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?'s for the Members of CR > Review Ethics - Reciprocity

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message 1: by Kat (new)

Kat Zantow (kat_zantow) Hello, Creative Reviewers! I am trying to get a book review and ebook news/information site going at my link text but I am coming up against a wall for a couple policy issues.

Ethics question to put to you: where does conflict of interests come into play if a blogger is both an author and a book-reviewer? I want to give honest reviews, but I feel that there may be some weird hidden pitfalls in conflicts of interests.

Is it friendly or unethical to do a review-trade with another author? This seems mutually beneficial, but could lead to inflated reviews if the authors inflate the ratings/positivity for fear that their own work will be reviewed poorly.

I ask you because you've been doing this for a while and doubtless have some opinions. I have seen disclaimers on several blogs that the people were not paid for their reviews. Is there a document or website that is the source for why these are necessary? My googling was not fruitful.

Also, how best to connect with other reviewers/bloggers to build a circle?

message 2: by Cassie (new)

Cassie McCown (cassie629) | 713 comments I personally do not think it is wrong to be a reviewer/author and/or trade reviews with other authors. Both authors SHOULD be honest, no matter what...without fear that a negative review will produce any hostility.

I, personally, think of myself as a kind/forgiving reviewer. I will point out some issues if I find them (slow pace, formatting, spelling/grammar, etc.)...but I have yet to just completely "hate" anything I have read.

I guess I want any criticisms I have to be found constructive rather than just plain damaging. I know if I were in the author's shoes, I would want something that would help me along rather than just discourage me. BUT, I will not gush over a book that I just did not love, no matter what the circumstances. I think that is how it should be--constructive criticism and complete [polite] honesty.

I don't know about the disclaimers. I don't have one on my blog, but I have never been paid to review anything...other than receiving a free copy of the book, which I usually point out in the review itself. ("I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review.")

I have joined just about every site I can concerning books, reviews, and blogging... Goodreads, LibraryThing, Bloggers, Shelfari, Book Blogs...etc. I have Facebook and Twitter connections for myself and my blog... The majority of my review requests have come from right here on Creative Reviews, but I get an occasional request from elsewhere. I had another literary agency contact me about sending me emails with their client info/books, and I request copies of the ones that I find interesting. I'm not sure how they found me, but I have already gotten a handful of books (print copies) through them.

As an author, I would say don't be afraid to ask anyone and everyone for reviews. The worst they can say is 'no'. As a reviewer, just get your information out there wherever you can... The more groups you belong to, the more contacts you will make that will lead you to even more groups!

I am blown away by how quickly my blog has grown and how incredibly busy I am now!! I was busy before...but this is crazy ;-)...

I have no idea if I answered any of your questions with my incessant rambling... But I hope I was of some help!!! ;-)

message 3: by Kat (new)

Kat Zantow (kat_zantow) Cassie wrote: "I personally do not think it is wrong to be a reviewer/author and/or trade reviews with other authors. Both authors SHOULD be honest, no matter what...without fear that a negative review will prod..."

It is helpful - I actually haven't heard anything but a mention of Shelfari before, so I hadn't heard of LibraryThing, Bloggers, and Book Blog. I am eager to network but afraid of spreading resources too thin.

I mentioned the concept of trading reviews to someone who then questioned the ethics, and then I got paranoid. Of course, at the very least, I think it is highly likely that authors will offend each other with feedback. Even in the safe space of writing workshops this happens all the time with legitimate feedback. And yet, it would be more useful for everyone than writers staying friends only if they don't read each others' work.

message 4: by Lena (new)

Lena | 191 comments I mentioned this on the other thread, but as an author, I had that problem. I traded with someone, and found errors in the writing, and...well, I didn't like the book. But I was afraid if I gave a bad review, I'd get a bad review. It turned out that the other writer finished my book first and gave it a good review. Then I felt bad about not liking their book. Also, in the writing community, it could lead to a bad reputation and make it hard to get reviews if you are known to give bad reviews. The whole thing didn't work out for me, but I know some other writers find it very helpful to trade reviews.

I'm still happy to review indies, but I don't trade reviews, and I stress that I am reading as an honest reviewer, not as an author. And I only ask to review books that look like I'd genuinely like them, which lessens the chance of having to say I didn't like it. There are plenty of places to find free reviews from non-writers (Goodreads is a great place with lots of willing reviewers) without the question of ethics arising.

message 5: by C.D. (new)

C.D. Hussey (cdhussey) | 23 comments In traditional publishing, authors review other authors all the time. Only the good bits get reported on covers and the like. I'm positive authors are asked by the publishing house to say something about a book they might not actually like all the time. It's probably in their contract. : )

I agree with Lena though. I did a couple author review exchanges and didn't feel comfortable with it, so I quit.

