On reviewing books & being an author & the challenges of doing both

Friday, November 5, 2010

In recent months I've been reviewing far less than I did earlier. It wasn't something I did conciously. As I've become busier - with schoolwork, writing another book, and promoting Girl Saves Boy when it came out - I haven't had as much time for blogging or the other parts of my life (sleeping, eating, reading, occasionally leaving the house), so I haven't been requesting books as much for review, or buying many books to review, or going to the library at all. And the books that I do have have been woefully ignored. They're sulking on top of my bookcase (I have my books sectioned into reviewed and not reviewed, with little subsections like British authors and teen chick lit and people I know) as we speak/as I blog/as you read.

I don't find it a whole lot different, writing a review of a book with a book of my own out, compared to before when I didn't have a book out, but I do have a different perspective of it, and I think I more consciously try and write the kind of review I'd want to read. One that's fair and well thought-out, but that doesn't speak rubbish for the sake of being nice. I still feel like an amateur at reviewing - and I am, and I'm working on that - but hopefully the reviews I write help whoever is reading decide whether or not a book is for them.

On receiving reviews myself, it wasn't quite as I expected. I expected to be absolutely devastated by bad reviews, and I haven't gotten anything particularly nasty, but the not-so-good reviews I've gotten haven't bothered me much at all (people saying 'Oh, the Goodreads average rating for that book isn't high enough, I'm not going to read it' bother me more. Don't read books based on their average rating on Goodreads! They're not that reliable!) because whether or not you like a book is a highly subjective thing.

And, okay, being super honest here (honesty is something I am frequently cautioned about. Everyone! You must hide your feelings! People knowing them will ruin your life!): I do get the feeling that some people review me differently because of my age. Now, I know I'm sixteen. All anyone ever says about me is 'she's a writer' and 'she's sixteen'. And in a lot of aspects I'm a young sixteen. I'm not going to go travelling the world or moving out of home or doing something dramatically adult in the near future. But writing and being an author is my thing. And I do function on the same level in regards to writing and being an author as most adult writers. I put a lot of effort into being professional. I would prefer an honest review to a review saying 'I'm going to approach this differently because the author is sixteen'. Believe me. I can take having my work ripped apart, but I dislike being patronised.

I think a lot of people think reviews written by published writers are going to be somehow different and less honest than reviews written by book bloggers who don't have a book of their own out, because authors don't want to offend other authors (honestly, I don't want to offend anybody. You can write a book review, positive or negative, and manage not to offend anybody. Really). But a lot of authors are online and a lot of book bloggers are online and some book bloggers have their own books out and everybody knows each other (either online or in real life). A book blogger is just as likely to write a dishonest review because they don't want to offend the author.
I'm still reviewing, and I'll write more reviews when I'm less busy, and I honestly don't care what anyone else thinks I should or shouldn't do - because for every person who tells me to do one thing, there's another person telling me to do the opposite (and everyone is telling me to do multiple things, and it's just not possible to do all of them). I enjoy reviewing, I love book blogging, I love getting reviews (even the negative ones are helpful in some way). My personal policy on writing a review is:
  1. Be honest but tactful. Think about how I'd feel receiving the review, and make criticisms constructive.
  2. Don't spoil a book, but offer enough information so the reader can make a decision (or be helped toward a decision) on whether or not the book is for them
I'm still developing it.
What are your thoughts on reviewing?
And the relationship between reviewer and author?
Do you think most reviews are honest?
(Sorry for multiple questions, but I'd really love to know your thoughts.)
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