Serious question. I know I’m unlikely to get any answers, but this is my blog so I’m asking it anyway. Even if I’m asking it into thin air.
Anyway, over the past six months or so I’ve been in a few situations where this question has come up. Once, it was an author friend of mine who was considering posting a negative review on their blog. Another time, there was someone I don’t know who has a lot of reviews on their blog, so many that I follow them and have them listed under “reviewers” in my feedly, and I was confused when I realized they are also a writer in the genre. And of course I’ve got reviews from author friends, and given a few as well (always disclosing the pre-existing relationship, of course.) Lately I’ve had a few negative reviews of my work by authors in my genre. So, you know, now it’s personal. LOL.
But really, it makes me think about the ethical side of this.
On one hand, we are all readers. And most of us read primarily in the genre we write. We love our genre! Why shouldn’t we post reviews? Aren’t our voices important?
On the other hand, publicly talking shit about your competition is usually considered a trashy move. And the workaround – posting reviews under a pseudonym – is not much better. Actually it might be worse, because it disguises the reviewer’s vested interest in discouraging people from reading their competitor’s book.
I also wonder about all the other little connections we have, and how those can influence not only author-reviews, but all reviews that originate from members of our “community.” We have arguments, friendships, critique partnerships. All those things complicate the relationship between a reader and a work. I definitely read something with a different expectation when it is from someone I know and like, or someone I have read before and disliked, or someone who just called me a nasty name on facebook. Maybe it would be better if I could say “No, no, I’m a totally impartial reader. I only judge the story, not the writer!” [haughty sniff] But I can’t say that is true, at least not with any honesty.
And I know reviewers will say they would never, ever, post a revenge-review. Ok. But I also know I’ve seen a lot of coincidentally low-star reviews come out right after online arguments, so I think revenge-reviews DO happen.
Personally, I only post positive reviews of books in my genre. I always do so under my author name (usually on this blog), and I always disclose my relationship with the author (“I beta read this story,” or “I’m in a critique group with this author” or whatever)
But is that necessary? Is reviewing in the genre in which we write always a bad move? Is there a way to do it ethically?
I’d love comments/opinions, if anyone reads this post.