Wednesday, July 10, 2013

When did we become so greedy?

A friend asked a question. Should authors be allowed to be reviewers as well? At the time, I didn't think much on it. I shrugged and thought to myself. "Of course. Why wouldn't we be able  to?" And then another friend was inspired to write a blog post on it.

Well that sparked me to want to write about it. But before I go into my thoughts on the matter, I am posting this DISCLAIMER: I am not bashing anyone. I am in no way trying to offend anyone. If your views are different, if your thoughts are different, that is OKAY. I respect that. I really do. And I would LOVE if you commented your thoughts on the matter. I would love to discuss the pros and cons. I would love to talk about it. Please, please, please, do not take offense. Do not think I am trying to bash your opinion. 

The story behind the opinion: 

Seven years ago in August, a very wonderful friend invited me to an author group. A group of woman decided to create a workshop for young girls (I was 13) to go and learn how to write stories. I LOVED the idea. But with being home-schooled and working for my family owned business an hour away, there wasn't anyway it would work with my families schedule. So I didn't bother asking for permission to go. 

My friend told one of the woman that I would ask my parents but didn't think it would work out. That woman was Karen Hoover. She didn't shrug it off, she didn't wait to hear back from me. She didn't say "That's okay, we have plenty of other girls who plan on coming!" She didn't take no for an answer. Instead, she took matters into her own hands. She called my mom without me knowing and arranged for me to come to those meetings, for me to be a part of that group. 

I had never written anything, I was terrified. I didn't know what to expect. We had our meetings every Tuesday at the library. After the first meeting, I counted down the hours until I could go again. C Michelle Jefferies also helped start and teach that group. On days I couldn't find a ride or it was too hot to walk, she was right there, ready to drive me to those meetings. And always willing to give me a ride home. 

Shanna Westover was the third woman I befriended. She helped start and teach the group. She knew what she was doing, as did Karen and Michelle. And she was one of my biggest cheer leaders. She would answer my questions no matter how annoying or obvious they were. She tutored me, guided me, and sent me on my way. 

The day we had our last class, I cried. I wasn't ready to say goodbye to this amazing group. To the amazing woman who taught us how to be authors. How to create worlds. That last day they each gave us a copy of their books on a disc. We got to read those books long before they were published. Our parting was done with a gift. 

How much did going cost me? How much did the woman ask to be paid in trade for their knowledge? Nothing more than we use what we learned. Nothing more than to keep at it and live our dreams. Not a penny was spent on my part. And these beautiful woman never complained. 

Jump two years from that moment and I was staring down the Wilkinson Center at BYU. I was about to go to a real writer's conference. A place the professionals go. A place the published authors go. I didn't feel like I belonged. I was scared, alone, young, and had no idea what I was doing. But I knew that writing was my dream.  

Two panels in and I ran into . . . Shanna. She was ecstatic to see me. She gave me a hug and asked me a hundred questions  . . ."How's the conference? Who have you met? How many people have you introduced yourself to?" I was baffled. Introduce myself to published authors? Yeah right! 

My reply to that question went something like "Ummm . . . no one." I will never forget her reaction. She leaned over, her face right in front of mine. With a finger pointed in the general direction of authors she said something like "You get out, you introduce yourself. You talk to authors, you get your name out there." The look on her face told me I had better listen. So I did. 

I walked right in to a class, waited for the panel to end and with shaking hands, wobbly knees, and sweat beading on my forehead I introduced myself to the authors. I had no idea what I was doing. None. I was so scared. So nervous. So clueless. But I did as told. I went out there, I talked to authors, I told them my name. How much did introducing myself cost? Not a penny. 

On to the next panel and I found myself trapped in the wrong room. I didn't know what to do, I was in the corner and people were in my way so I sat and I stayed. And I got to learn some amazing things from one of the coolest guys I know . . . Paul Genesse.  He said something that kinda hit me that day. He said (and again, I paraphrase) "Authors help authors. The author up here, the published author helps the author below him. And that author in turn helps the author under him. And it goes on and on so that no matter what stage you're in, an author above you is helping you and you are helping the author below you." I will never forget that. I will never let that go. I believe that is how it should work in everything! Not just writing. 

So, why do I tell you this very long story when we're supposed to be talking about reviews? Because from the very moment I began working my way into the author world, I have learned that AUTHORS HELP AUTHORS. 

This isn't a competition. This isn't a race. This isn't a game of which author can make it big while another equally awesome author gets pushed to the sidelines. AUTHORS HELP AUTHORS.

So how does this relate to writing reviews for other books? Let me explain. 

When you write a review and are honest in everything you say AND you do not bash, be harsh, or rude in anyway no matter how much you liked or disliked the book, you have told the world how you feel about that book. You have explained why you loved the book or disliked the book. And in turn, that helps someone else determine whether or not the book is for them. 

You being an author, shouldn't make a difference in what you say in that review. 

If you love the book, and people love your book, they are going to look into the book you just reviewed because CLEARLY you have the same taste. If you dislike a book, and make it clear as to WHY as well as post something to the affect of "It wasn't the book for me" then people know whether it sounds like they will like it or not. How does this help? Because say that person buys the book and you DIDN'T review it. And they hate it. And they're not an author. In most cases, they are going to go and shred that book to pieces in their review. They will be harsh, they will be mean, they will lower the books ranking. When in turn, you could have just reviewed it and helped everyone all around. 

Now, I am not saying this is what everyone reviewer/reader is going to do. It is more of a worst case scenario. But my point still stands. 

I will be a published author in September. And I have decided to continue reviewing books. If I can't give it 3 stars or more, I won't review it. 3 stars, IS a good review. And this is where the title of my post comes in. 

Since when is 3 stars not good enough? That means that people liked the book! It's good! It means that it wasn't their favorite, it isn't their exact cup of hot chocolate. It means they enjoyed it and most likely plan on reading your next book. So why isn't 3 good enough for a book tour? Why aren't we happy with 3 stars when another author rates it that? 

Four and Five stars ARE FANTASTIC! But so are 3 stars. 

And to tie in the ratings with the decision to continue reviewing as an author, since when have authors become so greedy that they aren't willing to help another author? THIS ISN'T A COMPETITION. If it has become one, it shouldn't be! Making money is good, making a living from writing is amazing and my dream goal. But I don't want to make that dream come true only to find that I am alone at that end of the road because I couldn't stop and help other authors along the way. And that is exactly what a good review does. 

I am an author. I support authors. I will review books for authors. If I don't enjoy the book, I will NOT post my review. If I do enjoy the book, there is no need to not share it with others. Reviewing books, sharing other books, advertising for other authors, doesn't damage my sales. It doesn't damage my ability to be successful. 

One more thing. I do NOT believe in exchanging review for review. That is where the line ends. I think the idea is great, and can work if both authors write the same genres. But I think it really is a request for disaster! 

So now I want to know what you think. What are you thoughts? Do you think Authors should be allowed to be Reviewers as well? 


  1. How cool you met such great authors who helped to nuture you! I review books, but - like you - if I really did not like a book I refrain from reviewing. The author might wonder why, and if they ask I'll tell them privately, but I could not bring myself to give a one or two star review to a new/indie/self-published author.

    1. Thank you! I agree. I was very lucky when I started! And yes, a bad review is worse than no review. So if I can't give it 3 stars, it gets no review.

      And I do the same, I tell the author they asked me to read and review the book. And if they didn't, I just don't review the book and they never have to know! Instead they can bask in all their 4 and 5 star reviews. :)

      Personally, I can't give any author no matter what, a 2 or 1 star review.

      Thanks for much for your comment!

  2. I often take the recommendations of favorite authors when looking for a new read. If they didn't share their opinions in reviews, I wouldn't know about many of the new authors I have discovered over the years.

    Excellent post, and I hope others will take your advice and write reviews as well. As for greed, I think our society places an unrealistic view on grades, and somehow a three star rating probably equates to a C or Average in the minds of most people. I know it would for me.

    1. And I think that is a fantastic idea! I LOVE getting book recommendations! Especially from an author. If I like that authors work, I am going to listen to them when they say they like another book.

      Thank you so much! And yes, I agree. Personally 3 stars is awesome! But I think the rating system varies too much between readers which is why it can be a bad thing. :/


  3. Touchy subject.

    Writers groups appear very clique-ish at times. I can understand why Amazon doesn't want to have writers review other writers, even though we show our support that way. I review books as well if I like the book. What doesn't rate with me doesn't get reviewed. I think a reviewer's job is to tell me about the story, not their opinion of whether I would like it or how it's written.

    Thought provoking post. Yes, I agree - we all want to be top of the heap, but there's only so much room. Rating systems are losing their validity when everyone expects the 4 and 5 stars.

    1. It is a very touchy subject. I was seriously tempted not to say anything at all but I just felt like I had to put my viewpoint out there. I can see why Amazon doesn't want it, but I also think they should leave it up to the author.

      Thank you! And I the star system changes way too much between readers. I think there should be a set system so every 3 stars means the same thing. Sadly, that is not the way it works and I can see why authors don't like 3 stars.

      Thank you for commenting!

  4. I put up a post about this a little while ago and got some great feedback. As to your question, OF COURSE authors should be allowed to review books. Who's going to stop them? But I don't think it should be expected, and I don't think authors should feel pressured either way. I, personally, do not review books. I would not have made the same decision before I was published though. Things change after you're published. People - readers and authors alike - treat you differently, in good ways and bad. I had some experiences after publication that influenced my decision not to review books, and I doubt I will change my mind anytime soon.

    The thing is, I DO review books. I just don't do it under my author name. So am I still helping out? I sure hope so. I hope it's not just my author name that makes me helpful as a reviewer. I review under another name as a reader and not an author (and no, nobody knows what name I review under. I'm just "another reader"). I personally think that authors reviewing other author's work gets into territory far too sticky for my taste. I found that out the hard way, unfortunately, but the good thing is that it's not like that for everyone. Some authors go through all of that just fine and unscathed.

    I guess I see reviews as only one way to help other authors. As an author, I have found many other ways to help my fellow authors. I buy their books. I spread the word to my friends and family offline. I request their books at libraries. I share their covers on my social networks. I participate in author interviews and guest posts. I attend launch parties and other public events. I participate in giveaways and give their books away in contests. I do all sorts of things.

    I've found what works for me and what I'm comfortable with. To me, I feel unprofessional reviewing other author's books, and I feel that way for a lot of reasons. I had some authors offended because I would review one of their friend's books, but not theirs, and they were upset that I didn't like their book enough to review it, no matter how tactfully I told them why I couldn't. I had some authors offended because I write a different genre and they didn't feel it was fair of me to review their book, no matter how nicely I wrote about what I didn't enjoy in the book, no matter how I said it wasn't for me, it stung them. I found that 3 stars DON'T always mean the reader will read more of your books. Some 3 star reviews I've read are really harsh and cruel (sometimes worse than 1 stars) because those readers don't think of the star system as the same as others. I could go on and on.

    In the end, I think it's all a matter of finding what works for you. If your way to help other authors is to review books, I say stick with it! I've personally appreciated every review you've done of my books, and not just because of the review but the passion behind your support. It means the world. I hope every author can find a way to show that same passion in whatever way works best for them. :)

    Thanks for the great post!

    1. I think you're points are very good. Some of those reasons are things I hadn't even thought of. Thank you so much for your insight and thoughts.

      I can definitely see why it can be bad to review under the author name. And there are TONS of ways to help other authors! I totally agree!

      Thank you so much for all the insight and your thoughts! Very helpful, very thought-provoking!

      Thank you!

  5. Hi, Konstanz! I think it is fine if authors review other author's books. I also want to say that I liked Michelle's reply. Author's reviewing under another name is probably a very good idea. Keeps them out of sticky situations that might come up when sharing their reviews/thoughts.

    1. Thank you very much for your thoughts on the matter! I do think it is a good idea for authors to perhaps use another name. <3