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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
On some level, authors in the same genre compete for readers. If an author purchases another's book, is it ethical to give it a review? Obviously, if you're going to sing the work's praises, it's one thing. But if you would give it something other than a 4 or 5, even if it's your honest opinion, it seems to cross the line of decency, right?
 

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I think reviewing another writer's work is a no-win situation. If you give a 4 or 5, many will think that it must be tit for tat. If you give 3 or lower they will think it for spite or to lower the competition, especially if they write in the same genre as you do.
 

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It is ethical to provide a review only if you are giving a true and honest review. If you provide a glowing review of a bad book (or poor review of a good book) because of a preexisting relationship with the author then, yeah, that's unethical.
 

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I don't have any books currently up but, when I do, I'd still give an outstanding review if I read something that I really enjoy.  I don't think the authors or readers will look at my name long enough to go, "Hey, isn't this guy another indie writer?"

As for a negative review, I personally don't write those.  My tastes are not everybody's tastes, and books I could barely make it through were loved by other people whom I respect.  I don't see the point in hurting a book's chances of finding it's appropriate audience, even if I'm not a member of that audience.
 

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Everyone has a different opinion on this, but I'm with intinst.  Giving good reviews to another author can cause people to suspect that you are trading reviews, and giving bad reviews can make people wonder if you're out to get that author.  I don't review on Amazon for these reasons, personally.  It's not an ethical question so much as it is a pragmatic one, IMHO.
 

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I have these same concerns, so I don't do reviews within my same genre - or, if I did, they would have to be older titles. I don't usually do ebooks.

I did a showcase at Christmas time to highlight what various publishers had out in Christmas romances, but that was just titles and links. I like doing showcases, and will likely do those again. I have also done "review essays" - one was "three romances from the 80s" which was fun.

It's good to show readers you have experience in the genre and you read within your own areas, but I feel antsy about reviewing competitors, or friends. Too positive, and what does that win me? Too negative, and it makes for bad blood, and who needs that? I like being honest, but I don't like to hurt peoples' feelings or stir up feuds.

Besides, reviews are a lot of work, and I don't really have the time to agonize over them, anyway, as it outweighs the benefits, in my opinion.
 

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stormhawk said:
It is ethical to provide a review only if you are giving a true and honest review. If you provide a glowing review of a bad book (or poor review of a good book) because of a preexisting relationship with the author then, yeah, that's unethical.
This is how I feel about it. When I write an Amazon review, I'm doing it as a customer not an author. That being said, if I truly believe a book was sucky I tend not to finish it and so not to review it. I'm the same way with movies. A bad product just doesn't inspire me to talk about it, the way a good one does.
 

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intinst said:
I think reviewing another writer's work is a no-win situation. If you give a 4 or 5, many will think that it must be tit for tat.
This. I think it's possible to do, but only if you've already built up a reputation and a following, so that people feel they know you. Like, you're so well known that you're above the potential consequences of one review, Even then, you might stick your foot in it.

I will say I'm sort of puzzled by the apparently common perception of writers in a given genre as being locked in a mortal struggle for competitive survival. In my experience genre fans buy many books in the same genre. They don't have, like, a quota, necessarily, except at the upper limits, so you don't get a huge effect from opportunity cost. I think readers often try new authors based on recs from their favorites, so authors can help each other there, but I don't see how author A trashing author B could possibly be helpful to A. It only gives publicity to B, and reflects badly on A.

Not to say that people don't do this - we writers are, like, notoriously neurotic and spiteful, right? According to stereotypes? - I just don't get it.

That said, I think a lot of the difficulty with review ethics can be addressed with a thorough disclosure policy. Are you friends? Say so! Did they review your work? Um. Review at your own risk, but if you do, tell us they gave you a review! Just be honest. There's always going to be a lot of cross over in a community of limited size, and I feel like people understand that, as long as you're up front about it.
 

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I should say, further, that I'm not sure disclosure can solve all problems. Quid pro quo, for example. But it might help.
 

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Dara England said:
This is how I feel about it. When I write an Amazon review, I'm doing it as a customer not an author. That being said, if I truly believe a book was sucky I tend not to finish it and so not to review it. I'm the same way with movies. A bad product just doesn't inspire me to talk about it, the way a good one does.
Because two posts in a row is not enough...

This, too. Unless it's your job to write reviews, in some way, or a previously stated vocation, it's kind of weird to go out of your way to leave a negative review, unless there was just something so horrendously offensive about the work that you felt obligated to humanity to defend it from this terrible, terrible book. But that would seem to be an exceptional circumstance, right? Hopefully?

