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Aug 25, 2011

J.L Campbell: Being A Writer And Reviewer.....Its All Good

Posted by Wendy Ewurum  |  at  9:00 AM

Just a reminder to all my visitors and friends to  check out my calender of planned events for the rest of this month through to October. If you're interested in being features please let me know HERE....
At Fabulosity Nouveau I have an interview going on with Austrialian Pianist, Fiona Joy Hawkins. Check out how fiercely beautiful and talented this Aussie chick is. And now to the days event.

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In my guest lounge today is  J.L Campbell. J.L graciously agreed to write this post in response to my question posed to her: As a writer who reviews other writers books, what is your view on the issues of potential conflict of interest which seems to make other writers decide not to write reviews?

From time to time I’ve come across blog posts that talk about why writers should or should not write book reviews. I’ve found the resulting conversations interesting because of the wide-ranging views that are offered. Some people believe that it is a conflict of interest for a writer to review books. Others say it’s not possible to offer an unbiased opinion because the writer within the reader may be thinking that a nasty return review could be the result.

I believe that a writer must read and so I started my book review blog as a way of making sure I wasn’t slacking off. I select my reading material based on personal taste and I’d like to think I’m a discerning reader, so I usually make good selections. (Pats self on the back)

Based on my choice of reading material, I’ve had no reason to post a negative review. I’ve also had cases where I couldn’t post anything because I waited too long between reading and reviewing – eg. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (An excellent book, by the way)

My blog has evolved in that I’ve moved from providing star ratings to my own system. When I post to Amazon and Goodreads, I have to do the standard star thing, so I thought it would be interesting to use my own gauge.

I’m sure the writers who have asked me to review their books have looked at my reading preferences before approaching me. I’ve said yes to most of the requests, but I also look at what I’m being asked to review before committing.

Yes, it’s possible that one day there might be some backlash from a writer who’s displeased about a review. However, in most cases, writers lick their wounds without blasting their reviewer. That said, there is a tactful way to handle the things I don’t like about a book. In my ‘I could have lived without’ segment, I discuss what didn’t work for me as a reader.

Through Anne R Allen I discovered that there are ‘trolls’ on book review sites like Amazon. These are people who get paid to post bad reviews. The writers/publicists who approach me seem like sane people, so I don’t dwell on any negative that might come from expressing my thoughts on a book. Besides, a writer must realize that putting his/her work before the public eye means the high ratings have to be swallowed along with the low ones.

‘There are dedicated book review blogs’, some might say. I say, that’s wonderful, but though I’m a writer, I too am entitled to my personal opinion on what I read. If I choose to post my thoughts, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Would I stop reviewing books if I come under some flak? No way. I’ve been reading from when my eyes were at my knees, as we say in Jamaica. Surely by now, I must be able to write a balanced analysis of a book and stand by my views, come what may.

I read with an open mind and when venturing into a new genre, reserve any opinion until I have a clue how things work. I’ve seen writers complaining on private forums about people who post opinions/rating in contests that make it clear that they don’t read that particular genre. Why read and judge romance if you have an aversion to those novels?

A good method is to apply the golden rule. Do unto others as you would have them do onto you. Would I like someone to trash my book that I spent four or five years sweating over? I don’t think so. Would I prefer a review that states what was good about the novel and what the reader didn’t like or couldn’t follow? Hell, yeah!

It just occurred to me that a heck of a lot of book review blogs I lurk around are written by both published and aspiring writers.

There’s some food for thought right there.

From Fabulosity Reads, thank you for coming by once again J.L and I look forward to some snippets of your books being showcased here. Cheers.

About the Author

Most know me as the author to Fabulosity Reads and in actual fact, that is the previous name of this blog. I have since then moved my books to a Wordpress self-hosted blog so that I can have a place to show a different side of me which I am equally passionate about and that is marketing and personal development. I hope you will love being here, watching me grow as I share and learn. My highest hope is that we will grown and learn together in all disciplines affecting our lives. I'd LUUURRRVE to hear from you, so don't be shy...

