Reviews, social media and so on

I’ve been thinking about reviews.

Specifically, should writers post reviews of books in the genre in which they write? Now this may come as a shock to you but I don’t read much romance and if I do there’s this weird expectation that I must either button my lip or say nice things. Just like our foremother taught us. So if I’m on and compelled to put in some sort of feedback I put in a number of stars. That’s it. It gets very tricky dealing with the village that is the romance community and the overall respectability and decorum one must maintain for else one’s reputation is gone and gone forever. Oops, no that’s Cranford, I think.

Which brings me to the issue of the Online Presence. I’m thinking back to a conversation I had with a couple of fans recently–actually not my fans, but Colleen Gleason’s–who said they never visited writers’ websites but did keep an eye out on Facebook which is how they knew she’d be in that particular B&N at that particular time. So, Facebook. Now that’s a Cranford. I don’t have a continual stream of nice and interesting things to say unless it’s about something happening with the release of a book or a cover or … come on, do you really want to hear about my yard (vines growing back, big patch of poison ivy, I have mega pump container of Roundup for it) or the tendonitis in my knee (getting better, thanks, developed in fight against vines). Or what I’m having for dinner? (I hope it involves bacon.)

But I do like Twitter. It’s a nice, fast way to share content with a link. Very impersonal, which means I don’t have to work at being nice and inoffensive as FB seems to demand. In fact it seems to encourage snarkiness, which is fine by me.

But back to reviews. If you’re a writer, do you post reviews of books by people you know or might meet?As a reader, do reviews influence your decision to buy? Colleen’s two fans, by the way, said it was the back cover blurb that sold them. What do you think?

Check out the new bit of my website, I’m still updating so there’s more content to add but it’s done!

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Isobel Carr
11 years ago

At this point, I don’t have time to read books I’m not enjoying, which results in my only being able to review books I’ve liked (I guess I could start a DNF section, but all it would get me is attacked by fangirls, since most of my DNFs seem to be books that the rest of the world thinks are SUPERFANTASTICFABULOUSO!). But even when I finish one and it’s “meh”, I wouldn’t review it as such in a permanent, public forum. I just don’t need the drama that could result.

Megan Frampton
11 years ago

I talk about books, and actually talk about books I didn’t like so much, but since I’m not a current author, that’s not as big a deal. But I do know back when I was more current, author-wise, that I was very careful what I said. I also don’t really care that much about other folks’ opinions in a wide circle of ppl, but I do trust a small cadre to advise me on what to read next.

Susanna Fraser
11 years ago

I’m with Isobel in that if I’m not enjoying a book, I don’t bother to finish it. Life is too short to read books that don’t work for me. I don’t give out grades or stars, but if I talk about a book on my blog, I’m saying it’s at the very least “the sort of thing you’ll like if you like that sort of thing.”

I mostly keep my mouth shut about my DNFs or the books I just choose not to read, though I’m working on a blog post about how being a fan of the TV show Castle made me more tolerant of historically inaccurate romances even if they’re not how I choose to spend my own leisure hours.

And reviews definitely influence my decision to buy, especially if they’re detailed enough to tell me WHY the reviewer gave the grade they did.

Diane Gaston
11 years ago

I’m a writer, not a reviewer. I don’t think I am under any obligation to review books unless I want to… and I can’t see any reason to want to trash someone’s book. Now it is too easy to put myself in their shoes.

It was a revelation to me to realize I didn’t have to finish a book I didn’t like, though…..the sky didn’t fall. Who knew?

I haven’t figured out Goodreads yet. It is on my TBD list.

I like to talk about books with my friends and, with certain people, I can get great enjoyment out of detailing exactly what I didn’t like about a book.

But that is different than placing my views on a public forum. I agree with Isobel on that one!

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon
11 years ago

I do review books, specifically historical fiction and non-fiction that relates to Scandalous Women in history. I try to be objective, I know how hard it is to write a book. I’m honest but I try not to be snarky. There are very few books, however, that I have had to say ‘no thank’ you too. My problem is that there is too much historical fiction out there that is really good.

