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Credibility and reputation–a dilemma

Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Posted in: Azteclady Speaks, reviews

Recently I have been asked about my ability-and willingness-to remain as honest and objective as I possibly can in my reviews.

The question is valid, in two different contexts.

In one case, I cross post my reviews to Suzanne Brockmann”s message board-including reviews of her books. It is no secret anywhere that I’m a fan of her work, and so far I haven’t been disappointed, but… what if I were? Would I write an honest review giving a low grade to one of her novels and then post that review at her board?

Yes, I answered, I hope I’ll continue to be honest when reviewing any and all books, regardless of who the author is and my relationship (or lack thereof) with them.

Regardless of whether criticizing an author’s work in her own space is in good taste or not (it’s not author bashing if a person doesn’t like a book and says so, people! but that’s a discussion for another time),  there’s the matter of my own integrity as a person and my credibility as a reviewer. (Boy, does that sound presumptuous or what? and yet, it’s true-I feel I owe to myself first, and to all those who read my reviews second, to be honest and fair in my reviews.)

But here’s the second context: for the past couple of months I’ve been acting as promotion person (she calls me her virtual personal assistant, since a)we live in different countries and b)we have yet to meet!) for author Ann Aguirre. I have read her books, and indeed reviewed both Grimspace and Wanderlust before all this started. Yet, the question arises: would I be able to write and publicly post an honest review of future works now that, in a sense, I work for her?

My answer is, once again, yes, I know I can do that-though of course I would include full disclosure of my professional and personal relationship with the author in the review.

But of course, the real question is whether a review by someone in a personal or professional relationship with an author would have any credibility with readers.

After all, isn’t it conceivable that a person in that position would pull her punches-if not outright donning the cheer-leader outfit-at least in the second case? It’s not as if we haven’t seen plenty of husbands raving anonymously about their wives’ books, is it?

What say you, readers? authors? What do you think about my continuing to review Ms Aguirre’s books, given the circumstances described above?

Whether your reaction be yay or nay, would it be the same for other reviewers? Are there any specific circumstances that would sway your opinion one way or another–such as personal knowledge (or internet history, what have you) with the reviewer-cum-promo person, or perhaps with the author?


  • Mireya
    January 28
    11:40 am

    Personally speaking, and please, don’t take this as a personal attack, I would take with a grain of salt your reviews of Ann Aguirre’s books. Others don’t have this particular POV. This is an entirely subjective matter. I am personal friends with an author and I have only reviewed one of her books. After that, I decided to do everyone a favor: the author, because at that time it was already known that we were good friends and the question about my objectivity could be brought forth, and to myself, because I kept second-guessing myself: was I fair, or was I just trying to help my friend?

    I am not saying you can’t be objective, I am just saying that as a reader, knowing your involvement, I would be wondering about how really objective the review was.

    I don’t know if it is fair, but with reviews, as you very well know, it is all subjective and mostly a matter of personal perspective.

    My background in reviewing is 5 years of active reviewing for different sites (none a blog. I stopped reviewing for all of them over 2 years ago), co-ownership of a reviews newsletter over the past 5 years. I’ve seen a lot: honest reviewers who can actually review their friends’ work and say it sucked when they felt it did, and those that obviously are into reviewing for the thank yous and the cheering.


  • No, you can’t be as objective. Now that you are, in effect, employed by Ms. Aguirre, you have one of the strongest human motivations — money– to stay on the best possible terms with her.

    However, disclosure should suffice to do your duty to your readers.

    Think about it: articles on the efficacy of pharmaceuticals are published in the leading medical journals every month by authors whose research is funded by grants from the very drug companies whose products they are investigating. Disclosure has become the accepted, although imperfect, method to deal with such conflicts of interest in biomedicine. Not to belittle romance, but a hell of a lot more is riding on the drug studies than on your review of Grimspace.

    I think a closer relationship with an author can enhance a review in some ways: the reviewer may have access to insights or other information that a more “objective” reviewer does not.

    So, I think your should keep reviewing what you want, but disclose any significant relationships to us, thus allowing us decide for ourselves whether the review is of value — value being only partly determined by how objective the review itself is.


  • SarahT
    January 28
    12:32 pm

    No offense, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to review books by an author with whom you have a professional relationship.


