Over on the Kindleboards, we tend to get at least one thread a week about a dilemma where an author is asked to review another indie author's work. In many (if not most) cases, this ends poorly for the reviewing author because when an author is desperate for reviews, their work tends to have a lot of issues with it (whether typos, flow, or whatever).
Thus, after reading the terrible book, the reviewing author is put in a delicate position. The original author is now wanting a review to be posted, but the reader didn't like the book. From reading the Kindleboards, this has resulted in a lot of retaliatory strikes by the offended original author - even if the reader simply sends a personal message describing some of the problems. Almost a "screw you for telling me that you couldn't get through my book!"
To me, this seems really odd. I come from a field where peer review is not just something that has to be tolerated, it's a way of life. Our papers generally only range from 10 pages to 60 pages in 8-10 pt font for journal articles, but the work to generate that paper might have taken tens of thousands of man hours. You submit your paper to other people that worked on the project or people you trust to give honest feedback, and those people rip your paper apart, and you know what? Your paper is far better, and you get better as a technical writer.
Submitting to a conference or journal might not seem in any way equivalent to self publishing a novel, and you may even argue that because of this difference, indie authors shouldn't have to deal with it well. However, I would argue that indie authors are ignorant of what peer reviewing does for each author involved, and how it can help an author accomplish their goals.
In submitting to a conference or journal, peer reviewing helps an author or set of authors achieve their goal - namely in conveying their research to the conference committees in order to get published. In peer reviewing a book that is to be or has been published, peer review can result in achieving the writer's goal of conveying the purpose and scope of their book to a wider audience in order to naturally get excellent reviews and further the appeal of their work.
Why is it that fiction authors can't see the peer review process for what it is and should be? As a book reviewer, you are there to help the writer become better - to help their books become better. Instead, fiction authors appear to have their egos so tied into how awesome they wrote their book the first time that they can't accept outside help - even if it's for their own good. I don't have a lot of experience in this issue (from a fiction point of view), but I'm getting the feeling from the Kindleboards and from people shying away from commenting on my chapters (which I know need work), that this appears to be a major issue and that authors are genuinely afraid of giving negative to mild feedback.
How do you guys feel about this issue? Do you think the review system is fine as-is? Any chance this will ever go away with indie authors?