Actually, this kind of holds for positive reviews, too. Unless you routinely write reviews, it might look weird. So disclose what made you write it! See what I did there? Brought it back.

Man, I gotta get back to work...
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
genevieveaclark said:
I will say I'm sort of puzzled by the apparently common perception of writers in a given genre as being locked in a mortal struggle for competitive survival. In my experience genre fans buy many books in the same genre.
When I go to the store or on line to buy a book, I am invariably selecting from the available options, and will never have time to read them all. I select one from the genre I'm reading and go on my way. Those I passed up "lost".
 

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vrabinec said:
When I go to the store or on line to buy a book, I am invariably selecting from the available options, and will never have time to read them all. I select one from the genre I'm reading and go on my way. Those I passed up "lost".
Yes, that is why I referenced opportunity cost. But most active readers buy many books in the same genre. Writers are not competing for a non-renewable, scarce resource, and this model assumes that they are. It leads to some weird conclusions about the market and how best to sell your product. Further, readers, in my experience, use existing preferences to help them make decisions about new authors. Even if author A trashes author B, there will be a certain number of people who pick up B's book just to see what the fuss is about.
 

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I don't review books that I don't like. I figure that author will get plenty of other bad reviews. I do, however, review books I like, including those by other parody authors. PJ
 

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vrabinec said:
On some level, authors in the same genre compete for readers. If an author purchases another's book, is it ethical to give it a review? Obviously, if you're going to sing the work's praises, it's one thing. But if you would give it something other than a 4 or 5, even if it's your honest opinion, it seems to cross the line of decency, right?
Of course it's ethical, as long as it's an honest review. Whether or not it's wise - that's a different question. I'd say no, regarding the wisdom of it.
 

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Jim Franz said:
As for a negative review, I personally don't write those. My tastes are not everybody's tastes, and books I could barely make it through were loved by other people whom I respect. I don't see the point in hurting a book's chances of finding it's appropriate audience, even if I'm not a member of that audience.
That's actually helpful, though, believe it or not. If I read a review that says "I hate spiders, and spiders were eating people left, right and center!" then I'm going to think to myself, "Hmmm. I might actually like this book. I love books where the insect population decides to strike back!"
 

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I really don't see why not as long as it's an honest review.

My favourite genres to read are the same I want to write, and if I read a really good book I like to give the book a good review especially if the author is an indie. I also don't think of other authors in my genre as competitors. There's space enough for all of us in this swimming pool.

That said, I've read quite a few other author's works that I've not been impressed by. I won't bother with a review then. Like most readers, I only really get excited and want to share when I've discovered an exciting new favourite.

I assume other reviews are honest too. Maybe I'm an innocent but a tit for tat review wouldn't get you too far if your book wasn't any good.


 
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I do not consider other authors competition.  I am not selling a commodity where the lowest vendor wins.  I am publishing books, and if someone buys Book A there is no reason they will not buy book B or Book C.  

Authors are either my peers (in which case I demonstrate my respect for them with honest reviews showing my appreciation of their work) or hacks (in which case I have a moral obligation to warn people before they waste their money).  But not competition.  ;D ;D :D

Honest peer-to-peer review is vital for a thriving creative community.  There is nothing inherently wrong with reviewing another author's book.  I simply avoid situations where there would be a conflict of interest.  If someone had already posted a review of one of my books, for example, I would not post a review.  If I really enjoyed the book, I might blog about it in general terms or mention it in my newsletter, but I would not post a formal review.  If an author has done business with me (such as used my consulting service or press release service for the book) I would not also review it because that would reflect a conflict of interest.  

But if you are capable of articulating effectively the pros and cons of a book, there is no reason not to just because you happen to be an author.  
 

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stormhawk said:
It is ethical to provide a review only if you are giving a true and honest review. If you provide a glowing review of a bad book (or poor review of a good book) because of a preexisting relationship with the author then, yeah, that's unethical.
This. If you feel you can't give an honest review, don't give one at all. Notice I didn't say positive, just honest.

I don't look at other authors as "competition" at least not in the normal business sense. Competition implies there's a winner and a loser, and frankly, if someone is reading, I don't see how they can be a loser (unless they're reading Twilight ). ;D
 

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If I think an indie book deserves a 4 or a 5, I'll review it.  If not, then I won't.  Two reasons:

1) I don't want my opinion to hurt another indie's sales.

2) You never can tell when you're going to p*ss off the wrong person, and they'll come back at you.

Genre doesn't matter to me.  Nor do reciprocating reviews.  In my opinion, the few readers who would be put off by that are offset by the ones who will benefit from the honest review.
 
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