Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Tension in Book Blogging: Your Response

Before I talk about the other side of book blogging, I wanted to address some of the comments.

Sally said: "I'd like to hear what you have done when the book would be a rip-off for the public."
Well, as I stated in my original post, it takes a lot for me to hate a book. And there are some books that aren't necessarily my cup of tea, but I can see are quite popular with others. So...I guess I haven't experienced a book that I think would be a complete waste of money for everyone.

Jeanne said: "No one has said this yet, but it seems obvious to me that the answer to this dilemma is to choose and buy your own books. Otherwise, the conflict of interest is kind of like when doctors used to dispense medicine, isn't it?"

I guess what I was trying to communicate in my post but probably didn't come across as well as I would have liked, is that book blogging is not like regular reviewing. It's immediate communication. It's accessible to anyone and in many ways a form of dialogue. After all, comments can be left. Emails exchanged within minutes of a posted review. What accepting review copies and having author interaction has done is to make me aware that I am not sending my review out into space and faceless people, but rather to other flesh and blood humans. The internet and book blogging have removed the buffer between author and reader--sometimes to disastrous results, sometimes to wonderful experiences. I get author comments and feedback on books I purchase for myself as well those I receive for review. It's not getting a "free" copy that creates the "dilemma", it's the immediate accountability.

I am not dishonest in my reviews. It's not so much what you say, but how you say it and how you phrase it that's at issue. That's what I read everyone else saying, too, and they were being honest in sharing about the struggle :) The important thing to remember no matter where you fall on this issue is that the people on the other side of the computer are just as real as you.

Still much more to come on this topic, but I know it doesn't interest everyone who reads this blog, so I'll space out the posts! :)

As always your feedback is welcome.


Anonymous said...

I understand what you're saying. Book blogging has made us aware that people's feelings and passions are involved. I think it's possible to give a lukewarm review without being mean. Most authors realize that not every book is for everyone.

Anonymous said...

I totally understand also. It has happened to me. When I really don't like a book but the author has put heart and soul into it I basically just describe the plot. After all, that's part of a review. If you read my other reviews, you see I often say "highly recommended" or "I loved this book!" and here I didn't. So you could take something from that or not. But at least I wasn't mean. I've been on both ends, and even remarks from a total stranger can tear you apart. So I try to remember that.

S. Krishna said...

It definitely interests me. If I don't like a book, I say so (not it so many words, but people can get the idea from my review), but I also say what audience it might be good for. I've also made it a rule not to accept a review copy unless I'm pretty sure I can give it at least a decent review.

Anonymous said...

I don't see any conflict of interest in getting "free" books for review - think of it this way: you get a free book to read and review and the author/publisher gets free advertising. I agree that it is easier for an author to make contact with a blogger than a print reviewer of a large newspaper...and so there is that sense that a blogger doesn't want to hurt the author's feelings by giving a negative review. On the other hand, my policy is to give honest reviews always (I think the readers on my blog expect that) and so if I don't like a book, I will say that...BUT, I always, always, always am fair and point out the strong parts of a book and who it might appeal to (even if it didn't appeal to me). A good example is the review I wrote recently for The Triumph of Deborah - not my cup of tea, but I know there are readers who will like the book. The author sent me the book and I sent her a link to my review...and she wrote back and was appreciative of my "thoughtful review." So I think you can write a "negative" review without slamming the author.

Annette said...

Once again I agree with you; what would be okay in my own words of being critical about a book, might would come across as too sarcastic, there is enough twisted/supposedly-humorous/sarcasm to me already in the world.
I am also now on my best behavior since I have had authors stop by to read my posts on their books and then they make a comment back to me.
After all it is our own blogs that we are posting for, our own feelings, expressions, likes and dislikes.

Ladytink_534 said...

It takes me a lot to hate a book too and I can usually find something nice to say about it so I'm not worried.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for doing these posts. They are definitely of great interest to me. Personally I find something good or great about every book. And like you I just point on things that didn't work for me. Maybe I'm too easy to please! I don't do star ratings at all because to me an average, 3 star rating is pretty normal and not disappointing really.

Ali said...

I'm pretty particular about books, especially in certain categories that I review a lot, such as YA. It's so rare that I give a 100% positive review without any caveats, I don't think anyone who reads my blog could think I'm selling out to authors or publishers who give me books! In fact, the only difference for me between free ARCs and library books is that if I dislike a library book I probably won't spend my time reviewing it. If someone gives me a copy of a book for free, I feel obligated to review it or at least mention it. So, in a way, an ARC is more likely to get a lukewarm review (http://worducopia.blogspot.com/2008/09/swap-antony-moore-book-review.html), while a library book is more likely to get ignored.

Anonymous said...

Everyone has made really good points. Great discussion topic!

Anonymous said...

I didn't start writing reviews as a caution to the reading public. I write reviews as a way to chronicle what I've read. I will say I recommend books when I really recommend them. That is true, but I don't see it being my job to warn people off books. It's too much responsibility. Besides, there are books that I've loved that others have hated and vice versa. That being said, I know that people are reading my reviews and I take that to heart. I also take to heart the feelings of authors. My feelings about their books are not personal, yet I realize how much their novels must mean to them. There has to be a balance.

Unknown said...

Balance? Frankly, screw author's feelings. If a book is crap I don't want my friends paying good money for it. I've stated on my blog multiple times my priority goes: me, readers, and only then authors/publishers/etc. In addition, if an author's feelings are hurt by a schmuck of a blogger with a Google Pagerank of 3 and a readership of three dozen, he/she is in the wrong business.

I buy 99.9% of my books. Any review copies provided gratis are clearly noted. And I will not do an author "guest blog" or publisher provided giveaway or anything that will make me think twice about what I post for fear of alienating a publicist author or other industry person. (I ain't against selling out; I just want more than a few free books out of the deal.)

caite said...

I happened to post a similar subject on my own blog in response to something the author Tess Gerritsen wrote Tuesday on Murderati, about the power of a bad review.

I see reviewing as I see recommending a movie or a book to a friend. I know that someone may spend $10 or $15 or $20 based, at least in part, on my saying something is good. Whether that is a friend or my sister in law or a reader, I do feel a responsibility.

But I also recognize how hard it must be for an author to hear anyone, even a very humble blogger, say something bad about your creation. I don't enjoy saying anything negative..and I try certainly not to be rude...but if that is where the card falls...well, you have to be honest.

Or really, what is the point?

Deena Peterson said...

The key, I think, is to review the BOOK...not the author, the potential reader, the publisher...BUT THE BOOK.

No one can hit it out of the park each time...and some won't make it to first base. But these are their "children" (if they are true authors and not just writers)...so it can be challenging to say "Your baby's not so good looking" in a nice way...

Being mean-spirited is never appropriate, but neither is lying. We must be honest, but in a loving and gentle way.

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