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The Thin Gray Line Between Author Recommendation and Book Promotion

Last week I talked about the way the personal and the professional often overlap in the Romance community around authors reviewing and recommending books. At one end is the elevation of what seems essentially a concern about personal relationships among authors to an alleged professional value that discourages critical review. At the other is the diminishment of the professional currency of an author in the service of an allegedly personal book recommendation. Before I move forward, I want to make it clear that I am not suggesting that authors have nefarious intent in either of these examples. I have no doubt that many authors genuinely love books they recommend, even when those books are written by critique partners and friends. Similarly, I think it is incredibly easy to let personal feelings affect professional relationships. However, I think that among authors who discourage critical peer review, this overlap of the personal and the professional is deeply problematic, even in the absence of any disingenuous intent, in part because it makes it even more difficult for readers to make informed judgments about author recommendations.

Which brings me to this week’s issue: the author as a commercial brand, and the point at which an author’s speech crosses the line from personal to commercial speech.

Remember back in 2009 when the FTC revised its guidelines to focus on product reviews? Well, they recently revised their guidelines again, and they have intensified their interest in social media as a potentially gray area in regard to product endorsement and commercial sponsorship. The Wall Street Journal provided an example of an actress recommending a weight loss product via Twitter, highlighting the difference between a tweet that simply announced major weight loss and provided the product name and a link to the company, and a tweet that announced itself as a sponsored advertisement.

As Jane pointed out back in 2009, the FTC guidelines seemed more focused on readers and bloggers than on publishers and authors, even though book blurbs, for example, are often blatant commercial endorsements, lacking even a guarantee that the blurbing author has read the book on which her name and recommendation appears. But now we have so many authors who are joining forces – in blogs, co-ops, and other professional partnerships – to help market each others’ books, sometimes in direct ways, sometimes in indirect ways, sometimes in ways that may not even be deliberate commercial endorsements, even though they may amount to almost the same thing for the reader who depends on the author’s brand in buying a recommended book. It’s interesting to see how bloggers have taken steps to disclose the source of books they review when they have no economic interest in a book’s success. And yet, because the economic interest of authors is a given, perhaps, there has not been similar pressure for universal disclosure when it comes to recommending other authors’ books.

The FTC’s position with regard to endorsements is easy to understand: commercial endorsements are associated with positive reviews, while criticism is generally perceived to be more honest. So will the new guidelines mean greater interest in author endorsements? When Sarah Weinman joked that the 2009 FTC guidelines would encourage more aggressively snarky reviews, her prediction raised interesting implications for authors who insist that professional behavior necessitates only positive remarks about other authors’ books. Think of it this way: if criticism is aligned with honesty, and authors are afraid that their relationships with other authors will become imperiled if they engage in public criticism of their peers’ books, then to what extent can readers rely on “professional” authors to give them honest views of other authors’ books? If professional becomes aligned with positive, and positive is aligned with a commercial endorsement, then can’t this uncritical “professional” behavior  be characterized as a form of commercial endorsement?

Commercial endorsements are not, of course, intrinsically dishonest, especially when they come with a disclaimer that they amount to an advertisement of sorts. The difficulty comes with the lack of disclosure and the status of the author as a commercial brand.

Why is this a potential problem? For a number of reasons, one of which is the extent to which authors may be engaging in commercial speech when they make these recommendations. Although we talk a lot about political speech in the US and its almost sacred level of Constitutional protection, we don’t talk so much about commercial speech, even though in a community where authors are more readily marketing their own books (and those of their peers), this category of speech is becoming increasingly relevant to our discussions.

However, commercial speech has itself posed some definitional problems. Very briefly, commercial speech has been defined by several criteria: 1) the speaker is “engaged in commerce”; 2) “the intended audience [is] composed largely of actual and potential purchasers; and 3) “the content of the speech consist[s] of representation of fact of a commercial nature that [are] intended to maintain and increase sales” of the product (Nike, Inc. v. Kasky, 123 S. Ct. 2554 (2003)). These criteria echo what’s called the Bolger test, which also identified three characteristics: 1) is the communication an advertisement; 2) does the communication concern a product; and 3) does the speaker have an “economic motivation” (Bolger v. Youngs Drug Products Corp., 463 U.S. 60 (1983)). Additional factors like discussion of price and quantity are also taken into consideration when discerning the nature of the speech (see What is Commercial Speech? The Issue Not Decided in Nike v. Kasky, by Erwin Chemerinsky and Catherine Fisk). For example, authors who tweet out links to their own books, mentioning a price cut, for example, or a Kindle ranking, could easily be said to be engaging in commercial speech.

Seemingly simple in articulation, but difficult in application, for the same reasons that it’s difficult to discern whether an author who recommends a book is doing so in a personal, critical capacity, or in the way of someone who is attempting to sell books and who has an economic interest in the book’s sale (you can also see why paid reviews are so deeply problematic in this context). Still, one of the reasons this distinction is important is that commercial speech is afforded less Constitutional protection than noncommercial speech, and one of the reasons for that – beyond consumer protection from false and misleading claims, which is a substantial factor – is the assumption that speech deriving from an economic interest is less likely to be chilled than noncommercial speech. Part of the rationale here is that someone has a greater investment in a product they economically benefit from – as well as a greater incentive to have that product seen in a positive light. Whether or not it’s true that commercial speech is more potentially resilient, it seems clear that someone with a commercial investment in a product is likely to be much more desirous of having that product viewed in a positive way.

I realize that one author’s economic interest in another author’s book is not a foregone conclusion; at one level authors are competitively positioned in the marketplace. Still, if Author A recommends Author B’s book to Reader C, and Reader C loves that book, isn’t it likely that Author A might benefit from that recommendation with a present or future sale of her book? Also, what if Author A and Author B are sharing marketing costs and cross-marketing their books — doest that intertwine their economic interests? These often undisclosed possibilities (and more) are part of the difficulty for readers trying to navigate an environment in which authors are only providing positive comments about other authors’ books, and representing those recommendations as unproblematic. No one likes to have their good intentions questioned, but when readers are only getting one view from authors about their peers’ books, it can raise questions about the potential commercial benefit that authors perceive to accrue to them by mutually supporting and promoting each others’ books. In other words, in a market where authors see criticism as detrimental to book sales, where is the incentive to recommend books written by market competitors, unless there is a perceived commercial benefit to the recommending author?

