Wednesday, January 9, 2013
On the Subject of Reviews (or, Goodreads and Me)
Over the past couple of years, there's been a lot of online discussion about whether it's appropriate for writers to post negative reviews--or even positive ones!--of other writers' work. A lot of people seemed to feel that it was unprofessional for writers to criticize other writers--like an artist publishing a critique of somebody else's painting, or a musician panning someone else's song. Because I aspired to publication myself, I decided to play it safe, and posted all of my reviews under an anonymous nickname.
Now that the book is almost finished, I've been thinking a lot about building my platform, and have been trying to link up all my online content so that people who are interested can find me in a lot of places. I've regretted a number of times that I couldn't link to my "anonymous" Goodreads account, both because I put a lot of thought into my reviews, and because reading is basically my primary interest. A lot of my friends are on Goodreads, and I love talking about the books I read. I'd love to widen the discussion by engaging with other fellow readers.
A few days ago, I decided to set up a secondary, "public" Goodreads page, where I could link my name to Five Stories for the Dark Months and any other ebooks I happened to publish. In the process, I accidentally linked the two accounts, and convinced myself for a few horrifying seconds that I had deleted my original account forever. When I finally figured out how to separate them (it was just a matter of disconnecting Facebook from the new account), I really became aware of how important my book reviews are to me, and how much I would have missed the interaction here if I had lost it. For that reason--and because I've always felt it was a teeny bit cowardly to keep my reviews hidden--I've decided to get rid of the secondary account, make the first account more or less public, and continue posting under my own full name.
Honesty is really important to me. If I feel strongly about something, then of course I want to express those feelings, even if they're negative. Since of course no one likes every book they read, there will necessarily be some negative reviews here--as there always have been. My personal book review policy (not to be confused with my movie review policy, wherein anything goes) is to be as kind and considerate to authors I haven't met as I would be to writers I meet in my writing group every two weeks. This means that, while I will not sugarcoat critiques, I will always do my best to refrain from snark. I will also be sure to highlight the good points even of books I find seriously problematic.
If you find a negative review of your work here, I know you're not going to be happy, but please understand that it isn't a personal attack. I know how much work goes into writing and editing a book, and I know that I have my blind spots just as everyone else has theirs. If you'd like to respond with a scathing critique of one of my own stories, then by all means go ahead--I could certainly use the publicity. : ) But I hope that, in the end, there will be no hard feelings from anything I post here, and that if we ever meet in person we can do so as friends.