20 comments:

  1. Thanks for hosting me, Wendy. Cool guest spot!

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  2. Tricky question. I applaud your bravery. I think it's tough to be truly honest if you don't like a book and none of us ever want to get a bad review.

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  3. I think if I writer is going to review a book they should do it with a "reader" instead of a "writer" mindset. Too many writers read books like they're critiquing a manuscript.

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  4. Okay, the people who are saying to not write book reviews are the same people who are desperate for an agent. They hold onto the hope that everything they say must be super politically correct even knowing that there is presently a less than 1% chance that an agented author will be picked up by a publishing house and traditionally published as a debut author.

    Yes...you read that right...it's hard enough to get an agent. Once you've done that...IT IS A LESS THAN 1% chance to go from there through submission and actually have your book sold to a major BIG 6 publishing house. My math is correct. If you aren't a debut author...then your chances improve. The economy sucks, the publishing houses are in turmoil and all they want is a secure financial future where they can sit around on billions of dollars like they used to be able to do.

    I also want to add, that 8 out of every 10 people that you know writes. People out there that say, if you are a writer, then you shouldn't do book reviews...are WRONG. That would mean that only 2 out of 10 people int he world should have the right to review a book. That is just stupid. If you don't believe me, walk around your workplace...find the janitor...ask them if they write. I did just that and they said they are working on a manuscript. Ayep...8 out of 10 ppl.

    I also discount the garbage spewed online from people that complain that networking with writers is bad because they want to attract readers. Again...8 out of 10 people in the world are writers. If you aren't networking with writers, then who the hell are you networking with? The 2 out of 10 that for some reason don't write? It's ridiculous.

    Great post and sorry if my comment is long but I have strong feelings on this topic.

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  5. I agree with Sarah that it's important to review a book as a reader. The purpose behind the reviews on Bird's-eye View is to let people know about the great reads of our fellow bloggers, to be another place where they can get the word out. I always mention what is best about the book, and I leave it to my followers to decide if the book sounds like a match for them. But, as an author, I've also loved the books I've reviewed, because, let's face it, we're a pretty awesome bunch!

    Thank you for a great guest post, Joy, and for always writing terrific reviews. And thank you, Wendy, for having Joy here today.

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  6. Great post J. L. I rarely do book reviews myself. Mostly my reasoning behind it is that I know it's all very subjective. There have been plenty of books people have raved about and yet I found dull at best, terrible at worst. The opposite is also true. There have been books I really liked that others did not.

    Thus, I mostly keep my opinions to myself. When I do say something about a book, it's one that I really like.

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  7. Isis – That true, but so far I’ve not come up on that speedbump because most of the stuff that I do read is by choice and what I’ve got to review so far are books that are right up my alley. In my reviews, I do talk about what I felt could have been differently, but of course, I don’t approach it from the perspective of a writer.

    Sarah, good point, but I find that I can’t totally separate reader from writer. What I don’t do however, is to say how I felt the writer could have written for better effect. You can’t tell someone how to write their book. By the same token I notice errors because I’m used to reading for mine. In that event, I tell the person I got the book from (If it’s on Kindle) the errors I caught, but I never mention them on my book review blog.

    Michael,

    Jeez, talk about bursting bubbles. I do realize that things are not what they used to be. Just yesterday I read a post somewhere by someone who had an agent and they eventually parted ways without the book being sold.

    You’re right, we are actually networking 99% of the time with other writers. That said, if I have the money and a fellow writer is putting out a novel I’m interested in reading, I’m gonna buy it. And I know that many other writers do the same thing. Can you believe that since I bought my Kindle, I haven’t bought a book by an established writer? I much prefer using what little disposable income I have in support of other writers who are struggling to make their mark just as I am.

    That 2:10 ratio is a convincing argument. Like I said, many of the people who run book blogs are also writers. Thanks for stopping in and sharing your thoughts. I appreciate that.

    Michelle, at The Readers’ Suite, I don’t have a focus as such. I read any and everything. I applaud your focus on highlighting writers from the community. You can be sure I’ll be asking to make a stop at your place in the near future.