At this point I feel the need to mention again that I am not accusing authors of trying to deceive readers by recommending their own and other authors’ books. However, I do not think readers are unaware that a successful recommendation by an author can very easily translate into a future sale for the recommending author, merely as a function of the trust and good faith that an author can build through her commercial brand. Beyond straight marketing, these more ambiguous expressions are, for me, at least, much more problematic, because in the absence of “honest” criticism, and in an environment where such criticism is deemed “unprofessional,” it can be difficult to trust those recommendations as anything but (indirectly) self-interested marketing.

When readers talk about the relative power of the author – both in terms of the authorial voice and the brand – commercial interest plays a key role. Because the economic investment authors have in the commercial success of their own products (books) gives them a greater incentive to quash negative perceptions of their product. And when authors publicly reinforce the shunning of criticism on the part of other authors, it does not help either the case for authenticity around authorial book recommendations or the insistence that readers hold all the power. To the extent that readers do not have enough information to make informed decisions in response to authorial marketing and recommending, their power is being artificially limited. And given the fact that authors have a greater investment in the commercial success of their own books than readers do, it can be tempting to cross a line from mere promotion to the active silencing of critical opinions. And if reader opinions are perceived as potentially powerful, and negative opinions as potentially detrimental, it’s not difficult to see the incentive to have those opinions quieted and/or discredited.

If it is not already obvious, I am working toward a discussion of the whole “bullying” conversation, one that considers this whole dimension of the commercial investment of the author in the sale of her product (her books) in an environment where criticism is perceived as “unprofessional” and therefore against the commercial interest of authors. I think it would help if there was a way to easily discern the difference between marketing (commercial speech) and the authentic sharing of a beloved book (noncommercial speech), but when there is no defined limit to an author’s tastes (e.g. tropes she doesn’t like, books she finds problematic, etc.), ambiguity is likely to persist. And this ambiguity disadvantages readers by clouding informed decision-making. I believe it ultimately disadvantages authors, too, by weakening the genre’s ability to be challenged and to grow through open, honest criticism, but I think that cost is long-term and therefore hidden behind the short-term perceived professional and economic benefit of being “nice.”

So readers, tell me: how do you tell the difference between marketing and un-self-interested book talk? And authors, do you have any system by which you communicate this distinction to readers?

isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!

50 Comments

  1. Elaine
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 06:47:04

    I totally ignore all blurbs by Anne McCaffrey. I swear, may she Rest in Peace, she never met a book she wouldn’t blurb. When I was young and naive, this led to several disappointments before I wised up. I place about as much trust in author reviews as I do in the commercials from ambulance chasers and weight loss programs on daytime TV.

    Or in other words, I automatically tend to disregard any author reviews. I prefer sites with non-author reviewers like Dear Author and Smart Bitches. I will also try samples of authors recommended via my friends list (LiveJournal and Dreamwidth) and on twitter if they sound interesting, but the samples have to stand on their own. Even then, they go on the “try to get from library” list unless the sample really knocks my socks off. Most recent example of this is KJ Charles.

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  2. Kate Hewitt
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 07:00:29

    I’m an author and I don’t generally pay attention to author blurbs. I know there are plenty of authors who endorse books they haven’t read, but I understand in today’s competitive and crowded marketplace the need for authors to help promote each other, and I am involved in that kind of cooperative effort. I read any books I endorse, though!

    When purchasing a book I usually read the negative reviews on Amazon first, or the three star reviews, because I don’t trust gushing 5 star reviews and the negative reviews usually tell me what I might find problematic in a novel. There is so much stuff out there–reviews, author endorsements, endless self-promotion–that it can be really hard to sift through it all. Ultimately you just have to let a book speak for itself.

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  3. mari
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 07:07:21

    Oh wow. Way to break it down. Very impressive, well reasoned argument about the deception and marketing behind the “nice” argument. As far as how I tell the difference between author promos and recs… I don’t. I don’t even read blurbs or pay attention to marketing or read author interviews. I draw a distinct and sharp line between sites like yhis one and ANYTHING written by an author that’s not a book. If author wants their book recs to be taken seriously, then the author needs to have serious reviews on their site. And its nonsense when they say “oh I love EVERY book!” Please.

    However. I have spent years teaching college and I can tell you most people do not distinguish between marketing, promotion, and serious criticism. They have to be taught, and are always shocked when they find out their favorite artist engages in this kind of marketing deception. So as long as people aren’t aware of it, its doubtful anything will change.Heck, it was a shock to me (years ago) when I found out authors were paid to “blurb” books! Posts like this are trying to perform a much needed community service, but I wonder if the people who need to read this, will, in fact, read it.

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  4. Julia
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 07:45:02

    Because the mainstream media rarely review romance books, the romance genre has been left to review itself. I think this is part of the problem. Even the sites and publications whose reviews I generally trust are still romance-only outlets. I read their reviews within that context.

    Also, even traditionally published authors are largely on their own when it comes to marketing these days. Publishers spend little money on most authors. Authors are also expected to be on social media building “personal relationships” with readers. That lends itself more to book recommendations than critical reviewing. It’s easier to build personal relationships with people by being “nice.” Harder when you’re criticizing their favorite book.

    I think what’s really being hashed out here is what should the relationship between readers and authors be? What do readers really want from authors? Writing a true, critical review (as opposed to an Amazon or Goodreads review, which are generally more opinions than reviews) takes time. Personally, I would rather my favorite authors spend their time writing books. That’s what I want from them — books. I have a foot in both the romance and literary genres and literary writers are under less pressure to be friends with readers online. No one is wringing their hands over the issue of author blurbs on books. Blurbs have been on books for decades.

    Honestly, I prefer knowing less about an author. That way, their personal life doesn’t color their books for me. In the same way, I can’t watch a movie with Brad Pitt without thinking about Angelina and Jennifer and all those kids and the time my sister-in-law ran into Shiloh, Zahara and their nanny in a hot tub in a Georgetown hotel … TMI.

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  5. DS
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 07:53:55

    The first author whose blurbs I ignored was Jayne Ann Krentz in all her pseuds. Got burned a couple of times and that was that. Stephen King also when through a similar period although in a nonfiction book he wrote I found he recommended a lot of horror authors whose books I ended up enjoying. When he had to explain why he found a book worthwhile I assumed he left out all of the newby authors he was just being kind enough to blurb.

    I still remember a bit of shock when I found that the Thurlos had got a blurb out of Tony Hillerman for the cover of a Harlequin Intrigue. The book was no where near Hillerman quality.

    Andre Norton was an author who rarely offered a blurb, and when she did I noticed it (because it was so rare) and almost always enjoyed the book.

