7:00 AM

Should you censor yourself?

The lovely Johanna Harness recently pointed me to a blog post by author Stacia Kane who talks about how being published changes everything.  It's a very interesting read and I suggest you check it out, but it got me wondering if the same concerns apply to self published authors as much as they do traditional ones.

Stacia talks about how if someone has posted a negative review about one of her books and her agent went on to sign that person, she would be hurt and upset and less likely to contribute a comment for their book or help them in other ways.  I can understand that and although everyone's entitled to an opinion, if you're looking to get signed by an agent, perhaps you need to keep those opinions under wraps.

When it comes to someone who is self publishing, I'm not sure it's as necessary. That's NOT to say you should be going around giving nasty reviews. Not at all, even if you hated the book.  As previously discussed, you should be able to point out the good stuff along with the constructive criticisms.

While no one wants to make enemies, I think it's important to be honest if you're going to review. I very much dislike the trend I hear going on in self publishing circles about some authors and friends giving nothing but five star reviews, even if they haven't read the book, just for the marketing/publicity of it all (I will blog more about this in detail at a later date). What happens when someone buys the book and sees it's not even close to 5 star material? That's disappointing and a turn off and they may very well not purchase anymore books from that author.

In the world of self publishing, where authors lack agents, and often editors, to tell them if things should be cut or rearranged, etc., I think reviews by other writers are helpful. We obviously know what goes into the process of writing and publishing a book and personally, I'd rather bring something up that will help the author better hone their craft, then pretend everything about the book was fab. Might this make me some enemies? Maybe. Might it make people take my words the wrong way? It's possible. Might it get used against me in the future? Who knows, but I would rather be known for my honesty and if that's going to come back and bite me in the ass, so be it.

With Twitter and Facebook and all the other social networking sites where we're building our fan bases, I certainly think you ought to be cautious with the things you say. You don't want to come off as unprofessional or nasty in anyway,  but that doesn't mean you can't be yourself. I know I mention her often, but author Hannah Moskowitz always comes off as very real to me in her blog posts and Twitter feed. I also follow her reviews on Goodreads and she's honest there too. I respect that.

As posted before, you can't please everyone all of the time. Even if you're being honest and "nice" about things, there are still going to be people who won't like you, who don't agree and who may come back and argue with you over things. People are different and have different opinions. It's bound to happen, but remember there are times when it's better if you bite your tongue (or tie up your fingers as we're not normally speaking out loud to these folks) or step away from the conversation completely.  While you have a right to your opinions you need to remember that you are also trying to network and make connections and you need to be professional while doing so. Sometimes it's just not worth the possible backlash.

It's said that even bad publicity is good publicity, but do you really want to be known as the nasty unprofessional author? Probably not. I don't really think that will help you sell books or endear you to your fellow authors. Make sure you stop down and use your brain; use common sense and think before hitting that send or publish post button. Remember things linger on the internet and could come back to haunt you.


Bobby Mathews said...

one of the things i do on my own blog is write reviews of books i'm reading on my own blog (bobthewriter.com) ... but i have a rule: try to be honest without being an asshat.

of course, there are some books i read where i simply have to go "how did THIS crap get someone a book deal?"

the other part, of course, is that as a reviewer, giving a dishonest review is just wrong.

i think a larger part for most people to think about is that our own blogs are self-edited, and reviews go up without editing or without much thought to whether they could have an impact. it's certainly best with a bad review to take 24 hours (just like that angry e-mail you'd love to send), and then re-read what you've written.

if this comment makes no sense, it's because i'm barely awake.

MBee said...

Heh well thanks for stopping to leave a comment when you're all fuzzy headed! :D

It's true though. You're only human. You're not going to like everything you read...but as someone who people might be looking at like a semi-celebrity (heh) do you keep your mouth shut about it? Maybe, but if that's not your style, then in your own words, just don't be an asshat about it :P

As I said in the post, I think in the world of self publishing, there are authors who are not getting enough constructive criticisms to help them improve; either because friends & family are too nice or they don't have enough other honest people to review their work. I think our honest opinions about their work might temporarily bruise some egos, but should hopefully help in the long run.

Johanna Harness said...

As a reader, I have different expectations of consumer reviews and professional reviews.

On Amazon, Aunt Bess can leave a five-star review and write, "I can't believe my nephew wrote a book!" And that is an honest review. She's thrilled and her experience of the book is over-the-moon.

If Aunt Bess is a professional book reviewer, we hold her to different standards. Perhaps she really shouldn't be reviewing her nephew's book at all.

Context is everything.

MBee said...

Good point Johanna!