Authors and Reviewers: a Two-Way Street?

This recent post about the author/reviewer relationship has sparked a whole lot of discussion. The gist: the original poster says that authors owe her some form of publicity in exchange for reviews, be it through increasing her Amazon rank or retweeting her or what have you. Her argument, from what I gather, is that writing quality reviews earns her a bit of brand promotion on the part of the author. She uses the term “two-way street” a few times.

I’m not going to tell her how to run her blog. I just felt like blathering about the subject for a while. Whether or not you want to pay attention to someone who named her blog “utter randomonium” is up to you.

First off: I don’t make any money reviewing books. To me, it’s an even exchange: a book for a review. I have the luxury of not needing my blog to pay for itself, which is why I don’t bother running any ads. I don’t pay much attention to page hits or rankings or site traffic. I’ve added myself to a couple blog directories but I don’t actively advertise. I have no mailing list to join or Facebook page to like. If I wanted to get my name out there, I’d post author interviews and join blog tours/hops and exchange links and host giveaways. But I’m not interested in any of that. I just like to read.

So maybe my viewpoint is different because I am not running a business here. I am simply reading books and then admitting to it on the internet. I am fortunate that some authors and publishers have noticed me and wanted to add their titles to my library. That about sums it up.

Still, anyone who asks me to do a bunch of things to promote their stuff, regardless of our relationship, is pretty annoying. I’d be really irritated if authors did it to me, so I’m not sure why it’d be okay for me to do it to them. Our roles are pretty clear: they write a book, then put forth the manpower and production/shipping costs involved in getting the complimentary copy into my hands. My job is to read the book and then write about it. I’m not even obligated to link to anything.

See, promotion isn’t even part of the equation. Books and reviews don’t exist for each other’s sake. Their shared audience is the reader. Authors may benefit from reviews but the reviewer isn’t doing the author a favor. If anything, they’re doing the readers a favor by letting them know whether a book is worth their time.

Like I said before, it’s a trade: one book in exchange for one honest review. It’s just not that complicated.

  1. Interesting post. I never really thought about it, I guess; I don’t think I’ve ever seen reviewers being promoted in any context. I think you hit the nail on the head when you say that books and reviews both exist for the reader – a review may help an author by convincing people to read their book, but it may equally make people think “eh, not for me.” It’s similar but certainly not equivalent to advertising. So I don’t see any debt owed the reviewer by the author either. Aside from the fact that there is a limit to what an author could even do – people don’t look to authors to find reviewers; you’d think at least subconsciously they would be biased in favor of reviewers who like their books.

    Okay, so I just clicked through, and now I am thinking that putting reciprocity on the author-reviewer relationship skates a little too close to payment for reviews for my comfort, and that’s a point of compromised reviews, or at least the appearance of such. Especially with an eleven point list! Holy crap! It seems dishonest for an author to be clicking the “helpful” button on *any* Amazon reviews of their books, much less reviews solicited via sending a complimentary book. The author is biased. I don’t care about their opinion of the reviews. Glad to see calm, well-written disagreements in her comments.

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