  • I have to agree with the fray. I’ve only been reading your blog for a short amount of time, so I haven’t read many of your reviews, but knowing you have a friendly / professional relationship with two authors would call your work into question.

    That’s not to say your reviews won’t be honest and heartfelt, but my reading of them is definitely going to be colored. Like a Harriet Klausner (non)review, I would look for corroborating evidence before I would accept your opinion.


  • Sparky
    January 28
    1:30 pm

    I wouldn’t consider it inherently biased but I would, I’m afraid, take any such reviews with a grain of salt if it had such a disclaimer attached (NB: if it DIDN’T have a disclaimer but the relationship existed anyway then I’d throw away the review and give the reviewer a miss in the future)

    I wouldn’t say don’t review it – after all you have a disclaimer. But I wouldn’t put too much stock in the review.


  • Like others have stated, nothing *personal* against you at all Aztec, but I’d have to take your reveiw of Ann’s books, or Suzanne’s book with a grain of salt.

    But, I almost always take reveiws with a grain of salt, perhaps because I know a certain book might/or not/ be the reveiwer’s favourite, or they’re unfamiliar with certain acceptable tropes, or they’re looking for something in the book that I don’t give a fig about (ie- I can live just fine with a wallpaper historical) or sometimes you can see that a button was pushed for the reviewer that coloured the rest of the review. A button that wouldn’t be pushed for me. (ie-she can’t stand Alpha heroes, while I love them in all their knuckle dragging glory). It’s all subjective anyway. ::shrug::

    Just keep on doing what you’re doing chica. The important thing is full disclosure. I’m definitely more closed-minded about reveiws/raves from peeps when they don’t disclos any sort of relationship they might have with the subject author–whether it be as slight as being a big fan or the author’s work, or more in-depth as the arrangement you have with Ms. Aguirre.


  • Fae
    January 28
    1:39 pm

    I have to agree. You couldn’t be purely objective and I don’t think anyone reading the review would expect you to be. I, personally, would skip past it because I’d think “Oh, she works for her, like she’s gonna say anything bad.”

    If you really *would* say something bad about your employers work…you’re ballsier than 99.9% of people in the world. Which might be true, but readers can’t be expected to believe it when, in fact, the idea of someone giving a negative review of the person who writes their paychecks is such a foreign concept.

    I’d say go ahead and do the reviews if you want…but I wouldn’t expect anyone to take them seriously. Better, imo, to stick to reviewing people who you don’t work for.


  • Sarah Frantz
    January 28
    3:45 pm

    Every now and then, everything is all about me! ;D I’ve just (ie: this morning) had the exact same conversation with “willow” on my DA review of Brockmann’s DON. She claimed that someone with a professional (non-monetary, I might add) relationship with an author is completely unable to review objectively. Leaving aside that fact that it’s impossible to be objective, no one would have this problem if you/I gave a Brockmann book or you gave an Aguirre book a bad grade. It’s only when we give them good grades that we’re unable to be objective and suck as reviewers. Was my review “blatantly biased” only b/c I thought the book a good book? Would the outrage and wank runneth over quite so much if I’d given it a C?

    I’ve never been Brockmann’s “promoter” though, so I don’t know if I would feel that I could review her if I had been. The bio I wrote of her was an academic enterprise. All my other dealings with her are purely on a personal level, but nothing like (un)official “promoter.” I say go for it, girl, but realize that you’re going to get a shitstorm on your head if you give a positive review.


  • I’ve got a couple of close friends that have helped me with promo stuff almost from the get-go. Now while I trust their integrity, and them-completely, I wouldn’t ask them to do reviews and in all honesty, I don’t really want them to. It’s my that I think they couldn’t be honest-it’s that their opinions may not be fairly viewed by others.

    I also don’t let them enter my *big* contests-I specify big, because with my smaller ebook/print giveaways, it’s a moot point because they get those books almost as quick as my editor does. But while I know I could fairly enter them and if they won, it’s just how it plays out, others may not view it the same.

    Unfortunately, a writer is in the business where how we are viewed can make a big difference.

    You need to decide what you think is best, though. Nobody else can make that choice for you.