    Ok, how I tell the difference between marketing and unself interested talk– Like my Stephen King example, a good available discussion of why the author found the book enjoyable. Anything else and I assume it is the author participating in marketing. Which can have blowback on whether or not I buy the next book by the blurbing author. I admit to losing a bit of respect for Hillerman and Krentz. Less so for Stephen King because I read in an article where he admitted that he was trying to help authors just starting out. I just ignored his name on the blurb unless I had some other reason to pick up the book.

    This is all very pre-2007/Age of the Kindle by the way.

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  6. Sirius
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 08:10:17

    I wholeheartedly ignore any blurb by the author and only take into consideration recommendations by couple of authors, one reviews all kind of books and another well let’s just say I am pretty confident that she won’t recommend any book that she did not enjoy and I saw thati enjoyed those books too. Any other author’s recommendation I pay no attention too – although of course there are exceptions. I mentioned I think that I got burned very recently and it was my fault completely. I was so impressed by the author that I decided to read the book by another writer she hosted on her blog. By now I have several reviewers whose tastes I know close to mine and more importantly several online friends and buddies whose tastes I know and trust. The margin of mistake is super low in their recommendations :).

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  7. Lori
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 08:18:57

    I see author promotion differently in the romance community. Just as romance is based upon relationships, so is much of the cross-author promotion I’ve seen. Kristan Higgins and Jill Shalvis are openly BFFs and are always promoting each other’s blogs and books. I find them hysterical and adorable and I don’t read Shalvis so if it’s clever marketing it doesn’t work for me.

    Jayne Ann Krentz recommends books on Facebook often and almost always prefaces her recommendations saying “My friend, author so and so, just released a book I loved…”

    The minute Eloisa James releases a book, all the professional authors I follow seem to go into a collective swoon.

    It doesn’t sell books to me, but it does make me smile and happy to be a part of their community. And sometimes I have bought a book on an author’s recommendation but rather it’s something like Jill Myles going batshit over Last Hour of Gann, she was so crazy about the book I had to try it (and loved it too).

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  8. Lil
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 08:23:20

    Why talk of this as if it is somehow peculiar to the romance genre?

    Literary/scholarly/sci-fi/mystery/etc. Author A write a nice review of Author B’s new book. Author B then writes a similar review of a book by Author C, who happens to be a friend of Author A. Author C now writes a lovely review of a book by Author D, a friend of Author B. And then we get the review by Author D of the new book by Author A.

    I’m shocked, shocked.

    And why blurbs by authors should be taken any more seriously than political endorsements by actors I can’t imagine.

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  9. Amanda
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 08:26:45

    Many years ago I saw a blurb from the actor A Martinez on a romance novel.
    It seemed odd and I figured someone had him do it because he was an actor on a romantic daytime show. I could be wrong, maybe he genuinely read and liked the book, but it seemed bizarre at the time. Every since then I have seen blurbs as more marketing tools than true recommendations. I just ignore them completely now.

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  10. rosecolette
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 08:31:34

    Author blurbs don’t affect my purchases. I read equal amounts of science fiction and romance and have found that in both spheres an author’s blurb doesn’t mean the person actually read the book they’re promoting. So I don’t bother. I go directly to review sites, or I’ll read through all the 3 and 2 star reviews on Amazon. A three star on Goodreads or Amazon tells me a lot more than a 4 or 5 on either site. A critical review on DA, SB, or another site tells me more than an author’s 140 character promotion. There are very few times when I’ll buy a rated 4 or 5 star only book. I’ve been burned too many times by an author’s call to friends and fans flooding a review with positives.

    ETA: There’s an episode of “Castle” where Richard receives a box of books for review and Martha asks when he’s going to have time to read all of them when he’s under a deadline. He jokes that it’s easy and picks up one of the books, holds it to his forehead, and makes up a blurb on the spot without even opening it.

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  11. Readsalot81
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 08:46:03

    I pretty much ignore every single author rec that I come across. Unless I know them personally (which out of the hundreds I follow – that would be 2) – or I see that they engage in critical discussion about books inside and outside their genre. I see a few authors remark that they don’t read inside their own genre – and I can understand why that might be, but it’s of absolutely no help to me.

    I’ve been burned a lot in the past with blurbs and recs, so now it’s strictly friends + bloggers I trust whose recommendations I’ll take seriously. Everything else is white noise that I’ve learned to ignore.

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  12. Laura K Curtis
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 08:55:14

    I am a very picky reader. It’s honestly very rare that I take anyone’s recommendation on a book—author or not—because my taste seems to be so different from the norm. I never like the stuff that gets people going gaga on Twitter, etc.

    But the author thing is more complicated. For example, just the other night on Twitter someone was talking about how they really only liked exceptional contemporary romances & in the same breath extolled an author I consider extremely mediocre. That author is a friend of hers. I don’t disbelieve that she thinks those are exceptional romances, but I do think her taste is probably colored by friendship.

    I know a lot of authors. I’m good friends with a few. I’m an author myself, but not a big name, not the kind that people listen to about books. When I recommend books, they’re very rarely books by people I am friends with. I try not to make recommendations just to the general public, which helps. That is, I rarely say “everyone should read this.” But if someone is saying “I need a good [this genre] book to read,” I will try to make specific recommendations. I can’t remember ever recommending a book by a personal friend in that situation. (Mostly, my personal author friends write in genres I’m not a big fan of, so that makes it easier.) I keep a LibraryThing library and often send people there — it serves as a sort of “recommendation clearinghouse” where they can go look at all the contemporaries I’ve liked, or all the romantic suspense, or whatever.

    I think it is a complicated proposition. You don’t want to let your friends down by not promoting them when you have the opportunity. It’s not a matter of making money yourself off the recommendation, it’s a matter of being a good friend. So is that different if you’re not an author? If you’re just a popular person on Twitter with a lot of followers who says “oh, this person’s book is great” when it’s a friend of yours who wrote the book?

    I don’t think there are easy answers.

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  13. Lynnd
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 08:59:24

    Like most here, I pretty much ignore all author blurbs on books and most reviews of books by authors who only write positive reviews. I have no way of judging their taste and determining if they are just part of some marketing campaign. In some cases, I will look at a book reviewed by an author whose books I like, but I will always check other non-authors for corroboration and I always look at the 2, 3 and 4 star reviews as well. If I do not particularly like an author’s books, I will completely ignore anything positive they have to say about a book and will probably not even think of trying the blurbed or reviewed book. On the other hand, if an author I particularly dislike criticizes a book, I might actually look at it.

