewed on Bunbury in the Stacks were received free from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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