Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Should Authors Review Books?

By Steve Weddle

Following last week's post about Amazon deleting my review of Chad Rohrbacher's KARMA BACKLASH, many people here and elsewhere have suggested that friends should not be allowed to review each other's books.

The argument is that a review from a friend is simple back-scratching. I can see where folks are coming from this.

But I wonder whether it's an issue of "full disclosure." We want "honest" reviews, not sock puppets and not proud parents, right?

If Amazon had a button that said "Friend of Author" or something, would it matter? I know it seems silly, but I'm trying to work out where the problem is. Is it the personal relationship with the author that should preclude the posting of a review? Maybe it is. Maybe too many good reviews is a problem. Maybe too many Facebook friends and Tweeps have taken authors' advice about posting a review.

As I said elsewhere last week, if the problem really is that Amazon does not want authors to say nice things about their fellow authors’ books, then perhaps a button akin to the “verified purchase” option that Amazon has provided.

On a scale of 1 to 10 -- with 1 being “Not At All” and 10 being “Have washed her knickers” – how well do you know this author?

Is Amazon also applying this standard to music? If I’m friends with the drummer from SOCK PUPPET ALGORITHM, am I not allowed to review their CD?

As we’re all just six degrees from Kevin Bacon, is no one allowed to review movies?

I'm not trying to make light of the problem, if that's what the problem is. I'm trying to understand it.

To me, it seems the biggest problem is with anonymous reviewers or people posting under fake names.

When I reviewed KARMA BACKLASH, I posted as Steve Weddle (Author). You could click my name and come up with a list of books with my stories in them. Some of those books also contain stories by Chad Rohrbacher. So, you know, you could see that there is a connection. To me, that seems like a good idea.

If I were to create a fake account and post the same review as a customer called "Charlie Chumpington IV," then there would be no way to tell who really wrote the review.

The more I think about it, the more I think I'm totally cool with Full Disclosure. I'm just not OK with anonymous reviews.

As my review got deleted because I posted under my name, Amazon seems to have chosen anonymous reviewing over full disclosure, at least for now.

You can still one-star a book because it's too expensive. You can still one-star a book with this review: "I didn't read this book. Didn't even buy it. The author's name sounds dumb."

What do you folks think?


Dana King said...

I'm with you. Full disclosure, nothing anonymous. Amazon could solve much of their problem by only looking to take down reviews with fictitious handles. not all of them--they ca use whatever standard they like to decide--but someone willing to put his name on something should have the ability to do so.

Unknown said...

I've always used my name on my Amazon reviews and all others. I've been publishing book reviews for over 40 years now, having started long before I published fiction. I review books by writers I know and by writers I don't know. If I don't like a book, I (usually) don't bother to review it, so most of my reviews are positive. So what?

Peter Rozovsky said...

Authors, of course, should not be allowed to review books. Nor should politicians and White House staffers be allowed to comment on elections or ex-athletes to get jobs at ESPN. Why the hell would you want somebody with detailed, insider's knowledge to comment on anything?

EA said...

Authors are readers too. When I put my name to a review of a book, that's my reputation on the line. Elaine Ash is a writer and editor who pens crime under the pseudonym Anonymous-9. It's easy to find this information. Any author who goes to bat for a book in public has something to lose if they back an unworthy book. Find me one professional reviewer who doesn't write! The very definition of "reviewer" means they have inside information and travel in bookish circles. The best solution I see for this is banning anonymous reviews. A person who says something has to put their money where their mouth is and go on record, IMO.

Jack Badelaire said...

Authors have been reviewing each others' works publicly since "author" became a profession. To somehow declare this as wrong now is ridiculous.

As for banning anonymous reviews, I think it depends on your definition of anonymous. I write under a pen name and that pen name is the same name I use for reviews. I do this because I work in a field where it is common for people to Google each other for professional reasons, and I want to keep my professional and "writing" worlds separate. I don't think this somehow should prevent me from reviewing a book on Amazon, or anywhere else for that matter.

I read and review the works of people I like and am friendly towards. Typically if I read something by a person I know and I don't like it, I don't review it and I offer my opinion on why that's the case. As another commenter said, if my reviews show me to have terrible taste in books, it is my reputation on the line as well, so it behooves me to review responsibly.

The idea of "full disclosure", I think, takes it too far into the realm of "not really anyone's business who I am friends with". If that means people cannot "trust" my reviews because I might be supporting a friend or colleague, that's their problem, not mine.

Nick said...

What if people have one motherfucking identity on the internet.
It's your full name and it's like a Passport where you can't fake it.
You can't pretend to be Lady Gaga on Twitter. You are your name and you can't hide.

Kieran Shea said...

Yeah it's kind of cowardly, but the right to spew anonymously online is protected, at least in the US, by the First Amendment, no? By the way, Steve, I caught SOCK PUPPET ALGORITHM’s set when they were in town a few weeks back. Man, those guys need to head back to their Marshall stacks and practice. They sucked.

Jack Badelaire said...

Whether you agree with that idea or not, implementing it would be utterly impossible.

Beyond that, I can think of many legitimate, non-Lady Gaga impersonating reasons why someone would want to separate their real identity from their internet identity.

John McFetridge said...

The content of the review matters more than who wrote it.