Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Authors for Ethical Reviews - Will You Add Your Name?

Recently, there have been quite a few revelations about prominent authors either buying reviews, creating fake reviews or disparaging their competitors in reviews. Benjamin X. Wretlind, in a very strongly-worded blog post, links to some of the articles discussing this and, in his post, states unequivocally that he will not game the ratings system. I would like to join him in making that pledge and hope many other authors will do so as well.

The authors listed below have come together for one simple purpose: to state, publicly and proudly, that they are making a choice to only give and receive reviews ethically and based on any given work's merits.

Simply, we pledge that:

1. We will not pay for reviews.
2. We will not engage in quid pro quo review exchanges with other authors.
3. We will not leave reviews on the works of other authors if we have not read the work in question.

The full explanation behind each of these items follows.

1. It is wrong to pay for a review. Period. Even if the person/agency claims they will write an "honest" review, they are driven by financial concerns to ensure that writers keep coming back to them. This will not happen if many of their reviews are negative.

2. It is, of course, acceptable to write a review for someone you know. Many of the writers I now consider friends I met because either I reviewed their work or they reviewed mine. It is even alright to ask for a review if you know someone has read/is reading/will read your work, as long as you express to them that a quid pro quo is not implied by the request. But to enter into an agreement with another author in which you exchange reviews is unethical. Even if you both agree to leave honest reviews, the fear that a bad review will be answered with another bad review is always present. If you read and like a book, review it, no matter your relationship with the author. It is as simple as that. Personally, I will not leave a negative review if I do not like a book (and I know many other authors who do the same). This, however, is your choice as long as you pledge that your negative reviews will be as honest as your positive reviews.

3. The desire to help a friend may lead some to leave positive reviews on works they have not read. Conversely, the desire to harm the sales of a "competitor" may lead one to leave negative reviews. I would urge all reviewers, not just writers, to refrain from leaving a review on any work they have not read in full. Those "slow" first few chapters may be setting up the most incredible story you've ever read.

The following authors, listed in the order that I received them, have made the above pledge. There is little doubt that most authors agree with the above statements and no assumptions should be made about any authors not on the list. However, readers can trust that those listed below have done what is in their power to ensure that the reviews of their work are as fair and unbiased as possible. Each name will be linked to the author's website. If you feel as strongly about this issue as Ben and I do and would like to add your name to this list, leave a comment below with your name (or pen name, if you use one) and the website to which you would like me to link. (Edit: I don't know if some of you are just commenting or wanting to be added. If you want to be added, write "Add me" followed by the name you write under and your website/blog.)

AUTHORS FOR ETHICAL REVIEWS

4. Claude Bouchard
5. A.B. Potts
6. Mary Gottschalk

48 comments:

  1. Alright gentlemen, count me in.

    http://craigmmcgraywrites.blogspot.com/

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  2. Excellent initiative, Michael & Ben!

    Claude Bouchard
    http://www.claudebouchardbooks.com

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  3. I'm definately in.
    A B Potts
    http://www.abpotts.co.uk/

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  4. I stand firmly behind these principles. Paying for reviews is nothing short of bribery and is conceptually no different from the recording industry's "payola" for radio airplay - which, by the way, is illegal.
    Let's unite for integrity!

    Ford Forkum
    http://www.fordforkum.com

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  5. What Ford said. I'm in. Stephen C. Ormsby, Author of Long Lost Song.

    stephenormsby.wordpress.com - doing book reviews for the books I want to read. No money exchanges hands and all opinions are mine!

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  6. Aldous Mercer, author of The Prince and The Program.

    I am very much in.

    @technomance
    technomance.com

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  7. It's just like with movies! The producers pay for the critics to review the movie! That's why horrible movies have such good reviews...and why great movies have horrible reviews!

    I'M IN!

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  8. I'm in too - www.angelaburkebooks.com

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  9. Richie Earl, The Legend of Finndragon's Curse.

    9 months without a review in US and only 3 in the UK. But I can hold my head up - count me in.

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  10. I'm on:

    Neal Alan Spurlock (also published under the name "Neal Jansons")

    http://www.nealalanspurlock.com

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  11. Kimberly T. Matthews
    http://www.kimberlytmatthews.com

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  12. I am absolutely in. I am a reviewer who is appalled and have blogged on this issue. I'm working on my first book which I hope to have out in the next couple of months. I'd love reviews, but I'll get them honestly.

    http://darleneelizabethwilliamsauthor.com/

    Darlene Elizabeth Williams

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  13. Count me in as well. Daniel Zazitski http://www.amderestathe4threpublic.com

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  14. There is a group of us forming to support each other. In order for me to affirm Principle #2, I will have to get my colleagues to sign on. Since none of us will be reading and reviewing more than about one book per month, I don't see this as a problem; we can agree to read each other's books, and only to offer reviews when those reviews can be positive. I would love it if this comment would start a discussion around how authors can truly support (rather than enable, if one writer needs too much work) each other.

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    1. I would urge your group to be very careful to ensure that all members understand that a quid pro quo is not implied by the arrangement. But ultimately, you're only responsible for what you do. You cannot prevent others from "feeling good" about a book because its author wrote them a good review. But if the issue is raised, hopefully it will be in the back of the members' minds when it comes time to review.

      Best,
      Michael

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  16. I agree 100%. I always want honest reviews of my work, have never and will never pay for a review. I am author, agent and publisher by myself and really need the reviews to know what I'm not doing right. I use them as learning tools and can't understand why an author, any author would want someone to lie to them rather than find an issue and fix it. Count me in. http://nicolefaithhill.blogspot.com

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  17. I have never paid for a review nor do I intend to. I have never written a review for a book that I have not read. I have reviewed some authors that have read my work as well, my reviews are always honest and I intend to keep that practice in place.