  • Lyssa
    January 28
    4:11 pm

    A banker friend of mine one time summed up how he viewed his own code of professional ethics, which is what I think is at the core of your question. He said “The appearance of impropriety IS impropriety.” I think this would mean that since you do have a professional relationship with Ms. Aguirre then the possible /appearance/ of a lack of impartiality in your reviews of her work due to that relationship becomes problematic.

    However there is a solution that would allow those who value your opinion and reviews to have access to them without that stigma. One that you have already done here. You stated plainly your relationship for the readers of your reviews. If you do this within the context of the actual reviews, either in a small footnote or some other manner, this allows your readers to factor that into their own judgement. Then if they find that your opinions match their own, they will continue to put their faith in you regardless of the author, and also admire you for your own willingness to be as honest and self-introspective with ethical decisions such as these with your work.

    Just my two cents.


  • Thank you, ladies, for your comments–and worry not, I do not take them personally at all. See, it’s not just about my circumstances vis à vis Ann Aguirre, or my admiration of Ms Brockmann (with whom I don’t have a relationship, personal or otherwise) and her work.

    It’s the whole ethics thing–while I can’t control what others feel or perceive, I would rather err on the side of putting a full disclaimer at the top of every review than have someone feel that I willfully deceived them.

    Jessica, I agree that absolute objectivity is impossible, but not simply due to a personal or professional relationship. We as readers bring our own baggage to our interpretation of the book, regardless of who wrote it or when it was written.

    Sarah F, the shit storm would happen regardless, I think–oh and don’t look, but I’ve managed to stay spoiler-free regarding Dark of Night so far. And no, I haven’t stayed in an internet-less cave for the past month 😛

    Lyssa, I agree with your banker friend. Transparency is key.

    The interesting thing to me is the fact that I’m friendly with a number of authors, and I’ve written a number of reviews of their books *waving at Shiloh*

    Is it because I haven’t raved uncontrollably that no one has–so far and within my hearing/reading–raised shit over my reviewing their books?


  • arrowboxer
    January 28
    4:38 pm

    Aztec, what a good question. I see it this way. If you went into a friends home, and she had just redid her kitchen and you didn’t like the color choices or whatever, would you tell her? It’s a done deal, no more renovations allowed.

    So, if you are reviewing a friend’s published book and it cannot be revised, would you give it a true critique?

    Honestly, for me, I would most likely pat her on the back and say good job, even if I didn’t like it. It’s too late to do a redo, so you have to go w/ what’s there. I couldn’t be truely objective of a friend’s published work. A rough draft, where changes could be made, oh yeah. But a done deal? No, I couldn’t go there, with a friend.



  • I think Lyssa had a good idea there. But if you’re still feeling uncomfortable, perhaps you could just write a summary of how you felt about the book(s) without making it an official review? Something like Azteclady’s Romance Summaries or something to the effect, and add that little footnote/disclaimer to it? If done this way I can’t see anyone having a legit right to complain or accuse you of carrying out some personalized agenda.


  • Sarah Frantz
    January 28
    4:43 pm

    Actually, arrowboxer, I think it’s more like your friend is a *professional* decorator who had just redone a kitchen and asked for your opinion and you told her honestly because *next time* it might help her. But it’s not even that. A reviewer is not reviewing for the author. It’s more like, your professional friend just redid her own kitchen and other friends ask your opinion when your professional friend is out the room. THEN yes, you do give your real opinion, albeit maybe with slightly more kindness than you might otherwise.


  • West
    January 28
    4:46 pm

    Aztec- I think you’re reviews of Suz are fine- even if for some reason you didn’t like one of her books as much as the others, and said so. Since you don’t personally attack authors (at least, I’ve never seen you do that, in the months I’ve been coming here), you just give an honest review, I personally am fine with it. Just as long as you know (and I think you do), that posting it on Suz’s board might anger some of her more die hard Suz-can-do-no-wrong fans.

    Now that being said, I’d have a hard time reading a review objectively of AA’s books, depending on the content. If you raved and raved about her, I’d seriously question it. But if you gave an honest review that included what you *didn’t* like about the book, as well as what you did, then I’d see it as being as honest as the rest of your reviews.


  • I don’t mind doing promos for authors I enjoy, or even those that need a helping hand. I must admit that as I become friendly with authors, it does become hard to be unbiased. I try to be the best professional I can be, and that is being honest even with those books from authors I like personally.


