This week I seemed to have read more posts about book reviewing than usual. Unfortunately, they were about customer reviewers and indie authors behaving badly toward each other. I know it is only a few rotten apples on both camps making everybody else look bad, but I think it is a pity that there’s not such a thing as a recognized code of ethics and professional behavior for either of them. As somebody who has worn both hats, I deplore reviewers who flame authors for whatever faults they attribute to and/or they perceive the author has committed. And I deplore authors who look down on reviewers as if their having been published give them membership in some ‘better’ club. As I write this, I realized that both of them are guilty of the same sin—they are entitling themselves to being in a ‘better’ class, which tells me that the problem may have to do with arrogance.
What was once a simple feedback comment has now turned into a customer review, an important instrument that can and does affect how successful a business can become. As customer reviewers you don’t need to be an expert or show credentials. Your word can turn away potentials buyers or bring up sales. It is not surprising that for some reviewers such power may have gone over their heads.
Self-publishing has opened doors to anybody who writes and everybody can be an author. Yes, get your book out and you are an Author, with capital ‘A’, and in the same league as John Grisham, Toni Morrison and even Gabriel Garcia Marquez. To these indie writers who have already accomplished Authorship, customer reviewers review because that is what failed writers do. To the reviewers, indie authors are not Real Authors because they are not endorsed by a recognized publishing house.
I don’t have a solution to this situation. But I wish for more humility and civility from both camps. Neither one is above the other one. Both could learn from each other because what they are doing is writing. Reviews, stories, novels, poems, how-to instructions are all writing and writing is a never ending journey. There is always room for improvement, and there’s always a way to pointing it out if not nicely, then constructively—and that’s a writing skill worth cultivating.