By Iola Goulton
Over the last two weeks, I've been looking at the ethics of reviewing on Amazon and other websites, and the rules of Amazon reviewing (Amazon call them 'Reviewing Guidelines', but make no mistake: they are rules, and there are consequences for breaking them).
This week I'm addressing a question many authors ask: should authors review?
Should authors read?
“If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
- Stephen King, On Writing
Should authors review?Yes.
Well-written reviews influence sales, so writing reviews blesses authors you enjoy reading, and influences others to try their work.
Do authors have to review?No.
Reviewing a book is only one way of blessing the author. There are other ways, tangible and intangible. Pray for them. Buy their books. Recommend their books to friends. Comment on their blog posts. Follow their blog. Sign up for their email list. Like them on Facebook and Amazon. Follow and Fan them on Goodreads. Like their reviews on Goodreads. Tweet their new release. Tweet helpful reviews.
Should authors review everything they read?No.
You don’t have to review everything you read, and you don’t have to publish your reviews on commercial sites. Most websites have a clear set of reviewing guidelines, and authors need to bear these in mind when deciding what to review—and what not to review. We discussed the Amazon Reviewing Guidelines last week.
I believe that as Christians, we absolutely need to adhere to the rules of each website. In fact, I believe we should hold ourselves to higher standards, not just to abstain from unethical behaviour, but to abstain from the appearance of unethical behaviour.
For example, I’m a book reviewer and a freelance editor. While I have an obligation to review books I obtain from book blogger programmes (e.g. NetGalley, BookLookBloggers, BloggingforBooks, Litfuse Publicity), I can’t review any book by clients on a commercial site such as Amazon.
I can (and do) review books I’ve edited, on both my reviewing blog and my editing website. I will participate in blog tours or conduct author interviews if requested. These are clearly promotional reviews: I have a financial relationship with these authors, and ensure I disclose that. I also promote my clients on my editing website, by including their new releases in my Newsletter (sign up here if you’re interested), and including their books on my Projects page.
I do review books I’ve worked on at www.Koorong.com.au (where they are featured), as Koorong don’t (currently) have any issue with authors or publishers reviewing. Goodreads also permit authors and others associated with the book to review. However, just because something is permitted doesn’t make it advisable. I use Goodreads as a record of books I’ve read, as the site is meant to be a way for readers to connect, not a site for authors (or editors) to use as a vehicle for promotion.
The Author DilemmaThe big author dilemma for authors is do you review everything, or do you only review titles you can recommend and endorse? While this is something you will ultimately have to decide for yourself, here are some thoughts which might help:
- Amazon don't allow authors to review books by authors they have a personal relationship with (although they don't define "personal relationship". A critique partner or beta reader certainly sounds like a personal relationship to me, but what about a Facebook friend or a Twitter follower?)
- If people recognise you as an author, you are effectively an influencer for that title
- Many reviewers, both reader/reviewers and author/reviewers, take the position they will only review books they can recommend with a four-star or five-star rating. There’s nothing wrong with this as long as you don’t give every book five stars whether you like it or not (and whether it’s any good or not).
- Some authors, especially indie authors (although hopefully none in the Christian market), react badly to low-star reviews. If they find you are also an author, they will retaliate by giving you a scathing review.
I suspect that as soon as you become a published author (and possibly before) you move from the ranks of reader/reviewers like me, who can review based on whatever criteria we chose, to an author/reviewer, who will be scrutinised more carefully.
What do you think? What are your personal reviewing 'rules'?
By Iola Goulton. I am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction, and you can find out more about my services at my website (www.christianediting.co.nz), or follow me on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/christianediting), Twitter (@IolaGoulton) or Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/iolasreads).
I love reading, and read and review around 150 Christian books each year on my blog (www.christianreads.blogspot.com). I'm a Top 25 Reviewer at Christian Book, in the Top 1% of reviewers at Goodreads, and have an Amazon Reviewer Rank that floats around 2000.