Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Ethics in Blogging: Taking the Wild Out of the Wild West?

funny pictures

moar humorous pics

In the past few weeks, we here at Dear Author have talked about author ethics and it occurred to me that we haven’t talked alot about blogging ethics.

While I do think that ethics is a community issue, I am not trying to force my ethics on anyone else in the blogging community. What I am trying to do in this post and subsequent posts on this issue is to explore the idea of blogging ethics and what that means.

The internet has been referred to as the Wild West. It’s ungovernable but vibrant. Alive with colorful personalities and outspoken individuals. The idea of placing limits on anyone on the internet is a bit of anethema.

But I have always been an advocate of criticism. I feel like one cannot grow without criticism or self examination. I can see, when I look over the posts of the past two years, that I have grown as a person and as a blogger. That my opinions and stances and voice has changed in response to my connection to those who have come to share in the community here and when I have gone out to other communities to participate.

There are posts, in my past, that I would not post today. The one that I can think of is the post regarding Rosina Lippi. What I said in the post is perfectly true but it was unnecessary and petty. For me to go back and delete the post would be to engage in revisionist history which I personally don’t like. I prefer my asshole-ishness to be out there for everyone to see.

The one post for which I think I took the most heat, both publicly and privately, was the one in which I took Adele Ashworth to task for her statements at AAR. It is not a post that I regret today, even in retrospect. I don’t know that I would change even the tenor. Will I look back in two years at that and wish I had gone a different route? I don’t know.

But what I am willing to do is engage in conversation with those in this community and the greater romance community about change that they think should occur for the betterment of the community.

I cannot promise that change will occur. But I can say that I look and read the comments and I do think about what is being said, particularly those opinions whose are contrary to my own. Because becoming a better person, a more competent blogger, a better contributor to the community occurs by listening, absorbing, and filtering the messages and attitudes of the community.

But the meat of this is to discuss the author response to bloggers. Some of the responses I received are directed toward review policies. Here are some of the requests I have received and my take on each one. I would love to hear from others on these topics:

1. Bloggers who request an ARC should review it.

My response: Yes, absolutely. I know that authors get very few ARCs. Some authors might only get two or three. Some might get 40. Some authors are willing to make e-arcs and some are not. But making an e-arc takes time and if an author is willing to send you a book for review AT YOUR REQUEST, I think you owe the author a review. I also think that if a reviewer asks for a book but doesn’t get one, she shouldn’t complain about it publicly. I think the author and publishers have the right to determine who gets what, even if it seems (and may very well be) short sighted.

2. Bloggers who request participation from an author should refrain from bashing/trashing the author around that same time.

I have a little problem with this because I’m not quite sure what “bashing” is. For example, we have the First Sale series here at Dear Author. I invite authors to submit the blog post near the on sale date of their books. This often coincides with a review of a book that we have done. The book review might be a less enthusiastic review. Is that considered bashing? Or is that considered unethical? Should we refrain from posting the first sale letter if we are not going to give a positive review? Should we refrain from posting a negative review of a contributing author for a period of time? I.e., a week or more?

3. Bloggers should not read/review an author’s book whose writing they dislike or alternatively, should not read/review an author’s book who they personally dislike.

This one is a tough one. First, I have taken heat for this so I might not have the most impartial view. I reviewed a book after being told in comments previously that it was not a romance. I was criticized for reading this book because I was told I would not like it but the fact is I bought (yes, I paid for this book) the book because I was curious to see how it was “romantic” but not a romance. The book didn’t work for me but not because it wasn’t a romance but because I felt that the telling of the story was flat. This book, however, worked on every level for my blogging partner, Janine, and despite the fact that I personally had issues with the way that the author and her friends treated me post the review, I felt it important to put up Janine’s review and every subsequent review Janine has done for this authorʼs work. Janine is a big fan of this authorʼs writing and does not hesitate to recommend her work to everyone. Should I not have read/reviewed the authorʼs book when I was told I would not like it?

Second, I have read/reviewed books for authors I personally dislike because I try hard to separate the personality from the work and sometimes I am successful with it. For example, I am not a big fan of a particular author of vampire romances but I have stated on more than one occasion that I love one of her books and I have given two books in the series differing grades: a B and a C. Robin reviewed and gave a B+ grade to a book by an author who called Robin a non-fan.

This is a tough call for me. I think one way you can resolve this is by being transparent. I.e., maybe in a prefatory paragraph a blogger can state their position on said author. I.e., I was told by the author/friend of the author/random commenter that I was not going to like this book and they were right. Or I have had my issues in the past with author A and perhaps that has colored my view of her writing. I will say that recently I decided that we would not review the author of the vampire series on this blog any more because I think I had lost any sense of impartiality.


4. Should there be differing standards for reviews depending on whether the blogger bought the book or received it for free?

I think that there should not be a different standard, but I do know that as a blogger, I feel more free to be negative on a book that I bought than one I got for free even if I didn’t ask for the book. Having said that, I think I have been plenty negative about books I have received for free.

5. Should a blogger refrain from being entertaining in penning a negative review.

I think point 4 relates in large part to this question. Does a blogger “deserve” a free book if it is going to serve as a “trash/bash” session for the blogger’s own entertainment. Said another way, isn’t the blogger having fun at the author’s expense. While I understand the concept of this, I have a hard time buying that a blogger is unethical because so long as the book itself is being mocked and not the author.

6. Should a blogger make fun of or mock an author’s response to a review?

This one goes to the idea of whether authors should suffer in silence or whether they have the right to speak out in response to a mocking post. My opinion is that an author has the right to do whatever she wants but she must be mindful that her online persona is one of her marketing tools. It is an unfair standard and the question is in an ethical blogging environment, should it be?

7. Do bloggers treat some authors preferentially, both in reviews or in parsing out their online statements?

I try not to treat authors differently in reviews but I do think I treat them differently when reading their online statements/posts. If I have a relationship with an author and I find something distasteful on their blog or website, I will email them. If I do not have a relationship, I won’t but I might bring it up openly on the blog. My own hot buttons have to deal with the treatment of readers and the reputation of the romance industry. If I feel that readers are being unfairly attacked or if I feel like the romance genre is, I will most likely make a public post. One reason I would do this is because if I don’t know the author from random why would I believe that author would be interested in my opinion? But, should the first response always be to make a private appeal?

8. Should bloggers police other bloggers?

This one I have a real problem with. For one, I don’t think that I should be responsible for anyone else’s actions. I can only monitor and control my own posts and comments. I don’t even know how I would begin to address this. If someone brought something to my attention, I might comment on it, but it’s not reasonable to believe that one blogger or even a community of bloggers would know what others are saying.

9. Should bloggers be more respectful of authors? And if so, how is this respect shown?

An author does not automatically gain respect from me merely by being published. What I do try to do is make sure that a review is about the book and that my comments about a blog post or public statement of an author is about the public stance and nothing else. I would be interested in hearing other positions on this.

I know that these are a lot of issues to discuss and there are actually more that I received in emails when I asked for feedback on the subject. I am of a mind to post weekly polls in the sidebar to gauge the temperature in this community.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

113 Comments

  1. Teddypig
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 05:09:50

    Wow, you really hit a lot of stuff here.
    I honestly do think about some of these things.
    I think the idea that bothers me most though is the idea of bloggers owing the author a review.

    Reviews for me are like… well, writing I guess. I really hope they say something about the way I think or my likes and dislikes. You know something about me as a person reading your book so people can relate to my opinion.

    Sometimes, an honest review on a book just does not come all that easily.
    Like right now I am in a dry spell. Real life is in the way, I had a job review coming up and my focus is not worth much reading wise. So instead of wasting peoples time I shut the heck up.

    There are easy reviews that happen that almost write themselves. If a book falls in an extreme of “I love it, and here’s why!” or “I hate it, and here’s why!” you are in such luck. I have found something to say and usually something I personally feel is constructive or even unique in my take of the book.

    But… mostly when a review is harder to write I need to let a book sit for a while after reading it. Sometimes I catch myself not having the ability to really focus on it and I stop and put it away for another occasion and hopefully a better time.

    For an author I am sure that is terribly maddening. I hope on the flip side of me being this difficult horrid Pig that the authors and most importantly the potential readers do get something out of the reviews when I finally find something to write about.

    And last but not least… I have a secret I want to share.
    Don’t tell anyone. It would ruin me if it ever got out.

    It might be better for someone to wait and see what happens review wise because me “not reviewing something” might mean I am being polite and that I actually might even know you personally and/or like you as an author.

    I guess I would rather write 5 ecstatic detailed reviews of books I love than a million short, funny, witty, reviews of books that just did not do it for me.

    Because snark and jokes are fun and all but it can get to be a bore.
    Yeah, I know. Pig… Boar…

  2. Mireya
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 06:52:24

    Removed for further editing.

  3. Sherry Thomas
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 07:08:08

    My view has always been that if a reader has invested time in reading a book, then s/he is free to say whatever s/he thinks about it. Whether the said reader paid for the book or got it at the library or as a free ARC makes no difference.

    As for respect, I expect to be treated with civility online, as I do in real life. Respect has to be earned.

  4. Nora Roberts
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 07:39:17

    I agree a writer has to take care in how she responds–to a review or a topic. She has to take more care than a reader. That’s both logical and fair.

    There are, however, some sites, some posters, who’ll bitch slap a writer no matter how carefully she responds. Just because they can. I’ve learned to avoid those sites, or if it’s a poster on a site I do frequent to consider my response–and tailor it to the individual. But the key is ‘I’ve learned’. It generally takes some hard knocks, and some mistakes along the way.

  5. Jayne
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 07:46:18

    There are easy reviews that happen that almost write themselves. If a book falls in an extreme of “I love it, and here’s why!” or “I hate it, and here’s why!” you are in such luck. I have found something to say and usually something I personally feel is constructive or even unique in my take of the book.

    But… mostly when a review is harder to write I need to let a book sit for a while after reading it. Sometimes I catch myself not having the ability to really focus on it and I stop and put it away for another occasion and hopefully a better time.

    For an author I am sure that is terribly maddening. I hope on the flip side of me being this difficult horrid Pig that the authors and most importantly the potential readers do get something out of the reviews when I finally find something to write about.

    Amen Teddy. I’ve got about 9 reviews right now that I’ve jotted down notes and/or have written some paragraphs for but which I just haven’t gotten finished. Sometimes I’m in the mood and sometimes it just won’t come to me to save my life. It’s especially hard to work in information about a book’s plot into the format that we use here.

    I know authors and publicists want to see a result for the arcs they’ve handed out but I want to make sure that I do the book justice and be honest for the people who might be spending moolah based on what I’ve said.

  6. ilona andrews
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 08:06:32

    My opinion only:

    On 1:

    To an author, first two weeks of sales are very important, because if you hit the right list, your sales could go up by 30-50%. So when ARCs are being sent to reviewers, especially when a reviewer requests an ARC, I think it’s understood that it is being given in exchange for some buzz. That said, you can’t force someone to review your work if they don’t want to. Here is the disclaimer I typically send out with my PDF:

    I would very much appreciate it if you could post a review of it around mid-March on myspace, blog, or a board you frequent. It doesn’t have to be long or positive. I’m just looking for an honest opinion. But it would make my day if it included the release date.

    Asking nicely is pretty much all I can and should do. Is it using the bloggers as advertisement? Well, of course it is. But I don’t think this fact was ever in doubt.

    On 2: I think the key here is “author”. I have no problem if a blogger has problems with my particular book and then invites me in for a promo, because any publicity is good. But if a blogger posts a long rant about how I am a hack and how I should stop writing and go clean sewers instead and the audience cheerfully agrees with the blogger, why in the world would I come to this blog and put myself on display? Blogging is a promo tool. People who have that big of a problem with me as an author are probably not my target audience. My time is better spent elsewhere.

    On 3: I don’t think that’s necessarily true. I think deciding whether a personal dislike of the author prevents a reviewer from accurately evaluating a book is a question of personal integrity each blogger has to figure for themselves.

    On 4: No. Why in the world would how you got the book matter?

    On 5: No. Bloggers are writers. We read blogs for entertainment value. How entertaining one should get is up to individual bloggers.

    On 6: Before I made it into print, someone older and wiser told me, “In response to critique, you say thank you or nothing at all. Nothing else. Don’t be the entertainment.” I have seen some cringe-worthy author rants that proven the wisdom of this statement. You can’t win in response to critique. Everything you could say has been said between the covers. It’s not the blogger’s responsibility to police the author. If the author is determined to be an asshat, I think the blogger is fully within their rights to say, ‘You go, buddy’ and milk it for all the entertainment value she can get out of it.

    On 7: Yes.

    On 8: To some extent every community polices itself. But I think bloggers are steered by audience more than by other bloggers.

    On 9: Should bloggers be more respectful of authors? And if so, how is this respect shown?

    “An author does not automatically gain respect from me merely by being published.”

    No, but some respect should be afforded from the start. I think all people should treat each other with respect and basic courtesy. I’ve seen people rant and rave and call authors names because of something they didn’t like in a book. We are NOT our books. We put out a product. You may not like our product and that’s perfectly okay. But we, as individuals, are distinct from our work.

  7. Jayne
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 08:08:22

    1) Yes. If I specifically ask Jane to try to get an arc or if I specifically tell an author or publicist that I’ll read a book/arc, I try my best to read it. The review might take a while to write or to be posted due to our heavy schedule here but I try to make sure it eventually gets done. However, if something is submitted to us in the hope that one of us will read it, then no, I don’t feel obligated to read it. There are also those cases where I just can’t finish a book even to the point where I feel comfortable doing a DNF review. Since this is something we mention in our submissions policy, I don’t get myself tied into knots over it.

    2) I think I know which book Jane is talking about here and I agreed with her decision.

    3) For me, reading is my pleasure. I don’t get paid for it and it sure doesn’t pay my bills. If I don’t like an author’s style, I won’t read/finish the book. I have a hard time separating an author’s online persona/actions from their books. For this reason, I don’t haunt other blogs and rarely go to author’s blogs/websites beyond what might be needed for writing a book review. If someone is acting like an ass, I don’t want to know.

    4) No. Whether or not I got it free, my review might influence someone to spend their money for it. Readers, does this information influence how you read our reviews?