  • Laura
    January 28
    5:29 pm

    Hmmm. I tend not to give any credit to reviews that gush. If a reviewer tells me the book is perfectly perfect in every way, I will not believe them. It the reviewer tells me what they liked and didn’t. What worked for them and didn’t, I would give them credit for it and would not consider the personal or professional (or not) relationship or the reviewer to the author.

    If the book was total dreck and the reviewer polished it up and passed it on as wonderful, I would not read that reviewer any longer.

    I help an established author with revisions. I have to be able to give critical, constructive assistance to the author. I also like the author and don’t want to be unnecessarily unkind. Personally, I feel I am able to do so. I am certain there are other people out there that are able to do so as well.

    In a completed and released book my input is different. Changes cannot be made. It does no good to bash the book but I would freely say that parts did not work, here they are and this is why. I would temper that by also including the parts that did work, what they were and why.

    If the book was really dire, I would probably just say that it wasn’t my cup of tea and let it go. But then I rarely find a need to be cruel, in person or on the web.

    I have also found that the books I truly did not care for (even by the author I help) are usually some -other- reader’s absolute favorite. What does not work for me may be great for someone else.


  • Janet W
    January 28
    5:37 pm

    I would say yes to Suz, with an introductory statement about your relationship (indeed, that makes sense for all authors you review if you “sort of” are in their sphere like you are on the Suz board). And it’s just me, I would probably take your reviews with a “grain of salt” too … thinking that you (and we’re all like this if we like someone’s work) might be more likely to slide to a B- rather than a C+ (just to use an example). As for the lady you work for, no, how can that be credible?

    Do I think that readers probably raise an eyebrow or two if a reviewer is both a professional colleague (with or without monetary exchanges — because there are all sorts of compensation … and I don’t mean anything inappropriate, just that professional relationships have benefits … hope I explained that properly) and a friend/acquaintance … you bet.

    Just my two cents worth: you seem to be coping admirably with writing interesting, informative reviews and admiring and getting to know some of the authors you write about — I would say keep on keeping on with the exception of the author for whom you’re a personal attache.


  • Marianne McA
    January 28
    6:33 pm

    For me, honesty wouldn’t trump other considerations: I think it would be rude to write a scathing review of someone’s book when they regarded you as part of their support team.

    I wouldn’t suggest you write anything other than honest or fair reviews, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being loyal to someone you work with, and just deciding not to write about that book.

    In general, I think the important thing is to say, upfront, what your relationship is with the author ‘She posts regularly on my blog…’.
    But people often don’t – even the broadsheets in the UK can have quite incestuous reviewing practices. (If they’re a journalist, and they also write for your paper: mention it!)


  • I think there’s a definite conflict of interest, and it seems to me that if readers are more likely to dismiss the review because they know that you have a close connection with the author, then I don’t see the point in even bothering writing the review in the first place.

    There are certain authors (not many mind you) who I’m quite pally with, and it’s not that I wouldn’t be able to write an objective review, but I would definitely be less likely to tear their book to shreds, because of our connection. So I just avoid writing reviews for their books altogether.

    This makes life much easier. I don’t hurt their feelings, and my credibility doesn’t go out of the window.


  • MB (Leah)
    January 28
    7:05 pm

    I think it’s fair enough if you do full disclosure. Then I would read the review and base my judgment on whether or not it’s a gush fest based on what’s written in the review. I wouldn’t just automatically dismiss the review.

    If the points that you liked about the book are well articulated and you point out specifically what worked or not, then I can read the review and see for myself if the book will work for me or not.

    I hang out on a lot of reader reviewer’s blogs who I know really like certain authors. I still read those reviews because even if it is a gush fest, I can still find out what I need to know about the book to buy it or not.


  • Riley
    January 28
    7:51 pm

    When I asked you on Suz’s board if you would post a negative review of her book I wasn’t questioning your integrity and I’m sorry if it came off like that.

    I was specifically questioning if you would post a negative or semi-negative review on Suz’s board….her being the author and all. And it was out of curiosity, so I would know to look elsewhere if I couldn’t find your review 🙂 Not that I’m expecting you NOT to like it….hypothetical here


  • I think there’s a definite conflict of interest, and it seems to me that if readers are more likely to dismiss the review because they know that you have a close connection with the author, then I don’t see the point in even bothering writing the review in the first place.

