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.
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–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 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–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.