    5) Snark isn’t my style. I’m just not that good at it. I can enjoy other’s snarkiness but it only rarely surfaces in me.

    6) No. An author risks making him/herself look bad by a petty response. I’m not going to sink to that level in reply. If I make a mistake, I try to graciously correct it.

    7)Honestly, I think I’ve been guilty of this at times. I try not to do this because if I then read a book by this author I don’t like, it makes it harder to be truthful in a review.

    8) Hell no. They’re responsible for what they do.

    9) As Jane said, being published doesn’t entitle anyone to any more respect than anyone else. I don’t do as much posting as Jane does about aspects of the romance community other than the actual books. My responses to questions 3, 5 and 6 also tie into this question.

  8. Leeann Burke
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 08:10:42

    Great Blog Jane.

    I agree with Sherry respect needs to be earned but I don’t like to see someone get slashed online either.

    As for reviews I don’t care if the reviewer paid for the book or not as long as she’s honest in her review. What I don't like is when the reviews become an attack on the author and publisher. I haven't really seen this on review sites but Amazon.com seems to have a lot of them. Do I purchase books based on others reviews either online or in magazines? No, I buy what pleases and catches my attention at the bookstore (which explains my 900 to be read pile).

  9. Erastes
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 08:41:55

    The name of the game is professionalism, all the way through this, like rock.

    1. Bloggers who request an ARC should review it.

    If at all possible. If they really can’t – and this has happened to me on Speak Its Name once or twice – and the written material is simply too vomit inducing to get past the first couple of pages – then the blogger should write back and explain why, sending back any hard copy they may have received, obviously

    2. Bloggers who request participation from an author should refrain from bashing/trashing the author around that same time.

    That’s completely up to the author, imho – if an author posts to a site where the blogger(s) have a reputation for slagging off covers and contents and/or they are notorious for not liking their kind of book, then author beware. As an author I would be very wary of participating any ANY blog where this sort of behaviour is considered funny.

    3. Bloggers should not read/review an author's book whose writing they dislike or alternatively, should not read/review an author's book who they personally dislike.

    If a reviewer isn’t professional enough to put personal feelings aside, then they aren’t grown-up enough to be able to write an impartial review about the writing.

    4. Should there be differing standards for reviews depending on whether the blogger bought the book or received it for free?

    No. Of course not. Why should they be? I buy books, I (sometimes) get given arcs and more rarely hard copies, or I’m pointed to where I can read the novels online free. They are all as valid as the other.

    5. Should a blogger refrain from being entertaining in penning a negative review.

    I don’t think a review should be amusing at all, because the blogger (unless they are in it for their own aggrandissement, and there are some) is writing about something that’s not personal to them. Unfortunately there are bloggers like this. I wouldn’t say it’s unethical, just unprofessional and a little sad.

    Even if a book is utterly dire, it shouldn’t be mocked on a review site. It’s a different matter on a personal blog of course, you can say what you bloody like on there.

    6. Should a blogger make fun of or mock an author's response to a review?

    No. Absolutely not. Again, if it’s a personal blog, it’s up to the blogger but I don’t think authors should even respond to reviews (unless quietly and privately via email and then only “thanks” and leave it at that.) To mock an author for a response on a review site? That’s just dreadful.

    7. Do bloggers treat some authors preferentially, both in reviews or in parsing out their online statements?

    Probably. There’s a lot of sucking up to Big Names, no matter where you go.

    8. Should bloggers police other bloggers?

    If they want, why not? It’s a free universe. I don’t like Fan Wank and all those sorts of blogs, because it’s just full of people laughing over other people’s misfortunes, but again, if people wish to be childish, that’s really up to them. It doesn’t help the cause to improve books in anyway, though.

    9. Should bloggers be more respectful of authors? And if so, how is this respect shown?

    Respect is earned; good writing (or clear signs that the author wants to write well and is working hard at improving), professional quiet polite behaviour, courtesy (thanking for good reviews, replying to comments and to emails) all that sort of thing. Not behaving like a Diva over bad reviews in public, not speaking out for advertising’s sake about hot issues like homosexuality or religion or fan fic just to get attention. Helping other authors. I’m a great believer in bread on the waters and writers who work hard at their craft get my respect and those who shout and wail and spam will never do.

  10. Jane
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 08:55:33

    Where would you draw the line, Erastes, between personal blog and review site?

  11. Jill Myles
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 09:21:43

    Playing devil’s advocate here – I am thinking back to a few ‘My First Sale’ interviews here. They are usually posted close to the person’s release, and I generally find these to be fun little vignettes about an author. Sometimes it’s precluded with a bit about how much the reviewer liked one of the author’s books.

    But then, say, the next day, the review of the author’s new book is up and it’s less than flattering. As a reader, I’m fired up to try the author after seeing the ‘My First Sale’ article, but then after the not-great review (I can’t think of one that was a slam, just ones that were very ‘meh’ books) I back off and put my buying dollars away.

    I buy a lot of books based off of the DA ‘good opinion’. If Jane says she loves something, I usually run out the door to buy it, because I know Jane is almost as picky as I am. But I can definitely see that a flattering post followed by an unflattering review might come across as ‘bashing’.

    Which it’s not, really. But I do think it sends a bit of a confusing message. So maybe those could be spaced apart a bit more?

    That being said, I do want honest opinions from the bloggers, no matter how they acquired the ARC or if they hated the book. The reason why I read DA’s blog (instead of say, Klausner’s) is because the opinions are always honest. I trust this site a heck of a lot more than Amazon’s reviews.

  12. Jana J. Hanson
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 09:31:06

    Excellent topic, Jane!

    I come to Dear Author for honest reviews. And that’s what I’m looking for. I’m always ready to add books to my TBR pile(s), so if I find a favorable review here, chances are I’m adding the book to my list. If a reviewer doesn’t finish a book, I want to know why (especially if it was a book I’m interested in). Is it necessary to reveal plot twists in a review? I don’t think so. Just tell me if you liked the book (or not) and why.

  13. Jaci Burton
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 09:32:41

    1. Bloggers who request an ARC should review it.

    Well, that would be nice, but doesn’t always happen. Of the ARCs I send out, I get about 2/3 to 3/4 of them back in reviews. Life happens and not everyone can get to the book, and some just don’t do it. I understand that and appreciate the ones who can, and understand the circumstances for those who can’t. And some might just not like the book and don’t want to do a review. I’m fine with that, too.

    2. Bloggers who request participation from an author should refrain from bashing/trashing the author around that same time.

    I don’t recall this ever happening to me. Everyone who’s ever requested my participation somewhere has been kind. If my book is being reveiwed at the same time, as an author you should be prepared for an honest review, which may be good or bad. I would never expect love and kisses on my book just because I’m also guesting on a site. Doesn’t work that way.

    3. Bloggers should not read/review an author's book whose writing they dislike or alternatively, should not read/review an author's book who they personally dislike.

    Why would they? I don’t read books from authors’ whose writing I dislike, and I don’t read books from authors I dislike. Then again, I’m not a reviewer or blogger who reviews, so I’m probably not the person to answer this question.

    4. Should there be differing standards for reviews depending on whether the blogger bought the book or received it for free?

    Of course not. It makes no difference how the book was acquired. A reader either likes the book or doesn’t.

    5. Should a blogger refrain from being entertaining in penning a negative review.

    Every blogger has their own style when reviewing, their voice. If their voice is funny and entertaining, even in a negative review, they should stick to that. Sometimes the entertainment factor can take the sting out of a negative review. As long as the review is about the work and not about the author, it shouldn’t matter.

    6. Should a blogger make fun of or mock an author's response to a review?

    Depends on the response. Some authors never learn to shut up. I’m a big believer in saying ‘thank you’ regardless of the review and getting the hell out of Dodge. More authors should learn to do that. *sigh* I’d say if you’re going to engage in a war of words with the reviewer, you’re fighting a losing battle and you get what you deserve. Authors never win in these skirmishes and just end up looking stupid.

    7. Do bloggers treat some authors preferentially, both in reviews or in parsing out their online statements?

    I have no idea. Do they? And how do I find these bloggers? Will they treat me preferentially? I’m easy. ;-)

    8. Should bloggers police other bloggers?

    Ack. Who has time for this? Blogger police? I picture badges. Seriously, you can’t police what other people do.

    9. Should bloggers be more respectful of authors? And if so, how is this respect shown?

    I think everyone should start out respectful of everyone else in blogland. Doesn’t matter if it’s author, reader, blogger, whatever. Everyone is entitled to respect out here. Not everyone will agree with your opinion, and that’s okay. And then there are always going to be a select few who don’t know what the word respect means. Sadly, those people will never change and can’t be policed. They can only be ignored.

    Great blog post Jane. Good food for thought, as always. :-)

  14. sallahdog
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 09:46:22

    erastes says

    5. Should a blogger refrain from being entertaining in penning a negative review.

    I don't think a review should be amusing at all, because the blogger (unless they are in it for their own aggrandissement, and there are some) is writing about something that's not personal to them. Unfortunately there are bloggers like this. I wouldn't say it's unethical, just unprofessional and a little sad.

    Even if a book is utterly dire, it shouldn't be mocked on a review site. It's a different matter on a personal blog of course, you can say what you bloody like on there.

    ………………………………………..

    Now this I disagree with, simply because a truly funny negative review usually gets me to buy the dang book, whereas a DNF or simple negative doesn’t… I didn’t read the JR Ward books, until about the 3rd or 4th book came out and some truly funny mocking reviews came out, along with some gushing reviews… Here is my take, even bad books, if someone is passionate enough about them to write a smashing review of, is a book I am not likely to be bored by… Boring is my personal kiss of death, Greatly entertaining bad books are almost as much fun as greatly entertaining good books… If ARCs are truly about promotion, an author would be wise to understand that a snarky review may very well sell as many copies of the book as a gushing review…

  15. Angela James
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 09:55:02

    3. Bloggers should not read/review an author's book whose writing they dislike or alternatively, should not read/review an author's book who they personally dislike.

    I think there are levels to this. If you spent a lot of time on this blog slagging off Jaci Burton’s books, for instance, and holding them up as an example of the ultimate in bad romance, the worst books ever written, mocking the books repeatedly, her covers, etc. If you then went and read and reviewed one of her books, after months of blog readers seeing you mock her, I would find that suspect. In that case, I think no, you shouldn’t review the author’s work because it wouldn’t reflect well on you. You already know you don’t like her work, the readers of your blog already know you don’t like her work, so what purpose does the review serve (which is another topic entirely, probably–the purpose of the review).

    But on the other hand, if it’s an author that you’ve disliked one or two books in the past, given mediocre or even bad reviews to, but keep hearing that her writing is improving, that this book is her best so far, I don’t see why you shouldn’t give an author another try.

    I think a lot of it has to do with motivation and what your purpose in reading the book/reviewing the book is.

  16. Ana
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 10:15:17

    Interesting topic. Sometimes I ask myself these questions. The only thing I have to add is that I prefer to write and to read amusing reviews – negative or not. These days we tend to spend so much time online, I’d rather have some fun while doing it. And talking about fun, this is ultimately while I am looking for : a good time while reading a book or a review.

    I try to be as honest as I can in my reviews and sometimes it hurts me to say I didn’t like a book, specially if it is by an author I like.

  17. Charlene Teglia
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 10:37:58

    You covered a lot of ground there, but on the First Sale posts, I think it’s neat that there’s a potentially “balancing” opportunity if it’s posted near the same time as a review that might not be so great. It gives another perspective.

  18. Bev Stephans
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 10:39:03

    Jaci, your answers were the best. You are a class act!

  19. Jill Myles
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 10:44:26

    Charlene, definitely true. And Angela brings up a terrific point as well – it’s when it seems like the negative review is a vendetta rather than genuine feedback that it’s questionable.

    Let’s say if you started reviewing a ton of Cassie Edwards books here on DA. I might question your motivations. ;)

  20. Jaci Burton
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 10:56:47

    If you spent a lot of time on this blog slagging off Jaci Burton's books, for instance, and holding them up as an example of the ultimate in bad romance, the worst books ever written,

    Dammit, Angie. That made me twitch. Where’s my Xanax? ;-)

  21. Jaci Burton
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 11:03:44

    Thank you Bev. So are you.

  22. Jennifer B
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 11:05:33

    Would like to weigh in on one point–Angie’s point on #3. Perception factors here as well. For me, I have read several books by an author I consider an active, visible member of this particularly blogging community. Absolutely did not like them. Long ago, I reviewed the first one I read. And was honest. Beyond that, I saw no value in continuing to let others know that every time I tried this author’s work, I hated it. My point on perception here is that I didn’t refrain from reviewing her books because I had nothing to say, I refrained because I believed that any more negative reviews of her work would be perceived as an attack. Primarily because she is a member and friend to many in this community (which, circularly, is why I continued to try her stuff in hopes of finding something I liked). I’m not sure I would have refrained if the author had had less of a presence here, or none at all. Have to think on that.

  23. Teddypig
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 11:30:04

    Oh, and you know the bestest response from an author ever to a negative review. I mean even if you do not feel like being nice that is.

    Keep a sense of humor and make a comment back and yes feel free to correct me. If I know it was not the best review and I see you keeping it in perspective and yet responding especially if you get a good point in you will most likely have sold any readers like me that book but also your next one.

    Book reviews, even the negative ones can work for the author with the right tact and no, you do not have to sit and take it and say nothing.

  24. Jane
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 11:37:40

    One of the comments I received from anonymous authors was that authors did not know what reviewers wanted in terms of a response. I can’t speak for anyone else, but generally I dislike it when an author comes and says “thanks for the review” no matter if the review is good or bad. If an author has something to substantively contribute then a comment is great, but if it is just to acknowledge the review, it is unnecessary. I don’t write the review for the author.

  25. Shiloh Walker
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 11:40:50

    Dang, I knew I shouldn’t have done my blog-hopping today. I got edits waiting for me, but I gotta comment here. I’m on a time crunch though, so hopefully I make sense.

    Straight up, I’ll say that I don’t think ethics should be straight-across the same for everybody. I do think people should try to use ethics, because if people in general concerned themselves with ethics, a lot of society’s problems wouldn’t exist. Nooooo, not saying that blogland ethics are responsible for the plight of society, but understanding right from wrong, ethical from unethical, and doing the right thing, the ethical thing can’t ever be bad, can it?

