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Thursday, July 09, 2015

On Reviewing Books By Friends...Or Not

This morning I read a blog post at Writer Beware, about a woman who had been upset - very upset - when Amazon took down one of her reviews because the Amazon computer perceived her as having  a connection with the author whose book she was reviewing. She said that this wasn't the case, she was just a fan.

I hadn't been aware that this was an Amazon policy. That doesn't matter to me. I don't post reviews on Amazon. I have a few Kindle books in the app on my iPad; some were bought with a gift voucher I won in one of  many blog-based giveaways. The rest were downloaded during various authors' free promotional offers. I've never actually paid for an Amazon book. So I don't have much connection with them. I prefer iBooks, both for the layout and for the fact that they can be bought without having to give anyone my card details. Most of my reviews are on my own blog or on January Magazine, from books I received as review copies.

But it made me think. I can understand why this policy might be considered fair. But where I live, the writing community, like the general population, is small - very small. The children's writing community is even smaller. When I go to a publisher party or a conference, I know most of the people there. They may not all be personal friends, I don't get invited to their homes, but I will know them at least through social media, email, science fiction fandom or having known them before either of us had sold anything. George Ivanoff and Sean McMullen, for example, are folk I knew through fandom well before we sold our first stories(there are others!). I knew Paul Collins as my local second hand bookshop proprietor years before he became my publisher(though he was already publishing then). If, as someone suggested - very practically - on Writer Beware, there was a disclaimer with each review, it might be easier for me to put one on reviews of books by people I don't know than those I do!

I don't do the standard "I got this book in exchange for an honest review" statement. All my reviews are honest, including those of books I borrowed from the library or bought. If I hate a book, or even have too many concerns about it, I don't finish or review it. Life is too short.

Really, I'd rather not review books by friends, as is the policy of some people I know. Because...what if I don't like the book? I do say, "This worked for me, that didn't." Politely. Sometimes, a friend doesn't think that's quite good enough. One such friend badgered me to make my review more enthusiastic(she didn't say exactly that, but implied it). It did have a lot of good things about it, but also some things that I thought didn't work. She wanted a  five-star enthusiasm I couldn't give it. You can see the problem.

But when you know nearly everyone... What do you do?

So - do you think I should put disclaimers on my reviews? Any writers out there, what are your thoughts on this issue?

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