    Karen, that’s precisely what I was going to say. Don’t review the books. And I don’t think Ann should want you to or expect you to. However, as part of her team, feel free to rave to anyone within earshot about her books and encourage people to buy them because you are a fan and part of her team. That’s expected.


  • eeeeekkkk! Riley, no no no, I didn’t read it as you questioning my integrity–it is a legitimate question, after all.

    Like Janet W said, I am a long-time, regular contributor to Ms Brockmann’s board and it could be easily considered bad form to post anything but glowing reviews of her work in her board.

    Karen and Julie Leto, I do see where many (most?) readers would dismiss the review–probably without reading it too–given my relationship to Ann.

    And writing a review no one would read… well, then what would the point be, indeed.


  • I agree with most everybody else.

    At issue is your credibility and why risk that by reviewing Ann’s work while working for her?

    Brockmann, go ahead, I want to see your take on DoN. 🙂

    My official reviewer career was extremely short-lived because I quickly got books from authors I was friendly with which were not up to par or just not to my personal liking and I felt extremely uncomfortable trying to figure out how to review honestly while feeling under an obligation for having gotten ‘free reads’.

    I still write up my impressions of the books I read on my LJ blog, but those are all books I bought or got from the library, so no worries about being brutally honest or of any kind of ulterior motive by me/the authors.

    Naturally, I reach a lot fewer people, but since those are more my records of what I read and reminders to myself of what I liked and why or why not, it’s all good. 🙂

    But I think, your question and the question raised about Sarah’s review on DA illustrate what somebody else already pointed out. It doesn’t matter whether there is actual impropriety going on, if there is just the possibility or suspicion of it.

    And there are so many other books out there that you don’t have to review books by authors you do have a business relationship with to keep us interested.

    Except for that Brockmann, he he. 🙂 I want to know what you thought.


  • I am with the idea “The appearance of impropriety IS impropriety.”

    I think that covers most of my own issues around this.
    There is an M/M author who is a good friend I continually promote and who I think is a damn good writer. I have stayed away from honestly reviewing her for this exact reason. Will I tell people to read her books at the drop of a hat? Sure thing!

    I will not give it the air of a review.

    Because usually I have already seen the work in progress and if I have anything to say I can tell her in email.


  • Beki
    January 28
    11:41 pm

    I do think that a reviewer can know an author and still be objective about their work. And hopefully knowing the author would inspire them to write the review with more kindness while still pointing out what didn’t work about the book for them if constructive criticism was necessary. Some reviews have become way too snarky and rude so maybe the best reviews might actually come from someone who did keep in mind that they aren’t just attacking some words on paper but an actual person that they know put their time, energy and heart into their work. Which isn’t too say that a reviewer needs to give glowing reviews just out of friendship if the work doesn’t warrant it—sometimes what isn’t said can be just as effective.


  • emily
    January 29
    12:57 am

    I think there’s a definite conflict of interest, and it seems to me that if readers are more likely to dismiss the review because they know that you have a close connection with the author, then I don’t see the point in even bothering writing the review in the first place.

    The appearance of impropriety IS impropriety

    i agree completely with both of those statements… with no offence meant to you AL, because i find your reviews to be thoughtful and balanced, i don’t believe that anyone with a close personal connection to an author can be objective enough to offer a useful review, and what point is there is creating a review if it’s going to be dismissed by the majority of the people reading it? not only do i think it erodes the credibility of the reviewer, but i think it reflects negatively on the author as well…

    Is it because I haven’t raved uncontrollably that no one has–so far and within my hearing/reading–raised shit over my reviewing their books?

    yes, i suspect that would have a lot to do with it… with a bias or not, your reviews give the impression of being based in reality…


  • Jessica, I agree that absolute objectivity is impossible, but not simply due to a personal or professional relationship. We as readers bring our own baggage to our interpretation of the book, regardless of who wrote it or when it was written.

    With respect Azteclady, there is a difference between these (although I admit they overlap in interesting ways)

    One sense of objectivity is epistemological: there is no “God’s eye” view from which to write any review. We are humans, with our human limitations and unique perspectives. This sense has to do with our ability to obtain and communicate objective knowledge about a book.

