This post is about exactly what the title implies.
I’ve been reviewing books, either for other blogs or my own, for about three years. It hadn’t been something I considered doing, but I was asked to join a website. I loved it. I had a brief break when my spouse was sick and I ended up behind. Aside from that, I was reviewing as many as 10 short stories, novellas, and novels per month. Sometimes more, sometimes fewer, but that was my average.
Last year, I branched out and began reviewing for blog tours. This was good for the same reason as reviewing for a website: There’s a buffer between me and the author. I hate to say this, and it’s not a reflection on all authors. But as a reviewer, this provided me an out if I didn’t enjoy a book or found that it had triggering content. I could briefly explain to the tour manager or the moderator of the review blog and leave it at that.
During that time, I began accepting books on my own for review. This has been both good and bad. On the one hand, a lot of what I get is stuff that’s not mainstream. Also, I love being able to support authors who can’t pay for a tour or don’t work for a publisher who does. I’ve had some excellent books cross my path, many of which I probably would’ve overlooked.
Unfortunately, there are also a lot of drawbacks. For one thing, I’m not anonymous and never have been. I don’t have a line of defense between myself and authors. In addition, I’m an author and editor myself, which can create a conflict of interest.
In the last six months or so, despite the fact that my reviews are always honest and generally positive, it hasn’t always ended well. Some authors haven’t been pleased even when I’ve given them a favorable rating if my words don’t glow. Others have harassed me via private message to demand I finish their book, even when I’ve been clear that the content either isn’t to my liking (and wasn’t what I expected from the blurb) or was upsetting for personal reasons.
Although I’m sure some people would then tell me I need a thicker skin, there are reasons why that’s both ridiculous and not something I want. I do not want to be a less sensitive person. It’s part of what drives me as an author. Aside from that, all I can say is, “No kidding.” Why do you think I want to get out of doing this? Obviously it’s taxing and anxiety-inducing; why would I want to continue?
For me, the biggest reason to put book reviews on hold is the conflict of interest. Amazon has strict rules about whether you “know” the author of a book and not reviewing if you’re published by the same house. This is an issue for me in building a readership for my own work. If I choose to enter an open call for a publisher’s anthology—a good way to meet other authors and get my work seen—I either have to use a pen name or stop reviewing all books from that publisher on Amazon. (Note: I don’t use my current legal name to write, but it was once my legal name, and I don’t hide my “real” identity.)
In addition, I can risk losing my writing community from providing negative reviews. I’m not talking about threats of “blacklisting.” I mean the interpersonal aspect. Hard feelings can develop which are difficult to move past. This is the very last thing I want to do because I support the work of my fellow authors, especially those who are independent or with small publishers.
So, I’m stepping back for a bit. I’m taking a break to regroup and decide if I want to accept individual requests after I return. I may decide it’s worth the risk, or I may not. Other options include rounding up a few others like me and forming a review collective so I’m not alone, or only accepting requests from publishers* or other go-betweens. I have yet to decide.
In the meantime, I have several books which I agreed to review already**, so I will provide those. I may also review books I have in waiting on my Kindle that were not from requests, just stuff I picked up for fun.
Until then, you can check out my other posts, mainly about writing or my WIPs. Happy reading and writing!
*I currently have a couple of publishers I’ve worked with, and I will continue to do so if the authors are interested.
**I have six books. If yours is on my list and I’ve already confirmed it, you will get a review. I’m not backing out.