Authenticity vs. not being a hack … or a bitch

Some of the unwritten rules for authors that I’ve read: Help each other out, never give a bad review, and avoid getting into hot button issues that might lose you potential  readers.

This is harder than I ever imagined.

First of all, while my first book The Awful Mess is about how people can come together despite having very different religious and political ideas, any reasonably capable reader is going to come to some conclusions about my own beliefs by reading it.

So do I really need to hide them in my social marketing?

I’ve tried picking my battles, but the book is clearly in favor of gay rights and marriage equality and concerned with issues of hunger and poverty, so those I’ll tweet and post. I try to avoid the more overtly partisan stuff, but it’s probably creeping in more and more over time. It’s just really, really hard to not be my authentic (opinionated!) self.

Two, when it comes to helping other authors, I’m happy to help by sharing tips or advice, and I’ll retweet that kind of thing from others very happily, as well as new or free or bargain books if I’ve at least heard they’re good from people I trust. This is especially true if they are coming from people in similar genres, or have come from a site that appears to practice some quality control.

But I’m not going to fill my relatively sparse twitter feed with tweets for stuff I haven’t read, may never read, and have no reason to believe my own readers would read. If this means I’m not playing the game right, I guess there’s some hope I may yet learn the rules. (I’m still new to this.) But right now I just don’t see the point.

Three, I have a really hard time leaving glowing reviews for books that I think have issues. What can I say? I grade students all day. I can’t just be nice — I want reviews to mean something. But me leaving a less-than-glowing review for your book isn’t good for either of us, because then you’re not happy … and I look like a bitch.

This is why I just won’t accept free indie books for review anymore unless an author swears that an honest review or honest private feedback instead is okay, and seems to really mean it. And even then, I think I really shouldn’t. There’s just too much pressure.

If you’re an author, I’d be  curious  to hear how you handle these issues. I also invite you to let me know where I’m going wrong!

3 thoughts on “Authenticity vs. not being a hack … or a bitch

  1. I suppose I’m doing it all wrong, then, because I am never less than completely honest when I review something. I usually refrain from saying everything that comes to mind when I read something, though. I do my best to find something good to say, and (unless there are blatant grammatical errors which distract me from the story) I really try hard to take off my OCD editor’s hat when I write a critique of something that I read for pleasure.

    • The people who are experts in book promotion and publicity note that you really shouldn’t negatively review other authors. This horrified me when I read it and made me go change all my ratings on goodreads. (Well, a lot of them — at least for living authors.) It’s not that I gave bad ratings, it’s just that I consider “I liked it” a good rating, and saved five stars for my all-time faves. Anyway, I know that you know as well as I do that some authors are a lot more sensitive to reviews than others.

  2. I should probably also add that part of the reason I haven’t done some reviews yet is that I just haven’t finished the books… it’s a crazy semester.

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