Why I Don’t Review Fellow Authors

I don’t review other authors, not as a rule. This is for several reasons, starting with the fact that many of my fellow authors’ egos are easily bruised. I, on the other hand, went to college specifically to study the craft of writing, and I experienced years of peer review sessions where my work was constantly judged by my fellow classmates. This judgment was not always kind, and was sometimes even brutal.

That was fine with me, and with most of the rest of the serious writers in the classroom, because what we wanted most was to know how we could improve our work. Yes, praise for the things that we did well was important, but we also needed to hear what our areas of greatest weakness were, and how to fix them. That’s not the kind of lesson that we could learn if we were easily hurt by hearing what other people really think of our writing.

Consequently, I’ve built up a callous that many other indie writers often seem not to have.

Another factor is simply my own decades of internal critiques and analyses of various popular works. When I read a book, watch a movie/play/TV show, listen to a song, and so forth, I always come away from the experience with a list of praises and complaints. I vivisect the writings of others, and I discuss writing with other people, and I read reviews. All of which has thoroughly demonstrated to me that audiences as a whole have very different tastes in entertainment, writing included.

There have been many popular works of entertainment or education that I have personally loathed, and have felt were absolutely horribly written. That doesn’t affect their popularity. Likewise, there have been any number of critically panned and/or unpopular pieces of entertainment or education that I have personally found quite enjoyable and/or well-written. Again, my opinion doesn’t affect the overall popularity or success of the work. Just because some people dislike something doesn’t mean that everybody else will, and just because some people think that something is bad doesn’t mean that everybody else will agree.

I’ve learned over time to not take bad reviews very personally, because everybody has a right to their own opinion, but that opinion doesn’t necessarily mean much about how other people might view the same work.

Moreover, there are quite a few works of entertainment that are masterfully written, but that are simply not to my particular tastes, and there are any number of works of entertainment that are poorly written, but that I personally enjoy. Quality is only one aspect of appreciation, and personal taste accounts for a lot.

So when receiving reviews, I tend to take most criticisms in stride simply because I’m not likely to be much affected by one person’s opinion of my work. Not all authors have the same attitude, however, and cannot seem to take my review of their work as simply my personal view of their work, as just Some Guy’s Opinion. They can often take it personally, no matter how politely, and/or gently I try to express myself to them.

For that matter, some authors don’t even want reviews to be gentle, and can take that kind of soft serve response as an insult in its own right. Even when attempting to determine what kind of author I’m dealing with, what kind of feedback they’re looking for, I’ve inadvertently hurt people’s feelings. After reading one author’s work, I asked how they wanted the criticism, if they preferred it to all be super-nice, or more toward the soul-crushing side of things.

Just the fact that “soul-crushing” was a possible end of the spectrum greatly upset this author.

All of which wouldn’t matter much, except that there’s often a lot of drama that goes along with hurting another author’s feelings. Especially as an indie author, I try to avoid feuds and drama with fellow writers. It all gets in the way of accomplishing my goals of writing and selling my own stories. I’ve seen too many other authors get caught up in drama following a review of a fellow author’s work, and I’ve rarely seen it pay off very well.
Even if I was willing to deal with that kind of thing, yet another factor is that I don’t have nearly as much free time to read as I’d like, and I already have a reading list that would take months or years to get through. Adding to that list, only to end up hurting another author’s feelings, is not a particularly enticing opportunity.

In short, I am a picky reader who is likely to find some kind or level of fault in almost anything and everything that I read, and in my experience most indie writers cannot deal well with people pointing out their faults. That’s perfectly fine; I’ll be quite content to avoid reviewing them for that reason.

Of course, there are always those authors who feel insulted when they don’t get reviews at all.

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