Should Writers Avoid Being Reviewers?

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Guardian
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Re: Should Writers Avoid Being Reviewers?

Post by Guardian » February 4th, 2011, 12:36 pm

charlotte49ers wrote:I think it's just one of those things where you have to do what feels right for you and then cards fall where they fall, you know?

I think times are changing so much with the internet, visability of authors separate from their books, etc. as to why it's becoming an issue now, as opposed to when reviews were usually only seen in print format (newspapers, magazine, etc.). Online presence is uncharted territory in a sense. :-/
Yes. The times are changing, but agents and publishers are not enforcer squadrons, nor peacekeepers. It's not their job to tell what freelance writers should do in their freetime (i.e. writing reviews). I understand why they're doing it, but they're approaching it from a very bad perspective (Human nature: whatever is prohibited, wherever someone feel threatened, that one will do the opposite.). In my opinion, this will backfire on agents and editors. Agents and editors don't have the luxury to loose clients, but with this; we'll tell you what you can do, even prior you would contact us... well, they're going to achieve the opposite. And here is a nice example in one of Nathan's articles.

http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2009/09 ... agent.html

The first sentence in the article is actually telling everything:
Lots of people have been asking about this lately (Submitting to Editors Without an Agent.).

And the article is from 2009, so it's not a new phenomenon. Well, you don't have to be a genius to realize, why writers are asking this lately. And if the agents are going to play this: "we do know who you're, we're watching all of you" stuff, more writer is going to ask this question, that's a guarantee. They're just alienating the writers.
Last edited by Guardian on February 4th, 2011, 7:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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charlotte49ers
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Re: Should Writers Avoid Being Reviewers?

Post by charlotte49ers » February 4th, 2011, 12:44 pm

I do understand what you're saying and I understand what I'm saying, so I'm sure there is a happy middle ground somewhere. lol

I guess it all comes to down to how responsible you are with your words. If you can review a book negatively, but with class, you probably won't be looked down upon (I guess?). Whereas, I've read some reviews that are just down right rude. So it's just a personal thing at the end of the day - both on our parts and on the agents/editors.

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Re: Should Writers Avoid Being Reviewers?

Post by Claudie » February 4th, 2011, 12:53 pm

Nathan once made a post about how every published book, no matter how much you hated it, had to do something right. I couldn't find it, though I did find the very similar The One Question Writers Should Never Ask.

I'm wholly behind this idea. You can learn something from every book, and it seems to me that sharing it should take precedence over whether or not you like the book, at least for aspiring writers.

I have to say, I have always been more inclined to talk about the things I love than those I dislike. Negativity and me don't go well together, and I'm not sure I'd ever go writing bad reviews even without knowing many agents and editors dislike them.
guardian wrote:Lots of people have been asking about this lately (Submitting to Editors Without an Agent.).

Well, you don't have to be a genius to realize, why writers are asking this lately. And if the agents are going to play this: "we do know who you're, we're watching all of you" stuff, more writer is going to ask this question, that's a guarantee. They're just alienating the writers.
There are many other reasons that could've pushed a writer to ask about this. They might be unable to get agents through the query system. They might have the knowledge (legal and such) to negotiate the deal themselves (or think they do). They might not want to give the 15%. I'm not sure why you think it must be because agents are alienating writers.
"I do not think there is any thrill [...] like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success... Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything." -- Nikola Tesla

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Re: Should Writers Avoid Being Reviewers?

Post by Guardian » February 4th, 2011, 12:59 pm

charlotte49ers wrote:I do understand what you're saying and I understand what I'm saying, so I'm sure there is a happy middle ground somewhere. lol
:) I hope so. A middle ground would be really good.
Claudie wrote:There are many other reasons that could've pushed a writer to ask about this. They might be unable to get agents through the query system. They might have the knowledge (legal and such) to negotiate the deal themselves (or think they do). They might not want to give the 15%. I'm not sure why you think it must be because agents are alienating writers.
I also had some negative experience with some agents, so I also can understand why people are asking this. Sometimes they're alienating the writers, handling writers as some secondary or tertiary elements. I also do know writers whose created nice blacklists about agents, because of their feedbacks, how they responded or what they commented via twitter, etc, etc... So, there are some problems with the present query system, even if agents are not admitting it openly. Regardless from this I still prefer the "agented" way as they do the paperworks better and they're making the deals better than humble me. It's their job, it's their profession. But many other writer said and I know few personally; okay, enough. I'm a human being, you can't treat me this way. I rather take the shortcut and you Mr., you're on the blacklist. So, there are many reasons, but what I mentioned is appearing more and more times lately.
Last edited by Guardian on February 4th, 2011, 1:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Should Writers Avoid Being Reviewers?

Post by polymath » February 4th, 2011, 1:15 pm

Writers by the actions of our words are we made known to others. Many proverbs say as much. Actions speak louder than words. By their fruits are they known. Even children are known by their actions. How will a reviewer be known? As a screeching whiner? As an insightful observer? A tyrranical dictator? A noble spirit? A churlish critic? A funny person? A sober-serious person?