I do think indie authors need the most feedback because it's hard to see your own work with a fresh eye. Even with editing assistance, I still had problems that were, luckily, caught by readers who graciously helped point them out. You can always give feedback privately if you're inclined.

Although honestly, a couple of the books I tried to review had problems that couldn't be solved with better editing alone. Head-hopping, perspectives all over the place...and I wasn't sure how to communicate it, so I said nothing.

message 6: by Cambria (new)

Cambria (cambria409) | 3305 comments this is an interesting topic. I am a writer reviewer and blogger....
I haven't asked for any reviews yet b/c my book isn't ready to be released yet...i am still looking for a publisher.
BUt i can understand this problem. I think that being honest is the best way but I try and do it constryctively and also I always talk more about what I do like in the book than what i don't. I don't gloss over it or lie I just state the truth and move on....
I'm not sure if I will trade reviews for this, But i agree I think most writers would welcome the constructive feeback. I can't wait to hear what others think about my book....because people can take away so many different things from one is interesting to me. I don't htink i would ever be upset with an unfavorable review as long as it is backed up with examples and not just someone out to trash it. :)
as for my experience start small...and it will I can't believe I am only a few months into this and I already have a blog and a spot to review on JournaStone and also am a co host for a new radio talk show....
Just start with what you can handle and add things little by little. Hope this helps!

message 7: by Lena (new)

Lena | 191 comments @Cambria--That's true, it's hard to see your own work objectively. I've gotten reviews where the person said all my characters were unlikable, which didn't bother me too much, since I can understand how that bothers ppl. But of course I love my own characters, so it surprised me.
The person still had courtesy, though, and didn't rip the book apart or anything. I've seen other ppl give 1-stars b/c they didnt like any of the characters in books, which blows me away. What about all the other aspects of the work? I guess I'm lucky my reviewer looked at the whole book, and not just his opinion of the characters.

message 8: by Cambria (new)

Cambria (cambria409) | 3305 comments Yes, i see your point. I could even understand that one, although i would be surprised as you were. A writer is very easily attached to their characters :)
But See, that other review....that would have been the place to add in what other aspects they liked/didn't like about the book.

message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

Kat, As an author, I have a problem with giving reviews. It is the same problem I have as a former lighting designer when I go to the theater. I am not sure that what bothers or excites me about a work is what a reader who is not a writer wishes to see. As a hospitality industry professional, I do not get the same experience walking into a hotel that most people get. The same phenomenon impacts my reading and my appreciation of movies. I keep asking whether my standards are appropriate. This is a question for which I have no answer.

Exchanging reviews further complicates the issue as has been mentioned above. I can't add anything to the posts except that I agree.

The real issue, though is the public perception of the reviews of an author by an author. How much credence do the readers who ultimately vote with their wallets put in such reviews? I would be interested if there is any hard data on the subject.


message 10: by Cambria (new)

Cambria (cambria409) | 3305 comments Thanks for your insight Bob! So true

message 11: by Kat (new)

Kat Zantow (kat_zantow) Robert wrote: "Kat, As an author, I have a problem with giving reviews. It is the same problem I have as a former lighting designer when I go to the theater. I am not sure that what bothers or excites me about a ..."

Reader perception is an interesting point. I would definitely love to see that data too.

I hear it is yet to shake out in terms of what reviewers the public trusts. And yet, I think that people who have reviewed many books may have much the same experience as writers looking at a work, or at least a different experience than the casual reader. The avid and obsessive reader gets to know the ins and outs of books very well, and develops monster pet peeves. But there are many schools of thought on how to properly review a text, anyway.

As for the other points, I agree that it's tough to do. There has been a lot said about feedback as a useful tool, but it does introduce problems.

If there is a review exchange and it turns into 'This is Great' on one side, and 'What is this fresh hell?' on the other, we are discussing their acceptance of the feedback, and then this definitely gets into the issue of the other thread, when you have to decide when to publish the review, or if to. Critique is great, but is definitely most useful for works in progress. Do you think self-published books are still viewed as a sort of draft? I can imagine myself doing some edits before doing an omnibus and a paper copy.

message 12: by Lena (new)

Lena | 191 comments I absolutely would never consider a self-published novel a work in progress. It better be ready when it's put out there or you'll get ripped to shreds. or that's my fear! I did find two typos after i'd uploaded to Kindle, but I recently fixed them. I get pretty steamed when I pay for a kindle book and find a ton of errors. i mean, i paid for a book, not a draft.

message 13: by C.S. Splitter (new)

C.S. Splitter | 979 comments I wouldn't consider trading reviews for public consumption. That would not be unlike posting reviews from family.

