Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Are we too nice?
There's a very interesting piece on Slate regarding the current literary culture.  Have you read it yet?

I think the author makes some good points--given the ubiquitous nature of social networking, authors are increasingly interacting with readers and each other.  This is not always a bad thing--I know that as a reader, I have enjoyed talking with authors about my favorite books, and as a writer, I really appreciate hearing them talk about their process and strategy.


I have noticed on some author websites that any opinions or reviews that are less than glowing praise are shouted down by other fans.  There are countless accounts of authors behaving badly on GoodReads, Amazon, or other review websites.  As the author of this piece notes, this culture of love makes it difficult for critical reviews to come to light, because it's very easy to conflate the work under review with the person who just tweeted the adorable picture of her puppy.

Should authors step back from social media, in order to keep themselves separate from their work?  I don't think so.  Nowadays, publishers practically demand that authors perform some type of self-promotion, be it a Facebook page, Twitter account, blog, or other type of social media.  This is even more true for self-published authors, who must promote themselves loudly and often to have a chance of being heard in this crowded market.

I think it's important to differentiate the one-star drive-by reviews (the ones where the writer clearly hasn't read the book) from those that articulate an opinion and provide examples to back it up.  The latter are the type of reviews that are most helpful, both to authors and readers, and we as a literary community should encourage them.  Personally, when I review a book I try to provide examples from the text that support my argument as to whether it's a good book or not.

This is an interesting issue, to be sure, and I'm wondering what you all think about it.  Are we too friendly?  Do we stifle critical opinion because we don't want to hurt the author's feelings?  Or do we have the right balance of criticism and praise?  Let me know your thoughts!


  1. I hope that if I'm ever published I either have the willpower to stay away from reviews completely... or at least be able to keep in mind the difference between a review in a literary journal and one on a fan site...

    1. Yeah--I guess you have to learn to ignore what people say about your books, both the good and the bad! :)


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