    But I don’t think that a personal blog belonging to a reader should be held to the same standards as a professional review blog. If I see bashing/trashing on a personal blog, it’s not going to affect me the same as it would if I saw it on a professional blog. Professional blogs have no room for bashing/trashing/insulting.

    I do need to clarify that I don’t automatically see every negative review as bash/trash. That isn’t the case. I’ve read plenty of negative reviews that in no way bashed or trashed.

    I might not blink if I see a personal blogger state that author b is as dumb as a box of rocks and couldn’t write their way out of a wet paper bag, but if I saw that coming from a professional reviewer, my opinion of that reviewer’s professionalism is going to plummet. Even if author b is as dumb as a box of rocks. Personal insults and attacks don’t belong in a professional arena.

    1. Bloggers who request an ARC should review it.

    Yeah, I’ll agree with that. ARCS aren’t a dime a dozen, authors don’t get many of them and the ones they do get should be put to good use. If a reviewer requests one from an author, the author believes they are getting a review…promo… and I’d imagine the reviewer is aware of that. If the reviewer can’t guarantee a review, they should let the author know when they make their request, so the author can make a well-informed decision.

    2. Bloggers who request participation from an author should refrain from bashing/trashing the author around that same time.

    I don’t see a negative review as trashing. I see personal insults, mocking, humiliation, etc as bashing as trashing. So request participation from somebody that’s gotten a negative review? I don’t see a problem there.

    Insulting somebody personally and then requesting participation? That I would see a problem with.

    3. Bloggers should not read/review an author's book whose writing they dislike or alternatively, should not read/review an author's book who they personally dislike.

    Depends on whether or not the blogger can be objective.

    4. Should there be differing standards for reviews depending on whether the blogger bought the book or received it for free?

    No. Why should there be? It’s the same book, whether it was bought or given.

    5. Should a blogger refrain from being entertaining in penning a negative review.

    I don’t think so. But I also see a difference between entertaining snark, which is generally what I get from the negative reviews I see here, and outright insults. Two blogs I read a lot are the DA blog and Karen Scott’s blog. I love both of them. Karen can get really negative in her reviews (and I doubt that’s a big shock). Yes, I admit it, I’ve chuckled more than once on some of her negative reviews. But I see Karen’s blog as a personal one.

    I’ve already mentioned that I don’t think a personal blog should be held to the same ethical standards as a professional one and some of the negative reviews on Karen’s blog, if I saw them on DA, there is a chance it would change how I perceive DA, because I see DA more as a professional blog than a personal blog. Whether DA planned to be viewed professionally or not, I don’t know, but that is how I see the blog.

    6. Should a blogger make fun of or mock an author's response to a review?

    That’s up to the blogger. I’ve seen plenty of author responses that almost begged for mocking. Getting up an arms because somebody just didn’t care for the book is silly and if I were the blogger in question, it would be almost hard to NOT mock.

    Getting insulted over personal insults or obvious bashing is more understandable, but authors are best to just let it go.

    But making fun/mocking runs a risk~I’ve seen bloggers mock & make fun and maybe they thought they were betting clever, but what I saw was pettiness and as I’ve said, I don’t tend to waste my time on pettiness so those are blogs I don’t mess with reading.

    Even when an author posts something that practically screams for a mocking retort, there’s a risk that the responders are going to end up looking as bad or worse than the person they’re mocking.

    It’s not something that would affect or concern many personal bloggers, but for professional sites, it can be a different issue altogether.

    7. Do bloggers treat some authors preferentially, both in reviews or in parsing out their online statements?

    All bloggers? No. Some? Yeah, I’ve seen some. Again, I see a difference between a personal blog and a professional one. Preferential treatment on a personal blog is no big deal, in my book. On a professional blog, I don’t really care for it. I’m all for a level playing field.

    8. Should bloggers police other bloggers?

    Unless they plan on starting up some sort of ‘blogger association of blogland’, no. Dear Author isn’t responsible for what PBW blogs. PBW isn’t responsible for what Shiloh blogs. Shiloh isn’t responsible for what Sybil blogs. Sybil isn’t responsible for what Karen blogs. Karen isn’t responsible for what the Smart Bitches blog. And the list goes on…and on…

  26. Jane
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 11:42:59

    But on the other hand, if it's an author that you've disliked one or two books in the past, given mediocre or even bad reviews to, but keep hearing that her writing is improving, that this book is her best so far, I don't see why you shouldn't give an author another try.

    Another thing that I heard from authors were that it was frustrating to read a line in the review “I haven’t liked this author in the past . . . ” because the implication is that if you didn’t like it in the past, then why would you like it now. I think of the Lara Adrian example or the Maya Banks one I gave yesterday. I did not hear anything about those authors “improving.” The books just showed up free on my doorstep and for lack of anything better to do – i.e., search through my TBR pile, I picked up those books and both changed my opinion of their previous work. Have they gotten better as writers? I suppose in my opinion they have or at least whatever writing that they had done in the past was eclipsed in my mind by the most recent offerings. (I know in the Banks case it was really her book, Into the Mist, that has me anxiously awaiting her future work more than Sweet Surrender which was good but wasn’t entirely my thing).

    That’s a long way of saying that sometimes you try authors that you haven’t liked in the past just for the heck of it.

  27. Meriam
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 11:48:08

    I don't think a review should be amusing at all, because the blogger (unless they are in it for their own aggrandissement, and there are some) is writing about something that's not personal to them. Unfortunately there are bloggers like this. I wouldn't say it's unethical, just unprofessional and a little sad.

    I disagree.

    Reviews should be entertaining. I often read good reviews not for a book rec (my tbr pile spilleth over) but for the simple enjoyment of reading some articulate, funny, thoughtful and engaging writing. As mentioned above, once in a while, a negative review might even pique my interest. What’s wrong with humour? I don’t think a review should be withering without reason, or malicious or vindictive, but if a reviewer truly disliked a book and used humour to illustrate their points – why not? Books are personal to readers; they move, they uplift, the enrage, they provoke. A review is not literary criticism, it comes from your personal reaction to a reading experience.

    Some of my favourite reviews are negative. (Damnit, I wish I could find Candy’s interpretive dance review…)

    But then I come from the point of view that a reviewer owes a writer nothing and, where possible, the distinction between readers/ reviewers and writers should be distinct. The romance community is far too incestuous for its own good. Maybe this is true for other genres – I don’t inhabit those spheres to know.

    I don’t expect my movie critics to hold their punches: indeed, it is the ones who can call a movie “the cinematic equivalent of tertiary syphilis” and passionately and intelligently advocate for what they love that I particularly enjoy. (I enjoy Peter Bradshaw from The Guardian, too: he can write beautifully when a film moves him and cuttingly when it apalls him. And why not – reviews are entertainment too).

    What’s the difference between a movie critic and a book reviewer?

    Be thoughtful, be articulate, be entertaining. That should be a reviewer’s manifesto.

  28. Bev(BB)
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 11:52:25

    Where would you draw the line, Erastes, between personal blog and review site?

    And if that isn’t the million dollar question. (rolling eyes)

  29. Jill Myles
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 12:00:05

    I can't speak for anyone else, but generally I dislike it when an author comes and says “thanks for the review” no matter if the review is good or bad. If an author has something to substantively contribute then a comment is great, but if it is just to acknowledge the review, it is unnecessary. I don't write the review for the author.

    See, I disagree. I think it’s just polite for an author to say ‘Thank you’ (if nothing else to thank you for your time/opinion). But I’m southern, so maybe that’s just part of my upbringing.

    I actually dislike it when the author jumps in to the commentary and starts explaining. When someone starts saying “I did it this way because of XYZ” or “The reason why I chose this is…”, I really hate that. To me it feels like making excuses for something that readers might find questionable and a little bit like backtracking. It can also come across as OMG PLZ LOVE ME & UNDERSTAND ME.

    That being said, I am probably going to be guilty of the same thing when my book comes out. Please love me!

  30. Teddypig
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 12:03:48

    And if that isn't the million dollar question. (rolling eyes)

    SNORT!

  31. Shannon C.
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 12:24:19

    Heh. I, um, wrote a novel.

    I love this post and I’ve been thinking about some of this stuff myself as I’ve been having a bit of an existential crisis trying to figure out what my niche is in the blogosphere. So here are my responses as they relate to my own style.

    1. absolutely. I’ve just started feeling confident enough to request ARCs, because I have yet to have someone turn me down. But I’m just one reader, and a fairly slow one at that, so if I’m going to ask for an ARC, it’s because I really want to read the book. The three ARCs I’ve ever asked for have been respectively, one I won at a contest here that I wanted to make sure I could read in an accessible format, the first print offering from an author acquaintance, and a book that I was fairly certain I was going to love that I figured wasn’t ever going to make it onto audio or be produced in an e-format I found accessible. In all cases I did review the books in question, though I haven’t yet posted the third of these reviews yet, and in all cases, I am more than happy to use my blog as a promotional tool because, hey, that’s the price I pay for wanting free stuff.

    2.

    2. I’m not sure how I feel about this one. I know that when I reviewed my friend’s book, I was less than totally enthusiastic about it, and since I am on her yahoo group, I was a little worried that I was going to get flack for a less than 5 star review. Thankfully, she was really cool about it. I do try to be even-handed when I’m writing review posts on my blog, since I don’t think I do snark especially well. But if I don’t have any online connection with the author of a book I’m reading, then it’s a lot easier to be honest about how I’m feeling because there’s no esxisting relationship there.

    3. Well, I still read an immensely popular author’s vampire series even though I hated the first book and disliked the second only slightly less. I just want to know if they’re all going to be that bad, and I’m a horrible completist and believe in reading things in order. And there aren’t too many authors I’ve formed a strong dislike to online. There’s one I won’t review because I just can’t take her online persona all that seriously, though I’d still read her books. And there are a couple of others who’ve made asses of themselves on the Internet, so I’m not rushing out to see if I can find accessible copies of their books. But I don’t know if I wouldn’t review them if they offered those books up to me.

    4. No, I don’t see much of a differing standard in principle, although I admit to the fact that the people-pleaser in me wants so much not to be hated that I’d probably find *something* nice to say about a book that someone took the time to send me.

    5. I don’t understand this one. I know that for me writing negative reviews can be cathartic. I imagine it’s the same for other people, and I imagine that’s part of the entertainment those reviews bring.

    6. Well, I would like to think that I wouldn’t make fun of an author’s response to a bad review publicly, but I am also not a paragon of virtue, so I’d probably be sending emails to friends along the lines of, “Can you believe what this bitch said? Bwahahahahahaha!”

    7. Yeah, I probably do. But I try to let people know in advance when I might not necessarily be biased because, say, the author is a friend or something.

    8. No. Bloggers trying to police each other tend to irritate me.

    9. I think people should respect each other, period, whether blogger or reader or random lurker.

  32. LinM
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 12:33:03

    Interesting post with lots of food for thought. Each individual point is worth addressing but as a collective I think that there is too much emphasis on blogger responsibilities vis-a-vis authors. It would be interesting to see some of the items that didn’t make today’s post that are less author-centric. DA has addressed items in the past that also belong in this list (eg: review DNF books?)

  33. Kathryn S
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 12:34:12

    That's a long way of saying that sometimes you try authors that you haven't liked in the past just for the heck of it.

    Does that mean you’re going to try me again, Jane? lol.

    I try to stay away from the sites that trash authors — and by trash I mean they rant and rave about the book, but never say why. And then they attack the author.

    I’m well aware that there is always going to be someone who doesn’t like my books. If you want to share that opinion publicly, that’s cool. All I ask is that you leave me out of it. lol. And that you state why you disliked it so much — that’s doing a service to readers and to me as well.

    I remember Mrs. Giggles slagged me a couple of times for my characters thinking too much. Because of that I started being more aware of doing that in my work. I think I’ve cut a lot of internal dialog out of my prose now and I have Mrs. G to thank for it! So, even if a review is negative in tone, that doesn’t mean something good can’t come out of it. Plus, I’d like to think that someone wouldn’t base the entirety of their opinion on one review. I generally read reviews for the synopsis and then check the book out in the store (or on the author’s website) before making a decision to buy.

  34. Meriam
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 12:37:13

    I don't think a review should be amusing at all, because the blogger (unless they are in it for their own aggrandissement, and there are some) is writing about something that's not personal to them. Unfortunately there are bloggers like this.

    Totally disagree with this. What is the difference between a movie critic and a book reviewer? Peter Bradshaw writes for a respectable broadsheet and his reviews range from soaring, ironic to downright withering. He is always entertaining and smart.

    Reviews should be entertaining. I often read good reviews not for a book rec (my tbr pile spilleth over) but for the simple pleasure of reading an articulate, funny, thoughtful and engaging peice of writing. As mentioned above, once in a while, a negative review might even pique my interest. What’s wrong with humour? I don’t think a review should be withering without reason, or malicious or vindictive, but if a reviewer truly disliked a book and used humour to illustrate their points – why not?

    Plus, reading a book is a personal experience. You can’t be objective about aesthetics (well, yes, if you’re an academic - but). Books amuse, provoke, enthrall, enrage. In other words, they engage your emotions, particularly romance. Shouldn’t there be an emotional response – as there would be to a movie or a peice of art. Of course, you write about the cinematography or the brush strokes, but ultimately it comes down to your response.

    Some of my favourite reviews are negative. (Damnit, I wish I could find Candy’s interpretive dance review…)

    But then I come from the point of view that a reviewer owes a writer nothing and, where possible, the distinction between readers/ reviewers and writers should be clear. The romance community is far too incestuous for its own good, imo. Maybe this is also true for other genres – I don’t inhabit those spheres to know.

    I don’t expect movie critics to hold their punches: indeed, it is the ones who can call a movie “the cinematic equivalent of tertiary syphilis” and passionately and intelligently advocate for what they love that I particularly enjoy.

    The reviewer’s burden of responsibility is to his/ her readers – that they are informed and entertained.

  35. Shiloh Walker
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 12:40:27

    Jane, this is just me speaking as an author, but when it comes to a bad review, is there really anything constructive that could be added?

