Why I Review *and* Write
The blog recently received two negative comments from the same person re my role as both a writer and reviewer of IR romance, which was awesome, in that they reminded me that I had been meaning to write a post about why I both review and write interrracial romance novels. First the comments:
There was this one on my B- review of MERRY CHRISTMAS, BABY by Monica Jackson:
Isn’t this a conflict of interest? How can you present that you have a professional review site but then you’re pimping your books at the end. You’re piggybacking on other established author’s present readership. And this is tacky.
And there was this one of my B+ review of SANTA BABY by Roslyn Holcomb:
This is real shady. How can you give unbiased reviews then try to sell readers your book. Real tacky!
I consider this welcome feedback because it gives me the chance to make a few points about why I’ve chosen to both review and write interracial romance novels.
1. I’m a reader first. I’ve been reading IR romance novels since the late 80s, so I feel like I grew up with this genre. However, as more novels came on the market due to the ebook revolution, I found myself unable to find a site that reviewed them. So I started one of my own. I don’t claim to be a professional review site. I am for the record one person giving her honest opinion. I’ve been told in a few critique groups that I’m good at feedback, so I decided to extend my scope — by a lot. My review policy is that I would never say anything in a review that I wouldn’t say in person to a fellow writer in my critique group.
2. I’m not the first author to review other authors. In fact I can add my name to a rather illustrious list, which includes Alice Hoffman, Maurice Sendak, Salman Rushdie and many others. I recently read an account of how Richard Ford literally spit in Colson Whitehead’s face for giving him a bad review. Though I consider mine a homemade book blog (after all, I’m only getting paid in piddly Amazon Associate fees), quite a few professional review sites employ writers as reviewers. So if I’m shady, so is the New York Review of Books. Lastly, my favorite reviewer of all time, Roger Ebert, wrote two screenplays early in his career as a movie critic. If I’m tacky, so is Roger Ebert.
3. I’ve actually sold more copies of other people’s books than my own through this site. I’m not going to lie. THE OWNER OF HIS HEART is doing way better than I expected it to given that I’m a new author with no platform other than this blog. But this success is not due to this review site or my reviews.* According to my Amazon Associate stats, I’ve only sold 6 copies of OWNER through this site. To put that in perpective, when I last checked this morning, I’d sold 1041 copies of OWNER through Amazon. So less than 1% of my sales are coming from people who found me through my review site. In actuality, books like PRICE OF PASSION, STRANGE LITTLE BAND, and PLAYER’S ULTIMATUM (which I haven’t reviewed yet, but which I’m reading now, because it was bought a few times by people who clicked through to Amazon from my site), have benefitted more than OWNER.
4. I don’t think I’m piggybacking on other authors through my reviews. On Amazon in order to find my author identity through a review I’ve done on another author’s book, first you’d have to read my review, which I always sign “Happy Reading, Theodora from irbookreviews.com” Then you’d have to cut and paste the irbookreviews.com into your browser. Then after you came to my site, you’d have to go back to Amazon to buy my book. Looking at my site stats, that’s not how most of my readers are finding me. Many of them seem to come through google searches — funnily enough, for terms like “interracial romance reviews” or “interracial romance bwwm” — or they’ve already read OWNER and they just want to know more about the author. Before OWNER released on Dec. 6th, I got about 10 unique visits a day, now I get about 80, mostly due to people finding the blog through my author page — not the reviews I left for other authors.
4. I don’t know any of these authors in real life. Unlike many writers who review their peers or book critics in general, I have never personally met any of the authors I’ve reviewed. I’ve run into them a few times on social media, but other than that, I don’t know them as anything but a reader and now as a fellow writer. I think that makes me way farther removed and way more unbiased than many other professional book reviewers. I honestly just want to give my honest opinion with my reviews. I also want to learn. See #9.
5. I don’t consider this a conflict of interest. Writers are allowed to have opinions about other writers’ work. As a debut author, I also love that if a reader likes my book, though she can’t read another novel by me quite yet, she can come to my site and get a whole bunch of ideas about what book to read next. Believe me, I’m helping way more authors than I’m hindering or “piggybacking.” And according to Amazon Associates, even a few of the authors I’ve given bad reviews have gotten a sale or two from a reader click through.
6. It’s not really a competition. I’m an avid reader. So I know that my buying a book by Delilah Hunt doesn’t mean that Koko Brown won’t also get a sale. In fact, it’s pretty much guaranteed that after I finish their latest books, Dahlia Rose and Lena Matthews will also be turning a profit off my insatiable reading habit. The nice thing about IR romance is that our readers tend to be voracious. So buying my book isn’t keeping people from buying another author’s book. If it’s good and reasonably priced, chances are the reader will buy both.
7. If any authors are offended or upset by my review of of her or his book, I invite that author to buy my book, read it, and do a review of their own just like I did. In general I feel that if a person buys and finishes my book, she has every write to review it, no matter who she is, how she feels about it, or what she does for a living.
8. I don’t have trouble reviewing other’s work, because it’s my honest and heavily-considered opinion. I actually feel I’m a really good reviewer. I think hard about the things I say before I write them. I strive not to be vague in my criticisms, and even if it’s a bad review, I try to be as helpful as possible. Most amateur reviewers don’t put near the amount of consideration into their reviews that I do.
9. I consider this my classroom. They don’t teach classes on how to write interracial romance. It’s a skill that I had to pretty much figure out on my own. When I analyze a book for other readers, I consider that part of my learning process. The more I figure out what other writers do well and do poorly, the better my writing will become over time.
1o. You don’t have to buy my book or read my reviews. If after reading the reasons I both review and write, you feel that I am shady, avaricious, tacky, or opportunistic, by all means, don’t come back to this review site — even though I think you’ll find other books that you might really like here — and most definitely don’t download my book — even though I think you’ll really enjoy it.
I don’t feel that I’m doing anything wrong by reviewing other authors’ work. Since there are no other exclusively IR book review sites that I can find, I hope that I’m providing a much needed service, which is important to me, since I’m not comfortable with in-your-face promotion and love giving readers a value-added experience when they come to my site. I really enjoy writing both my reviews** and my books, and I hope my fellow avid readers are enjoying them, too. If you’re not, please feel free to not visit irbookreviews.com and avoid my reviews at Amazon, GoodReads and Twitter.
But if you are, please pick up a copy of THE OWNER OF MY HEART. It’s hit the bestseller list in both Contemporary Romance and Erotica for a ton of saucy reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with my book reviews. 😉
Theodora from irbookreviews.com
*I’m aware that there’s a lovely tradition of indie authors helping other indie authors by sharing their e-publishing journey. If you’re interested in hearing about my journey, let me know in the comments, and if there’s enough interest, I’ll put together a post in the next few weeks.
**Really sorry that I haven’t posted any new reviews this week. Spending time with the family over the holidays hasn’t left me with as much reading and writing time as I’d like. But I’ll be back next week with a fresh crop of reviews.