Authors Reviewing Authors

Two questions for the readersphere:

  1. Do you think it’s appropriate for authors to post reviews of books/stories by other authors?
  2. Do you think it’s appropriate for authors to post negative reviews of books/stories by other authors?

Years ago, when I posted about the creepiness of one of the Xanth books, I was told I’d broken an unwritten rule by speaking badly about another author’s work. There was no substantive reason given; it was just against the rules.

Sure, fine, whatever. But I’ve been thinking about the author-as-reviewer thing a bit more lately, wondering about potential ethical pitfalls and such.

I’m pretty comfortable talking about books I’ve enjoyed and recommending them to others. That’s part of the fun of being a reader and a fan. I love posting a review and seeing commenters complain, “Dammit Jim, there goes more of my book-buying budget!”

I’ll usually try to acknowledge flaws or problems I encountered, even in positive reviews. But what about when the review is generally negative?

From a pragmatic perspective, there’s the potential for burning bridges. Will Chuck Wendig refuse to speak to me if I review his Star Wars book and complain that Jar-Jar Binks, Jedi Master made me want to burn my eyes out with a lightsaber? If I give a negative review to an author from one of my publishers, am I going to piss off my editor in the process?

At the same time, does a positive review lose value if the reviewer is unwilling to post a negative review? Do the rules still apply if it’s awards season and you’re discussing nominated works?

And finally, if a reviewer is ethically obligated to disclose any real or potential conflicts of interest, then as an author who could potentially be working with any of these publishers in the future, isn’t every review I post pretty much saturated with conflicts of interest?

I’ve got more thoughts and opinions on this, but I wanted to throw this out for discussion and see what other folks thought.