My friend and favorite author, Leora Krygier, raised some interesting questions about the ethics of reviewing books:
“Should reviewers disclose their leanings and prejudices, and their world view? And on the other side of the coin, what about all those reviews we authors ask our friends to write on Amazon? Should ‘friend’ connections be disclosed in honest reviewing? What about blurbs that come from authors who have the same publisher? Is that a conflict of interest? And reviews for money? Do we just stack it all up to ‘it’s okay because it’s just promotion?’ or is this an ethical issue that needs addressing?”
An ethics principle that almost always works is the “clear conscience” rule: reviewers should have a clear conscience—they shouldn’t hope that their background remains hidden. If I write a review on Amazon for Leora’s book I must disclose that she’s a friend, because there’s a clear conflict here: I hope her book succeeds and I want to write an honest review. If my publisher asks me to review a colleague’s book I have a slightly different conflict: I want to stay in my publisher’s good graces and I want to be honest. If I’m being paid for a review I want to please my patron and I want to be honest.
I’m not saying that I can’t be honest in my reviews; in fact I did love and admire Leora’s novel (more…)