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  14. Mo
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 09:31:36

    I ignore author blurbs. I do not ignore certain author recs. There is an author I am friends with; she and I mostly like the same sub-genres and tropes. If she recommends a book to me, I’ll try it without question and I’ll most likely love it.

    There are a couple authors I follow. Both have recommended books within the media I use to follow them. Both of them make distinctions between different types of recommendations based on the way they write them. So, if they are helping out a friend, they might say something like “My friend so and so has a new book out.” or “My friend so and so has a book on sale.” If they are actively marketing a book that is not their own, they might say “Such and such book sold by X Press is just released. I thought it was a great book when I brought this author on board and this book is great.” If they are making a genuine recommendation on a book they read, they might say something like “I just finished such and such book and really liked it. If you like x trope/y timeframe books, you’ll like it too.”

    So, I see distinct patterns that give me clues as to what is really going on. Obviously, not all authors will do that or even will know to do that. But, the authors I follow are well-established and seem to have both excellent writing skills and business acumen. For the record, I read books by only one of these authors. Others I follow specifically because I trust them and their recommendations.

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  15. Isobel Carr
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 09:33:35

    But are most authors “engaged in commerce” when recommending someone else’s book? I’m not convinced that they are. I’m clearly engaged in commerce when I tweet “Hey, my second book is mysteriously on sale for half price in paper!” because I have a financial incentive to sell my own books. But I don’t think I’m engaged in commerce when I retweet a similar message by a friend or about a book I liked. Unless your argument is that such retweets are essentially quid pro quo, which at least in my experience, they’re not. And it never occurred to me that my recommending a book to someone would result in sales for me. I pretty much assume that the people willing to take my recs are already buying and enjoying my books. Why else would my recommendation mean anything to them?

    Your later scenario of authors cross marketing is different. For example, the way Julia Quinn and Eloisa James have entwined their promotions (combined reader teas, crossover characters) would make me think any recommendation from one for the other was them engaging in commerce (and thus I completely ignore it).

    I tend to do simply retweets when I see a sale or news that I think might interest people who read my books and follow me. If it’s a good friend, I might say, “Hey, my good friend Sally Sue Author’s books is super cheap! *insert link here*” If I was doing a personal rec because I’d loved Sally’s book, I’d say “I loved my friend Sally Sue Author’s book, and it’s on sale now! *insert link here*” If it was a book I loved by an author I don’t know, I’d say “I fricken loved THIS BOOK by Sally Sue Author. Fantastic hero if you like nerdy professor types. And it’s on sale! *insert link here*”

    Also, I think we should make a distinction between a cover blurb and social media recommendations. Blurbs are their own weird thing. I have never understood their purpose as a reader and the more I learned about them as an author, the more I ignored them. Blurbs can be a real rec, they can be a professional courtesy to an editor or agent, or they can be a gift between friends. It’s hard to know their origin so they don’t seem particularly helpful to me. But when an author steps out in public and says “HEY, THIS BOOK ROCKED!” they’re engaging on a different level than in a blurb (e.g. the last two examples in the above paragraph). When I say I loved a book, I’m engaging as a reader. A reader who wants to share a great experience with other readers.

    ETA: @Mo: Mo summed up exactly the distinction I try to make. Glad to see my logic makes sense, LOL!

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  16. leftcoaster
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 09:38:31

    I think that I’ve already made it pretty clear in other threads that I find the hushing of anything not “positive” about a book by another author pretty appalling and downright short sighted and ill considered (a polite way to say I think it’s really stupid to squash diversity of opinion).

    I don’t pay attention to blurbs, I know they’re adverts and I ignore them. I do pay attention to author reccomendations but I don’t take them as seriously as an “objective” review. And I really think it would behoove authors to disclose a relationship when they recommend a book, and also disclose if they paid for it or not. Seriously- you can’t hold yourself to the same level of integrity that bloggers who recommend lip gloss or shirts or electronic gadgets do? Really? You’re that special?

    When purchasing, I also like knowing more about why someone didn’t like a book because it helps me decide if I would have the same issues (shockingly, I’m intelligent enough to know that my reactions and views aren’t the same as another person).

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  17. Amanda A
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 09:50:02

    I read a lot of books, mostly in the romance genre. I have an extensive list of books I’ve read on Goodreads, and had authors reach out to me before because I do read a lot. In one situation, an author reached out to me and asked to send a free copy of his/her book (I don’t know this author and the pseudonym could have gone either way). I drew the line there because I don’t want to have a personal relationship with an author that I might have to slam in a review a week or two down the road. Because I had limited personal interaction with the author, I was feeling pressure (probably put on myself) to give a decent review of the book because they seemed nice and were nice to me. So, if authors reach out to me, then I don’t read their stuff and give a no to doing the review.

    That said, I know the romance authors I follow on social media are BF’s because they say so. I know that it is commercial marketing because because they post about the trips they take to write, and point other authors out as friends. I follow them and check out these recommendations, like others, reading the reviews on amazon and goodreads. Why? Because I’ve found that using social media to keep up on new releases by these folks helpful. Yes is it commercial marketing, but the blurbs in the Bookpage publication my library offers to me for free doesn’t do a good job of showing the scope of romance work that is coming out. Romance is notorious for having series of books. This is how I keep up with the series from authors that I like, and have found no better way to do it than interacting with them on social media.

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  18. Sunita
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 10:04:21

    @Isobel Carr: But as a reader who sees your RTs in her feed, how am I supposed to know if someone is a friend, a fellow author who shares a publisher/editor, someone you trade professional services with, or someone you’re in a Triberr group with? (I mean “you” generally here, not you specifically).

    Blurbs can be a real rec, they can be a professional courtesy to an editor or agent, or they can be a gift between friends.

    Replace “blurbs” with “social media comments” and I don’t see how the latter is different from the former. Both can be professional exchanges. It’s entirely possible for a blurb to be for someone you’re not affiliated with but whose book you really like, it’s just that we’ve seen so many blurbs we don’t believe that we assume the former is never the case. At this point I put most of the social media stuff in the same category.

    I didn’t used to, but I felt burned earlier this year because I saw multiple RTs for books by unknown-to-me authors and I assumed they were because the people recommending thought they were good books (they were described as innovative, well-written, etc.). I read the books and thought they were nowhere near those things and then when I dug deeper I found that there were connections between the recommenders and recommendees. Chapter buddies, roommates at cons, published by the same presses, friends-of-friends, etc. The recommenders didn’t come across these books serendipitously. And none of that was disclosed. If an author doesn’t disclose at the level a blogger/reviewer is expected to (as leftcoaster says above), I’m ignoring her recommendations.