11 years ago

absolutely I do. Even if I didn’t run a review site, I would review books that I read–and a large proportion of those would be by people I know and socially interact with on the net. Reviews by people who know what the genre is are invaluable. I’d listen far more readily to a historical writer who was expert in Regency fiction, whose work I admired, than I would from a reader who hadn’t written anything at all.

do I get drama from authors who don’t like my reviews? sometimes, but not from the authors that I interact with–they are far too professional. It’s a business and I expect others to behave as professionally as I do. If they don’t,

11 years ago

Janet, if I feel strongly about the book I just read, if I am just about to climb on top of my roof and shout out my adoring love for the book, the prose, dynamic characters, and terrific dialogue, etc. etc… then, yes. Absolutely. Problem is, I’m not exactly good at writing reviews. But if I’m that convicted, I’ll do it.

What prompts me to buy a book? Reviews, yes, but I do a lot of bookstore browsing, too. That’s how I discovered you, as a matter of fact! With Diane… I saw the cover of Galant Officer, Forbidden Lady and had a conniption. Now, I’m a bona fide DG fan. So, yeah, I do judge a book by its cover, as well.

11 years ago

Oh, and Diane, I am so glad you mentioned not finishing a book you didn’t like. My CP is notorious for making herself finish a bad book, when I’m the exact opposite. If you don’t have me by page 5, I’m done. Sorry, but like Isobel said, I don’t have time to read a book I’m not immediately enjoying.

Superb post, Janet! 🙂

Diane Gaston
11 years ago

Allysia, I had a conniption when I saw the Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady cover, too. It is one of my favorite covers and I’ve had some really good ones. I’m doubly glad you liked the story!!

I wonder if covers will be as important if ebooks take over. Will we still browse, I wonder?

I took English seriously when I was in high school and I was an English major in college, so I think that is why I thought I had to finish a book. Then I realized that I wouldn’t have to do a book review on it.

Jane George
11 years ago

GoodReads is tricky, tricky, tricky. I think we owe it to readers (and ourselves) not to give false positive reviews. Even if that author gave your book 5 stars. Reviews don’t mean anything otherwise. And leaving the stars blank can be so much worse. But…tricky, tricky, tricky.

Elena Greene
11 years ago

I’m too busy to post reviews and as you say, it’s a village. I’ve sat at conference lunches with authors whose books I didn’t care for, their agents and their editors. I don’t feel I have to pretend I like everything but I also don’t need to share what is essentially just my opinion. As Isobel says, who needs the drama?
I suspect people learn more about a writer from the authors and books she admires and mentions as influences anyway.

But mostly, I just want to save time and energy for writing.

Louisa Cornell
11 years ago

If I truly enjoyed a book I will definitely discuss it with and recommend it to my friends. If I mention a book on a public forum it is because I REALLY loved it. I have posted some reviews on Amazon and on LibraryThing, but they have been for books I really enjoyed and many of them are not romance novels. I have a thing for medieval set mysteries and I am far more likely to review one of those than a romance novel.

If I don’t like a book I just don’t talk about it. Not interested in ending my career before it has begun.

11 years ago

I do depend on the back cover blurb when I am browsing a book store. However, since I get to go to stores so infrequently, reviews do play a role in my selections. I rarely choose a book based on a single review. I like to read several. There are a few reviews who seem to have the same taste in books that I do, and I like to see what they say about a book. All this really does is give me a list to check out when I get to the store or looking at the book may jog my memory about the general tone of the reviews. It still boils down to whether or not I like the sound of the story and sometimes whether I like or am familiar with the author.

I have written a few reviews. So far they have been of books I really enjoyed. The others are harder. It isn’t right to criticize someone’s work if you don’t have some constructive suggestions. Unfortunately, I am one who has to finish a book. I think there is always the hope it might get better. I know it is hard to be on the receiving end of criticism, even if it is well meant.

I discount reviewers that claim every book they read is wonderful. How lucky for them, but not realistic. I did read a really nasty review about a book once. It was petty and overly critical. I checked her blog and couldn’t believe it. I went back quite a way and couldn’t find a single good review or nice thing she had said about a book or author. I wouldn’t trust a single one of her nasty reviews, but what an awful thing to do to an author.

Authors should have opinions about what they read, but it does put you in an awkward position to review another’s book. Are you being honest? Are you undercutting their work to cut their sales and reduce the competition? Are they friends and you are trying to boost their sales? Are you trying to make yourself look good? A minefield I wouldn’t want to have to walk. If you really wanted to make a valid comment, couldn’t you use a pen name saved just for reviews?

You brought up lost of good points in the post.