Author Reviews: how do you feel?

I come across this article by one of my favourite authors, Kate Atkinson, which she wrote in response to a review of her latest novel by the American novelist Jonathan Dee in the New Yorker.

You can read the full article for yourself by following the the link below, but as I was reading, I was initially incensed on her behalf by Dee describing her as ‘matronly’. I mean, how dare he? (Note that Ms Atkinson is a contemporary of mine, even down to having grown up in the same city, not that we knew each other).

In his review, Dee makes much of a comparison with the work of Rachel Cusk, who is an exponent of “autofiction” (a form of fictionalised autobiography). There’s a further link in the main article to a piece about this form of expression, which is apparently gaining in popularity. It’s not something I’d care to explore; writing from the imagination seems to me to be the whole point of novel writing.

But back to the point about authors reviewing authors. Reviews are important, and I’m very grateful for the lovely reviews I’ve received on my published work so far. I believe that we should try to support each other and if we really don’t like a book, maybe just keep our opinions private.

Some food for thought here. What’s your view?

Courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd

Kate Atkinson calls authors reviewing their peers a ‘callous art’

British novelist who recently published latest book “Transcription” says she tries not to read bad reviews

Kate Atkinson
Kate Atkinson, Author (and not at all matronly)

The literary world is packed with novelists reviewing the books of their colleagues but it is not something Kate Atkinson would do, calling it a “callous art”.



8 thoughts on “Author Reviews: how do you feel?

  1. Authors are also readers though, and while some choose to attack the other author, many do not, but simply review it from the standpoint of a reader. Where I can see trouble happening is if an author takes the review and tries to use it as a selling point for their book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good point, and authors are certainly good critics! But I would also make the point, if there is a point to be made, that reviews are important to authors and favourable reviews will boost interest and sales.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m sure they do. Personally (as a reader) I don’t often read reviews of books. As an author, I have a few reviews that I am thankful for, but certainly has not helped or hindered sales. I follow several authors on Twitter that place too much emphasis on reviews.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I agree that as a reader I rarely base my choice of books on reviews. I’m not particularly influenced by bad reviews either. Maybe the review thing is a conspiracy by those who get paid to review books for a living! I listened to (part of) a podcast a few weeks ago, and I can’t remember who it was, but the author went on and on about the importance of getting loads of reviews on Amazon. Needless to say, this was part of his pitch to sell his services. I switched off at that point.
          It’s all a question of perspective.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I hear that all the time about Amazon and I think it’s because your book needs x amount of reviews to be considered for some “featured” item or whatever…I must admit that when it comes to shopping on Amazon, I simply click the genre I am interested in then look at the 100 best sellers (if I am in a hurry) or look at the genre then sort by price (because I am broke). Many of the same people complaining about reviews also write a new book each week and complain about changes in Amazon’s padding policy (or enforcement of their rules). I admit that, as an author, I probably don’t do many things I should do (like advertise, spam it on Twitter and blog, etc.) but I do enjoy the people that stumble upon my writing and like it (or don’t). When I am considering a book (as a reader), I look at the poorest reviews first because many times they are the most honest. I know many people who only give 4 or 5 stars because they don’t want to hurt the author’s feeling. I must say that I follow an interesting writer on Twitter and he is an independent like me, but I didn’t really enjoy his book. I let him know my thoughts through DM there, but didn’t post a review because it was a 3* and he had a 5* average. I didn’t want to ruin that. He was very thankful for the honest review, told me to post it, and asked me to beta read his next book. It really is a question of perception and how one values themselves as an author (or a reader).

            Liked by 1 person

            • That was a good way to go with that author.
              As for the cost of books, Kindle is fine, but I much prefer the look and feel of a book. Printed matter is so expensive here, as is shipping. I’m very grateful for our public library.

              Liked by 1 person

  2. This is really interesting and something I’ve been thinking about myself recently. When I first started reviewing books on my blog I just looked at it as though I was another reader or book blogger and wouldn’t worry about giving negative reviews, as long as they were respectful. But now that I’m in the process of polishing my novel and thinking of publication in one way or another, it feels different. As you say, reviewing one another’s work is important for support, but these days I’d feel uncomfortable putting out a negative review because I know how awful it might feel if I were negatively reviewed by one of my peers, even if they came at it from a place of constructive criticism. I’ve been toying with the idea of scrapping my book reviews completely for this very reason. Then again, when I’ve read a good book – even if I don’t think it’s ‘the best book ever’ as Kate Atkinson said – I want people to know about it, and sometimes it only feels fair and honest to mention the bits I didn’t like so much as well as the bits I did like. It’s tricky!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I certainly don’t think you should give up your book reviews, Ellie. They’re so well written, they are a pleasure to read and you’ve reviewed some great books. Still in my mind is “The Rivers of London” which was such an entertaining read; I might never come across it otherwise.
      I’m sure you’ve never said anything about a book which would hurt the author. Even the reviews when you’ve mentioned something you haven’t enjoyed, there are always many balancing positive comments too.
      Really looking forward to your novel…


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