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  19. Josh Lanyon
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 10:13:08

    I’m an author who subscribes to the belief that reviews should be left to reviewers and readers. I think readers and reviewers should be honest in their reviews.

    I think authors should only recommend books they genuinely love. I don’t believe in recommending or reviewing a book I didn’t genuinely enjoy. I will certainly help author friends with their promo efforts. Blurbs are a professional courtesy and I think they can — and are — viewed skeptically (and rightfully so) as any advertising should be.

    I also do not believe it is wise (or you can call it professional) for authors to negatively review each other, human nature being what it is. Plus, it is hard to claim you are “speaking as a reader” when you are posting your opinions (negative or positive) under your author name and brand as a means of your own adding-content-to-the-conversation.

    Once upon a time I think authors did depend more on each other for reviews. It was hard as hell to get ANYONE to review an unknown book or author. These days there is no shortage of opinions about books, and I don’t think authors need to jump into that fray.

    Do readers honesty care about my personal opinion on books? I think the jury is still out (if you ever visit Amazon reader forums) but if they do, I run an active Goodreads discussion group, and there I will talk honestly and openly about books I liked and disliked for any reader (or other author) dying to know my opinion. I see that as different from me offering a professional, unsolicited peer review.

    That said, there was a time I would have completely agreed with you. I used to review regularly. But the book world and the internet have changed everything so drastically — and things are still changing — and I don’t think the old rules apply. We now have authors buying reviews, reviewing themselves, negatively reviewing peers in order to affect sales, faking reviews for friends, retaliatory reviews, etc. Of course we always had this, but it wasn’t so widespread, so common.

    Plus…I guess it has become a topic of scorn in some quarters, but yes, I do believe in and endorse professional and courteous behavior between colleagues. I think civility, unlike opinions, is a rare commodity these days. Especially given the pressure we’re all under to be live and in person and bestselling 24/7 on the world wide web.

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  20. anon2013
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 10:28:02

    I don’t think the problem is limited to various permutations of author-to-author, author-to-reviewer or reader-to-reader friendships. I think it has a lot to do with how the dynamics of social reading influences opinions and that is just too complicated to generalize.

    My rule of thumb (and perception) is this: if I see a reviewer is consistently posting reviews before a book is released (and most of their commenters are reading the same books pre-release) I start filtering out those reviewers. Even if I come back, I take what they say with a very large grain of salt because in my world pre-release review = hype. If someone is reading/reviewing a book well after the release date, it’s easier for me to believe their opinion is more independent of the hype machine or other social considerations, and that they picked up the book because they were genuinely interested in reading it for whatever reason. Also: I’m not on Twitter and I don’t mix my consumerism with FB. I hate it when authors try to direct me to FB or Twitter to get info on their upcoming books. In no circumstance will I go there.

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  21. Mzcue
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 10:33:20

    Am I the only one who finds this entire issue puzzling?

    It simply doesn’t matter to me whether anyone recommending a book has artistic or commercial motives. As a reader, I have the need to become aware of books that are new to me. This need is met through advertising, through recommendations and through searches that I do myself. If any party gives me a bum steer, I simply ignore their recommendations in the future. The investment in a book that turns out to be a disappointment is on such a minor scale compared to other issues that confront us in life.

    I’m amazed that the FTC has devoted this much attention to literary recommendations. I wish that they addressed their resources instead to misleading advertising claims on television that can have dire impact on consumers’ health and financial well being.

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  22. Zoe York
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 10:41:33

    @Lori: Lori, I was going to say the exact same thing, except I read Shalvis and not Higgins! :) But because of my exposure to her, I can recommend her to others who I think might like her.

    I don’t disregard blurbs or RTs or reviews by authors out of hand–authors are readers, too. But like any other reader, just because we have A in common doesn’t mean I’ll like B just because you do. I weigh the rec with everything else I can find at hand about a book. The RT or blurb might get me to look at an excerpt I would have otherwise skipped, but the excerpt will be what gets me to buy the book (or not).

    My book purchases are my responsibility. Mine to research, mine to make. Of all the information out there about a book, the blurb is rarely if ever the deciding factor. Or a single review, for that matter. Let’s talk about the ethics of putting a super-pretty cover on a dud of a book, maybe. ;)

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  23. Darlynne
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 10:43:10

    I completely ignore blurbs, as do a majority of people above, based on the comments.

    If said blurbs come with exclamation points, I am doubly cynical and assume it’s all marketing (which it is under any circumstance), also as further proof said author didn’t read the book in any meaningful way for me, the consumer. NB: No one over the age of 10 should use exclamation points, a little-known subset of the Chicago rule concerning ketchup on hot dogs.

    So I have to wonder: Since so many of us don’t consider blurbs and more than a few of us actively avoid them, what’s the point? Why keep blurbing?

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  24. Isobel Carr
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 10:57:07

    @Sunita: @Sunita: Maybe I’m just clueless, but since I don’t *do* any of those things (Triberr, Street Teams, quid pro quo retweets, etc.), it doesn’t occur to me that anyone else does (with a few blatant exceptions that always make me roll my eyes). I don’t see how anyone (authors or readers) are supposed to police such a thing though. For me, that’s just part of the “social” aspect of social media: knowing your source.

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  25. Lexxi
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 11:09:04

    Ditto to what Zoe said (she said it better than I could)

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  26. Arethusa
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 11:40:11

    @Lil: “Why talk of this as if it is somehow peculiar to the romance genre?”

    It is not peculiar to it but it plays out differently, in my experience. As a reader of lit journals, magazines and blogs, author reviews are common. They are even more common in print bc few (if any) publications retain full-time reviewers, so it’s left to freelancers — and hiring authors to review comes with name recognition. There is no real pressure in that world, as far as I can tell, for authors to be “nice” about it. Same in academia.

    If there is a relationship to declare it is usu stated in the review — whether the person helped with research, was consulted or simply shared the same publisher. Then it is up to the reader to decide if he/she wishes to go further. If it is not declared but later discovered then there’s a kerfuffle. (I dimly remember one involving an ex-wife but for the life of me I can’t remember those involved. It was entertaining.)

    This is not to say that egos aren’t bruised and grudges formed because of the practice but in that space it’s understood as part of the territory. Romance still seems to be struggling with how it wants to be, and god forbid you diss a fan’s favourite book and blah blah.

