deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
[personal profile] deborah
YALSA Blog had a post I mostly liked about Blogging as a Professional Development Tool, but the opening paragraph concerned me greatly.

"Last month I posted an interview with Perry Moore, the executive producer of the Chronicles of Narnia films and author of the Y/A novel, Hero, to the YALSA blog. Did I know Moore personally before interviewing him? No, I didn’t. How did I get to know him? I blogged about his book. Yes, you read it right. I posted a blog entry on my own blog about his novel, Hero. Moore read my review, liked what I had to say, and suggested an interview."

I know a lot of book bloggers who treat their online reviews with the same sense of professionalism as professional reviewers. They write positive, negative, and mixed reviews, depending on what the book deserves. I know bloggers who have received angry mail from authors or editors and have taken it as a mark of pride. But this opening paragraph from YALSA Blog, in all its well-meaning optimism, exemplifies everything that worries me about encouraging people to become book bloggers.

This post explicitly states that the author (a) did important professional development and (b) met a successful young adult author and film producer because she wrote a review the author liked. I'm sure most people start out with every intention of integrity but it's hard to keep that when you know publishers are more likely to send you galleys* if you say nice things about the books. It's hard to remember when authors are coming into your blogs themselves and praising you every time you say something nice. A lot of people work very hard to keep that level of integrity, and the YALSA Blog article inadvertently but actively discourages that. I'm sure Perry Moore would not have suggested the interview if the blog post have been a negative review (although I can't swear to that, because I can't find the original blog post anywhere).

I had to take [ profile] diceytillerman's excellent advice and unsubscribe from most author blogs after one author had gotten in the habit of posting squeefully along the lines of "wow, anonymous Kirkus reviewer, you are the best person in the world and I love you love you love you." That just felt too good, and compromised my integrity when I was reviewing that author's books. My hindbrain would send little reward signals every time I wrote a sentence in a review that I thought would make the author say nice things about me. (Yes, some of you are authors. Hopefully I will not be sent any of your books to review, and if I am, I will figure out what to do then.)

First of all, you should only book blog if you love books and love talking about them. Secondly, it can indeed succeed as a professional development tool -- although keep in mind that a reviewer who only writes squee might have prospective employers think twice about that blogger's ability to do collection development and selection. But you should NEVER be encouraging people to do book blogging in order to get the attention of authors or to get galleys from publishers, because both of those goals will result in intellectually dishonest reviews. The blogger with the best intentions cannot override the hindbrain's desire for free stuff and the friendship of famous people.

* I really don't understand why adults get so excited about galleys. First of all, they are often full of errors, and rarely read as smoothly as the finished copy. Secondly, yes, you get the book early -- but if nine months are going to pass between the finished version of book 1 and the finished version of book 2, those same nine months are going to pass between the galley of book 1 and a galley of book 2. And if you aren't guaranteed to get the galley of book 2, you will be waiting even longer between books than the people who waited for the finished version. If it's just the "free", than I would like to recommend to all these people their awesome local public library and its interlibrary loan program.

Date: 2010-03-26 08:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Not every book blogger necessarily even intends to be an objective reviewer. Book bloggers love books, and some may choose to overstate the good parts and minimize the bad parts of the books they discuss. I write about music on LJ, and I deliberately gloss over some criticisms sometimes. (Generally, the more "professional" a performance is, the more critical I am in writing about it.)

This obviously creates incentives problems, since publishers and authors are likely to give more attention to blogs where they can expect positive reviews, but I wouldn't fault a blogger for choosing to write positive reviews.

Date: 2010-03-26 09:19 pm (UTC)
jordanwillow: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jordanwillow
also, it encourages squee. (which, granted, might not bother everyone.)

loved this post.
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