Welcome to the Historical Fiction Online forums: a friendly place to discuss, review and discover historical fiction.
If this is your first visit, please be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above.
You will have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed.
To start viewing posts, select the forum that you want to visit from the selection below.

Whats your take on peer reviews?

Got a question/comment about the creative process of writing? Post it here!
writerinthenorth
Reader
Posts: 107
Joined: June 2010

Whats your take on peer reviews?

Post by writerinthenorth » Tue May 31st, 2011, 12:12 pm

I'm about to put together a blog posting on peer reviews, and I'd be interested before I do so in what other writers think about their peers reviewing their work on the various on-line sites. I have in the past written favourably about this practicebut I feel there are downsides too, which I want to explore in my blog. Any thoughts, negative or positive or both, about peer reviews would be most welcome.

User avatar
LoveHistory
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3751
Joined: September 2008
Location: Wisconsin, USA
Contact:

Post by LoveHistory » Tue May 31st, 2011, 1:40 pm

The only downsides I can think of are jealousy and competition. One would hope that neither of these issues would creep into peer reviews, but once in a while it's bound to happen. Of course that could backfire on the person running down someone else's work to benefit their own.

User avatar
Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 9581
Joined: August 2008
Location: Seattle, WA

Post by Misfit » Tue May 31st, 2011, 2:57 pm

I am strictly speaking as a reader who does have mixed feelings about them. I think my biggest issue is the disclosure of a relationship if there is one. With blogs and such it is easier to know there is a professional relationship from spending time at sites like HFO and Goodreads, but not every one reading that review will be aware there's a friendship going on - same as I see with a lot of book blurbs.

I hope I'm going to say this the right way and not start up a firestorm, but seeing these on Amazon can really set the alarm bells off, i.e. when there's nothing but gushy five star reviews from what are obviously authors (from their profile name) and no reviews from anyone else. It doesn't necessarily mean that they are not being truthful when they say they love the book, but for me as a consumer those reviews don't have quite the same value I would give to the opinion of an average joe reader spending their hard earned money.

I'm not going to name the book, but a friend of mine recently purchased a book based upon glowing reviews on Amazon and was a bit disappointed. She found out afterward that the majority of those glowing reviews were from authors - authors who had a very definite professional relationship.

I have seen discussion threads on Amazon wherein authors have discussed the you scratch my back I'll scratch yours of swapping book reviews, and that has really set my back up further on this issue.

As for Amazon reviews, they have put into their review guidelines asking reviewers to make full disclosure of product source. I sometimes forget to do this on old OOP's, but for newer releases I try my best to do so, even if it's from the library. Clearly since Klausner is still pumping out reviews Amazon isn't enforcing it, but perhaps one day they will.

I guess in conclusion what I'd like to see is full disclosure of the relationship. Did the author give the book to you for review? Are you close personal friends? Published by the same publishing house? Hey, it is OK if you loved the book, just please disclose whatever relationship so that we lowly consumers have one more tool to help us make the right purchasing decisions.
Last edited by Misfit on Tue May 31st, 2011, 2:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
At home with a good book and the cat...
...is the only place I want to be

writerinthenorth
Reader
Posts: 107
Joined: June 2010

Peer reviews

Post by writerinthenorth » Tue May 31st, 2011, 3:42 pm

Some great points made here already. On peer review sites, one of the issues that may be of concern is how qualified any commentator (I include myself in this) may be to give an objective view on someone else's work. I wonder how many writers may have been sent down the wrong path, or even abandoned their project altogether, because of a wrong-headed review. On the other hand, you could argue that we are all readers or potential readers whatever our qualities as critics, and therefore all views are valid. It's a tough one.

Writer in the North

User avatar
EC2
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3661
Joined: August 2008
Location: Nottingham UK
Contact:

Post by EC2 » Tue May 31st, 2011, 4:35 pm

I'm singing from Misfit's hymnsheet here. I have been asked on numerous occasions to give puff quotes on fellow authors' novels. I am not averse to this in principle, but within certain parameters. I say that I will not puff anything I have not bought myself, read and loved at a 5 star level. That way I can read at my own pace and without feeling pressured into saying something's wonderful when it's not. If it is wonderful, then hey, I'll scream it from the rafters and leap on the fan wagon.
I know for a fact, as an industry insider that there are authors (some highly rspected by readers of HF) who have been asked to quote, have done so to oblige their editor and fellow author, when really they think the novel is not up to par. But they won't dare say so in public. But then that leaves the reader high and dry. There are also little puff cliques of authors. Again, working in the industry, you get to know the back-scratchers, and once more it's 'buyer beware.' They might mean it. They might just be doing a friend a favour...
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com

User avatar
MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3564
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Tue May 31st, 2011, 4:53 pm

I'm very wary of being asked to review another writer's work. Honesty can ruin the relationship, and dissembling can also come back to bite you. The way I figure it is that the best I can give another writer is blunt honesty, and that is what I prefer myself. But it costs to do that, and I have other claims on my 'relationship capital' -- like my family and close friends.

I do feel that an exchange of critiques is one equitable way to manage this, especially if the relationship is 'arm's length' -- which is to say, if the other writer gets really upset, it isn't going to affect your daily life, and vice versa. That increases the odds of useful comment.

As a reader, I only want to know the opinions of other readers, and readers with my taste at that. I ignore blurbs from 'professionals' because they wouldn't be on the back of the book if they hadn't said something nice, and it's probably not what they really think. That trend will only grow stronger, so hopefully writers will no longer be put in the awkward spot of having to say they like something they didn't even have time to read.

User avatar
Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 9581
Joined: August 2008
Location: Seattle, WA

Post by Misfit » Tue May 31st, 2011, 6:20 pm

They might mean it. They might just be doing a friend a favour...
And that's a very good point. I saw a thread on Amazon once where readers were talking about an upcoming book and some were a bit wary about getting it because of some possible accuracy issues. Another commenter noted the blurbs from several authors and it was assumed since they were blurbing it, the book must be good.

So my question to the authors is - is that the impression you want to leave with your readers (you know, the people you want to buy your books), that you either 1) love mediocre books or 2) have book buddy will promo? Or would you rather your readers think good books and enjoyment of reading is the most important thing to you?
At home with a good book and the cat...
...is the only place I want to be

writerinthenorth
Reader
Posts: 107
Joined: June 2010

Blog posting now ready

Post by writerinthenorth » Thu June 9th, 2011, 11:45 am

I have now completed my blog posting Can a writer trust peer reviews? and would welcome a visit from forum members.

Writer in the North

User avatar
wendy
Compulsive Reader
Posts: 592
Joined: September 2010
Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
Contact:

Post by wendy » Thu June 9th, 2011, 1:58 pm

You make some very good points in your blog. And I think a lot come down to intent. Is the purpose of the peer review to help other readers select suitable books? Or is it a way to help a new writer develop their craft? Perhaps both . . . .
Wendy K. Perriman
Fire on Dark Water (Penguin, 2011)
http://www.wendyperriman.com
http://www.FireOnDarkWater.com

User avatar
fljustice
Bibliophile
Posts: 1995
Joined: March 2010
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Contact:

Post by fljustice » Thu June 9th, 2011, 4:13 pm

The "review swap" is particularly seductive trap for new authors. Several years ago, I naively agreed to swap reviews with another author and got caught. I liked the book, but thought it had some flaws. I would have given it an honest three stars out of five, but was "obligated" to give it five stars and a glowing review. Never again! I've turned down all queries for swaps since. I also disclose any relationship I have with the author when I review.
Faith L. Justice, Author Website
Image

Post Reply

Return to “The Craft of Writing”