    In thinking about it now I do pay attention to author reviews for literary fiction because in literary journals/mags authors are afforded the word count to put up a good case. If I like the author my interest in the review is sharpened. If romance authors had similar spaces, I would give their reviews similar attention. As it is, I can only access that kind of writing, if they offer it, in their promotional spaces: the author sites, social media accounts, author co-ops etc. I’m not really about connecting with authors directly so I have little interest in that. (There are exceptions I follow less than 10 authors, of any genre, in social media, but I only read the books of maybe half of them. For the rest, I simply enjoy their posts.)

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  27. library addict
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 11:40:51

    I treat author recommendations as a way to learn about new books and authors, but won’t buy the book unless I like the blurb and/or excerpt. Back in the pre-internet days I suppose I did pay more attention to those cover quotes, but I don’t now. The cover quotes do imply the recommending author actually read the book, but that isn’t always the case. The quoted author may have read one of the author’s books years prior and the quotes gets recycled with every new release.

    So while the cynical side of me wonders if an author actually even read a book they are recommending, the Pollyanna side of me thinks they are readers, too, and have books they love and want to tell the world about. It helps if I’ve read other books they’ve recommended so I can see how well my tastes align with theirs.

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  28. pooks
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 11:52:44

    When it comes to RTing or sharing about books, I would be shocked if anyone took an author’s [or reader's] RT as the reason why they bought the book. I see a tweet or FB status about a book and if anything about the book catches my attention, I go check it out. Period.

    I have decided not to buy books that were RTed by friends. I have bought books that I saw RTed by people whose identities I don’t remember, whose reason for being on my feed is a mystery to me, because once I went to Amazon and checked the book out and skimmed some reviews — as others have said, I check out the negative first to see if there are any negatives that bring up things I hate — and decided to give it a shot.

    I am having trouble imagining buying a book because any single person recced it, unless my investigation gave me reason to think it worth a shot, in which case it’s on me, not them.

    Forgot to say–this goes for blurbs and reviews by professional reviewers and book bloggers, too. Ultimately, I’m the one who makes the decision to buy [although I'm more likely to download a sample and not purchase until I've read it].

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  29. Sunita
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 12:19:11

    @Isobel Carr: You may not know they use them, but you know authors that do. I’m not asking for policing of authors or readers. I’m asking for disclosure or self-policing, both of which some authors find inappropriate for me to request.

    More generally: given that most romance authors use pseudonyms, and these pseudonyms are created for the purpose of publishing and selling their books, and given that social media is part of author branding, doesn’t most of what they publish online under these pseudonyms have the potential to fall under commercial speech?

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  30. Kate Pearce
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 13:04:09

    I tend to think along the same lines as @IsobelCarr.
    The way I structure my tweet or comment about a book indicates whether I’m doing routine promo for one of my publishers, or talking about something I liked, or that might appeal to my readers, or that a friend wrote or that I totally absolutely loved.
    I assume that the people who follow me know me well enough to work out what I’m saying. Maybe that’s naive, but that’s how I do it. :)

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  31. Erin Satie
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 13:34:17

    I think this post does a good job of explaining why the baseline assumption about author blurbs/reviews should be: skeptical. And that might be putting it gently.

    But every author has the chance to build credibility–or squander it.

    Some authors give interesting, thoughtful, surprising recommendations. I notice & appreciate that. Even when their taste is different from mine. (If simpatico, even better).

    Some author-reviewers are very brand-aware, very brand-focused. I understand with those authors that I won’t be seeing or hearing anything that breaks the core message. On the other hand, sometimes I learn to trust the brand: it’s very clear what’s on offer.

    (In both cases, the danger is profligacy: devaluing the coin by over-minting, lowering standards, etc)

    My base attitude toward any tastemaker is skeptical. Author-reviewer, reviewer-reviewer. I always test the waters, trying to figure out what I, personally, have to gain from listening. If I learn to trust the recommendations, I don’t care if it’s commercial speech. If none of the recs work for me, I don’t care how honest or critical they are.

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  32. Rachel
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 14:02:47

    I disregard all author blurbs and author reviews. Author blurbs because I see them as pure promotion so therefore they are meaningless to me, and author reviews because (sorry if I offend) I simply don’t trust them. Especially because of the “be nice” sentiment that seems to be permeating certain genres.

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  33. Isobel Carr
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 14:05:38

    @Sunita: *I* don’t think most of what I say on social media is commercial speech. And yes, as you know, I use a pen name. I don’t have dual accounts for “real me” and “author me” though. The Isobel Carr FB and Twitter are all there are. And yes, I’m sure I do know authors who don’t disclose. But honestly, I tend to unfollow people who do tons of promo (authors and blogs). It’s boring.

    I’m pro-disclosure and I think I do my best to offer disclosure when and where necessary. But that’s an ethical issue that is clearly going to differ from author to author. And we all, as readers, are going to make choices about who to follow, trust, and read based on our perception of the honesty we encounter and how important that trait is to us.

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  34. Cassie Knight
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 14:11:46

    As many others have said, I ignore author blurbs. I’m sure some read the books they are blurbing but I highly doubt a large percentage do so I find them disingenuious. And I especially disregard them if I know there’s a friendship. Sure, like I’m going to refuse a blurb for my friends? Not! Of course not. Nor would I leave a negative review so I simply don’t comment one way or the other. I will buy their books and support them that way and if the book, to me, is very good and in my genre (paranormal), I’ll tell others about it but because they are my friend and I liked the book and want other readers to know about it but since at no time me doing this has resulted in big sales for my friend , I figure that’s largely ineffective. But I still do it.

    As to why one leaves a blurb? Makes no different to me if they are in it for a friend or for the potential new readers/money. What bothers me is knowing there are many authors who blurb who never read the book. That, I think, is why we distrust so many of them. More power to the authors who won’t give blurbs unless they read the book and LIKE the book. I know there are some out there–THOSE authors I’d trust the blurb. But I don’t know everyone that does this so I distrust them all. Sad.

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  35. Rosario
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 14:18:07

    Clearly some people are influenced by blurbs, otherwise publishers wouldn’t put them there. So I really don’t get why it’s somehow ok, an acceptable “professional courtesy” to blurb a book you haven’t read/liked.

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  36. Liz Mc2
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 15:28:04

    Thanks for another great post, Robin. For me the issue is not so much whether author recommendations/promo might “deceive” me–I take all recommendations with a grain of salt, because no one’s taste exactly matches mine–but the extent to which it can come to dominate the social media conversation about books. If too much of what authors do reads as commercial speech, then I start to become cynical about any book conversation (is this a sincere reader response? a disguised promo? both?). I recognize authors are in a bind: we want them to be “professional” (not go off on negative reviews) but then don’t like it if we perceive them to be acting too much like a brand–i.e. addressing us primarily via commercial speech. I expect some promo from authors on social media, but I want something of value/interest in exchange, just like with commercial TV. I think that balance is key here, or, as Erin Satie says, the author may squander her credibility and possibly harm her brand (in my eyes–I know I’m not every reader).