    For whatever reasons, a book didn’t work for the reviewer. Maybe the ending seemed rushed. Or the heroine was TSTL. The author could always try to ‘explain’ but does that explanation change anything? Is the ending less rushed? Or the heroine less stupid?

  36. Jane
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 12:44:00

    I don’t really know as I sit here right now, but I feel that authorial voices in a response to a review can stem the discussion. I think that we had a great discussion about Eve that Nora Roberts participated in when I reviewed the last In Death book. I guess that was one where I felt that Roberts contributed constructively to the conversation and didn’t stem or halt the introspection of the character arc.

  37. Shiloh Walker
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 12:49:54

    I don't think a review should be amusing at all, because the blogger (unless they are in it for their own aggrandissement, and there are some) is writing about something that's not personal to them. Unfortunately there are bloggers like this. I wouldn't say it's unethical, just unprofessional and a little sad

    This is just my opinion here, but authors need to remember what they are doing is selling their work. Their writing is a job. Not everything related to that writing should be taken so personally.

    If somebody doesn’t like my book and they tear it to shreds, hey, that’s fine. I’ll manage. I might not like the fact that it got torn to shreds, but I’m not going to take it to heart.

    Things that are personal, I’ll take to heart. Attacks against my family, attacks against my beliefs, those I’d take to heart.

    Commentary or criticism on my writing? No, I’m not going to take it to heart because I don’t expect everybody to love my writing. I’m thrilled when they do, but I’m not crushed when they don’t. I didn’t come into this expecting to please everybody~maybe that makes it easier to deal when I don’t.

    So humor in a review doesn’t faze me, as long as the humor isn’t being used to bash or trash an author. And when I say bash or trash, I meant personal insults and attacks, I don’t mean negative snark reviews. Humor away. I’m of the opinion that people shouldn’t take themselves so seriously anyway.

  38. Jaci Burton
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 12:50:27

    One of the comments I received from anonymous authors was that authors did not know what reviewers wanted in terms of a response. I can't speak for anyone else, but generally I dislike it when an author comes and says “thanks for the review” no matter if the review is good or bad. If an author has something to substantively contribute then a comment is great, but if it is just to acknowledge the review, it is unnecessary. I don't write the review for the author.

    Jane, I disagree with you here. Especially here on your site, which you named “Dear Author”, and with your reviews which you address as, and I’ll use myself as an example, “Dear Ms. Burton”. Your site isn’t called “Dear Reader”, so I’m confused here.

    And I think it would be in very poor taste if I read a review you did of one of my books and didn’t at least acknowledge your time in reading and reviewing my book with a thank you for doing so.

    If you don’t want authors to reply, why did you set up the site naming it as you did, and why do you address the reviews to the author, if you don’t want us to acknowledge them in any way? Or am I just reading it all wrong?

    If you’re looking for authors to engage in critical debate over your reviews of our books, perhaps you should state that. Frankly, I’m just appreciative of a review and always like to thank the reviewers without engaging in critical analysis or debate of their review. That’s when authors get in trouble and blasted by readers. So help me understand what it is that you want (other than for me to shut up, which is what I said authors should do earlier. ;-) )

  39. Shiloh Walker
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 12:51:11

    I don't really know as I sit here right now, but I feel that authorial voices in a response to a review can stem the discussion.

    Yeah, okay. That makes sense.

  40. Gwen
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 13:01:28

    No time to now, but I soooooo want to comment when I have a moment later.

    I have some very definite opinions on this.

    I know. Go figure, right? :0

  41. Jane
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 13:02:57

    Jane, I disagree with you here. Especially here on your site, which you named “Dear Author”, and with your reviews which you address as, and I'll use myself as an example, “Dear Ms. Burton”. Your site isn't called “Dear Reader”, so I'm confused here.

    This is a problem and it stems from the fact that when Jayne and I started the blog a couple of years ago, we thought we were going to be blogging for us and a few friends. We NEVER thought there would be a community that exists today here at DA. The choice of the blog name stemmed from two things.

    First, I was writing out a review for my tiny reading community of which Jayne and I had been part of for several years. I felt like I wanted to write the review to the author because I was so frustrated with all the noise that surrounded the book. (I can go into this more fully but am trying not to name names) but because I think it would be in ill taste to email an author because I was disgruntled, it was more an open letter to the community i.e., hey readers, here is what I how frustrated I felt about this book, am I the only one?

    The first blog name I thought up was “stupidreader” and it was a wordpress.com blog because that is how I felt when I was done reading the book and reading the author’s explanation for the book. I felt like the author was saying “you silly reader, you just don’t get it” (and it was true, I did not get it). But I thought that was a stupid name. I looked up “dear author” and that was an available domain name and thus I decided that sounded better. I think if I went back and reviewed my emails, it took all of 10 minutes between stupidreader and dear author. There was simply no other thought process that went into it from there.

    It is a fiction, a stylistic format, that we have kept up since the inception but the review/letter/thoughts about a book are not directed at the author. They are written in the form of a letter but they aren’t for the author.

    And I guess my feeling on the “thank you” is probably born of my suspicious nature. I.e., I do know some authors and I do think that their “thank you” is genuine but for most authors I view the “thank you” as some thing less than sincere. I know that is totally unfair, but that is my feeling on it.

    I don’t know that I want authors to engage in a critical debate of a review that I wrote. I welcome that if that is what an author would like to do, but again, I think that presumes that the review is written for the author and I believe that reviews are not for authors. Not in anyway at all. They are for readers to help them talk about the book that they’ve read, to help make a decision as to whether this book might be for them, and yes, to even entertain them.

  42. lisabea
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 13:07:32

    1. Bloggers who request an ARC should review it.

    It has never occurred to me to request one. hmmm…

    2. Bloggers who request participation from an author should refrain from bashing/trashing the author around that same time.

    There is a difference between “bashing/trashing” and criticism. So no.

    3. Bloggers should not read/review an author's book whose writing they dislike or alternatively, should not read/review an author's book who they personally dislike.

    If I were being paid to review a book, I’d do my job. But I’m not being paid, so I review the books that speak to me.

    4. Should there be differing standards for reviews depending on whether the blogger bought the book or received it for free?

    I don’t understand this question. I’ve reviewed books that were given as gifts by either friends or authors. How can you be at all credible if you change your standards based on your personal expenses?

    5. Should a blogger refrain from being entertaining in penning a negative review.

    No. That’d be as boring and disappointing as the boring and disappointing book. I think there is a right and wrong way to do this, of course, but I make as many mistakes as the next person. Again: I’m not paid to do this.

    6 Should a blogger make fun of or mock an author's response to a review?

    I try very hard to make sure that anything an author says to me in an email correspondence is strickly confidential. I believe that we all have public and private persona and that it isn’t right or ethical to misuse someone’s trust. Privately, however? I may say something to a friend.

    If they POST something? Not too much I can do in that case.

    7. Do bloggers treat some authors preferentially, both in reviews or in parsing out their online statements?

    Sure. Some do. Some don’t. I love me some CERTAIN authors and chose to read their books and blather on about them. I also say what I think and try to be fair. Again, you want to be credible.

    8. Should bloggers police other bloggers?

    There lies insanity.

    9. Should bloggers be more respectful of authors? And if so, how is this respect shown?

    I think it’s a good rule of thumb to treat all people respectfully. From grannies to kindergarteners. Unless they are total douche bag meanies.

  43. Jackie
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 13:13:34

    Here’s my take on this. For me, there’s a difference between a blogger and a reviewer. Definitions According to Jackie: Anyone who has a blog and posts to it is a blogger. Someone whose site is dedicated to reviews and other aspects of the writing industry is a reviewer. So I took all of Jane’s questions to specifically mean reviewers.

    1. Bloggers who request an ARC should review it.

    Should?
    Sure. That’s not always feasible, because there are many books that get released around the same time (even the same day), and sometimes, Real Life intervenes. But yeah, if reviewers request it, I think they should review it.

    2. Bloggers who request participation from an author should refrain from bashing/trashing the author around that same time.

    See, I think that reviewers should never bash/trash an author. The author isn’t the book.

    3. Bloggers should not read/review an author's book whose writing they dislike or alternatively, should not read/review an author's book who they personally dislike.

    If they don’t like the writing, they’re probably not going to give a glowing review. But there’s no way to know unless they read the book, is there?

    If they don’t like the author, then I would guess it’s going to be tough to separate the author from the book when they read it. That can be done, of course, but it would take admirable restraint on the part of the reviewer.

    Frankly, I think reviewers should read whatever they darn well want to read.

    4. Should there be differing standards for reviews depending on whether the blogger bought the book or received it for free?

    Nope.

    5. Should a blogger refrain from being entertaining in penning a negative review.

    Nope. But snark (which is how I’m taking “entertaining” in the question here) is an art form — not all reviewers do it well. (And not all authors take it gracefully, but that’s a separate issue.)

    6. Should a blogger make fun of or mock an author's response to a review?

    A reviewer can do whatever he or she pleases, of course. Personally, I think there needs to be a level of professionalism by the part of the reviewer (and, if the author responds, of the author as well). Can someone be mocking and be professional? Probably — but that’s tough to pull off.

    7. Do bloggers treat some authors preferentially, both in reviews or in parsing out their online statements?

    I’m sure this is the case. Reviewers are human, after all. Should they do this? Probably not. But again, reviewers are human.

    8. Should bloggers police other bloggers?

    No, no, and fuck no.

    9. Should bloggers be more respectful of authors? And if so, how is this respect shown?

    Again, this all comes down to professionalism. Reviewers should be professional, even when they do snarky reviews. Authors should be professional when they respond.

    I think the real question here is, Should reviewers be nicer to authors? My answer is, again, reviewers should be professional. It’s perfectly valid for a reviewer to rip a novel to shreds in a review. But they should clearly say WHY they are ripping it to shreds. As long as they do that, they’re making valid points that the blog readers (and the author) can choose to agree or disagree with.

    As an author, I’m not looking for nice reviews. I’m looking for meaningful reviews. Sure, I do my happy dance when those reviews are glowing. And I cringe when they are less than glowing. But as long as there is real feedback in those reviews, that helps me going forward. Just like the doctor doesn’t know if it hurts if the patient doesn’t say “ow,” the author doesn’t know where his or her writing could be improved if there is no feedback.

  44. Janine
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 13:19:50

    1. Bloggers who request an ARC should review it.

    Ideally, yes, but bloggers are only human and there are going to be times when this won’t be possible. To give an example, for most of December and part of January, I had to take a hiatus away from this blog for personal reasons. I did not anticipate that I would be gone during that timeframe, and so, a book that I had asked for an ARC of did not get reviewed. I did try and read it and another book while away but there were just too many distractions and I couldn’t focus on these books well enough to be able to due them justice in reviews. So I chose not to review them.

    One of them had already been reviewed by Jayne, thank goodness, and I was hoping that the other would be reviewed by one of our other reviewers as well, but that did not happen — possibly because of the holiday season, or possibly because they were counting on me to review it since I was the one who requested it. In any case, the book ended up slipping through the cracks. I do feel pretty bad about that, since I asked Jane to request the ARC from the publisher.

    But as for ARCs that are not requested, I think I saw someone here say that these should always be reviewed by the book’s publication date too, and I just want to make this point: Dear Author gets too many ARCs for us to possibly review them all. We get inundated with unsolicited ARCs and with review requests, and there are only six of us, and we are only human.

    I’m a slow reader, my reviews tend to be thorough, and all of that takes time. I don’t think I have enough free time to review more than a small fraction of the ARCs Dear Author gets. The day I’m required to review a sixth of them is the day I quit this gig because I can’t keep up with the volume.

    I don’t want to discourage anyone from sending us ARCs because some of my blogging partners are much faster readers than I am, and get to a lot more books. But still, realize that we are human and our time is limited. And if you only have a precious few paper ARCs, perhaps you should consider sending us an e-ARC.

  45. Jackie
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 13:20:58

    I think that presumes that the review is written for the author and I believe that reviews are not for authors. Not in anyway at all. They are for readers to help them talk about the book that they've read, to help make a decision as to whether this book might be for them, and yes, to even entertain them.

    If the reviews aren’t written for the authors as well as the readers, why ask about the author response to bloggers?

  46. Karen Scott
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 13:21:48

    1. Bloggers who request an ARC should review it.

    I agree, which is why I never ask for books. If I’m intrested enough in a book, I’ll buy it myself.

    2. Bloggers who request participation from an author should refrain from bashing/trashing the author around that same time.

    Depends on what you mean by trashing. I’ll never consider a negative review trashing, unless you called the author a crackwhore, or something similar.

    3. Bloggers should not read/review an author's book whose writing they dislike or alternatively, should not read/review an author's book who they personally dislike.

    Well, it’s up to the individual methinks. Personally, if I think an author is an arse, then the thought of even reading one word of her published works gives me the dry heaves. If I don’t like you, I’m certainly not going to read your book. I find it too hard to separate assholic authors from their books.

    4. Should there be differing standards for reviews depending on whether the blogger bought the book or received it for free?

    Nope. But I understand that some people may find it a struggle to slice and dice a book ‘generously given’ by an author.

    5. Should a blogger refrain from being entertaining in penning a negative review.

    Nope. Entertaining doesn’t necessarily mean bashing, which is what the above question implies. A boring review would not induce me to buy a book, whereas an entertaining one might tempt me.

    6. Should a blogger make fun of or mock an author's response to a review?

    Depends on the response. I have no problem with authors saying thank you, and leaving it at that. I think any author who goes out of her/his way to tell a reader that their opinion is wrong deserves to be mocked.

    7. Do bloggers treat some authors preferentially, both in reviews or in parsing out their online statements?

    If I treat an author preferentially, it’s because I like her/his online persona, even if I don’t like their books.

    Preferential treatment is afforded to very few authors here in Romanceland on an automatic basis. I daresay if La Nora started acting like a jumped up arsehole, people would soon forget her legendary status, and would start calling her a crackwhore. Or is that just me?

    8. Should bloggers police other bloggers?

    God, no. Who needs Neighbourhood Watch in Blogland? To each his/her own, unless of course they’re doing something illegal. This goes without saying right?

