Authors who review

I’m a published author. I’m also an avid reader. So is it okay for me to talk online about the books I enjoy?

Long before I was published, I was a book blogger. I wasn’t on anyone’s mailing list and I didn’t receive ARCs, I just read widely and wanted to chat about the books I loved.

I started my first blog in 2007, called Great Stories. After a few years of building up a reasonable following of like-minded readers, I realised my reading choices were too eclectic for a single blog, so I created a second one dedicated to fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal and zombie stories, called Other Worlds (mostly YA, but not exclusively).

Even back in those days, I confined my posts to books I enjoyed. Probably because I bought most of what I read and reviewed, and – with my own writing going on in the background – I didn’t have the time to invest in books that didn’t appeal to me.

And then in 2011, after many years of writing and submitting my own work to publishers, I was signed by Text Publishing in Australia (and then later by Indigo/Orion in the UK and Tundra Books in North America). So I started a third blog focused on my own writing (the one you’re reading now).

Within a few months of that first contract, I wound down the other two blogs (due to time commitments). But I still kept track of what I was reading on Goodreads. I had never given starred ratings on my own blogs, but picked up the habit on Goodreads, given it’s a convention of the site.

When Shadows debuted in Australia in 2012, I became a Goodreads author, which gave me a completely different perspective on the site.

Now, with a click of a button, I can see what everyone is saying about my work. Most reviews of my books are thoughtful, encouraging and often grin-inspiring. Others rip my heart out and leave it crushed on the side of the road. The latter are never easy to read, but I respect everyone’s right to express their opinions – after all, I don’t have to read them.

But experiencing Goodreads as an author made me realise that everything I write about other books can be read by their authors. A no-brainer, yes, but I’d never really sat down and thought that through. My reviews were always for my fellow readers: “Here I loved this, you might too”.

I started to wonder what authors thought about having other authors rate and review their books. Granted, my ratings and comments were overwhelmingly positive, but still….So for a while, I didn’t know how to ‘be’ on Goodreads. I still wanted to keep track of what I’d read and what I wanted to read. (My Goodreads TBR collection is always my go-to list when I can’t decide what to pick up next.)

Then I changed tack. I stopped reviewing all together. But I missed it. I actually enjoy writing about books I’ve loved, especially when it leads to conversations with other bloggers/readers about those books.

So I decided to write comments about books I’d read and not give a rating. But that felt like a cop-out. And I know how lovely it is to get a strong star rating on Goodreads.

As of late, I’m back to leaving ratings and (mostly brief) comments because it feels more meaningful to me as a reader. As usual, I only post on Goodreads about books I’ve really enjoyed, so they’ll generally all be novels I feel deserve five stars. And again, this is because I’m only reading books I seriously expect to love. So my Goodreads posts are definitely recommendations. They are not intended to be a critical analysis. (By the way, I also include my ever-growing favourite reads list here on my site.)

I know there are divided opinions about how authors should behave as readers, particularly online. I’m trying to find a comfortable middle ground where I tread lightly in both roles, but still offer something meaningful for my own readers, and readers who share my tastes in books.

I’m interested to hear thoughts from book bloggers (and authors) on the topic.

(Side note: I wrote a post on Life of Pi – particularly focused on the island scene – on Great Stories back in 2008 that, for a long time, had the number one Google ranking for ‘Life of Pi explained’. It still gets hundreds of hits every week and still attracts comments. I’m actually kind of proud of that. You can find it here.)