    I stopped following a lot of authors (and some bloggers) on Twitter/their blogs because I felt that their balance had shifted too far towards promotion for me: the majority of their recommendations were for their friends/people they had a professional relationship with, the interesting general conversations about books/the genre, which was why I followed them in the first place, were no longer happening. I started to resent it and was afraid it would affect my enjoyment of their books. I am much less cranky about Romanceland as a result, but it’s too bad, because I’d valued what they were offering at one time. (Maybe they didn’t even change; maybe my balance was off and I started following too many authors.) I’m not alone among my reader-friends: when I recently discussed an author blog post I found interesting, many people responded that they saw it as purely self-promo. So I think the issue of losing credibility or reader trust in your brand is real. When authors find basic disclosure “My friend wrote this book and I loved it” too burdensome, I feel they don’t respect the trust readers have placed in them. They lose mine. (I don’t see RTs of book releases/sales without any comment from the re-tweeter as endorsements, just as professional courtesy. I get tired of seeing so many, but to me this is a different issue from author recommendations because they are clearly commercial).

    I don’t think that authors have to say negative things to maintain credible recommendations. I just think they have to avoid sounding like, well, commercials. For example: recommend older books, books outside your genre, not just friends/people who share your agent/etc. Make that more than 5% of your recommendations, too. Then we might see them as “reader” recommendations. Reveal that you don’t love indiscriminately: “Usually this trope doesn’t work for me, but I loved it in book X.” “The ending was rushed, but I still loved this.” Don’t claim too much for your recommendations. Maybe your friend’s book really is the best thing you ever read, but don’t make it sound like she invented a trope we’ve all read before. I think untempered praise reads as commercial speech if that’s all you do–because that’s how advertising works.

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  37. Jae Lee
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 15:31:22

    I do pay attention to author reviews, if only because I follow some author blogs, but I treat them with a little more skepticism than I do purely reader reviews. I don’t buy books solely on author recs either. I read the synopsis, check out a few other reviews, and then add it to my list if it sounds interesting. But if I discover an author has a vested interest (crit partners, or author groups, or sponsorship, whatever) and didn’t disclose, I’ll stop paying attention to them in future. And if an author just posts a rec, without some critical reasoning (positive or negative), I won’t pay attention to that, either. Honestly, though, I tend to treat dedicated book blogs almost the same. The way I see it, if you are receiving any remuneration, even in ARC’s, your opinion is slightly suspect. (That is not a condemnation, at all, I understand that blogging is a time-suck and a potential money-suck.)

    It boils down to “disclose, disclose, disclose” unless an author wants their readers to feel cheated if something comes to light. Even if it’s just “I am not being compensated for this review, but I did meet this author/have tea parties with this author/this author is god-parent to my 50 cats/this author and I once traveled through time and space together”.

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  38. Maria F
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 18:03:00

    Usually I pay very little attention to author blurbs, but I can remember two that made me buy the book. Christine Feehan’s blurb for Nalini Singh’s Slave to Sensation nudged me into buying the book (when it first came out, so Singh had only published categories until then). Feehan was well-enough established that she didn’t need to praise any book she didn’t like. Or that was my thinking. And J.K. Rowling’s blurb for The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge. Obviously Rowling didn’t need exposure or quid pro quo, and anyway, Goudge died in 1984! As it happened, I loved both books.
    But generally I think transparency is best: my friend’s book is coming out, I think it’s great–fine by me, as long as I know it’s by your friend. Or longer, actual reviews that discuss the book, whether positively or negatively, but thoughtfully. I have been burned by a blog or two that ended up being more pushing a new release for reasons unrelated to the book’s quality, or so it seemed to me. Maybe I just had a mismatch of taste. But disclosure of relationship to the author helps me make a better decision when I choose how to spend my money, because it helps me read the review or recommendation more accurately. Advertising is fine. I want to hear about books. Advertising pretending not to be advertising is a problem for me.

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  39. leslie
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 18:54:22

    @Mzcue: Thank you! My sentiments exactly.

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  40. Lynn Rae
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 19:11:43

    I’m enjoying reading everyone’s points of view and they give me a lot to think about. I believe I’m safe from any sort of conflict of interest because I don’t write reviews of books in my genre, mostly because I read very few books in my genre. As a writer, I don’t have time to read a bunch of books and write reviews and promote. If I’m reading a book, it’s usually for research purposes, and if I’m reading for pleasure, it’s something not at all like what I write, because, well, it’s for pleasure.
    Apologies for whoever said it better earlier, but readers and reviewers should be doing this sort of stuff, authors should be writing their own books.

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  41. Sunny
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 19:37:38

    I really like this article and question, and find the responses really interesting. I tend to do a lot of my book-buying from DA and SBTB, but I follow a few authors in other areas and their endorsement of a book actually matters to me — maybe because it’s really hard for me to find really niche or my-specific-catnip reviews (menage pansexual erotica? Gay/lesbian historical? Anything with realistic depictions of ballet?), maybe because I’ve just found that my reading interests align with theirs, much like specific reviewers here. I think that the authors I do follow specifically for book recommendations are very transparent about their relationships, especially as they tend to recommend similar authors to what they write.

    Maybe the difference is Facebook/blog posts vs Twitter for me? I don’t pay attention to a lot on Twitter but Facebook allows enough of a character count that people can be specific as to why they like or dislike things.

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  42. hapax
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 20:16:33

    @Mzcue: No, you’re not alone. I said on the previous thread that all of this has nothing to do with “ethics”, it’s all “marketing”, and I still feel that way.

    But apparently I’m one of the few that doesn’t think “marketing” is a dirty word. Medications are “marketed” all the time — by advertising on television, on twitter and other social media, by pharma reps giving free samples to doctors, etc. If I have a particular illness and see an ad on TV, for a pill that purports to address it, should I just ignore it because it’s “commercial”? If I go ask my doctor about it, and she says, “Yeah, that sounds promising, their rep gave me some samples, why don’t you try them?”, should I reject her suggestion (or insist on paying full price) because I know that those same sales reps might offer to fly my doctor out to a conference in Hawai’i?