    If I do have a relationship with the writer I’m reviewing , I don’t mention it because of the format of my reviews. That said, I hope I never have to tell a fellow writer I can’t do a review because their book sucks. Thanks so much for weighing in on this.

    Bish, thanks for stopping in. I have some of the same thoughts you do and sometimes wonder if I’m mad or something. I’ll hear about how wonderful a particular book is and then discover that I’m not finding it as absorbing and breathtaking as a hundred other people.

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  8. Would I like someone to trash my book that I spent four or five years sweating over? I don’t think so. Would I prefer a review that states what was good about the novel and what the reader didn’t like or couldn’t follow? Hell, yeah!

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  9. I realize I'm in the minority here and have every respect for writers. The thing is, if I only ever write glowing reviews, wouldn't that mean I'm actually in advertising?

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  10. Hi, Damyanti!

    Angela, thanks for sharing. After reading a review, the reader is left to draw his own conclusion.

    Few are the books that are so overwhelmingly good that there is nothing that could be improved. I noted in the post that I have a segment of my reviews where I talk about stuff that I didn't like or understand, as well as the fact that I choose to read in the genre that I enjoy. I'd hate for anybody to think I'm advertising, since most of the books I've read so far have been purchased.

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  11. Hi everyone, wow its good to see you all. J.L you methodology was very instrumental in my decision to review the way I do. I'm sure that is quite obvious. The reason why I like you method was because of the impartial layout. Admittedly there are books that i have said they were perfect as they were such as my recent review of Pride and Prejudice but I would only leave that section out if really I found nothing I could improve upon.I don't go out of my way to dig dirt on the book.
    If its good its good, if not I work extra hard at making sure that not only is my feedback honest but that it is constructive and tactful.

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  12. Very insight viewpoints from everyone. An avid reader and blogger.

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  13. Wendy, you see there's method to my madness. I've never come across a book I totally hated, probably because I'm a picky chooser. I might find some books slow going, but there's always some redeeming aspect to each work.

    Sidne, nice of you to stop in.

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  14. Hi J. L. Rolled over here from your blog. Honestly, I never had a problem with a writer reviewing my work. I usually don't do them myself because I'm not the greatest at summarizing works into good points and points that need work, but as long as the opinion is valid and constructive, I don't care where it came from. That said, I love your reviews!

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  15. Thanks for your support, Marlena.

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  16. Interesting post and valid points. I know going into this that my books are going to be reviewed (in fact, from what I'm seeing, authors NEED to have their books reviewed to really get out there). As such, I'll have to be prepared to stomach the bad with the good. I don't do book reviews, but I've never been much into reviewing anything, despite the fact that they say it's a good way to establish a platform of sorts. If I really love it, I'll pass it on. I have great respect for those who can review books, though, and I know that the authors I've met appreciate it.

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  17. Shannon thank so much for dropping in and for the follow. I'd say the good will mostly likely outweigh the bad and in the bad just take out the constructive bits. Some reviewers are just terrible communicators (even of their own opinion) and instead of taking it personally just say to yourself: "that must be a very unhappy person". And just grab the constructive of their review and move on because there's nothing you can do about their personalities.

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  18. I completely agree with this post. I decided that I was okay with having a writer/book blog because I believe you can have honest reviews without being negative. Also great points, Michael.

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  19. I enjoyed your post, especially as I'm a writer and reviewer. I choose the books I review and they are from my personal reading list, so rarely do I need to give a bad one. Giving one never brings me joy.

    I didn't know that about people being paid to write negative reviews. It's a shame. Too often the only readers who take the time to leave a review were the ones who did not like it. That's another reason I wanted to review books.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!

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  20. Kelley, thanks for weighing in.

    Tia, good of you to stop in. I know what you mean. I'm lucky in that I choose my own books and the ones I'm asked to review have been in genres that I like.

    You're so right. I've even seen one-star reviews left because the book wouldn't download properly and wasn't even read. Tough for the writer.

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