  47. Jane
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 13:25:44

    Re: Review scheduling. This is a tough one because we post about 10 reviews a week. There are only two weeks of publication dates. I’ve heard readers not like it when we post reviews earlier than when the books can be found in the bookstore and on the other hand, publicists want reviews on the release date. The only way to solve this is to post all the reviews for a particular month on the release weeks and none on the other weeks which is no solution at all.

  48. Jane
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 13:33:34

    If the reviews aren't written for the authors as well as the readers, why ask about the author response to bloggers?

    I’m not sure what you mean by this? If you are asking why I solicited commentary by authors, I did it so that I could get an authorial perspective on issues in the blogging community that bothered them. I’m a reader and not an author so I didn’t feel like I could fairly assess what the major issues were that authors had. It was not just a topic about reviews, but about blogging ethics overall although the majority of comments that came back were about reviews.

    If you are asking why I commented on authorial response to review in this thread, it was because it was one of the comments I had received by authors – that they weren’t sure what the protocol was for reviewing – and I was just sharing my own personal opinion. This might not be the opinion of any other reader.

    It’s not that I don’t want authors to come and comment on a review of their book, I just think that the “thank you” in the comment section doesn’t really contribute to a discussion of the book. It might be that, like Shiloh said, there are some reviews in which authorial contribution can’t be done. Maybe it’s more of a function of what I would rather see v. what I would rather not see. I.e., I would love for authors to come and say – well, here was what I was going for and you got it or it was missed – like a reader’s group guide or something but I certainly don’t expect. I confess I haven’t given it alot of thought and am just talking off the top of my head right now so I don’t know if I am accurately articulating the reason why the “thank you” comment tends to bother me, whether it be for a positive or negative review.

  49. Jayne
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 13:34:15

    It is a fiction, a stylistic format, that we have kept up since the inception but the review/letter/thoughts about a book are not directed at the author. They are written in the form of a letter but they aren’t for the author.

    Hmmmm, in my case, I actually do write my reviews as if I know the author will read it and sometimes deliberatly ask questions that I’d like to have answers to. If an author does drop by and responds, it’s great but it’s not something I expect and I understand if authors don’t want to.

  50. Shiloh Walker
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 13:38:38

    I would love for authors to come and say – well, here was what I was going for and you got it or it was missed – like a reader's group guide or something but I certainly don't expect.

    I’m not sure I understand the point behind it. If a book doesn’t work for me as a reader, then it just doesn’t work, and it doesn’t matter what the author was trying to get across. Explaining it isn’t likely to change my thoughts on the book.

    This is just me though, and I’m one of those people if a book doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, if it does, it does, but I’m not the type to analyze why/why not. ;-) I’d make a lousy reviewer.

  51. Anji
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 13:41:14

    Personally, I don’t mind if an author acknowledges a review, even if they just say “thank you for taking the time to read my book and I’m glad you enjoyed it/I’m sorry the book didn’t work for you.” A gracious response is always good and leaves me with the impression that the author can handle criticism. However, author comments (as well as fangirl posts) that rant and rave and don’t understand how someone could possibly not like the book, well, those kinds of posts don’t help.

  52. Janine
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 13:41:25

    2. Bloggers who request participation from an author should refrain from bashing/trashing the author around that same time.

    This one is also easy in theory but harder in practice. I don’t consider honest reviews bashing. I think that authors should understand that even if they contribute to DA, they may still get a review that isn’t glowing. With that said, I’ve definitely found it more difficult to write a critical review after requesting something from an author. I still do it, because I believe that reviews aren’t worth much if they aren’t honest, but I also empathize with the author who just contributed to our blog and then got a review that may not have thrilled her.

    3. Bloggers should not read/review an author's book whose writing they dislike or alternatively, should not read/review an author's book who they personally dislike.

    I think that should be left to the blogger’s judgment. Regarding the author you mention, yes, I do love her writing and I don’t let my friendship with you stop me from recommending her books. I want everyone to read them so that publishers will be encouraged to publish more books with the qualities this author brings to her writing.

    Regarding being told in advance that you won’t like someone’s writing; I rarely take anyone else’s opinions on such things as gospel truth. Usually I want to judge for myself.

    As to the issue of personal dislike, I can think of at least a couple of authors off the top of my head whose online behavior hasn’t always delighted me but whose books I have loved and recommended to others. I hope that I will always be able to separate what I know of authors personally from their books but if I feel that I can’t, I won’t review them.

  53. Jayne
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 13:46:25

    Dear Author gets too many ARCs for us to possibly review them all. We get inundated with unsolicited ARCs and with review requests, and there are only six of us, and we are only human.

    Sweet Lord yes. Jane recently sent me a box that must have had 15 books in it. And it wasn’t the first book shipment she’d sent me this month. And that’s just paper copies. It doesn’t begin to cover the e-arcs we get.

    I don’t think I have enough free time to review more than a small fraction of the ARCs Dear Author gets.

    Which is why it’s nice we have 6 reviewers. There’s more of a chance a book will appeal to one of us but sometimes it doesn’t and it won’t be picked up.

    I don’t want to discourage anyone from sending us ARCs … But still, realize that we are human and our time is limited. And if you only have a precious few paper ARCs, perhaps you should consider sending us an e-ARC.

    Sending e-arcs also makes it easier for more of us to have a chance to read it. Go e-arcs!

  54. Janine
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 13:53:06

    Hmmmm, in my case, I actually do write my reviews as if I know the author will read it and sometimes deliberatly ask questions that I'd like to have answers to. If an author does drop by and responds, it's great but it's not something I expect and I understand if authors don't want to.

    Me too, Jayne. I can’t not be conscious that the author will read the review when I write it, because of the letter format.

    And I do like the “Thank you” responses, or at least, they don’t bother me. Which just goes to show that even among the six of us at DA, there are going to be different responses to different things and there is no way to please everyone.

  55. Jane
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 13:54:21

    One problem as it relates to the idea of “professional” reviewers and one of the reasons I think we aren’t “professional reviewers” is that there are no “assignments” of books to be read/reviewed. Everyone here gets to pick the books that they want to read/review to a great degree.

    Here, I’ll tell all our secrets. Generally, the process is like this. Some publishers send all their ARCs for one month in one mailing. I type up a list of titles and then the reviewer responds with a request. Rarely do we get more than one reviewer requesting a book. Random books come in and I will apportion them to the reviewer I think is the best fit. I.e., I don’t send any paranormal books to Jayne other than authors she has already read and liked i.e., Lori Handeland and Dakota Cassidy. I know that she is more likely to read a chick lit type of book or meaty historical fiction. Those all get sent to her. Jia reviews YA and SFF so all of those generally go to her.

    We are requesting some Manga titles for Jan so expect to see more of that but Janine and Janet/Robin read slower and I tend to only give them those books that they request. That’s kind of how the review process works around DA. I know that of the books that I send out, only a tiny fraction of them will get read/reviewed. I think Jia has started and discarded half the box I recently sent to her.

    One of the reasons that our reviews tend to skew toward higher grades (more than half our reviews have a B or better grade) is because we are reading books that we hope that we like. I think if we were “professional”, some books would need to be assigned and our reviewing scale would be more evenly weighted.

  56. Jackie
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 14:00:49

    I'm not sure what you mean by this?

    I was responding to your earlier comment: “I think that presumes that the review is written for the author and I believe that reviews are not for authors. Not in anyway at all. They are for readers to help them talk about the book that they've read, to help make a decision as to whether this book might be for them, and yes, to even entertain them.”

    It just struck me as odd that if reviews aren’t meant for the authors (as well as the readers), then why address the question of an author’s response to bloggers?

    If you are asking why I solicited commentary by authors, I did it so that I could get an authorial perspective on issues in the blogging community that bothered them. I'm a reader and not an author so I didn't feel like I could fairly assess what the major issues were that authors had. It was not just a topic about reviews, but about blogging ethics overall although the majority of comments that came back were about reviews.

    See, I think there are different standards for non-review-site bloggers and for review-site bloggers. To me, a blogger who doesn’t primarily do reviews shouldn’t be held to the same level of professionalism as review-site bloggers. I think that’s because I see review sites as a business (whether or not they make any money), and thus I expect a higher degree of professionalism than I do for non-review sites.

    If you are asking why I commented on authorial response to review in this thread, it was because it was one of the comments I had received by authors – that they weren't sure what the protocol was for reviewing – and I was just sharing my own personal opinion. This might not be the opinion of any other reader.

    Gotcha. Me, I never know whether I should post a “thank you” no matter what, or if I should lurk but remain silent, or email the reviewer offline, or what. I used to automatically do a “thank you,” then for a while I was keeping my distance even for good reviews. It’s a shame there’s no official field guide for this sort of thing.

    It's not that I don't want authors to come and comment on a review of their book, I just think that the “thank you” in the comment section doesn't really contribute to a discussion of the book. It might be that, like Shiloh said, there are some reviews in which authorial contribution can't be done. Maybe it's more of a function of what I would rather see v. what I would rather not see. I.e., I would love for authors to come and say – well, here was what I was going for and you got it or it was missed – like a reader's group guide or something but I certainly don't expect. I confess I haven't given it alot of thought and am just talking off the top of my head right now so I don't know if I am accurately articulating the reason why the “thank you” comment tends to bother me, whether it be for a positive or negative review.

    I love the idea of a virtual book club, where readers and the authors discuss a particular book — I’d be completely on board for that. But that, to me, is not the purpose of a book review. A review lets the author know whether or not her book worked for that particular reviewer, and lets the reader know the same…which may have an impact on whether the reader chooses to purchase the book, borrow it from the library or a friend, or ignore it completely.

    At least, that’s my take on it.

  57. Jeaniene Frost
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 14:06:04

    Re-thanking reviewers. I thanked every reviewer who posted a review of my book, whether they liked it, disliked it, or were indifferent about it. I felt like it was the least I could do to acknowledge the time the reviewer had spent reading my book and writing the review. I certainly had no expectations attached when doing it.

    Perhaps for clarity, a review site could post their wishes regarding authors thanking them/not thanking them on their home page. That way, it would eliminate authors dropping a thank you thinking it’s common courtesy, when instead, it’s going against the reviewer’s preference.

  58. Jackie
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 14:07:29

    One problem as it relates to the idea of “professional” reviewers and one of the reasons I think we aren't “professional reviewers” is that there are no “assignments” of books to be read/reviewed. Everyone here gets to pick the books that they want to read/review to a great degree.

    I don’t think that lack of assignment is a reflection whether or not a site is professional. If you were judging books for a contest, then yeah, that would come into play. It makes sense to me, for example, that if Jia enjoys YA and SF/F, she would read the bulk of the YA and SF/F books here.

  59. Jackie
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 14:09:51

    Which just goes to show that even among the six of us at DA, there are going to be different responses to different things and there is no way to please everyone.

    Nuts. Back to sending chocolates along with the ARCs and praying for the best… ((wink))

  60. Jane
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 14:11:16

    I think that’s because I see review sites as a business (whether or not they make any money), and thus I expect a higher degree of professionalism than I do for non-review sites.

    It’s not that I am opposed to being “professional” but professional in what sense? I.e., the NBCC has creeds that I know we don’t follow here at DA. But DA is not a business and I do think that a business is defined as being an entity pursuing a profit. I’m pretty certain that when all is said and done, there is no profit here at DA.

  61. Robin
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 14:13:37

    The Cassie Edwards Affair effected (or maybe finalized) a change in me as a blogger (but not as a reviewer). It made me realize that no matter how much I think about my comments before I make them, no matter how much I try to understand someone else’s perspective, no matter how many hours of conversation I have with Jane or anyone else on different matters, no matter anything, if someone wants to hate me or the blog I contribute to or my comments, then they will. And anyone who doesn’t discern a difference between what’s happening at DA and some other Internet zones isn’t likely someone I would ever have a mutual understanding with. So what ultimately matters is whether I can live with what I’ve said, not whether someone else agrees with or approves of it. That’s been quite liberating, even as it’s given freer reign to my inner cynic.

    I have also become inherently suspicious of authorial assertions that they don’t mind a critical review but don’t like a personal one. Not because I think authors are lying about this, but because what I think is a comment about a book may come across as very personal to an author. I don’t know if there’s ever going to be a mutually satisfactory understanding on that point. As for authors commenting on reviews, I don’t mind a “thank you” or some other recognition (or even clarification). Beyond that I won’t say that an author should or shouldn’t comment, even though I have my own personal preferences, because every author is different and every comment is different. I would only ask authors to remember that even though they may feel like any other reader when they comment, an author’s voice carries, and whatever an author says will resonate more loudly.

    I do get kind of frustrated at the idea that blogs like DA should be viewed as “professional” because, damn, we aren’t getting paid for any of this, and it’s certainly not a vocation for any of us. But I think there’s a catch-22 in trying to be ethical and responsible in that people do tend to expect more of you. I do think that everyone who blogs at DA is very ethical and responsible, and I think we all hold ourselves to a pretty high standard, whether others agree or not. But ultimately I don’t think bloggers should be viewed as journalists, because we aren’t, unless you’re including editorialists in that definition, which is IMO the best analogy. Also, it bugs me when we’re all lumped together, although I’m sure authors feel the same way, and that we’re all guilty of such thinking.

    Oh, and as to reviewing and reading books by authors one hates, basically I think readers should be able to read whatever they want. Personally, I have way too many books to read and too little time in which to read them to waste time reading books I hate. However, I can tell you that I will probably continue to browse the BDB books, even though I am SO DONE with the storyline, just to see how it all turns out. I have morbid curiosity where that series is concerned, what can I say. OTOH, I tried a recent Brenda Joyce book after HATING an earlier book of hers, and I realized that I probably don’t ever need to read another book by her. But then there are those authors whose books I haven’t loved until one comes along that I really do like. Which is part of why I won’t ever abdicate my right to read and comment on any book I choose. And if others think I have an ax to grind in any of my reviews, so be it, because I know what I put into them, and if someone else doesn’t get it, I don’t really care.

  62. Janine
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 14:14:19

    4. Should there be differing standards for reviews depending on whether the blogger bought the book or received it for free?

    No, absolutely not. And in my case, I don’t think it makes a bit of difference how I came to read that book. Of course, it probably helps that you, Jane, are the one who sends me the ARCs in most cases, rather than the author.

