Thursday, April 19, 2007

I'm part of the problem...

Well, even though I should be writing my new novel, I've gotten sucked into reading all the debate on coziness and blogger book reviews. I wasn't going to comment on it, as I'm very late to the party and, hey, I don't review books. But as an author who has occasionally sent a review copy to book bloggers, I felt twinges of concern. I guess I'm part of the problem.

From what I'm gathering, there's worry that if an author sends a book directly to a book blogger that he/she is somehow inducing their way into a good review. This is such a concern that when BookBuds posted her ethics policy which initially stated that review copies come from Publishers; I immediately read it as: books will come from big non-personal publishers only, not friendly authors (which is not how Book Buds meant it). In a way it makes sense--it keeps business business and avoids possible personal contact with authors--it makes blog reviews more like print reviews. It's a policy that could not only help solve the the coziness issue, it would temper any expectations the author may have if they sent to a reviewr directly.

But, I've never thought because I personally mailed a book that I was entitled to a good review. Just like how if I am friends with editors, I don't expect them to publish everything I write. It's a business, some things work for people, some things don't.

All I really thought was, now I KNOW the reviewer will see the book. I completely understand if it's not liked there's probably not going to be a review. If you didn't like it and don't post a review on it, I'm fine with that. I wish you had liked it, but that's the way the cookie crumbles. All I wanted to do was give my book a chance.

And it is a chance I feel obligated to achieve for myself. Publicity people at publishers are busy. The books I write are not "lead list," Usually publicity does not have the time or concern to send my books to all the avenues that I see available. I've learned that if I really want something (a tour, a poster, a party), I should do it on my own. The truth is mid-list authors usually get lost next to the big names of the world. Book blogs have been a wonderful source for non-name authors to have their otherwise forgotten books recognized. If bloggers close their door to authors sending copies, it just becomes another division between the big and small. We know you will get a copy of Mo Willems' new book. Ours? Maybe, maybe not.

One of the things I love about book blogs is how they reveal hidden gems, books that I've never heard but sound fantastic. Will this fear of "coziness" lead to these gems remaining hidden?


web said...

I don't think anyone has implied actual bribery; I think the concern is that *friendliness* between book makers and book reviewers can lead to less objectivity. Here I am, enjoying this blog - am I going to want to trash one of your books?

Grace Lin said...

Bribing was a poor choice of words-- that's true no one has said that. I realize there's a sticky nature to the whole thing, just as there is in "real" life when people meet authors. I don't really have any answers, just that from an author's perspective it seems like the other alternative is to be forgotten.

Andromeda Jazmon said...

I understand what you are saying Grace and I really appreciate your speaking up. As one of the bloggers that reviewed your books, I am glad to hear you give your point of view. I reviewed your books because I really liked them. If you send me the next one and I don't, I won't review it. (Just to be clear - now you know!) I really think we can expect authors and bloggers to be adults with integrity until proven otherwise. The protocols are still being developed but I expect good things to come of all this.

Grace Lin said...

cloudscome, thanks for your comment, especially:

>I reviewed your books because I really liked them. If you send me the next one and I don't, I won't review it.

I wouldn't want it any other way, honestly.

Liz B said...

One of the things that has bothered me about this whole reviewing discussion is that I believe that blogging allows people more power: authors who are not the "celeb" authors have an avenue to promote their books; book lovers who are not "real" reviewers have a place to talk books. And I cannot help but wonder if part of this whole discussion is founded on a fear that this is too "diy". An author should rely on the strenght of the book... well, we all know of gems that have gone out of print with few readers; why shouldn't an author do what they can to stop that? And why shouldn't a reader who loved a book share that? Or, if I read a book and it's not for me but I know it's a good fit for some readers, why shouldn't I share that?

Should we be concerned? I think we are all grown ups here; and while it could be awkward now and then, and it requires thought, yes, we can get & give arcs and interviews and chat and meet in person and still have our integrity.

Meghan McCarthy said...

Grace, you hit the nail on the head. How is a non-famous author supposed to get his or her stuff out there? Publishers aren't doing it! If the doors close then we'll have to stop making books.

I think the BEST method is to not review a book if it isn't liked. There's no need to be mean, in my opinion. If a book isn't reviewed and isn't heard of then it won't sell and the same effect will happen without having to trash anyone.

Of course personal relationships will cloud a reviewer's opinion. That's why I like the above mentioned technique. The thing is that people cozy up all the time... it's just that people don't know it's happening. The internet and blogs are making everything more apparent. I'm sure there are plenty of times when a newspaper reviews something as a favor. It happens. Bloggers aren't going to be immune to it.

And lastly, I for one NEVER kiss anyone's butt. No one will ever have to worry about me doing something to get a good review, etc. I refuse to do such things. If anyone wants to review one of my books and doesn't like it but likes me as a person DO NOT feel bad!


Bkbuds said...

Whoa! Serious failure to communicate here. My new ethics policy, erm, simply states "review copies come from the publishers" and not "and not from those weasely authors--you never know what they're gonna pull!"

It's only letting people know that I don't buy them myself. Most of my readers land there via Google. They're not librarians or industry insiders who'd know how I happen to have a few hundred children's bookslying around.

I assume that even when authors send me copies, you didn't pay for them, no? They're comps from your publishers, yes? Did I get something wrong?

Let me know and I'll reword it. That's the nice thing about the web--I don't have to call newstands all over the country and try to get all the copies back, then have the printer change the galleys or whatever. Phew.

As for the larger issue of author/reviewer coziness, I make plenty of jokes about my email exchanges with authors. It will indeed get a book moved to the top of the pile. Noodging me always helps--I'm forgetful and busy and could use some polite prompting--but it won't get an author kind words they don't deserve.

Hope that clarifies. Sorry for the confusion. Am off to reword the sucker for the 15th time ...

Meghan McCarthy said...

When I give books out I always have to pay for them. We authors don't get that many free books! Some of my publishers are more generous than others and if I ask for more copies they'll give them to me. That's not always possible though. It's frustrating when i get emails asking for book donations. I would LOVE to donate to every good cause but it's usually an out-of-pocket expense!