No Stars After Greenstar

With Greenstar collaboration continuing to go exceptionally well, Simon Cantan and I are throwing around some ideas for more joint projects after Season One of Greenstar is written: we already have a couple of ideas we are playing with, and a list of things we might do next year (including some ideas for Greenstar Season Two).

However, in between discussing the super-secret secrets of our cabal, we encountered a downside to working well together.

Simon commented he really enjoyed An Unquiet Calm, but didn’t think it would be a good idea, from a publishing perspective, to say so on Amazon or the other online retailers. And of course the same holds true for me to uploading reviews of his books: however scrupulously fair we actually were, and however much we bent over backwards to indicate our friendship might unconsciously influence our perspective, all it would take is one person suggesting we were artificially inflating each other’s ratings for all our books to get rated down (or even blacklisted).

And I entirely see his point. Greenstar will be our third collaboration, and more importantly, the first paid collaboration. So we do have an interest in each other’s success.

The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.

– Harper Lee

But I also chafe against the restriction.

Our first interaction was a short email conversation after I sent him a link to my review of Shiny New Swindle. He is one of the few authors I have reviewed more than once as part of my weekly review series. I started following him on Google+ because of his response to my reviews. Reviews are one of the reasons that we know each other well enough to be collaborating.

Another reason, perhaps even more chafing, is that we each think the other is a skilled author. While there are many authors whose work I would recommend, Simon is the only one I am actually staking my professional relationship on: if I post a review which gives a minority opinion on a books worth it is potentially embarrassing for a short while; if I co-author with a writer, any embarrassment reappears whenever someone searches for more of my work.

Each time we review our process for Greenstar, each time we consider another collaboration, we decide to go forward because we think the other writes good books.

The very interest in Simon’s work that suggests I might be tempted to praise it is also potentially the greatest proof that I would still praise it if I had never spoken to him.

Of course, I could create an account under a pseudonym and post a fair review with a disclaimer at the end that I knew the author. However, questions of my review style being distinctive aside, I am loath to actually indulge in shady practice to reduce the chances of being unfairly accused of it.

Therefore – while I will not be taking down the reviews of his work I have already posted – anyone who uses the ‘other reviews by…’ feature on online distributors to find more books they might enjoy might miss out on some of Simon’s books.

Hopefully the reviews I have already posted will direct people to them anyway.

And if my argument seemed plausible, maybe people who read this will check out Simon’s catalogue too.

Do you only review books where you are unconnected with the author? Do you believe someone with an interest is better placed to give a useful review?

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8 thoughts on “No Stars After Greenstar

  1. I’ve reviewed books where I “know” the authors…
    I can see where that would be problematic. But, I figure as long as I’m doing my best to be honest it should be fine. If I enjoyed reading something, why shouldn’t I get to post a review? Perhaps, because I know the author, I would even be able to lend some additional insight into some of the choices made by the author that could lead to more people reading it and more reviews? Which is good for everyone… those who might not have read it otherwise, and the author who gets to reach a wider audience.
    But, maybe I’m just being naive… or choosing to be optimistic about the whole thing.

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    1. There are definitely different comfort thresholds, which don’t match perfectly any rules a specific site might put in place.

      Like you I feel an honest opinion is an honest opinion, would have no issue reviewing the work of an author I knew well – albeit with a disclaimer that I knew them.

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  2. I don’t review books but do recommend self-published books I’ve read and liked. Unsurprisingly, many are by authors I’ve met virtually through blogging or twitter. I’ve never had a problem with this except in the case of one author who had already read and liked my book. I, like you, was worried about how any recommendation would be perceived but in the end I went ahead anyway.
    You have a reputation for integrity. If you like Simon’s work then you should say so. You can always put in a disclaimer about your writing relationship. Most people will take your review at face value. I think the fact you are troubled by the situation only speaks well of you.
    All the best,
    Dylan

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    1. Thanks for the ego boost.

      If it were just a risk someone would think poorly of me, I might be prepared to stand by the large body of reviews. However, the bigger issue is Amazon deciding I have attempted to manipulate the review system.

      It might just be the lawyer in me, but I tend to interpret Amazon’s prohibition on reviewing works you have a financial interest in quite widely; just to be on the safe side. I don’t get any money if one of Simon’s solo books sells, but if someone is unsure whether to buy one of our collaborations, seeing Simon’s solo books have good reviews will influence them.

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      1. I understand. I’ve seen enough authors promoting work of their friends (and sometimes writing partners) to feel it wouldn’t be an issue, but as you say, it may be best to play it safe. I look forward to see ing the fruits of your work together.

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