It's fine to do it privately but that's more like trading critiques. Potential readers won't see those exchanges. That's just two writers giving suggestions to one another.


message 14: by Dale (new)

Dale Ibitz (goodreadscomdale_ibitz) | 298 comments It is very difficult to exchange reviews which, like others in this thread, I have stopped doing. However, there was one book where I didn't like the writing style, so I first stated what I did like about the book, and then mentioned the writing style wasn't one that I cared for BUT that it was ONLY MY OPINION and in no way retracted from the basic story line, which was clever. I think I was able to be honest without slamming the book, which for me was quite the feat since I'm always putting my foot in my mouth (or so my husband tells me). :)

message 15: by J.A. (last edited Jul 06, 2011 12:52AM) (new)

J.A. Clement (jaclement) | 1328 comments Imho the problem is that if you get a bad review from someone who you just gave a good one to, human nature is to feel more than usually hardly-done-by; whereas if you get a good review from someone you just gave a bad rating to, you feel guilty. And that's assuming you don't give a good review in order not to offend, which some people would. It just really complicates things and can make the review seem a bit questionable.

It's prob not so much of a problem if they reviewed yours 6months ago and you're doing it now - you'd still feel the same pressures but possibly diluted - but for me the main downer about it all is that if both of you like each other's books and both of you give good reviews, readers who notice will assume it's cronyism and respect both of you less whether there's any grounding to it or not.

Is that fair? No; but we have to be pragmatic about the fact that being self-pubbed, a lot of readers automatically assume that we're trying to game the system by tagging or liking or mutual reviews etc. and trick them into buying something sub-standard.
Problem is, in some cases (not referring to anyone here!) they may be right so there isn't any reason that they should be able to tell when that's not the case.

All we can do is write the best books we can and trust the reader's judgement; if the book is good enough, word of mouth and general scuttlebutt will do the trick. It might take longer than all the game-playing but in the long term I suspect it will be more tenacious.

But then, my sales have just died on their arse (hoping that's a combo of Smashwords sale and Amazon having just put the price up again) so do feel free to ignore the pontificating until I reach that #1 slot....Great theories but little success, that's me!

message 16: by J.A. (new)

J.A. Clement (jaclement) | 1328 comments Kat and Lena, re self-pub as draft: as Lena said, if you publish something that is anything less than publication-ready, that's very foolish and just perpetuates the perception of self-pub as being awful.

On the other hand, I think that the writer's job is to make their product as perfect as they can and so if every reviewer objects to the same thing and you decide that they have a point, I don't know why you wouldn't consider re-editing if you have an update coming anyway.

In my own case, nearly all my reviewer have said the ending is a bit abrupt and with hindsight, I think they're right. I'm editing book 2 now and will bring it out in the next couple of months; but I'll also do an omnibus of 1&2, because readers have told me that it would make a better book that way. That being the case, why wouldn't I want to make it better?

Imho there is a difference between uploading an unfinished book on the one hand and perfecting the uploaded book on the other; because whatever my opinion is, the readers are the ones I'm writing for and if they have a consensus I'm going to listen.

(But do see above disclaimer re theories!!)

message 17: by Kat (new)

Kat Zantow (kat_zantow) J.A. wrote: "Kat and Lena, re self-pub as draft: as Lena said, if you publish something that is anything less than publication-ready, that's very foolish and just perpetuates the perception of self-pub as being..."

I certainly didn't say I would publish something I considered less than fully ready for publication. I'm just curious about popular perception because of the rap that indie means unedited. Because if indie and unedited are seen as synonyms, I just wonder if people would be more apt to look at the stories as drafts. After all, if there is a superficial error discovered, a writer can update the file really quickly. The document can function as a living draft. It shouldn't. It should already be perfect. But the file can always be changed.

All of this is getting away from the point, though. All in all it sounds like a bad proposition to trade reviews, at least at the same time. Complex, these indie concerns.

message 18: by J.A. (new)

J.A. Clement (jaclement) | 1328 comments Ain't that the truth!!

Oh funny; I wasn't sure if you thought I meant that from what I was posting on one of the other threads.

And it's daft that we have to tiptoe round where trad-pubbed authors don't in quite the same way, but as the man says, them's the breaks!

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