Should Writers Ignore Other Writers’ Work?

Fellow author Chuck Wendig posted a very solid piece several years ago on his blog about why authors shouldn’t slag off other authors in reviews. It got me thinking: many authors don’t review the works of others at all. Amazon has a policy against posting reviews of authors’ work by other authors, which they enforce rather selectively. On the surface, a policy such as this seems fair: it’s too easy for authors to fall into the trap of trading positive reviews with other authors to mutually boost ratings. This kind of abuse has very clearly happened, as has authors creating dummy accounts to post glowing reviews of their own work.

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However, I feel it’s still important for authors to call out work they particularly enjoyed. With the readership dropping across the board as more and more people stop reading for pleasure, it’s important for authors to support each other as much as possible. It’s also important for authors to read books as well as write them. There’s something to be said for insulation one’s self against the threat of a lawsuit for unconsciously using ideas of others, but at the same time an author must continue to expand their reading horizons, to experience new styles and genres as a means to build one’s own skill set.

Photo, l to r: Georgia Beaverson, Monica Valentinelli, Jason Blair, Alex Bledsoe, and yours truly, at a reading of our stories from Haunted: Eleven Tales of Ghostly Horror at A Room of One’s Own bookstore, Madison, WI, October 2011. Coincidentally, Chuck Wendig also has a story in this anthology!

These days, most of my reviews will appear either here on my own web site, or over at Flames Rising.com, a dark fantasy and horror newszine site run by my buddy, Matt McElroy. My most recent review there was THIS one, from October. My reviews will appear infrequently, as paying work (and sometimes life events) force other projects to the back burner, but I will continue to write them as often as I can manage. Now more than ever, creators have to stick up for one another to keep the free flow of ideas alive, and I intend to do my part.

I used to write reviews for pay. I’ve written some good reviews and plenty of bad ones over the years, but I realized that the money I was making from it wasn’t nearly worth the time and aggravation involved, so I stopped. Now, I only review things I WANT to review, and by my definition those are going to be positive reviews. Sometimes that means reviewing works of personal friends, and I try to remember to call that out up front so the readers know that, no matter how fair and balanced I try to be, there is clear bias at work on some level. The main thing for me about writing reviews now is to promote other authors and artists who I feel really deserve more support from the book-buying public. If one of my six fans buys a book from someone I’ve recommended, I feel that my time has been well spent.

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