Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hiatus, Explained

Okay, for those who don't quite understand what's going on with the blog/why I'm on hiatus, here are some links for you. The author's original post (in which I'm the "asker" she talks about), her follow-up, and another post with some interesting comments. To sum up: the general consensus here seems to be that it falls somewhere between "maybe not the best idea" and "a really stupid move" for an author to write book reviews online, or in fact share negative opinions on books they've read at all. Yes, even aspiring writers. I'm not going to get into the reasons but if you want to read those posts they cover it pretty well.

(via weheartit)

During the last QueryChat on Twitter, I asked about book blogs - should an aspiring writer include them in the query letter, maybe in the signature? I wasn't surprised when one agent said she wouldn't work with a blogger who had dissed one of her client's books. I was surprised to find out that dissing could be something as seemingly innocent as a review or stating publicly (in places like Twitter, Goodreads, or a blog) that I didn't like a book.

This makes sense in a way. It also makes sense that, as Stacia Kane pointed out in her posts, an author who has received a negative review from another writer wouldn't want to help or blurb this person's book. And I can understand holding a grudge - I don't like it, wish it weren't something we have to deal with. But I can definitely understand it, knowing how deeply personal writing is and that often it's impossible to fully separate ourselves from that writing, from the book. A rejection of a novel must feel, no matter how well-meaning the reviewer means it, like a rejection of the writer.

Writing negative reviews, as an author or aspiring author, is taking a risk. Rating books on Goodreads is taking a risk. We don't always know how these risks might come back to haunt us - or not - until later on.

I see a world of difference, though, between a negative review where the reviewer honestly didn't enjoy the book and a positive review of a book that includes some negative elements. In writing a thorough review of a book, even one I love and want everyone to read, I often include the less-than-spectacular elements. It's not a negative review, but it might not be 100% glowy either. Now I wonder if it's risky, wrong, if I'm stepping on toes by even writing those reviews, by talking about books I find less than perfect and amazing. I've always believed that it is possible to be honest and genuine (not only in reviews, but also in discussing YA lit as a whole, in talking with others, in being) while also being positive and supportive. Am I wrong in thinking this?

I don't want to choose between being a public reader and pursuing writing. Being told that I must either give up the only foothold I currently have in the YA community (this blog) or give up my dream of someday joining the ranks of the authors whose books I love reading is... honestly, unfair is the word that springs to mind though I'm aware how that makes me sound like a child. But it is unfair. And even more confusing. There is a part of me that thinks I should close the blog (or at least abandon it), another part that sees nothing wrong in what I'm doing, and another part that keeps coming up with compromises, some of which I quite like. Mostly though, I feel like no answer is going to be the perfect right one.

I'm still working on figuring it out.


  1. I agree with you that it's unfair, even while I understand the reasoning.

  2. That is totally unfair, I can't imagine what a good solution is but good luck deciding. Personally, the risk I am taking in reviewing other books for now is worth it, maybe when I get more serious about my writing it is something I would consider, but as it is I enjoy reading and reviewing and it doesn't stop me from writing on my own time. Maybe in the future I will make my blog anonymous, as I already keep personal details limited I don't think it would be a big deal. I would only actually shut down my blog if I was published, or perhaps going on submission at least. As it is, that's such a far off goal, years from now, that I'm not too worried.

  3. I recently read posts discussing this same subject, and I was alarmed by the amount of bloggers that suddenly jumped aboard the "Hiatus" ship. I don't understand why we, as bloggers and reviewers, should permit others to stop us from doing what we love: reading and writing.

    It's like saying negative reviews aren't allowed. Like we're not allowed to NOT like a book, despite providing reasons why. I am not okay with that. I'm entitled to my opinions.

    An agent should want me because of my work, not because of the reviews I write. But maybe that's just me.

  4. Amy
    Thank you. :)

    1. I have no idea how to do that little umlaut thing (or how to spell it. or if that's what it's called).
    2. If I were the in the beginning writing or even just pre-query stages right now it would be a different story, but I am querying. And even though nothing might happen with this book, at the same time... there's the possibility. And I have to think about it.

