What's good etiquette for an independent book review site?
October 24, 2004 11:14 PM   Subscribe

I'm restarting my book review site. However, things on the Net have changed quite a bit since I launched it in 1997, and now I'm worried about breaches of etiquette. [MI]

I had a very small book review site, mostly reviewing science fiction and fantasy novels. Things were good. A few readers seemed to like the thing.

However, 7 years later, I've noticed that a lot of SF authors have started to blog. I've seen grumbling about fan reviews. I've also, unfortunately, seen other reviewers (of other genres of books) getting flamed for saying that they don't like a book. I haven't seen anything as bad as the Anne Rice Amazon meltdown, but it's making me question whether or not I can or should be honest in pointing out when a book didn't work for me.

Any advice? I'd like to be honest. I am putting my real name on these reviews.
posted by Electric Elf to Grab Bag (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Your reviews are of no value if we as readers know that you won't be honest when you don't like a book. You might look to Mike D'Angelo's movie review site, which he's kept updating with no-holds-barred reviews even since he's become a "real" published movie critic.
posted by nicwolff at 11:39 PM on October 24, 2004

Be honest, Electric Elf, and let the fur fly. That's what book reviewing means. Some people will dislike it, some will like it, but at the end of the day all that will really matter is how you feel about what you wrote.
posted by orange swan at 4:49 AM on October 25, 2004

Book publishing is like any other consumer industry that no longer controls what is printed (on the net) about its products like it once did. Don't cave to industry pressure.
posted by mischief at 5:06 AM on October 25, 2004

Best answer: I've been doing reviews on my site the same way you have and have been going through the same thought process. I also write reviews for library publications, and recently dealt with a particularly bad review of my own book on someone else's site where they made fun of my sister and called a lot of the book "boring". The trick seems to be to explain why you don't like the book without being totally snarky about it, or without going into a rant about why you don't like the author. You may not like the author, of course, but that's not quite relevant to your review of the book, or if it is, you can find a way to explain it in some professional manner.

My feeling is, for myself as well as for you, if you're prepared to back up what you say about a book if someone talks to you in person, or emails about a review, then I think it's totally appropriate to keep putting your reviews online and sharing your opinions. I know there are some people whose review pages are just new places for them to be bitchy and bitter online, but even so, if you don't like a book, it's worth letting people know that you didn't like it. If you've got an established online reputation, it's all the more helpful to people to read what you do and don't like when they know your general track record. I've had a few authors email me about reviews and in most cases I've been able to initiate conversations about why I didn't like the book that I felt might have been helpful. Authors can sometimes live in a bubble, having some non-publisher-flack tell them what they think can sometimes be refreshing and useful, and in either case, it's what you really think so you should feel like you can say it.
posted by jessamyn at 5:22 AM on October 25, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks. I suppose I needed validation as much as I needed advice.

That link was really helpful, Nic. Thank you.

Jessamyn, your advice about concentrating on the content of the book as opposed to externals was right on the money. I think that's why I have a bit of problems with some reviewers; in both positive and negative reviews they spend too much time going into the personalities of the authors and not enough about the book.
posted by Electric Elf at 12:58 AM on October 26, 2004

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