I see it all the time: authors requesting reviews of their books from other authors. It's understandable. There are many benefits to having a decent number of well-written reviews. Authors (as well as readers) do deserve reviews. And most writers really do want to help.
So why do I have such a problem obliging these requests?
I believe that, for me at least, it's largely due to the potential for a conflict of interest. It's a valid concern because the conflict can be quite real. I worry too much about the oddest of things.
Should my reviews overlook or forgive shortcomings simply because I know the person and their efforts to overcome the insurmountable? Am I to hold a gifted high school student to the same standard that I'd use for a Robert Jordan review? What about the struggling single mom who dropped out of school and now self-publishes paranormal romances? Would my five-star for her be a three-star if Nora Roberts had written it?
The conflict of interest could also be nothing more than someone's erroneous assumption or perception.
Does anyone take seriously one author's review of another author's book? Do they assume that a favorable review means that the reviewing author is a friend of the reviewed? Or that they're soliciting a favorable review in return? Or if both authors are published under the same imprint that their publisher is requiring them to promote each other?
Doesn't everyone with a Kindle view the self-published masses as a unified armada that would never sabotage another indie with a bad review? Wouldn't the indie armada consider that nothing short of treason and punishable by the heretic's excommunication? (Please forgive my hyperbole; I'm merely showing how my mind makes mountains of molehills.)
And what about the negative reviews written by authors? Do people perceive them as the author's attempt to eliminate competition? Retribution for some slight? Ego run amok?
How can anyone dismiss these doubts with any degree of confidence? Isn't a buyer supposed to rely (at least to some extent) on ratings and reviews? Must readers research the reviewer to determine if that glowing or scathing review was warranted or habitual?
It doesn't really matter if I do my dead-level best to review everything fairly and honestly. How can I compensate for biases I'm not even aware I have? Or different standards? Should I even try? A review is, after all, essentially little more than an opinion.
I have no problem critiquing--even reviewing--an author's book. My hesitation is in making that review public. Besides, I will tell an author something privately that I would never write in a public review. And until that changes, I just don't think I'll be comfortable writing public reviews.
And all other things being equal, I may still be a little insecure about how much weight my personal opinion should carry, whether I ever publish my own novels or not. :-)
How about you? Do you have the same reservations? Have you overcome them? Please share!