I did my column for Jessewave this week, and the topic was the new -- and not always healthy -- changing relationship between reviewers and authors.
Now the purpose of the column was not to hurt anyone's feelings -- these columns are never intended to hurt feelings, but merely to introduce a topic of discussion that I think needs...discussing.
Anyway, it quickly became clear that many reviewers were hurt/resentful/indignant -- or just plain surprised -- at the idea that authors might not read their own reviews.
And in a way this gets right to the heart of the conflict. Reviewers say that they write reviews for readers, not authors. When authors unwisely respond to reviews that seem unfair or inaccurate or malicious or whatever, the authors are generally slammed with the Crazy stamp, reminded that reviews are for readers and not authors, and sent away to bed without supper.
You see what I'm getting at?
You can't justify writing anything you like, no matter how unfair or offensive, based on reviews-are-for-readers-not-authors but then be upset at the idea authors might choose not to read those reviews. You can't insist that you don't need any qualifications or credentials or standards or anything but your personal opinion, but then be outraged if authors dare to suggest they aren't going to listen to you.
We've got this nutty conflict where we want authors to regard our reviews as they would regard a review in the New Yorker, but we don't want to be restrained or inhibited in anything we say -- nor is the author allowed to respond. Any response is considered a flagrant violation of the reviewer/author rules of conduct.
But those rules of conduct are changing because reviewing itself is changing.
And you can't have it both ways. You can't insist that you're free to write anything you want without any restriction because you're "writing for readers not authors" but then be angry or hurt if authors choose not to read and interact with you. Or if we do interact in a way you don't like, throw the, er, book at us for violating the Code of Conduct.
It was very clear from the comments to the post that many reviewers do write partially for the writer, and that they hope their reviews will have some effect for good on the writer. So I suspect that we all need to stop pretending that reviews are only for readers because in this new reviewer/author paradigm, some reviewers are most certainly hoping to influence authors. Why are we pretending otherwise?
Now what does that ultimately mean for all of us? I have no idea. It's the starting point of the discussion, not the answer. I think it means we all need to be a little more self-aware of how we're interacting and what our real expectations are.