    The other is ethical: objectivity in this sense is not some impossible epistemological requirement that we somehow come to a book with a blank slate, but rather a very reasonable ethical requirement that any special connection we have to an author that we think might compromise our ability to judge a book be dealt with appropriately. This sense of objectivity has to do with things like honesty, integrity and fairness.

    My view is that, because the stakes are quite low here, your brief public acknowledgment of any relationship you feel might meet this criterion will more than suffice.


  • Keishon
    January 29
    2:48 am

    I think there’s a definite conflict of interest, and it seems to me that if readers are more likely to dismiss the review because they know that you have a close connection with the author, then I don’t see the point in even bothering writing the review in the first place.

    Agree. Because I am one of those people who will dismiss the review when a bias is exposed/posted. I will always promote books of author’s whose work I enjoy but my relationship is with the publisher and not the author in that regard. I used to go message board to message board singing the praises of Paullina Simons and Julia Spencer-Fleming, all on my own time, without prompting all for the love of their work. I know myself. I don’t want to have conflicts when reviewing books. I don’t want to think of nobody else but the reader. I’ve gushed to both authors in email but no personal relationship exists.


  • Jigisha
    January 29
    3:13 am

    I think there are two different issues here – if you have a personal/professional relationship with an author, then I think full disclosure is a must. After that, I’d be ok reading your review and make my own mind up about the book and the review, keeping in mind that you have a personal relationship. A lot of Financial Analysts do that – they’ll give their analysis of the company with full disclosure if they have any kind of a personal relationship with the company they are analyzing.

    Now as far as being a frequent visitor on Suz’s messageboard goes, that’s completely different. You’re not “friends” with her, neither do you have a professional relationship with her. If you write a fair review (which you always do)of any of her books, then even if the review is a negative one, I would expect you to post it on Suz’s board. I really don’t see a conflict in this scenario, but that’s just me.


  • Ann Aguirre
    January 29
    4:43 am

    Hm, I’ve been in my writing cave. Just saw this.

    In the interest of disclosure, I’ll say Az gets a sneak peek at my manuscripts as a beta reader, so she addresses her concerns -before- they go to press. That in mind, she’s likely to love my books (and if she doesn’t I’ll hear about it long before any review, plus have the chance to fix it). In these circumstances, her reviews are unlikely to be negative because we’ve covered the bad stuff before the book came out. Make sense?

    I do happen to agree with the chap who suggested if she felt like writing about my work, maybe it shouldn’t be in review form, but in a more casual or conversational sense. However, the only writing I ask of her is in my newsletter, and she makes a lovely job of it.


  • Recuse yourself.

    Lawyers do it. Judges do it. Former VP Cheney was asked to do it when it came to Scooter Libby. Makes sense for a reviewer to do it when it comes to an author they work for. You avoid accusations of impropriety because you wouldn’t have done it in the first place.


  • If there’s any question at all, just don’t do it!

    Ann’s a superb, accomplished writer whose work largely speaks for itself. I suspect her books are regularly reviewed elsewhere (probably at quite a few elsewheres) and she’s built a solid fanbase.

    Simply mentioning she has a new book out or coming out would, I think, be fine. But a full-blown review? Not so.


  • Anon76
    January 29
    3:08 pm

    I’m with Jigisha, there is a difference between being a fan and having a friend or working relationship with an author. And for that second, TeddyP nails it on the head. You can be supportive without actually doing a review of the book.

    On the flip side, as an author (and reviewer at one time), I got all squiggy feeling when friends/cohorts reviewed my book. I could never get past the fact that our relationship might have colored the review. Any glowing praise was quickly dismissed, and to this day I don’t know if said praise was deserved or not.

    Hence, I found it much easier to take the stance of not reviewing a book for another in such instances. I’m not the type that can give a glowing review if I don’t really mean it (but I know many who can.) And I don’t want to hurt my compadres’ feelings. So for my own personal peace of mind, I stay away from such things.


  • Sunita
    January 29
    5:36 pm

    Definitely don’t review books for people with whom you have a business relationship, whether it involves financial or in-kind compensation. It’s not fair to yourself, the author, or the reader; even if you did the most honest and objective review in the world, parsing out the possible conflicts of interest will give all involved major headaches.

