My official policy on Ink Spells is that I do not review books so much as recommend them. Which means I only talk about books that I can enthusiastically endorse. I see this as a win-win situation: I can help a fellow writer promote their awesome work, and I can connect kids with great books, which is part of what Ink Spells is all about.
Sometimes, this means I turn down a publisher’s request for me to review their book, usually because the books are not appropriate for the “clean read” focus of Ink Spells for middle grade and Young Teens. But it also means that, as a writer, I never put myself in the position of having to say negative things (in public) about another writer’s work.* There are plenty of reviewers in the world, and as Stacia puts it, you have to decide at some point if you are a writer or a reviewer.
I am definitely a writer.
*Note: I am always completely honest in my critiques, although I try to be kind as well, because I think that is the best way to help my fellow writers.
She also makes a point about your diminishing ability to “speak freely” once you become published, because you have become a public figure, and you do not want your random thoughts to keep people from buying your book. I’m familiar with this phenomenon already, having held elected office for four years. It’s not so much that you can’t be yourself, as you need to be your best self: the one who is generous and giving and non-judgmental. We all have our weak moments, where we want to rant and rail against the injustices of the world, or simply be snarky because someone rubbed us the wrong way: save these moments for your mom, or your husband, or your best friend. Put your best face on for the public, so that they will not be distracted from the main issue, whether it’s your political stance or your fiction.
Some may disagree with Stacia’s position on reviewing books. I think we each have to find our way in this crazy thing called the blogosphere. While aspiring writers are told, everywhere they turn, that they must blog, FB, and twitter, to have any hope of ever selling their books, and reviewing books seems like a natural way to generate interesting content, in the end we have to remember what we are: writers. The writing community is one of the most supportive I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a part of. In recommending books, rather than reviewing therm, I’ve found a path where I can support my fellow writers as well.
What path have you chosen?