There's a great discussion going on over at Dear Author about authors reviewing other authors' books on Goodreads and other online venues. This issue is a murky, swampy mess for authors, and shocker, I do have an opinion on it. Rather than spout of on Dear Author, I am spouting here, in my own cyber living room.
I decided years ago to keep most of my opinions to myself when it came to the work of other romance writers. It goes back to the "do unto others as you'd have done to you" credo we were taught as children. If I don't want other authors spouting off about all the things that are wrong with my books, why would I do it to them? Why would I give a fellow romance writer a one-star review on Goodreads when I might someday be asked to work with her in some capacity or another? What do I gain from posting that negative review about her work in a public setting?
This goes for my friends, too. I would never give an author friend anything less than a five-star review on a public site. Why? Because anything less than a five suggests there were things about the book I didn't like. Maybe they were small things that really didn't matter much in the grand scheme, but I would not want my friend to wonder what it was about her book that made the difference between a four and a five for me. Why should she have that question in her head from me when she has so much other praise and criticism being hurled her way? Authors have enough arrows slung at them—friendly and not-so-friendly—to be wondering what it was about their book didn't work for their writer friends.
If I wouldn't give a friend less than a five-star review, that pretty much removes any value the reading public might place on my reviews, right? So why bother? The closest I will come to expressing an opinion is the list you see on my sidebar of books I've read in 2010 with stars next to the ones I truly loved. The remainder span a wide range from what would be a DNF on a traditional review site to a 4-star review. I don't feel the need to differentiate between them. That list began more as a curiosity experiment. I knew I read a lot, but I had no idea what the full number of books for a year would be. As the list unfolded, I realized I wanted a way to highlight the books I truly loved, thus the star. I never felt the same need to show which ones didn't work for me.
I was talking books yesterday with a group of reader friends and one of my all-time favorites came up. One of my close friends HATED that book. Another started it but never finished. How a story hits one reader vs. another is always going to be a subjective exercise. As an author, I believe it is far more important for me to be supportive of my author colleagues than it is for me to express my negative opinions about a colleague's work. And whether we know each other or not, whether one is small potatoes like me or a NYT bestseller like Nora Roberts, we are all colleagues in a business where we put our souls on display in every book. That's why when we started the book club, there was one major rule I emphasized and that was respect for the work. You don't have to like the book, I said, but you must respect the author. I believe that with every fiber of my being, and I try to live it in my online interactions.
What about you? Where do you stand on authors reviewing authors?