    I really don’t think this is about whether a reviewer who is emotionally or financially attached to an author or her work can be “honest” or “objective.” I’m sure that even the biggest fangrrrl has likes and dislikes among her faves and can write about them. The problem for the readers of the review is that we don’t know how the relationship affects the overall approach the reviewer brings to the review, and we don’t know what the reviewer is cutting the author more or less slack on. Are you more forgiving of certain lapses in style, plotting, etc., than you would be with someone whose work you didn’t know? If you trust the author, does that make you accept things in the book that you would flag for someone else? If the book sags in the middle, do you not take note of that because you have confidence that the author will pick up the pace and deliver a terrific resolution? In other words, the more you bring your good feelings about the author to the table, the less you can provide a useful review for those who don’t share your feelings. And if the review is supposed to be for the reader, this is a problem.

    I second (third? fourth?) TeddyPig’s suggestion that you find other ways to bring attention to the book when you feel strongly about it. Definitely write a post that emphasizes why you are so taken with the author’s work and how this book reflects those attributes. Or just pimp it. 🙂 People who trust you as a reviewer are going to use that info even if it’s not in review form. But whatever you do, avoid the standard review format. That just suggests a uniformity with other reviews you do, a uniformity that isn’t there.


  • I wouldn’t ask an assistant (ha, if I had one) to evaluate my work. I’d always wonder if she was being 100% honest, or trying to stay in my good graces.

    I say don’t do it.

    Ann is a gifted author who will get many other great reviews. She’s made a choice, to have a business relationship with you, not an author/reviewer one.


  • eeeekkkk….! Clarification: Ann didn’t ask me to review her upcoming books–I have been pouting because I want to.

    Self-indulgent of me, obviously.

    (still pouting)


  • Sarah Frantz
    February 2
    2:46 am

    For some reason, I just got GrowlyCub’s comment #25 delivered via subscription (gmail burp?), so I’m responding to that, even though it’s pretty old.

    growlycub said:

    “But I think, your question and the question raised about Sarah’s review on DA illustrate what somebody else already pointed out. It doesn’t matter whether there is actual impropriety going on, if there is just the possibility or suspicion of it.”

    What if this seriously offends me? Not you, in particular, of course, but this implication. Okay, some people think that there’s an appearance of impropriety, but most didn’t (if you read all the responses to my review). Most found it a very helpful review, written by someone with deep knowledge of Brockmann’s writing–a fact that some felt added to review, rather than making it suspect. Leaving aside the fact that *I* don’t think there was any impropriety, personally, because my personal feelings obviously don’t count in this matter, I think that there were some very vocal people who thought I was too fangirly but many more who found value in my review. So, where does that leave us?


  • I was replying to Azteclady’s question and I was re-iterating what others had said before me. And the reason I brought your review up was because some people perceived impropriety, and I was using that as an example that no actual impropriety has to happen for folks to perceive it.

    If you are offended by that, sorry, but regardless of how many people found the review helpful, the question of ethics/review objectivity was raised, so the discussion around your review was applicable to Aztec’s question.


  • Sarah Frantz
    February 2
    3:03 am

    I don’t disagree with what you’re saying, GrowlyCub–absolutely applicable and I don’t feel that you were picking on me in particular. I guess I’m just expressing MY frustration with parts of this whole conversation. And I guess my question for the populace at large about this issue (or for anyone who still cares about this) is, should the perception of impropriety by a vocal few affect my actions in any way? This is obviously precisely the question that AztecLady was asking, of course, and the consensus seems to be yes for her, but, no matter what people have said, I *don’t* have the same relationship with Brockmann that AL has with Aguirre. If more people than not gain something from my review, again, where does that leave me? Sigh. Sorry to reopen the debate. I’ll try to leave well enough alone. Here’s hoping gmail doesn’t burp again! 🙂


  • […] The discussions of objectivity and bias in reviewing initiated by Azteclady at Karen Knows Best and Jane at Dear Author (and especially Janet/Robin’s tough questions, […]

  • […] Despite how much I like Ms Aguirre’s work, I have not reviewed any of the novels in the series, or anything else by her written or published after 2008, to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. […]

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