- It's not classy to criticize one's competition.
- I'm not sure I can be objective about other people's writing now that I'm a writer myself. Awkward phrasings, poor grammar, and bad structure spoil my enjoyment, yet most readers don't even notice such things.
- It's my obligation as a friend to help my writer friends get more exposure and sell more books. Writing a bad review could undermine someone's career.
- Sometimes when I go to post a review, I see that trolls have undeservedly insulted a book. I feel an obligation to be extra positive to counter the trolls' bad ratings so that a potential reader gets an honest overall impression.
- I've seen how much pain that bad—or sometimes even neutral—reviews cause my writer friends, particularly when the reader had no business reviewing the book (because they clearly had only skimmed it or they state outright that they dislike the genre). I don't enjoy being cruel, and I don't think it's right to hurt a writer with careless or spiteful words.
You may say I'm not being moral, but being a coward. You may say that readers deserve to know my full opinion of a book and that I'm being deceptive by focusing on a book's positive attributes or by not saying anything that would discourage people from buying a friend's book. You may say that I'm trying to give people a good impression of me. Motives are complex; you may be partly right.
Still, this feels right to me. As the number of my friends who are writers or musicians has grown, I have become more and more aware of how often reviewers have an agenda that they impose on a book or CD, how often reviewers don't read a book or just skim it (as shown by their making major errors in the plot summary or by getting the protagonist's sex or age wrong), how often reviewers are purposely cruel or make fun of a book or an author, and how often reviewers cheat the potential reader by spending most of the review giving a plot summary or a discussion of the book's genre. I at least commit none of those flaws. I read the books I review and write thoughtful, careful reviews.
What do you think? Are my moral arguments right, or am I practicing self-deceptions to justify boosting my friends' careers and my own? As a writer, what do you think you owe to your fellow writers when you review their books?
Our scheduling here at NovelSpaces has changed. I'll now be blogging on the 6th and the 21st of each month. I'll see you again on the 21st, when I may tackle our NovelSpaces blog question of the month, which was suggested by KeVin Killiany: "No one would be charmed by a romance between a man and a sheep -- so why are vampire/human romances popular?"