In the past couple of weeks, there’s been a bit of an uproar over Amazon’s decision to ban authors’ reviews of other authors’ books. I recently commented on an article on Forbes‘ website that was critical of the ban.
I can see both sides of this issue. As an author who’s reviewed several other authors’ books (and had my own books reviewed by other authors), I believe we’re more than qualified to evaluate a book’s merits. Don’t we beta-read for each other? Don’t we support each other by offering support and advice for our peers’ works in progress? Who’s better qualified to make a recommendation–as long as the review is an honest one?
Sadly, however, the reviews posted at Amazon are not always honest. And I’m not only talking about authors reviewing authors. There are also the usual five-star reviews posted by family and friends for amateurish, poorly-written novels–I’ve mentioned such a review in a previous post. The review was almost illiterate. Reading it, I had to wonder if that reviewer was even capable of reading a book.
Then there’s the “sock puppet” reviews by people setting up fake accounts for the sole purpose of giving themselves rave reviews and/or attacking other authors (yes, “Doc,” I’m talking about you; I’ve known all along who you are).
The Forbes article cites attacks on authors that began at the Goodreads site. This is one reason I no longer spend any time at Goodreads. Patience is not one of my strengths. I saw too much whining and backstabbing in my years in conventional publishing…and not only among authors (but that’s another story for another time).
I don’t buy reviews, nor would I accept payment for reviewing anyone else’s. I don’t even ask anyone to review my books. If they do, great; if not, I’m okay with that, too. I know one author who was deeply bothered by another author’s refusal to review her book. Realistically, even among friends, not everyone is going to love our books. My circle of friends in conventional publishing, like my self-published friends, was a diverse group. Different genres, different tastes. We’d buy each others’ books–but some of them were given as gifts.
I came to self-publishing so I could write what I want to write and not have to live up to someone else’s expectations. I stopped caring about advances or promotional budgets or bestseller lists. I guess with age and life experience, my priorities are finally in the right place…or getting there anyway.
So why do I feel like I’m in high school again?
As self-published authors, we still have a long way to go. The good news is also the bad news: anyone can publish a book. And the petty, childish behavior of some self-pubbed authors does nothing to improve our image. If we’re to ever be taken seriously, we’re going to have to present a professional attitude. We’re going to have to put out only our best work.
We’re going to have to grow up.