For writer-reviewers, it's still all about marketing, cleverly disguised self-promotion. Reviewing writers' reviews can make or break their creative reputation. A fault-finding reviewer comes off as an artistically and/or professionally jealous detractor. A praising reviewer, if his or her points are sincere and insightful, comes across as a keen observer. Pundits do what they do best, poke fun, make light of serious topics, appeal to emotions rather than logic or reason. They come across as halfhearted, pretending wanting to approve, but patronymically disapproving.

Then there's the highest form of the art, courtly irony, appearing to approve or disapprove, actually intending and meaning the opposite. Those reviewers capture the hearts and minds of fans, fence-straddlers, and detractors, at the least with their artfully persuasive repartee. I respect them most of all, because they make the effort to get the point of a narrative, form their own opinions, and express them artfully, in spite of whether I agree or disagree.
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Re: Should Writers Avoid Being Reviewers?

Post by Margo » February 4th, 2011, 1:46 pm

I kind of lean toward the view that it's a conflict of interest. If I'm blogging about something that I don't like, I'll do so in a generic way so as not to seem as though I'm calling out a writer. I have no desire to do that and belittle a work that someone worked hard to produce and some readers hold near and dear. Even when I do mention something that drives me crazy (yes, it's usually from Twilight), I do so with the caveat that the author obviously did something right and deserves respect for bringing enjoyment to so many people.

On the other hand, I'm pretty comfortable with the occasional fangurl gushing. I think I've gushed a couple of times on my blog about Seanan McGuire and once about Ilona Andrews. I don't feel bad at all about promoting the work of writers I think are doing a helluva good job.

When it comes to writers writing about the work of other writers, I believe in the "if you don't have anything nice to say" rule. As for traditional book reviewers being writers...phzzzzz. They don't review in the genres that interest me anyway. I'm all about book blogs for that, and the majority of those reviewers are non-writers, in the genres in question anyway.
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Re: Should Writers Avoid Being Reviewers?

Post by Regan Leigh » February 4th, 2011, 4:06 pm

I'm at work and limited in time and wifi access right now. ;) But I've read through the comments. (thank you for the great feedback)

I agreed with what Susan said on my blog and I also agree with some things said here -- especially from Amanda.

Since I can only type so much on my iPhone, I'll keep it brief.

I also agree with the whole "if you don't have something nice to say"... and I guess my point is that just because you have the right to say whatever you want doesn't mean you SHOULD. And whatever choices you make -- think through the very real consequences of those choices. It's important to me that writers understand that there CAN be negative consequences.

On a prevoius post, I said that I'd never publicly criticize one of my colleagues. (related to my day job) Would I give a bad review to an auto shop that IMO screwed up my car? Sure. But I'm not a mechanic and I don't own an auto shop. That's the difference due to professionalism, IMO.

Back to work... :)
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Re: Should Writers Avoid Being Reviewers?

Post by sally_apokedak » February 4th, 2011, 8:35 pm

I don't post here very often, but Nathan's blog post sucked me into this thread, so I hope you don't mind if I jump in.

Here are my problem with the idea that writers shouldn't review books:

1) If we try to please everyone we end up being bland and irrelevant. It's better, I think, to shoot for pleasing some of the people some of the time. Figure out who your audience is. Because if you shoot for pleasing everyone, you won't say anything of an interest to anyone. You'll be stuck emailing all your friends little messages with pretty flower and kitten pictures and with sweet sentiments about Jesus loving the whole world and wanting you to tell ten of your friends immediately so you can receive his blessing. Your friends will write you off as a nincompoop and immediately delete all future messages from you unopened.

2) I once told a publicist that I didn't want to do a blog tour with a certain book because I knew my bloggers wouldn't give it five stars. It was an OK book, but nothing I really felt like recommending very highly. She said she was fine with less than stellar reviews and she really wanted me to do the book tour because she wanted the book to have some exposure. Even the not-so-great books deserve a little attention, she said. She knew what writers often forget: mentions of books help sales whether they are negative or positive.

3) Writers are readers. I love to talk about the books I read. But if I can't talk about the negatives as well as the positives, I won't talk about books at all. Because to talk about one and not the other makes me feel like a cheap shill. But if I don't talk about books at all, then the books I love have lost a bit of promotion that they shouldn't have to lose.

4) Writers are humans and they often are thoughtful humans and they don't resign from having opinions when they become writers. So what do you do when you read a book that is promoting an ideology that you don't like? Do you just sit down and shut up? We might as well all just resign our blogs right now. If we can't speak about issues that are important to us, we might as well stop speaking.

Here's what we need to remember. Every time we speak about politics or religion or even about whether we should review books or not, we will be gaining a fan from this side and we'll be turning off someone from that side. And that's OK. The whole world can't be our audience. Our audience has to be made up of people who read us and say, "Hey, that's a good point. I had never thought of that. Wonder what else this person has to say."

The ones that read us and say, "You idiot. I hate reading this drivel," won't be our audience, they won't offer to represent us, and they won't offer to publish us. And that's good. Who wants an agent who can't stand the stuff you say on your blog? I don't think the answer is to pretend to be someone you're not and try to collect a tribe of people who wouldn't really like you if they knew you. The answer is to find a tribe that likes the real you.

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