Honesty in my reviews and interaction is something I have always strived for as a book blogger. As a community, book bloggers seem to value sincerity above all. With so many factors potentially influencing our opinion of a book, I personally find it easy to lose sight of my own opinion on a book. I’ll be working through my thought processes in this post, and I hope you can help me!
Friends and Fandom Opinion
Being in the midst of it as a book blogger mean that you often have so many preconception about a book, even before its release. This is especially apparent with hyped up titles, where it’s practically impossible to avoid hearing public thoughts on the title. In a way, this is positive as it generates publicity and love for new releases – arguably the reason why I started blogging to begin with.
On the flipside, it often biases my opinion on a book – for example, I don’t think I would have been so disappointed by Illuminae if I didn’t hear about how amazing it was for 5 months straight. You’ve seen all those posts about how hype can hurt a book, so I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Some people are determined to dislike popular titles just to be contrary (I sadly admit that I used to be one of those people, many years ago!)
On a positive note, it was my friends and the fandom’s love for the Throne of Glass series that made me give the series a second chance– and now it’s one of my favourites ever! I have also picked so many books up purely from word of mouth recommendations, with the most recent being All The Light We Cannot See through Jenna’s rec. Ultimately, I think if you truly love a book, you should shout it out loud. Don’t be scared about being labelled an indiscriminate fangirl, you might just help someone find their new favourite title: something that makes blogging truly worth it.
Shiny Friendly Authors
Being able to directly connect to the writers of your favourite books via Twitter is truly one of the wonders of the modern age. I totally prejudge a book by its author – if their Twitter is filled with witty one-liners and appreciation for their fans, I am more likely to approach their work with optimism. Conversely, I imagine I would avoid authors who have been problematic in the past e.g. Kathleen Hale and her Guardian article still gives me the creeps. Nonetheless, I’m happy to report that all of my brushes with authors have been positive experiences.
However, I don’t regularly chat or tweet any authors – and I remain reserved in in interaction for fear that a relationship would make passing judgements on their work too difficult. I know and respect that many bloggers are different, and that they deserve to be proud of all their author friends. I would love to hear from those who do have a more intimate relationship with authors to share on how they remain objective, and how to respectfully dispense criticism without damaging the relationship.
I also don’t agree with Amazon’s policy of preventing people who know the authors from posting their reviews on the site. While I know endorsements from someone’s spouse or best friend may not be free of bias – banning their twitter contacts from reviewing their books seem a little bit extreme. I generally operate on good faith, and trust the reviewer to be honest until proven otherwise. After all, authors are the content creator of these universes we adore so much – I don’t think it’s fair or sane to have them cut out from any discussions about their books and the book community in general.
Finally, there’s the reviews I see on either publisher or author-organised blog tours. As these are a marketing tool, I expect all of the posts to be largely positive. Perhaps that’s why I have been hesitant to take part in blog tours until recently. I don’t want to be wracking my brain to look for positive things to say if I disliked the book – I am lazy, I am undiplomatic! However, I have never seen a publisher or an author requesting that everyone love their books. In fact, there are multiple choices if you didn’t like the title. You could make graphics instead, or host an interview or a guest post, or make a random list of the things you did like. You don’t have to compromise your opinions on a book.
Overall, I think community responses to things like sponsored posts or paid reviews are ample evidence that the bookish community strives to be honest. I love that we are mainly fueled on passion for books rather than ulterior motive. I won’t lie and say that I don’t want to make money off my blog – but ultimately I want to have absolute transparency. The reason the community continues to inspire me is the sheer creativity and unrelenting passion in reading.
Have you ever felt your book reviews were being influenced by outside sources? What are your thoughts on honesty in the book community? Let me know!