My Promise When I Review or Recommend Books

Photo via chicagogeek (Flickr CC)Mondays are usually reserved for Must-Read Mondays, but today I wanted to talk a little bit about a related topic. There was a post last week on Dear Author called When the Personal Becomes the Professional and was about how authors approach giving negative reviews of other books. Some argue that it's professional courtesy not to tear down another author's book. Others feel that authors should be able to review like readers do and that the author on the receiving end of the feedback shouldn't get personally offended.

I'm of the school that anyone has the right to review my book and have an opinion about it. If another author posts a negative review about my book, I'm not going to think that author is being unprofessional. I can take it. However, having said that, I don't post negative reviews or talk bad about books publicly. Why? Well, frankly, it's not worth the drama--having an author take it personally, seeing them at the next conference and it being awkward, looking like you're being jealous or spiteful by panning a book in your genre, or offending readers who thought that book was the best book ever.

But, there's also this thought out there that if someone only does positive reviews, that their opinion is somehow not valid because they "like everything." But I disagree with that. I don't like everything--believe me. If I don't like something or have neutral feelings on it, you'll just never hear about. The books I recommend on Must-Read Monday or rate highly on Goodreads are books I honestly loved. I'm not going to "be nice" and give something a high rating or recommendation because I know the author or whatever. There are authors who I really like as people but I just don't connect with their writing. I'm not going to pretend I do just to be friendly.

So I'm saying all this because I want you to know that when you see me talking up a book, that means one thing--I, Roni the reader, loved the damn thing. I looked back at Must-Read Monday posts for this year. Almost all were books by authors I've never met or interacted with. None of them were given to me for review. They are just books I bought as a reader and enjoyed. Just because I don't post about the ones I didn't like doesn't make that any less valid. So you can feel confident in knowing I'm not blowing smoke or trying to sell you something on a friend's behalf. If I say I loved it, it means I loved it. : )

I'm curious, how do you view authors reviewing or recommending other authors' books? Do you assume they are just helping their friends if it's positive? If you're a writer, how do you feel about the debate on whether or not to post negative reviews?


Losing Perspective on Your Writing: Does This Sing or Suck?

Photo via Marcus Vegas (flickr cc)First, before we get into today's topic, I want to let everyone know that I'm going to be on the Bring Back Desire After Dark radio show tonight online. So if you'd like to hear me talk about fun stuff like--how may parents feel about my writing, how I do my research, and what I think are secrets to a good marriage, I'd love for you to tune in. It will air at 10pm Central/11pm Eastern. If you can't be there tonight, the show will be archived and available in a day or two. : )

Okay, onto today's topic--losing perspective. This morning I discovered the good news that my next release in my series, FALL INTO YOU, has gotten a great review in RT Magazine--4 1/2 stars which is the highest you can get AND is the highest I've ever gotten on either of the previous books. Here are a few quotes from the review:

"Steamy, occasionally shocking, and relentlessly intense..."

"Loren's real triumph is the way the BDSM initiation and training reveal the nuances of each main character, from their darkest pleasures to their deepest fears."

"Heart-wrenching and blisteringly sexy..."

So why am I quoting this review (beyond the fact that I'm excited and want to share)? I'm sharing it because this proved to me that I have no valid perspective on my writing at this point. I think all writers swing back and forth between hating the book they're writing and thinking they're brilliant. It's a natural thing. We usually aren't right on either extreme. 

But I find the more books I write, the more insecurity creeps in. You'd think it'd be the opposite. But alas, it isn't. I was so nervous about seeing that review for FALL INTO YOU. It was the first book I ever had to write under a tight deadline, I struggled with the story, and I had to do a pretty major revision on my heroine (to the tune of 20k new words) in about a week. So I had all this anxiety that this book wasn't going to be received as well as the others. I couldn't even judge it anymore from my own perspective--is this great or does it suck? I just had to put trust in my editor that she wouldn't let me put out a bad book and would tell me if it sucked, lol.

So seeing that first review come out is a relief. And my anxiety hasn't just been about that book. When it was time to turn the first version of NOT UNTIL YOU to my editor, I sent it Sara (my agent) first with a note of--please read this before I send it to my editor because I'm not sure if it's any good and I don't want to send her crap and blah blah blah. Sara reads it and sends back: "This is my most favorite thing you've ever written."


Yes, I have apparently lost perspective and have been overtaken by writer insecurity. Luckily, right now it's in a good way--I think it sucks but it actually doesn't. Thank God.

But as a writer, you also have to be aware of the flipside. And for those out there feverishly typing away for NaNo or penning your first novel, this is one to keep in mind. Our writing can also look a lot better to us than it actually is. I remember writing my YA when I first began writing seriously and I thought that book rocked. I had confidence and queried it like mad. And though I did get a few requests here and there, it ultimately was rejected across the board.

Why? Because it wasn't good enough. I wasn't ready. But I didn't realize that yet. It took getting out into the writing community, picking up beta readers, learning craft, etc. before I could look back and think--Holy shit that book was bad! Thank God I didn't have self-pubbing available to me at the time because I would've freaking embarrassed myself.

So try to remember you're probably never as good or as bad as you think. And don't live on an island. Before you put your work out there, send it to quality beta readers (not your family who loves you and can't be unbiased), work with an editor if you can, get a little distance from it. And on the flipside, when you think you're writing complete junk, don't get discouraged. We all feel like we're writing junk at some point (or at lots of points) in any draft. I'm learning it's part of the process. We're an insecure bunch, we writers. ;)

Have you ever lost perspective on your own work? Do you have trouble judging what's good and bad in your own writing? What outside sources to you use to get feedback?

Why I Walk Away From Bad Reviews... #atozchallenge

Photo by Chriscom (click pic for link)First, just a quick heads up. I'm blogging over at Peanut Butter on the Keyboard today on: Enough with the “Mommy Porn” Label – Moms Are Still Women. I hope you'll stop by. :)

Okay now to today's topic...

There are many things that I can handle. I have had critiques that had so much red you couldn't see black print anymore. I have had my agent tell me to remove an entire subplot and replace it with something completely different and I had two weeks to do it (she was right.) I'm even the girl who wanted the teacher to hand out test grades on Friday instead of waiting until after the weekend. In a lot of arenas, you could call me masochistic.

But, I have found this tough-skinned thing does not translate to reading reviews. And that's okay. Sometimes you have to know your limits. (And sometimes being tough-skinned isn't the be all end all.)

 Bad reviews...

Ruin my day when I read them.

Make me question my current WIP and my ability to write.

Make me worry about sales.

Get me grumpy.

Inspire writer's block.

Cause me to wonder if all those months I spend buried, sometimes ignoring my family and everything else, to write books for hardly any income are for naught.

Are part of the deal.

Are necessary.

Are totally the reader's right.

Are for other readers, not me.


So when I feel the urge to read what that person who gave me 1-3 stars said, I sing the choruses of these two songs in my head and click on something else.


Walk Away - Kelly Clarkson


Not For You - Pearl Jam


What have you learned you have to walk away from because it's just not good for you? Fellow writers, how do you handle tough reviews? Do you read anything anyone says about you?