    5. Should a blogger refrain from being entertaining in penning a negative review.

    That’s a tougher one. First, I want to clarify that entertaining does not necessarily equal snarky. I’m of the opinion that all writing, including review writing, should hold the reader’s interest and for that to happen, it has to entertain in some fashion. But I don’t think it has to be snarky to entertain. Roger Ebert for example is a reviewer who isn’t snarky but who is always entertaining in his writing.

    So what about snarky reviews specifically? Personally, I don’t feel comfortable writing them. I’m very conscious of the author when I write my reviews, and I do my best to be polite as well as honest.

    But that’s just my personal approach to reviewing. Speaking as a reader of other people’s reviews, I’ve read some snarky reviews that I enjoyed and others that have made me cringe.

    I think it could be argued that a well-written snarky review is just as much of an art form as a well-written novel. I guess my answer is that although I personally try to censor myself from snarking, I would not want to see snarky reviews censored by readers anymore than I want to see novels censored.

  63. Jackie
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 14:15:58

    It's not that I am opposed to being “professional” but professional in what sense? I.e., the NBCC has creeds that I know we don't follow here at DA. But DA is not a business and I do think that a business is defined as being an entity pursuing a profit. I'm pretty certain that when all is said and done, there is no profit here at DA.

    I realize DA isn’t a business per se. But I do consider it a professional review site. I think that instead of “business,” I probably should have said “service.” Sites like this one provide a service to the community. And that, to me, makes it professional.

  64. Jackie
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 14:22:12

    I have also become inherently suspicious of authorial assertions that they don't mind a critical review but don't like a personal one. Not because I think authors are lying about this, but because what I think is a comment about a book may come across as very personal to an author. I don't know if there's ever going to be a mutually satisfactory understanding on that point.

    No matter what, negative reviews will sting. No one likes being told that their book didn’t work for a reader. That doesn’t mean a negative review will be taken personally. Sure, some authors might. But if authors are getting paid for their books, then they’re in the writing business, and negative reviews go with the territory. (Much as I wish that were not the case.)

  65. Angela James
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 14:23:09

    It's not that I am opposed to being “professional” but professional in what sense? I.e., the NBCC has creeds that I know we don't follow here at DA. But DA is not a business and I do think that a business is defined as being an entity pursuing a profit. I'm pretty certain that when all is said and done, there is no profit here at DA

    What about the free books and eARCs you get? Do you think the cost of hosting is outweighed by the money you save in not having to buy a good portion of the books you might have bought in the past?

    I really don’t know the answer to this question, so I’m asking because I’m wondering if the books themselves can be seen as the “pay”.

  66. Shiloh Walker
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 14:24:15

    I have also become inherently suspicious of authorial assertions that they don't mind a critical review but don't like a personal one. Not because I think authors are lying about this, but because what I think is a comment about a book may come across as very personal to an author.

    That’s going to depend on the author, though. Each and every individual author is going to have a little bit different viewpoint on this sort of thing.

    Not exactly sure what you mean but personal, but I can honestly I’d rather have a critical review than a glowing one. A glowing one doesn’t tell me what I need to fix and I know I’ve got plenty to fix. Besides, a lot of the glowing reviews I’ve read on my books seem to focus more on the sex than the story, and since I focus more on the story than the sex, hearing that the book was oh-so-hot doesn’t mean as much to me as a review about the characters, the plot, the problems.

    I don’t know if I’m an oddity or not, but I don’t view my writing as something highly personal. I just don’t. Some writers do. Some writers view their writing as sacrosanct almost and any negative thing said against it it just unacceptable. (And I’m only being partially tongue in cheek here)

    But that’s not a view I hold, and it’s not a view I understand.

    I work hard on my writing, but I don’t sweat blood and tears over it. I sweat blood and tears over raising my kids. I sweat blood and tears going through nursing school.

    Writing is something I’ve always been able to do. Whether or not I do it well is going to be up to the individual reader. But it’s something I’ve always done. For me, it’s like breathing and taking huge amounts of pride over the fact that I breathe is silly. So getting worked up because somebody doesn’t like something that comes easily to me is a waste of energy. Especially since there are those who like what I do just fine.

  67. Jackie
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 14:26:24

    I do get kind of frustrated at the idea that blogs like DA should be viewed as “professional” because, damn, we aren't getting paid for any of this, and it's certainly not a vocation for any of us.

    My bad: I should have said that these blogs provide a service. Sorry about that.

    But I think there's a catch-22 in trying to be ethical and responsible in that people do tend to expect more of you. I do think that everyone who blogs at DA is very ethical and responsible, and I think we all hold ourselves to a pretty high standard, whether others agree or not. But ultimately I don't think bloggers should be viewed as journalists, because we aren't, unless you're including editorialists in that definition, which is IMO the best analogy. Also, it bugs me when we're all lumped together, although I'm sure authors feel the same way, and that we're all guilty of such thinking.

    Being ethical/being responsible = being professional

    Bloggers are not necessarily journalists, but some journalists are bloggers.

    When you set a high standard, that bar will only be raised, not lowered. That might be unfair, but that tends to be how these things go.

  68. Jane
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 14:32:08

    What about the free books and eARCs you get? Do you think the cost of hosting is outweighed by the money you save in not having to buy a good portion of the books you might have bought in the past?

    I can’t say that I have quantified it. I know that before I started getting free books, I had a set budget of $100 per month that I spent on books. That generally allowed me to buy anywhere from 10-20 books depending on how many I bought from the UBS and obtained from the library. I still buy at least 10 books a month. Now, I am buying books in e form for books that I like but received paper copies or unproofed e-arcs or I am buying books that I did not get as arcs but wanted to read (there are no arcs for harlequin category books, for example, although a few authors have provided e-arcs of those).

    I also spend a good deal of money in postage. I send packages of books out to the DA group probably twice a month. If I run contests, each book will cost $2.00+ to mail and some books, if mailed internationally, will cost up to $15. Plus, there is the time spent in the tech side of the blog, actually posting all this stuff, the news items, writing up opinion pieces and so forth that I would not be putting in if I weren’t blogging. If you were to measure all of that against the free books, then I would say that the “cost” is not outweighed by the freebie books.

  69. Jackie
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 14:35:10

    Taken from one of the definitions from Merriam Websters, a professional is someone who exhibits a “courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace.” In this sense, the blog is the workplace.

  70. Janine
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 14:35:34

    What about the free books and eARCs you get? Do you think the cost of hosting is outweighed by the money you save in not having to buy a good portion of the books you might have bought in the past?

    I really don't know the answer to this question, so I'm asking because I'm wondering if the books themselves can be seen as the “pay”.

    The free books are a nice perk but as I said in the comments section of my opinion piece on DNF reviews, if given a choice between free ARCs and having to finish every book I read, or buying my own books and having the freedom to put them down, I would choose to pay for the books I read.

    To me, the ultimate “pay” is the pleasure of crafting the review and even more so of discussing the books with readers in the comment section.

  71. Jane
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 14:38:16

    The free books are a nice perk but as I said in the comments section of my opinion piece on DNF reviews, if given a choice between free ARCs and having to finish every book I read, or buying my own books and having the freedom to put them down, I would choose to pay for the books I read.

    Agreed. I’ll also add that for me the “pay” is finding an author who I wouldn’t have ordinarily bought that I love. The “pay” is the discovery. I.e., reading Bourne’s book was worth all the bad stuff that comes from being a blogger because I’m pretty sure that’s a book I would have ordinarily passed over.

  72. Jane
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 14:39:06

    Taken from one of the definitions from Merriam Websters, a professional is someone who exhibits a “courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace.” In this sense, the blog is the workplace.

    Wouldn’t it just be a workplace for the 6 DA reviewers then? I.e., you can’t sue for harassment if you don’t actually work in the workplace.

  73. Jia
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 14:45:23

    Like Janine, I like the thank you notes left by authors. They’re not necessary by any stretch of the imagination, of course, but if an author reads a review and chooses to acknowledge it, I don’t mind.

    I would love for authors to come and say – well, here was what I was going for and you got it or it was missed – like a reader's group guide or something but I certainly don't expect.

    See, I personally don’t like this. That sort of commentary is fine for an author’s blog or website, but I don’t think it belongs in the comments of a review. It treads too closely to “You’re interrogating my text wrong” and that dredges up memories of Anne Rice and no one wants that.

    I think if questions were asked and raised, in either the review or comment thread, then the author can address them if she so chooses. But for an author to go into what she was or was not aiming for and what I as a reader may or may not have missed, that makes me a little uncomfortable. I like discussion. I like back and forth. But I also like the freedom is reading a book and drawing my own conclusions and formulating my own thoughts, and seeing how others agree or disagree with them. And an author’s voice carries weight, so if she were to expound on what she was aiming for with any given book, here in this space, I think that would stifle the discussion.

    Does that make sense?

    I think Jia has started and discarded half the box I recently sent to her.

    While we’re divulging secrets, here’s mine. I can usually tell within the first three chapters if a book will hold my attention or not. If a book cannot hold my attention for one reason or another (the writing and/or voice doesn’t work for me) and I find myself having to force myself to keep reading, I pass. But three chapters isn’t enough to write a proper DNF review in my opinion (unless each chapter was 50 pages long) so I will very rarely ever write those. Of the two boxes Jane’s sent to me this month, I’ve passed on five books and read four. Of those four, two are ones I specifically asked Jane to request. I try my hardest to read and review the books I specifically ask for because I do feel obligated.

    But the others? There are always surprises when I open up a box from Jane and I always approach them with the hope I’ll discover a great new author and/or a great new read.

  74. Jackie
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 14:46:39

    Wouldn't it just be a workplace for the 6 DA reviewers then? I.e., you can't sue for harassment if you don't actually work in the workplace.

    I think that while the six DA reviewers work at DA, anyone who comments is a visitor at the workplace and should act accordingly.

    As for lawsuits…well, I’m no lawyer. ((grin)) But I’d venture that a public forum opens itself up to the possibility of harassment, because by its nature it’s a *public* forum, and so anyone who visits gets a say.

    That doesn’t mean people should say whatever the hell they want, with no thought to common courtesy. As a rule, people should be *thoughtful.* If it’s your own website (whether here, at an author’s website, or elsewhere on the Internet), that thoughtfulness translates into being professional.

  75. Angela James
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 14:52:59

    While we’re divulging secrets, here’s mine. I can usually tell within the first three chapters if a book will hold my attention or not. If a book cannot hold my attention for one reason or another (the writing and/or voice doesn’t work for me) and I find myself having to force myself to keep reading, I pass.

    Funny, editors and agents do the same thing, except three chapters is often more generous than usual.

  76. Jaci Burton
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 14:53:10

    I think if questions were asked and raised, in either the review or comment thread, then the author can address them if she so chooses. But for an author to go into what she was or was not aiming for and what I as a reader may or may not have missed, that makes me a little uncomfortable. I like discussion. I like back and forth. But I also like the freedom is reading a book and drawing my own conclusions and formulating my own thoughts, and seeing how others agree or disagree with them. And an author's voice carries weight, so if she were to expound on what she was aiming for with any given book, here in this space, I think that would stifle the discussion.

    Does that make sense?

    Absolutely Jia!

    Gah…I’d be appalled to dissect my book after the fact. A book once written should succeed or fail on its own merits. A reader will either love it, hate it, or have meh thoughts about it overall. If there’s a question about the storyline or characters or something else, then of course, the author can feel free to answer a stated question. But other than that, no. No no no.

  77. Janine
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 14:53:28

    6. Should a blogger make fun of or mock an author's response to a review?

    Another tough one. I don’t think I would do so myself. Do unto others and all that. But if, for example, the author’s response to a review was to mock the reviewer or her readers, I could understand the reviewer or reader who responded in kind.

    7. Do bloggers treat some authors preferentially, both in reviews or in parsing out their online statements?

    Probably. We’re only human. Everyone is going to like some people better than others, whether those people are authors or bloggers or readers. People will probably cut those they like more slack. Is that fair? No, but it’s human nature.

    8. Should bloggers police other bloggers?

    I can’t speak for anyone else but I don’t have that kind of time!

    9. Should bloggers be more respectful of authors? And if so, how is this respect shown?

    I think all human beings are entitled to a certain basic level of respect. Readers and bloggers and authors are all entitled to the same amount IMO. I make an effort to be polite in my reviews and opinion pieces here on the blog, but I also make an effort to give my honest opinion of books. Sometimes I have to rephrase a sentence two or three times in order to state my opinion both honestly and politely. I don’t know if I always succeed. It is an effort but for me, it’s worth that effort.

  78. Bev(BB)
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 14:57:02

    I tend to think that the reason I generally roll my eyes at the “professionalism” discussion that crops up periodically is that it misses the point. One can be professional without having a professional site. Sure, if one is going to go to the trouble of calling what one does a review, then go to the trouble of having some standards for doing it. ‘Kay? Doesn’t mean any site qualifies as a professional review site. But then just how many do?

    It all depends upon whose standards they’re using . . .

    That’s the argument at it’s most basic. Literally.

    Thing is, what we’re talking about are individuals setting up sites, not just blogs, but sites, too, most of whom are just doing it for the fun of it. And that’s where the distinction comes in and where using “professional” and “professionalism” to describe things becomes a murky and muddy thing. It’s not that some people don’t have the abilities and the intelligence or even the good sense God gave a cat to do thing with professionalism of some sort. It’s more about intent. Are those sites supposed to be business or fun? Part of the industry or part of the reader/fan/hobbiest community? There is a big range of divergence there whether we want to acknowlege it or not.

    It’s not about “how” things are done, but about “why” things are done.

  79. Jayne
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 14:57:31

    Nuts. Back to sending chocolates along with the ARCs and praying for the best… ((wink))

    Dark chocolate or caramels for me please! [G]

  80. Robin
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 14:59:21

    No matter what, negative reviews will sting. No one likes being told that their book didn't work for a reader. That doesn't mean a negative review will be taken personally. Sure, some authors might. But if authors are getting paid for their books, then they're in the writing business, and negative reviews go with the territory. (Much as I wish that were not the case.)