    At the same time, I make an effort to educate myself about the medication. I read the inserts about side effects and drug interactions. I trust the FDA to act as “gatekeepers” against ineffective or dangerous drugs; I trust the FTC to ensure that those commercials don’t make false claims; I trust the medical licensing boards to police physicians who prescribe drugs in return for bribes.

    Alas, only the FTC are protecting me against fraudulent book reviewers these days. Self-publishing has weakened the gatekeepers, for good or for ill, and there’s no way to sanction an author who doesn’t know a comma splice from a comedic syllepsis.

    So I take recommendations from authors EXACTLY the way I take recommendations from anyone else. What’s your authority (e.g., are you a competent writer and also one whose works I like?) What’s your evidence (e.g. quotes, samples, allusions to particular tropes?) What’s your track record (have I been satisfied with your recommendations before?)

    Some writers do well on these criteria, some don’t. Just like everyone else.

    P.S., I should probably add that I’m employed as a “readers advisory” librarian, which basically the delightful position of “professional book recommender.” I do try to read widely across genres, but there simply isn’t enough time in the day to read for myself every single book I’ll be called upon to recommend. So I keep a bookmark file of OTHER reviewers that I have learned to trust, I train myself to pick out key characteristics that readers respond to (not just genre or trope, but also style, tone, construction, all sorts of factors), and most importantly I do not EVER permit my personal tastes trump the interests of the person looking for a recommendation. I will bet any sum you like that my patrons — who must trust my suggestions, since they come back for more — would not be able to tell which books I loved, which I hated, and which I had never read.

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  43. hapax
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 20:35:12

    Clearly some people are influenced by blurbs, otherwise publishers wouldn’t put them there.

    Blurbs function exactly like everything else on the cover: they are there to manage reader expectations (also known as “identifying genre”).

    For example, a blurb from Eloisa James does exactly the same thing as a title like “The Duke’s Delight” in a loopy purple font, a cover image of a young lady in a pretty but probably period-inaccurate ballgown, all in a palette of bright pastels: it alerts the reader that this is book is a frothy, fun Regency romance, with plenty of witty banter but haphazard historicity, and just enough angst to make me feel that the book won’t float off the shelf once I put it down.

    If the book delivers on those expectations, I don’t care if the author read it or not, if the author blurbed as a quid pro quo; I don’t even actually care if it’s all that GOOD. If it provides something else (no happy ending, bondage menages every five pages, a gory murder, spaceships, a modern Chicago setting — even if it’s actually BETTER written than I was hoping for), *that* is what will make me distrust an author blurb.

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  44. Persnickety
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 21:50:16

    On Anne mcCaffrey, I am part of the way through a book of loving essays about her. Apparently she did so many cover blurbs because she wanted to help new authors. She did genuinely read them, and suffered much angst on one where she couldn’t find anything nice to say. Nice intentions, but now I don’t trust any of her blurbs.

    I am torn on the recommendations issue. Sometimes when a book is really good, we want everyone to know about it/read it. I understand that, and an author basically raving about a book can simply be taken that way. But I agree, disclosure is needed. It may be an OMG squee book, but if it is by a friend, I need to know that too. It puts it in perspective.

    The more I know about an author may also influence how I see the recs. Stephen king recommending authors he reads- yea, I know he reads widely . But I don’t read his books, or anything that he is brought into as a comparison. But I value his comments on what he reads, because he is a reader. An author who only ever reviews/recommends books within their sub-genre- less likely to take seriously than one who reads and recommends outside the genre.

    I have a big pile of F &SF magazines in my garage. At one point Orson Scott Card and Charles de Lint both wrote book columns for that magazine. I approach their recs differently, because I am aware of the differences of opinion about matters external to books between each author and myself. I do take de Lints music recs more seriously since I found a rec for an obscurish artist I like.

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  45. Helen
    Nov 20, 2013 @ 07:52:41

    @hapax:
    -Hapax-
    Ok…I want your job! It sounds fantabulous. I also agree with you re marketing. It is not a dirty word!

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  46. pooks
    Nov 20, 2013 @ 08:22:44

    There is a difference between an author making a choice not to publish negative reviews about other authors, and lying when they do promote and review. I don’t lie. I say what I liked about a book. I may rave about a book and that I loved it. I may say, “If you like this kind of book, you should check it out.” There are a lot of honest things I can and do say about books.

    And I can choose not to say anything at all.

    So don’t assume that the ‘culture’ of authors not saying negative things about other authors’ work means we’re all just promoting each other without reading each other’s work [which I am sure happens, but the authors I know personally don't do it] or doing it dishonestly.

    Read all of it with a jaded eye and make your own decisions about what to buy. That’s smart. But that’s how I look at every rec I see, whether an Amazon/Goodreads review, a review on DA or SBTB, or an authors twitter feed.

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  47. Patricia Rice
    Nov 20, 2013 @ 16:56:57

    I’m old and jaded and personally think we’ve run this topic into silliness. I do not believe my Tide is “new and improved” when it says so on the box. A NYT critic claiming a book is the best thing since fire was invented tells me that I’ll probably hate that book. The entire community and every TV ad under the sun can swear that the latest movie/book/TV show has to be seen, and I still won’t watch unless it’s a subject that interests me.
    Opinions, reviews, cover quotes are all just that–someone else’s blather. Anyone who buys a book simply because it got a good review or rejects it because it has a bad review is not using the gray matter between their ears. We read reviews for information. We take an author’s cover quote or the NYT bestselling author blurb with a huge dollop of salt. Until the FTC stops Tide from advertising “new and improved,” I’m not going to get my panties in a twist if authors promote each other.
    Let me know when you find a better way of putting good books in front of readers, and I’ll be right on top of it. I appreciate the reviews here at DA, but in the end, you’re barely touching the surface of what’s out there.

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  48. Brie
    Nov 20, 2013 @ 18:01:40

    @Patricia Rice: “Anyone who buys a book simply because it got a good review or rejects it because it has a bad review is not using the gray matter between their ears. We read reviews for information.”

    Wait, reviews (or, excuse me,“blather”) are there so we can gather information about a product, but when we use that information to make a decision we’re not using our brains? That makes no sense.

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  49. Ridley
    Nov 20, 2013 @ 19:20:06

    @Patricia Rice:

    Until the FTC stops Tide from advertising “new and improved,” I’m not going to get my panties in a twist if authors promote each other.

    So you’re saying author recommendations are commercial speech and self-promo of little value to a reader.

    It seems we agree.

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  50. Self-Publishing Roundtable: Episode 22 | Self-Publishing Round Table
    Nov 21, 2013 @ 20:41:48

    […] The Gray Line Of Author Recommendations […]

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