This is something I struggle with. Whether or not to review another author's work. Like any book worm I always have a book for pleasure on top of whatever I'm editing or formatting for JEA and my own projects. I just can't get enough of the written word. However, this brings up some ethical debates.
Reviews and ratings are an author's life blood. We live and die by them. Think about it. When you are on amazon or a library site looking for something to read, you first look at the star ratings. You organize your list so the highest ratings show up first. Then you find a cover the jumps out at you and click on it. Next you look at how many reviews the book got and how many were 5 star and so on. Then you finally read the description. It is essential that your book keep good reviews and lots of them. No one spends 20 minutes deciding on a book (well I do, but I'm a strange author type person).
As a new author I need to generate contacts with other people in the industry to get more exposure. I want everyone to read my books and review them and recommend them to other readers or folks in the industry, but then everyone wants me to do the same thing. That sounds simple and fair, but it's really not. This whole system can easily lead you into media and career hot spots you want to avoid.
Let me throw you some what if's. What if I read your book and love it? I leave a good review and you're happy so now you read mine, but you hate it, however you don't want to upset me so you fudge over the true critique the work needed. Well now you put a stamp of approval on a piece of drek. You have a bad reputation and now I do by association.
Okay so that one is a little far fetched. Try this one on for size. What if I read your book and hate it? If I put in a good review I've just associated myself with terrible work and whenever anyone reads it because of my recommendation their opinion of me goes down. If I give you the review you deserve you get mad at me and might either bash me publicly or leave me a bad review and hurt my career. So what do I do now? There is very little recourse. I can complain about bully reviews, but you can do the same to me. Who decides which review was fair and which wasn't?
One response to this is to only review books you genuinely like and hope for the best. Well now you've opened another can of worms. Sites like Goodreads tell the public how many reviews you've done and what the average star rating was for those. So if my star rating on reviews is high people think I'm a pay for review kind of person, no one trusts what I have to say. If my star rating is low, I'm mean and persnickety and just out to hurt people. Neither is true of course, but that is the perception.
It feels like because I'm an author my reviews would never be taken seriously. At the moment I've set my amazon to anonymous to avoid some of these pitfalls, but that doesn't help me generate more reviews or ingratiate myself to the industry. I've tried to look for creative solutions to this mess, but every way I go it seems another stumbling block.
Susan is a writer and artist by day, a child and pet wrangler by night, and occasional crazy person on the weekends. She walks the path of a Siedr and strives to grow day by day.