By Andrew E. Kaufman
It’s an interesting question, one I often think about after reading a book. Should I or shouldn’t I?
Since becoming an author, I’ve left very few reviews on Amazon, and during the past year I made the decision to stop completely. There were several reasons for this. True, I’m a reader just like anyone else, but am I a typical reader?
No. Not really.
For me, it started feeling like an ethical issue. Since I write what I read, most of the books I enjoy (or don’t) are in the same genre as mine. That means the authors I read are competing for the same market share, and leaving a review on Amazon feels like a conflict of interest. If I leave a bad review, it could easily be interpreted as an act of bad intent.
And even If I leave a favorable review, readers might suspect that I did it as a favor to the author, and if that happens, have I done that person a service or disservice by leaving one? Just as much of a concern, have I done myself the same, possibly even damaging my own credibility as an author?
Another part of this involves my personal feelings: quite honestly, I have a hard time leaving a bad review for an author—as one myself, I know how deep the sting can feel from a bad review, and I find it difficult to inflict that on a colleague. This is not to say that they shouldn’t get a poor review for writing a lousy book; I’m just not sure whether I’m the one who should leave it.
Giving an author a blurb review is something different—with those, it’s clear that I’m doing it as a favor, but even then I’m hesitant due to time constraints and also because I wonder whether they actually help readers reach a decision on whether to make a purchase.
Also of concern is that as an author, I have a whole different set of standards while judging a book. My interests are often far more of a technical nature, nitpicky things,
and because of that I tend to scrutinize a work more needlessly than for the average reader. When I read, it’s hard to pull off my writer’s hat and put on the reading one—the two are so intricately intertwined these days. I worry that the things I’m critical of would be of no interest the average reader, and in stating them, it could have negative effects for a book that most people would find perfectly enjoyable.
Not everyone agrees with me on this. Some authors regularly leave reviews on Amazon—and really, there is no right or wrong answer to this question. It’s all about personal choices.
Contrary to what some may believe, Amazon doesn't discourage or pull reviews from authors based on that criterion, so they are free to review all they’d like. The only reason they would do so is if there appears to be a financial interest or gain on either side. This could be caused by something as innocent as me sending a birthday gift to the author, or something as obvious as having co-written something with him or her. Having said that, besides the co-authoring part, this would apply to anyone, whether they're an author or not.
So what do you think, troops?
Readers, do you have a problem seeing reviews from authors?
And authors, do you or don’t you? If so (or not) why (or why not?).