Facebook Friends with Authors?

This past week, two authors I greatly admire popped up on Facebook–Jack Gantos and poet Betsy Franco. A dozen times I’ve gone back and forth whether or not to send a friend request.  I usually don’t request myself, but I’ve been delighted to get some friend requests from authors. Since I don’t live in a part of the country with a lot of authors nearby, it’s a really nice opportunity to get to know some of them better.

You learn so much about the writing life and process from some of the people’s posts on Facebook. It’s enlightening and fascinating to me. But it worries me a little bit too, because when you get to know someone as a person, then when you have the Advanced Reader Copy of their newest book in your hands to review, suddenly you are looking at it with two sets of eyes. Obviously you really really want it to be great.

Fortunately,  everything I’ve gotten so far has been excellent. And I also find that I can separate the book from the person and review the book on its own merits, but I must admit that it’s a little bit harder. It requires some real attention to being unbiased whatever the result. One of the things I admire most about my editor at The Horn Book, Roger Sutton, is his ability to say what he thinks clearly and without fussing over anything. He just says what he thinks, and everyone knows him to be truthful despite his many friendships in the field. So he’s my role model.

Still, I think I won’t send those friend requests. I’m sure it’s pretty fun to get a sneak peek into Jack Gantos’ life, but since he writes fairly autobiographically anyway, I guess I already do. I’ll be satisfied with that.

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3 Responses to Facebook Friends with Authors?

  1. Melissa H. says:

    I’ve “friended” a few authors; while I have learned more about them as individuals, but it’s been no more than I’ve learned from book-tour blogs, interviews, or speaking engagements. My experience in “getting to know” authors or other artists (mostly writers) has generally been positive; but I regret when I learn that someone is a particularly unpleasant person. I do, then, find it hard to approach his/her work neutrally on a personal level (i.e., I still recommend the very popular children’s book writer who is quite a cranky person.)

  2. AKMA says:

    I find myself reviewing friends’ and colleagues’ books all the time. It can be awkward — I remember one regrettably painful panel presentation in particular — but I can’t regulate my social entanglements in order to insulate my reviews from being influenced. I could always decline to review works by people I know, but after a while no one in the theology business would be able to review anything in their area of competence.

  3. Sally says:

    I know that poetry is a whole different kettle of fish…but in the past few months, I’ve had several people request to friend me just after they’ve reviewed my book. And of course I’ve said yes, although I suppose if they get to know me they might not feel comfortable reviewing another book of mine down the road (not that they’d necessarily want to….) And, on the other side of the coin, I’ve friended people whose books I plan to review. I do see the issue you raise, but in my case, I feel like there are so few people in the world who read poetry (for adults mind you), that I want to know them and talk to them (and learn what they’re reading!) even if it makes the reviewing process a little more frought.

    Of course, I’m not assigned to review books–or paid to review them–so I’m sticking to the ones I absolutely love (and I’m just getting started as a reviewer). It sounds to me like you take your work as a reviewer very seriously, and I think that’s wonderful. I’m sure the authors you review feel that way, too. And they probably also value your virtual friendship :).

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