    That's going to depend on the author, though. Each and every individual author is going to have a little bit different viewpoint on this sort of thing.

    I agree with both of you that every author views this differently. And I’ve gotten to see some authors respond to reviews such that I can get a general sense of where they fall on the personal/impersonal continuum. All I’m saying here is that the statement itself — I don’t mind a critical review as long as it’s not personal — doesn’t mean much per se to me anymore because some examples I’ve seen authors offer as personal don’t seem so much to me. In other words I don’t take that statement at face value anymore, but adopt a wait and see attitude, lol.

    re. free books, I still purchase far more books than I get free, and most of the books I want most to read I end up buying, even if I do get an ARC. Also, I purchase a good number of the books I review. Now, when I request a book I definitely feel a higher obligation to make sure I review it, but even still I don’t see it as payment for my review in any way. And when publishers send out books somewhat indiscriminately, I’m even less persuaded that this should be viewed as a form of compensation because those ARCs are going out through the publisher as a form of marketing, whether or not they end up at my doorstep. When authors send out unsolicited ARCs they’ve had to produce themselves, I might feel more obligated to write a review, but again, I don’t see the ARC as payment, because that would imply that my review has been purchased, and it hasn’t been.

  81. Jackie
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 15:04:28

    Excellent points, Bev.

    Are those sites supposed to be business or fun? Part of the industry or part of the reader/fan/hobbiest community? There is a big range of divergence there whether we want to acknowlege it or not.

    It's not about “how” things are done, but about “why” things are done.

    Yes. This is what I was driving at — there’s a difference between different types of sites. I think it’s perfectly feasible for a fun, reader-based community site to be professional and businesslike. Professional doesn’t mean “not fun.” It’s a level of expectation. It’s raising the bar. It’s setting standards.

    Sure, if one is going to go to the trouble of calling what one does a review, then go to the trouble of having some standards for doing it. ‘Kay?

    Yes. Yes. Yes.

  82. Janine
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 15:04:50

    While we're divulging secrets, here's mine. I can usually tell within the first three chapters if a book will hold my attention or not. If a book cannot hold my attention for one reason or another (the writing and/or voice doesn't work for me) and I find myself having to force myself to keep reading, I pass. But three chapters isn't enough to write a proper DNF review in my opinion (unless each chapter was 50 pages long) so I will very rarely ever write those.

    That’s basically true for me, too. Except it’s usually two chapters in my case. I think I’ve given three DNF grades since I joined DA in the fall of 2006. And everything else I’ve graded has been a C or higher. If a book is a D or an F for me, I usually won’t make it far enough into it to be able to tell readers what it is about.

  83. Harry~DayDream
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 15:06:09

    When it comes to reviewing books and those said books have been free I then think the review should be carefully written as I am sure that the author will be reading the review one time or another. The whole giveaway system is really complicated and interconnected and that will definitely make me a bit more composed in how I express myself in the said review, but still I am not afraid to be negative. I just control what I say and how I say it without going into the “thrashing” section.

    I agree on everything you said so far. Although no concrete rules should be executed I think a basic unwritten ethics should be present most of the time. I know I wouldn’t allow myself much freedominto mocking, thrashing and so on unless it’s the Inheritance Trilogy, but that is another topic.

  84. Teddypig
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 15:06:18

  85. Jane
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 15:14:55

    But if there are differing sets of standards according to differing definitions of bloggers . . . The only standard I think we have here for reviewing is to a) be consistent with the review grades and b) be clear what it is that worked or did not work in the book. But I think that is different than what some people (both readers and authors) would like to see in reviews.

  86. Jackie
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 15:16:10

    But if there are differing sets of standards according to differing definitions of bloggers . . . The only standard I think we have here for reviewing is to a) be consistent with the review grades and b) be clear what it is that worked or did not work in the book. But I think that is different than what some people (both readers and authors) would like to see in reviews.

    Speaking for myself, this is *exactly* what I’m looking for in a review (both as an author and as a reader).

  87. Jaci Burton
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 15:21:50

    Ditto what Jackie said. It’s perfect from this author’s standpoint.

    What do you think some people are looking for that’s different Jane?

  88. Shiloh Walker
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 15:48:57

    The only standard I think we have here for reviewing is to a) be consistent with the review grades and b) be clear what it is that worked or did not work in the book. But I think that is different than what some people (both readers and authors) would like to see in reviews.

    Actually, that works for me real well.

    From what I’ve seen around here, the main unethical activity would be personal attacks against the author. And that’s my sticking point, too.

  89. Bev(BB)
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 16:06:46

    But if there are differing sets of standards according to differing definitions of bloggers . . . The only standard I think we have here for reviewing is to a) be consistent with the review grades and b) be clear what it is that worked or did not work in the book. But I think that is different than what some people (both readers and authors) would like to see in reviews.

    Careful that you don’t slide from a standards and professionalism discussion over to a definition of reviews one. ‘Cause then I’m outta here. ;)

    Okay, let me rephrase that. Sort of.

    To me, the standards for reviews on any particular site are exactly what that site’s owner says they are. If they say they’re going to “review” books a certain way, then that’s how I expect them to do it. So, super sugary or snarky doesn’t bother me as long as they stick to their plan.

    But if you’re thinking any one standard should define the reviews for all sites, forget it. Ain’t gonna happen in this lifetime. And again, it’s not about “how” but about “why” people are doing the sites in the first place. Some of them are doing them to be critics, some to be collectors, some to be fans, and some to be just plain old readers. And some of them are doing them for sales . . .

    How in the world does one standard apply? Especially when some of their audiences want indepth analysis and some want advance mini-previews?

  90. azteclady
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 16:51:09

    I’m replying without having read all the comments, so I may be repeating something to death–still, this is my gut response to the questions, so for what is worth:

    1. Bloggers who request ARCs should review them. Hell YES! I think there’s an implicit agreement there. If the ARC were offered freely, I would still consider it a courtesy to put a review up close to the time of release. I understand that reviewing is not always easy (for me it is like pulling teeth every time), but still. Tit for tat.

    2. Bloggers who request participation from an author should refrain from bashing/trashing that same author around that time frame. If bashing = personal attacks, I would say it’s common courtesy not to insult your guests, so that’d be a yes. However, if bashing here is used instead of “offering a less than glowing review of all of that author’s published work” or “not saying a word over less than professional behaviour by that author” my response would be the opposite.

    3. Bloggers should not read/review an author's book whose writing they dislike or alternatively, should not read/review an author's book who they personally dislike. Haven’t we ALL an author or more whose work we consider our “guilty pleasure”? Why on earth would any author want to bar any reader from buying his/her work? Furthermore, it’ll be a cold day in a hot place when I agree to have some blurry authority decide for me what I should or shouldn’t read. Also, if a person habitually buys (spends money), reads (spends time), and reviews (energy and more time) an author s/he claims to despise (either the writing or the person), it reflects more on the reader/reviewer than on either the author or the work, and I’d let him/her to it *shrug*

    4. Should there be differing standards for reviews depending on whether the blogger bought the book or received it for free? Hell NO! A review should be about the book, period. No other consideration should influence the review. At the most, in the case of either friendship or the opposite, I would offer full disclosure of that at the beginning *shrug*

    5. Should a blogger refrain from being entertaining in penning a negative review. As a rule, no. If the blogger’s style is entertaining/snarky/sarcastic/funny as a rule, why should s/he change his/her style for a negative review?

    6. Should a blogger make fun of or mock an author's response to a review? Okay, here’s where authors may get a tad upset but… it ain’t fair but an author’s interactions with the public (online or face to face) are PR opportunities. Good or… not so much. The reader is not trying to sell the author anything. The author, on the other hand, is. And let’s remember that in the intrawebs, a lot of people read and never post–it goes with the territory. It follows that authors have to be professional and thick skinned, while readers can be total shits. Not fair, and I feel for authors who have a hard time with being public targets for criticism, but that’s the way it is. So if an author makes a total cake out of him/herself somewhere because a reader was an asshat, I don’t think it’s fair to expect other readers not to point it out. Particularly when the author’s comment goes along the lines of “Well, obviously you don’t understand what I wrote.” Ah, no, it ain’t obvious. Sorry ’bout that.

    7. Do bloggers treat some authors preferentially, both in reviews or in parsing out their online statements? Bloggers = people. So yes, it happens. And I’m sure that it happens the other way around as well. I would hope that some sort of disclosure were written at the beginning of a review, either way, simply because that lends more credibility to the review itself; but *shrug* not all bloggers are interested in being professional, and not all blogs are professional blogs, so there’s no rule they should be.

    8. Should bloggers police other bloggers? What happened to personal responsibility? IOW, absolutely NOT.

    9. Should bloggers be more respectful of authors? And if so, how is this respect shown? People should be respectful of people, period. I would certainly hope that all interactions started with a measure of courtesy and civility. Sadly that’s not how it works in real life. My ideal situation would be one in which a reviewer sticks to reviewing the book/s and not the person who wrote them, trying to be as unbiased as possible.

  91. Jane
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 17:10:06

    What do you think some people are looking for that's different Jane?

    To me, calls for “respect” or “professionalism” or even “courtesy” conjure up something more than the two pronged standard previously articulated. Those words embody something more based on the comments from authors I’ve read. I.e., some authors feel that no DNF reviews should be give; some authors believe that no snarking should be done of a book given for free; some authors have shared that some reviews seem to be done more for the entertainment of the reviewer than anything else. All those comments could be applied to a review that comports with the standard of being consistent and being about the book.

  92. Jackie
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 17:25:50

    To me, calls for “respect” or “professionalism” or even “courtesy” conjure up something more than the two pronged standard previously articulated. Those words embody something more based on the comments from authors I've read. I.e., some authors feel that no DNF reviews should be give; some authors believe that no snarking should be done of a book given for free; some authors have shared that some reviews seem to be done more for the entertainment of the reviewer than anything else. All those comments could be applied to a review that comports with the standard of being consistent and being about the book.

    See, it’s the very notion that there is a “call for respect” out there that’s mindboggling. This should be a no-brainer.

    It’s the Golden Rule we learned as kids: treat others how you wish to be treated yourself. The grownup version to my mind is this: be professional (i.e., be respectful). It’s the same thing.

    Frankly, as long as reviewers — here or on any review site — are consistent with their standards for reviews and are clear on what worked/did not work for them, there’s no issue.

    DNF reviews? They’re probably going to happen. Life’s tough. Reviewing is always subjective. What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another.

    No snark for a free book? Wow. This doesn’t make any sense to me. If you put the book out there for review, it’s going to get reviewed in the manner in which that review site does reviews. If it’s sent to a snarky site, guess what? There’s going to be a snarky review. (And the “free card” bothers me — authors should be saving those receipts and claiming a nice tax deduction for their efforts.)

    “Some reviews seem to be done more for the entertainment of the reviewer than anything else” – Hey, unless the reviewers are getting paid, what else is there? Reviewers who volunteer their time and opinions are doing this because they love reviewing, or they get enjoyment out of it. If the reviewers ever don’t enjoy the review process, that’s probably time for them to stop doing reviews. Reviewers *should* get entertainment, or at least enjoyment, from their reviews.

  93. Jackie
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 17:27:51

    To clarify: being respectful to people overall does NOT mean “do not be snarky when writing reviews.”

  94. Jane
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 18:27:57

    See, it's the very notion that there is a “call for respect” out there that's mindboggling. This should be a no-brainer.

    It's the Golden Rule we learned as kids: treat others how you wish to be treated yourself. The grownup version to my mind is this: be professional (i.e., be respectful). It's the same thing.

    What if a reviewer said the following about a book:

    ‘Effie is an old jade of 50 summers, Jessie a frisky filly of 40, and Addie, the flower of the family, a capering monstrosity of 35. Their long, skinny arms, equipped with talons at the extremities, swung mechanically, and soon were waved frantically at the suffering audience. The mouths of their rancid features opened like caverns and sounds like the wailings of damned souls issued therefrom. They pranced around the stage with a motion that suggested a cross between the danse du ventre [belly dancing] and a fox trot,–strange creatures with painted faces and hideous mien. Effie is spavined, Addie is stringhalt, and Jessie, the only one who showed her stockings, has legs without calves, as classic in their outlines as the curves of a broom handle.’

    or

    “T’aint Creole, t’aint Cajun, t’aint French, t’aint country American, t’aint good. There’s been a lot of fuss about this handsome new restaurant on the Covington-Hammond Rd. and more than the usual amount of letters telling me to try it. Mashburn’s is an impressively set-out restaurant located on a large and beautiful estate, in a fine 1907 house, with all of the amenities of a good European country inn.

    “I don’t know how much real talent in cooking is hidden under the melange of hideous sauces which make this food and the menu a travesty of pretentious amateurism but I find it all quite depressing. The line between genius and eccentricity is sometimes a thin one but at Mashburn’s it is not really in doubt for very long.

    or

    “This is where the breaking point comes between marvelous originality and bizarre improvisation to know where to stop, which effect to make and simply what tastes good and what doesn’t.

    “The fussiness with classic snails reflect this restaurant’s strange image of itself, perhaps that of the only world purveyor of Hammond French food, although having eaten in some good places in Hammond I cannot honestly blame the taste shown by Mashburn’s on this little town. . . . This is not an improvement it is a travesty of taste.

    “I don’t know if all of this is Mr. Mashburn’s taste or if he is somehow convinced that opening an elaborate restaurant means that one has to cover everything with a GOURMET sauce. Most of the food tastes as if the conceptions were wrong to begin with as if someone flipped through pages of bad cookbooks looking for unusual sauces to make an ordinary dish impressive. Some of the basic cooking is good as with the duck or the simple and excellent French-fried potatoes. Or with the poached trout under a crawfish sauce that I would have named trout a la green plague.

    —-

    I submit that if any DA reviewer wrote in the vein of the above quoted work it would be viewed as unprofessional, discourteous, or disrespectful.

    If the review is all about the book, and not about the author, then what respect is owed?

  95. Jackie
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 18:55:39

    I’m not clear what you’re asking, Jane. The examples you give certainly are rude. So…are you saying that these people did it, so it’s perfectly OK to be rude?

    If the review is all about the book, and not about the author, then what respect is owed?

    What respect is owed?

