Authors as Book Reviewers: An Ethical Dilemma

Photo by Tachyondecay

Photo by Tachyondecay

Like most authors, I read relentlessly. At last count, I average about three books a week. Like most authors, I’m always looking for ways to push myself and write regularly. As a result, I’ve been considering beginning to write book reviews, but I keep running up against an ethical concern. Is it ethical for me to write book reviews when I also write books that compete with what I’m reading?

Let’s narrow this down a bit, because in no way am I saying that writers should never write a book review of any kind, but should we write reviews of books in the genre in which we write? I mean, can I truly say that my review would be 100% objective when the book I’m reviewing competes directly against my own work?

I think credibility suffers in that instance. Let’s say I read a book that just doesn’t resonate with me for one reason or another. Happens all the time. But, let’s say I write a detailed, negative review of said book. The moment it’s made clear that I write books in the same genre, I think my credibility is instantly derailed. Can I be taken seriously at that point?

My gut says no.

When I come across negative reviews of books that are written by reviewers who also write in that genre, I don’t take them seriously. It seems as if they are trying to tip the scales in favor of their own work. Whether they actually are or not, that is how it seems. I think if you write in a genre, you shouldn’t be a reviewer in that genre … as I said, to me it’s all about credibility.

I read lots of non-fiction, mystery, memoir, and thrillers as well. If I do choose to begin writing reviews, I feel like I have an ethical obligation to stick to these genres for anything I write about.

Just my $.02, but I’m curious as to what others think. Anyone?

5 thoughts on “Authors as Book Reviewers: An Ethical Dilemma

  1. if – and i’m sure there’s no need for “if” – but if you are reviewing honestly, then there’s no reason you shouldn’t. of course you are reviewing honestly, but of course some people might think you’re only going to give good reviews in order to get good reviews back. will anyone really care? i don’t think so. you do what you want and what feels best. you know your integrity.

  2. I understand your concern, so let me throw in just two points:

    No review is 100 % objective, so your dilemma is not an absolute one

    And since you write in the same genres you review in, you are “entitled” to a biased opinion — that doesn’t mean your reviews can’t be honest. I take it you have very strong bonds to your genre, know what you want to find and read in them. After all, you put those wanted elements into your own books (why else would you write in the first place?). If you find or miss said elements in the books of other authors, it is not unethical to mention it.

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