    Count me in ~
    Micheal Rivers http://michealrivers.com/

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  18. Question...do you consider contests entered wherein you pay a fee? Reviews are often provided for the books by judges, and money is required to enter the contests. What is the general consensus of this situation?

    Thanks.

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    1. Bruce,

      It's up to you to decide what you feel is ethical. I cannot make the decision for you. However, if you're paying to enter the contest and not for a review, I don't see it as a conflict. It really comes down to intent.

      Best,
      Michael

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  19. Paid reviews are a threat to the publishing industry. Count me in

    Brenda Barrett
    Fiwibooks.com
    @AuthorWriterBB

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  20. Ohh... I'm a reviewer with independent bookpleasures.com where publishers pay to have the books reviewed, but we the reviewers don't get paid and are not under any obligation to review unless we feel like it. We review as a hobby and we get to choose which book/s we want to take, we don't ask others to reciprocate, and we have all the freedom to voice our true opinion.

    Count me in against paid positive reviews.

    Ia Uaro
    sydneyssong.net
    @sydneyssong

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    1. Ia, I'm curious about one thing: why do you enrich someone else by writing reviews for their site? If you just enjoy reviewing, there are many authors who would send you their books for review with no money exchanging hands.

      The fact that money is being exchanged is problematic for me. But if you feel you can and will give honest reviews, since the arrangement is not benefiting you financially, I will give you the benefit of the doubt. Just think about what the arrangement you've entered into is accomplishing for all those involved.

      Best,
      Michael

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  21. Right on, Micheal! Excellent post and nice affirmative stance.

    Kathy Lynn Hall
    @RedMojoMama

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  22. Count Jeff Whelan in! My record's clean so far. While I have reviewed the work of others who have reviewed mine, said reviews have not been solicited as "quid pro quo". Just enjoying a read and returning a favor is all. So, yes - please add my name. Thanks for this!

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  23. I'm all in!!

    C.K. Raggio
    ckraggio.com

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  24. I agree! Count me in!
    Anne M. Slanina www.anniemousebooks.com

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  25. Strike a blow for integrity. I'm with you on this one.
    P. W. Fox www.pwfox.com

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  26. I agree! Please put my name on the list, I would rather not give a review if I dont like the book, will always try to think of others who might. It's been rare I havent liked what I've read though.

    Ruth Watson-Morris

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  27. I agree fully with the caveat that it is okay for authors to swap reviews- What is not acceptable is to in any way hide what they have done.
    Authors have always reviewed for each other. It is a form of traceable peer reviewing. Some of the best reviewers are authors. Why should they be barred from reviewing each other.
    I am happy to stand by all my reviews, whether or not I have been reviewed in return.
    I accept that the level of connivance is almost impossible to measure, but the credibility of open, named, traceable authors isn't.
    Authors and professional reviewers are equally open to scrutiny, and that is as good as it gets. It makes no difference whether the reviewers being questioned are posted in the best of traditional literary reviews or on Amazon. What matters to the reader is having confidence in the reviewer.

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    1. Richard, I think there is a difference between reviewing a book by an author you know because you liked it and agreeing to "swap" reviews. As stated above, the quid pro quo aspect of actively exchanging reviews can cause an ethical dilemma. I was in a position in which an author asked my opinion of a work and I had to tell him up front that I would be happy to read it but, since I do not leave negative reviews, a review could not be assured. Since the swap/exchange assures a review, I, personally, cannot condone the practice. This is also why I generally don't tell authors I know that I'm reading their work. I don't want to be in the position of being asked for a review which I cannot provide. If I enjoy it, they will know afterward when I do leave a review.

      Best,
      Michael

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  28. The average Amazon review is far more informative and trustworthy than the average cover blurb on a published novel. Remember that, but, yes, authors who buy reviews should be thrown into a vat of eels.

    I sign in.

    http://aemarling.com/

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  29. I would love to be part of this, too :)

    EC Stilson
    www.ecwrites.com

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  30. Count me in!

    Susannah Morgan
    Author: THE SORCERER'S CONFESSION,
    THE SORCERER'S PROMISE

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  31. Add my name! Jesi Lea Ryan, @Jesilea. I have never paid for a review, tried to sabotage another author's review page or reviewed work that I have not read. I think it is sad that these practices are going on.

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  32. I'm a new author - VERY NEW - unknown, lol, but even I don't think that buying a review is the right way to go. I don't want a review if it isn't honest - the truth may hurt some times, and it isn't always fun to read but I would rather the truth then someone saying they love my book when they really hated it. I used to be an actor, still am I guess just in local theatre instead of out in LA doing films - That's what marriage does sometimes. Anyway, I'm getting off track - I wouldn't buy a review for my acting and I wouldn't buy a review for my writing either. So, count me in!
    Nina Soden ~ Author of AWAKEN ~ a BLOOD ANGEL novel.
    www.ninasoden.wordpress.com

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  33. Add me please ... have posted already but can't see my comment ... Ngaire Elder and my website is www.ceciliaspark.com. thank you n x

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  34. Add me. I review books I have finished a nd like. If I don't like it, I don't leave a review

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  35. Add me to the list. It would be awesome if somehow the list could be placed somewhere that lots of potential readers could view it!

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  37. I am on. Precisely the kind of thinking I am looking for.

    http://ramanreviews.blogspot.in/

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  38. Count me in.

    http://shinmahs.wordpress.com/

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  39. Count me in as well. While my first book isn't due out until later this year, I've been appalled at the behavior of some authors.

    Isabelle Saint-Pierre
    HTTP://isabellestpierre.com

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  40. you can add me Roxanne Crouse somuchtowritesolittletime.com

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