    Is it really asking so much that reviewers are considerate? That reviewers are thoughtful of the influence they have with readers? That they choose their words with care?

    That doesn’t mean reviewers shouldn’t be negative when it’s deserved. If reviewers don’t like a book, their review should make that clear.

    There’s a fine line between being snarky and being flat-out rude. Snark by its nature is irreverent, and can be very entertaining. Rudeness is not irreverent; it is simply mean and hurtful.

    I am pretty sure that if DA reviewed novels in the manner used in the cooking and dancing reviews you quoted from, there would be a different readership here.

  96. Mireya
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 19:05:50

    I apologize in advance for the very long reply.

    First of all,l I reviewed for several years for different sites, never for a blog, though. However, the ethics issue is one that has both interested me and concerned me for years, both as a reviewer and later on as owner of a reviews newsletter. The way in which the newsletter presents its product (reviews and some features in the form of interviews, articles and website reviews) is important to both myself and my co-owner.

    Addressing each specific point:

    1. Bloggers who request an ARC should review it.
    If it is requested, my personal POV is that it should be reviewed or at least a serious good faith effort should be made to review it. Otherwise it may look as if the blogger/reviewer is simply using the tag “reviewer” to get freebies. It is understandable if the occasional requested ARC is not reviewed, reviewers have real lives, sometimes the book is so godawful that we simply have to set it aside, however, unless there is something major going on, those books requested for review should be reviewed.

    2. Bloggers who request participation from an author should refrain from bashing/trashing the author around that same time.
    To clarify, you mean that if a blogger requests a book from an author, the blogger should refrain from bashing/trashing the author?
    Well, imho, if the book sucks the reviewer needs to say so. Everything is in the wording though. Personally, I don't think that bashing/trashing an author is at all necessary when writing a review for a book we haven't liked. Of course, others may disagree.

    3. Bloggers should not read/review an author's book whose writing they dislike or alternatively, should not read/review an author's book who they personally dislike.
    I disagree on part A of this statement. I have read books for review from authors whose work I had not particularly cared about in the past because they left me unimpressed, and found myself pleasantly surprised. I do say so in the review, though. Additionally, even if someone else warns me “you are not going to like it” I'd rather judge for myself.

    As to part B, if I have a personal animosity against an author (there are at least two whose books I will never ever touch again for reading or reviewing) I stay away from them. I am a human being and as much as I may try to be impartial, there will always be a risk that my personal feelings will color the review. I don't want to be second-guessing myself in those cases. It is hard enough to write a thoughtful review without the added baggage.

    4. Should there be differing standards for reviews depending on whether the blogger bought the book or received it for free?
    No. Impartiality and objectivity for both, irrespective of the source. This also applies to the wording, both are deserving of the same respect from the reviewer even if the book turns out to be the dud of the century in the opinion of the blogger/reviewer.

    5. Should a blogger refrain from being entertaining in penning a negative review.
    It depends on what you call “entertaining”. If you mean snark, it is not my style and I do not read those reviews as I don't give them any credibility. The reviewer is too busy being “wity” so I don't care about that. I believe in respect and I've read very insulting snarky reviews that made me cringe. Of course, this is a personal choice. Everyone can write their reviews however they want. I just don't like that style. Regarding the “as long as the book is being mocked and not the author”, I have to say this: what some reviewers don't seem to grasp is the simple fact that a lot of authors see their book as a reflection of themselves, and of course, they are going to take the comments personally. Even the thickest skinned author out there is bound to get a bit hurt by a bad review, why turn the review into an even worse experience… for the entertainment of your friends, for your own amusement? Well, to each their own I guess. I am not criticizing humor if you want to be humorous, but there are many ways to be humorous, at least be mindful of how that humor is used. I've read some stuff that really made me wonder as to the real intent of the review, and of course, the reviewer alleged that she was not being insulting. To that I say: whatever. There are ten million ways in which you can say a book sucks. Again, it is a matter of style. It is just not my thing to mock a book that I haven't liked.

    6. Should a blogger make fun of or mock an author's response to a review?
    Honestly, depends on how the author responds. If the author goes either ballistic or puts war paint on and brings a mob in, well, then the author had it coming. I think that authors should be professional at all times, though, even if they felt a review was undeserving. Restraint is necessary. The author has more to lose than the reviewer, as unfair as it may be, that is how the game plays. Image is much more important for an author than it is for a reviewer/blogger.

    7. Do bloggers treat some authors preferentially, both in reviews or in parsing out their online statements?
    I don't review via blogs, but based on what I've observed from blogs, I would say yes. But I think that is to be expected. An author that visits a blog and presents him or herself as reasonable, likeable and fits well with the blogger’s style will definitely earn respect and probably a bit of preferential treatment, than one that, say, goes ballistic or logs on as “anonymous” to post insults :P

    8. Should bloggers police other bloggers?
    No. You can disagree with other bloggers and even talk about it, but “police” them? Not in a million years.

    9. Should bloggers be more respectful of authors? And if so, how is this respect shown?
    Well, not all blogs are equal, and respect is a two way street. Don't come around demanding respect, if you, yourself, are not willing to be respectful of others. This means both authors AND readers/reviewers/bloggers. I've read some author blogs out there that … well … no further comment.

    Again, sorry for the long post.

  97. azteclady
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 19:09:07

    Not associated with DA (other than being a frequent visitor and commenter), but what I get from Jane’s examples is that some people who are paid to review (which for many would mean they are professional at it) get to do it in less than corteous, polite, etc. manner–and that in the main their reviews still have value. Those reviews still do their job: they let the reader of the review know what the reviewer thought/felt about the movie/place/restaurant/what have you. Beyond that, each consumer/reader has to make his/her own choice.

    [Personally, I don't like the use of the term 'professional' for review sites which are not being run as business: i.e., being paid to review. 'Cause, I'm sorry, it's not the same.]

  98. Jackie
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 19:16:24

    If my use of the word “professional” has caused problems, I sincerely apologize. That absolutely was not my intent. Sites like DA come across very professional and businesslike, so I used the word “professional” a lot in my various comments. Acting professional, to me, is a compliment. I didn’t mean it to be antagonistic.

  99. Bev(BB)
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 19:17:28

    I submit that if any DA reviewer wrote in the vein of the above quoted work it would be viewed as unprofessional, discourteous, or disrespectful.

    Again, depending upon the standard. What if the standard is artistic critique in the exact same style those were wrote?

    Which is where the problem lies. One can’t compare apples and oranges and claim they are the same thing.

    And I’m not talking about the products being judged, either. The apples and oranges I’m talking about here are the reviews and the reviewers, themselves.

  100. azteclady
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 19:19:53

    Would it work if the word professional were substituted for thoughtful, or measured, or something like that?

    Because while I understand how you are using it, Jackie, I also see that it’s not the general usage, and it seems to encourage some people to try and hold what is, essentially, a hobby, to the standards of a job (professional responsibility). And I find that unfair.

  101. Bev(BB)
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 19:28:25

    If the review is all about the book, and not about the author, then what respect is owed?

    The respect owed is to the writer of the book currently being talked about at that moment. Nothing more, nothing less. You know why? Because every other author is just another reader.

    But in that specific moment in time when I’m either reading that book or talking about that book, then that individual is the creator of something special that I’m priviledged to share. Now granted, in the end, I may come away not quite as enthused as they might wish but that’s really is life. They have to learn to live with that and respect that too. They are still in that moment the individual that created the work I’m sharing and hopefully enjoying.

    I can respect that.

    And then I can walk away from it and they’re just another reader again.

  102. Jackie
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 19:30:26

    Would it work if the word professional were substituted for thoughtful, or measured, or something like that?

    Because while I understand how you are using it, Jackie, I also see that it's not the general usage, and it seems to encourage some people to try and hold what is, essentially, a hobby, to the standards of a job (professional responsibility). And I find that unfair.

    Thoughtful, definitely. That’s where I’m coming from. One of the definitions of “professional” in M-W is: “characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession” and another is: “exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace.” This is what I meant.

    I do hold review sites, such as DA, to high standards. That has nothing to do with whether the reviewers are being paid, and everything to do with how the reviewers conduct themselves. I have high expectations.

  103. Mireya
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 19:50:54

    I am going to make a very personal comment here: I am not a professional reviewer nor is my newsletter a professional publication by any stretch of the imagination. However, we have established certain standards and aim at providing a quality product and that means that whenever anyone refers to us as being “professional” we consider it the highest compliment we could ever get. It may sound silly, but it makes us feel like we are accomplishing our goals even if we are not “professional” in the sense of being paid for what we do (which we are not). Why? Jackie just posted the reason.

  104. Jane
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 20:25:55

    I don’t think you have anything to apologize for Jackie. I view “professional” as a standard that a hobbyist has a very hard time achieving. I.e., AAR has Laurie who edits all their reviews. Having an editor is one of those things that I would associate with a “professional” review site. A professional one would be like RT where it has a monthly release of all its reviews right on schedule. It’s pretty much a miracle to get our reviews together in a timely fashion.

    I think that I ascribe alot more to the word “professional” than you are which is, of course, my own problem, but what underlies why I shy away from saying that we are professionals.

    Edited to add: yes, as azteclady said, those are excerpts from reviews in professional publications and an example of how it can be a) consistent with the reviewer’s past and b) all about the subject matter but still be offensive.

  105. Shiloh Walker
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 21:47:22

    Thoughtful, definitely. That's where I'm coming from. One of the definitions of “professional” in M-W is: “characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession” and another is: “exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace.” This is what I meant.

    And I agree entirely. When I say professional, I’m not just talking business-type aspects. While I know DA is a hobby for the ladies that run it, IMO, it’s one of the more professional review sites out there, and I’m including blogs and reviews sites and magazines in my evaluation. The fact that this site IS run as a hobby/labor of love only adds weight to my opinion.

    That they get no compensation for it, yet still work to advocate romance, authors, epublishing, etc, and provide honest, thoughtful reviews, and they do a good job of it.

    They maintain standards, the site is professional, they approach books with an open mind even if they love one author or haven’t been impressed with another in the past. They don’t gush unless they feel something is gush-worthy, and that’s something I hold in high regard. Glowing reviews mean nothing if ‘glowing’ is all one sees. The blog stands by what they say, if they screw up, they offer an apology. Even when they don’t particularly care for one author’s behavior and call said author out, I don’t see them bashing/trashing the way I’ve seen on others.

    That, to me, is part of why I consider the DA blog a professional site. But professional is a heck of a lot easier to say than all of the above.

    Am I maybe holding DA to a high standard? Possibly. But it’s a bar I established in my mind over the past couple years of reading their blog. Their actions have shaped my opinion of them.

    ;-) So ya see…it’s all their fault *G* I’m not always very easy to impress.

  106. Jackie
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 22:28:32

    So, Jane…was that dark chocolate? Or are you more of a milk chocolate sort? ((grin))

  107. Robin
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 23:08:55

    One of the things that’s been interesting to me is watching how standards have changed, even in the few years I’ve been online. For example, Mrs. Giggles used to be seen as really extreme, but after the Edwards thing I saw authors arguing that her reviews were so much tamer and more acceptable than the SBs and DA and other blogs. AAR has made a similar transition from being shunned by many authors to now, IMO, being true establishment. Now in some cases I think the shifting standards is a bit of revisionist history, but it’s interesting nonetheless to see these different phases of online discourse.

  108. Janine
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 23:44:27

    If this is true, Robin, then I wonder what the reason is for that perception, because I suspect that in terms of our grading, DA is not any tougher than Mrs. Giggles or AAR.

  109. Robin
    Feb 19, 2008 @ 23:57:06

    If this is true, Robin, then I wonder what the reason is for that perception, because I suspect that in terms of our grading, DA is not any tougher than Mrs. Giggles or AAR.

    I honestly think part of it is a general distrust of the increase in blogging, the perception that we bloggers have some kind of power, and that we’re wielding it against authors. The comment that cracked me up most was that Mrs. Giggles’s reviews were harsh but never personal, in contrast to the rest of us evil bloggers. Now I find many of Mrs. G’s reviews vastly entertaining, but I don’t in any way see her as kinder or gentler than the SBs or DA or most other decently trafficked Romance blogs. Although I suspect it was her sympathetic post on Cassie Edwards that led some authors to champion her as a moderate reviewing voice.

  110. azteclady
    Feb 20, 2008 @ 00:02:28

    The comment that cracked me up most was that Mrs. Giggles's reviews were harsh but never personal, in contrast to the rest of us evil bloggers.

    When I first discovered Mrs Giggles I was shocked at how harsh she was to writers–at least, that was my perception, because of how she phrased her reviews.

    (…) I suspect it was her sympathetic post on Cassie Edwards that led some authors to champion her as a moderate reviewing voice.

    Definitely.

  111. Janine
    Feb 20, 2008 @ 14:46:26

    I didn’t see Mrs. Giggles’ sympathetic post. The Cassie Edwards issue exploded during my hiatus away from the blogosphere and by the time I got back, so many posts had accumulated that I didn’t have time to catch up on them.

  112. Patricia Rice
    Feb 20, 2008 @ 19:20:28

    Forgive me for not having time to read all the comments to your interesting post. I hope most of your readers will agree with me, but I don’t expect it any more than I expect all readers to love my books. I might WANT everyone to love my babies, but it’s unrealistic to expect it. Published authors are completely aware that editors and agents are people who have migraines and bad hair days and reject manuscripts because of many and sundry reasons. Why should reviewers be any different? It would be lovely if you were polite about your rejection (My, little Jethro has an interesting twitch, doesn’t he? ), and I’ll agree that trashing a book just to show a command of the English language might be self indulgent, but it’s Your Blog! I may refrain from reviewing books I don’t like because it’s not my job to review books, and I don’t like offending fellow writers by publicizing my negative opinion. That’s my choice. It’s still a free speech country here, I believe. You get to make your choices. Just be so good as to put I Hate Pat Rice in the header so I can delete the feed before I read further. “G”

  113. Reviews are not for authors » Readers Have Rights
    Dec 05, 2012 @ 21:32:30

    [...] Jane Litte at Dear Author: I don’t know that I want authors to engage in a critical debate of a review that I wrote. I welcom… [...]

%d bloggers like this: