My Take on the Author-Reviewer Relationship

August 30, 2013 Discussion 9

Discussion

There’s a lot of hub-hub these days over negative experiences with authors, so I thought I’d share with you the moments that have really made blogging special to me over the past few years. These are moments that made me laugh and cry, and keep me going when I look at how much time or money I spend on this hobby and start to second guess. I have made some amazing author-y friends through Speculating on SpecFic, and gotten closer to my heroes than I would have otherwise.

Authors reading reviews

We’re always a little wary, as book reviewers, of what an author thinks of our reviews. If you don’t like a book, and the author reads your less-than-glowing review, how do you reconcile that with your personal need to be honest and forthright in your reviews, for the benefit of your readers?

Well, so far I’ve had it pretty easy!!

I wrote a review of The Dark Griffin (The Fallen Moon #1) by K.J. Taylor – and it’s a positive review! I basically loved the book, was hooked into the series, and raring to read anything else that Taylor had written. But, I had a problem with the world building, and said so in my review. I couldn’t find a twitter account for the author or anything, so I didn’t contact them directly to share my review in any case.

As usual, I emailed the publisher, HarperVoyager, with a link to the review. By the end of the week, I was noticing traffic from Voyager.com to my site, and some investigation revealed that my review had been shared on the Voyager blog. Oh the horror, I thought. How embarrassing to be identified as someone who didn’t like that Taylor never explained why the griffins in the story-world bonded with humans in the first place!

Worse, a comment appeared on that blog post – the author stating it was a thoughtful review! I cringed, blushed, and basically wished I could hide from the world.

Then something amazing happened. K. J. Taylor wrote a blog post, beginning with an explanation that my review had made her think about how she never explained the griffin-human history, and continuing with a (story-world) historical account of it! You can read it here, and the short conversation we had through the comments.

This experience taught me something about the reviewer-author relationship — we all have something to learn from one another. Reviews, if thoughtfully written and well supported with examples, help point out aspects of novels that can be fixed in future books.

Readers and their gushing

We’re all dying for some books to come out. Me, I’m currently desperately awaiting something like 50 books. There are whole memes dedicated to this subject. Authors must get this a lot, and it must be simultaneously exciting and nerve-wracking for them. So many people want to read their books, but then, so many people have high of expectations for it.

I’ve been participating on Waiting On Wednesdays, hosted by Breaking the Spine, for a while now. This is a meme where you showcase books that  you are waiting to be published, and for convenience and  alliterative purposes, post it on Wednesdays. I’ve just passed number 50, so that means I’ve focussed on a fair few titles.

I tweeted about a WoW I did on The Tower Broken (The Tower and Knife #3) by Mazarkis Williams, and had a whole bunch of hits. The extremely pretty covers of the series and awesome epic-fantasy-and-assassin subject matter quickly made the post a hit, and somehow, the publisher came across it.

Jo Fletcher Books is based in the UK. I made friends with the author that day, and now tweet them regularly. I was subsequently contacted by a lovely publicist from JFB, who had found the WoW post, had a look-see on all the other titles I’d reviewed by JFB (they’re one of my favourite publishers and all their books have 4/5 stars from me because their acquisitions editor and I seem to have similar taste). I’m now one of the extremely lucky people on their mailing list! Furthermore, my review of the first book of the series, The Emperor’s Knife, will be quoted on the back of Book 3!

I learnt that even the simplest posts, silliest posts, posts that everyone takes part it, are also important in blogging. Your excitement shows through, and it’s that passion that can mean more than followers and subscribers and monthly hits.

Authors becoming friends

This one’s a particularly touchy subject for me, because I don’t really accept self published titles for review on Speculating on SpecFic. And when I do, I like to search for them myself on Smashwords and NetGalley. I’ve been accused of being a bit of a snob, and that might be correct. There are a lot of blog posts out there on negative experiences with Self-Pubbed authors, so I thought I’d write about a few amazingly positive experiences I’ve had.

I recently started watching Doctor Who for the first time, and a self published author who’d recently followed me on Twitter responded to a few tweets about it. We got to talking, and eventually exchanged an email re Billy Piper. When she submitted a review request, I immediately said yes. I loved that an author had taken the time to get to know me, judge what I liked and didn’t like, and then chose which one of her many and varied titles to send me.

I really liked Pippa Jay’s Keir, and wouldn’t say no to reading a sequel. Having liked it so much, I requested a review copy of her YA Geython. And unfortunately haven’t had the time to read it yet (I’m swamped, what with being sick for 6 weeks and having all those tests and feeling so damned tired all the time). But I consider her a friend, and we’ve conversed about many different things on Twitter.

Another self-pubbed author I admire a lot is K. B. Hoyle, who writes the MG/YA series, The Gateway Chronicles. The first book describes a 12-year-old female protagonist who stumbles into a fantasy world where she and her five friends are hailed as future saviours. They all behaved like 12-year-olds, and I got so frustrated with them! I didn’t understand their whining and lack of foresight, but of course, I was expecting a level of maturity that most 12-year-olds don’t have! The author told me to stick it out, and my gut instinct agreed because I could see how the group, over the 6 books spanning a year each, would grow and mature. As I read each new book, I saw more things I liked and my ratings of each subsequent novel got higher! And Hoyle has been there every step of the way. I feel like she’s actually watched me grow into her series!

Brigid Kemmerer, author of the Elementals series, is another person I consider a friend. We frequently tweet about weird things Australians do and how different our cultures are, and last time I checked, she wasn’t sure whether drop bears were real or not (mission accomplished!). I’ve had her at Speculating on SpecFic to do an interview, and she’s basically awesome.

I would have read her books whether I had this blog or not (those yummy boys on the covers), but I would have never had the opportunity to get to know her a little bit without this avenue.

This has turned into a much longer post than I’d anticipated, and I have a hundred other little stories about authors and how amazing they have been to me since I began this website. This post could easily be misinterpreted as me bragging about my experiences, but honesty I have a whole-nother page dedicated to that, so it doesn’t need to be rehashed here :p

I think, with a lot of the negativity surrounding the author-reviewer relationship these days, it’s important for me to remind myself of these positive experiences, and to share them with my readers. This is why I review books in my spare time, this is why I spend so much time and money on my hobby, this is why it’s all worth it!

Which author-related experience do you think about when you need to remind yourself why book reviewing is amazing?

9 Responses to “My Take on the Author-Reviewer Relationship”

  1. Marilynn Byerly

    I work on both sides of the fence as an author and reviewer.

    The only times I fuss about a review of my books is when the information is wrong like character misidentification or the spelling of my first name which no one seems to get right.

    Major spoilers also guarantee an instant response from me.

    In most cases, the review is corrected and the spoiler sentences are removed or rewritten.

    As a pro writer, a writing teacher, and academic with expertise in literary analysis, I am, as a reviewer, many authors worst nightmare, but I recommend books and series to readers who aren’t as persnickety as I am so that works in most writers’ favor.

  2. Bibliotropic

    I was just blown away when I was starting to get into book reviewing and authors would end up sharing my reviews, or thanking me for my commentary. For most of my life, I thought of authors as these almost god-like beings, high up on a pedastal and to be admired but never to be approached or talked to like I could understand how their brains worked.

    Turns out, lo and behold, that they’re people just like me. And I don’t think I’ll ever forget that revelation that not only am I interested in what they have to write, but they’re interested in what I have to write about what they have to write. Honestly, I think without that discovery and subsequent conversations with authors about just random things, I might have quit this reviewing gig a long time ago.

  3. Katie Taylor

    I never realised I made such an impression! But rest assured that the pleased surprise was mutual, and so was the nervousness. But in any case, I have just blogged about you for a second time (http://kjtaylor.com/2013/09/the-critic-the-author-her-review-and-her-blog/). In fact I had recently been thinking of contacting you to let you know about the short story mentioned in that blog post, but, well… there you go.

    I’m so glad you’ve been enjoying my series so much. It always makes me happy to see what I’ve made give people pleasure, and though I might not read reviews as a general rule, I know how important the support of critics like you are is to authors. We might not always like what you say about our books, but we still need your help!

    PS: And now you know you were right to distrust Saeddryn. I never liked her that much myself, honestly. She’s a bitter old hag.

  4. Lauren @ Lose Time Reading

    I’m so glad that someone finally has posted about how wonderful author relationships can be! So often you see the negative side of it. I have never had a negative author experience. I’ve had so many wonderful conversations with authors simply because they had seen my reviews. I’ve also dealt with quite a few self published authors, and while my reviews weren’t always entirely positive, they were extremely kind, professional and thankful for the review regardless. I’m excited to see that you also have had such positive experiences! Wonderful, wonderful post 🙂 I can’t believe I haven’t stumbled across your blog before, you have a new subscriber out of me!!!

  5. Linda Poitevin

    As an author, I’ve been on the receiving end of all kinds of reviews, including ones that (in my opinion) were more about being snarky than thoughtful. I ignored those ones. The thoughtful ones, however…now those are worth their weight in gold. And yes, I’ve taken the comments into consideration. I actually changed how I began book 3 in my series because of something a reviewer said about book 2. So…to all of you who do provide the thoughtful reviews (both positive and negative), thank you for what you do — and keep up the excellent work!

  6. Mike Mullin

    Check out this review of ASHFALL: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/165430125/. It’s a fabulously positive review, but the best part of it is that little note at the end about all the architectural terms in the book. They’re totally wrong for my protagonist’s voice–I was letting my own voice over-ride Alex’s. I’ve watched out for that sort of thing ever since. Karen and I have met three or four times since then, and I’m proud to call her a friend.

  7. nordie

    I have established few relationships with authors – those where I have read a book and subsequently written a decent review (not the same as sycophantic!), will get tweeted a link to the review when it goes up, as does the publisher.

    I generally thank them for writing the book (at the end of the day they’ve still put work into it), and if they like my review they’re free to retweet it to their heart’s content.

    I rarely read self pubbed work, both out of fear of the quality of the book, and the reaction of the writer if they dont like my review (can they tell that “the formatting of the ebook let this book down” is NOT a personal attack on the author, or the book itself, just a commentary that work needs to be done on the formatting?). Those self pubbed writers I have read have surprised me with how good their books are, and we’re now in infrequent email contacts!

Leave a Reply to Linda Poitevin Cancel reply