    Really? I've only seen me and Bookalicious going on hiatus (for similar, but different, reasons). Who else is?
    And I'm not so worried about agents... I think that most of them aren't going to unreasonably say that if you have a book blog or have negatively reviewed something then they won't represent you even though your book is fantastic; I'm more looking at my relationships with people in the publishing world (other authors, specifically) not just right now but also years down the line. It makes this complicated.

  5. Yeah, that does make sense. Your posts have made me obsess/worry about it quite a bit as well, because even though I never plan to make a career as a writer it is something I love and I wouldn't want to do book blogging into to the exclusion of writing. I also don't write YA, which is what most of the posts have been about so I am not even sure how much that applies (what I write could most closely be called literary fiction I think). I don't do any posts that could be at all considered personal bashing, so I think I'll stick with my critical analysis. I mean, who knows if I'll ever actually finish a novel at this rate? Considering I have been working on the same one for two years, so I am nowhere near the stage you are. To be honest, book blogging recently has gotten me back into writing more because it has gotten me back into read more because I love discussing the books I read, and thinking about what works/what didn't worry makes me consider the same thing in my own writing. So at this stage I've decided that it is definitely a positive for me.

    At the same time, I do keep my blog fairly anonymous, by which I mean, no links to my facebook page or posting my last name, so I figure maintaining that distinction can't hurt either. But at this point I've actually gotten e-mails from authors and publicists telling me they loved my reviews, so I feel like I'm building more bridges than burning them for now.

  6. Thanks for those links it was an interesting read. It's a difficult topic and I'm not really sure where I stand. I can see both sides really.

    Anyway I do hope you find a way to carry on with the blog that works for you because I do love your posts.

    And GOOD LUCK with the querying. I know I shall see you in a bookstore one day (your book that is, I probably won't see you!)

  7. I've only recently begun to read your blog and joined the book blogging world. I understand a little bit where you're coming from- I'm not even far in the writing stage and already I'm trying to decide what would be the best route for my blog. This must be such a big stressor for you :\

    I vote trying to find some sort of compromise. Since writing is your end all be all goal, I think maybe you should hold off on the reviews if you think they might become a stumbling block.

    I feel like with you're blog in general you are in a great position though. Just with myself, I will probably seek your book out just based on what I've read from your blog the moment you're published. The fact that you already have an audience formed (that doesn't include your family and friends:D) must count for something. You have a great platform here, which you've obviously put a lot of hard work and time into. While you might have to change your content some, I do personally vote that you maintain this blog in *some* manner.

    But then again, I'm kind of being selfish in saying that, because I just want to keep reading your posts:D.

    Good luck making your decision!

  8. It's unfortunate that the book business is so full of people that view criticism of any kind (whether it's in a review or not) as negative.

  9. This trickled down to me and I wrote a post on reviewing,, without even knowing what started it.

    I've never believed that I should not be able to say what I feel. And everyone in the upper eschelons of the industry are always saying the industry is so subjective, so if you say in a reasonable way, "these elements didn't work for me" then that SHOULD be fine. But maybe it isn't.

    Life is going to be fun after I'm published.

  10. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say I don't think reviews like yours will impact you negatively whatsoever. As an author with my debut coming up this year, I expect bad reviews. I don't like every book I read, nor do expect every reader to like mine.

    Honestly, unless you have intentionally gone after an author by fabricating an intentionally harmful review, no agent in the business I've ever met will think twice about it.

    I've seen cases on Amazon where multiple reviewers slam an author and it appears they haven't read the book. Amazon tried to correct this with the "verified purchase" tag. I've never figured out the reason behind this kind of thing other than personal matters. This, I think, is the kind of thing agents are talking about. Not legitimate unfavorable reviews.

    I'm sad you are pulling up stakes. I'm sad for all writers that feel threatened by something like this, that I honestly hope doesn't exist. Little things? Yeah. But career damaging material. I don't think individual writers yield that kind of power.

    Blurbs don't have much impact on sales...if any. A few bad reviews don't really damage a book. The writing community is tight and small. The book buying community is vast and oblivious to this.

    Hang in there. Keep reviewing. Keep blogging. Keep writing.