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Re: Reciprocal review gone bad, left shaking

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  • Michael Katz
    I suppose I straddle the fence when I do a review. In order to maintain credibility I try to be honest and include criticisms that are merited, because we have
    Message 1 of 29 , Mar 1, 2008
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      I suppose I straddle the fence when I do a review. In order to maintain
      credibility I try to be honest and include criticisms that are merited,
      because we have a duty to help each other be the best wrtiters
      possible, like Nan says.

      But I make sure not to be mean-spirited. Any author should be able to
      put themselves in the shoes of another author and know how far to go.
      If a person goes too far, like Julie Ann's reviewer, then that means
      there is something emotionally wrong with them.

      Plus, a good writer can find a way to make anything sound positive. If
      you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. Make up an
      excuse not to do the review. It's not like anyone ever got hurt by
      reading a bad book. And just because I don't like something doesn't
      mean no one else will.

      Mike Katz
    • Tony Burton
      I ve been reading these posts with interest, especially in the light of recent discussions about reviews. I empathize with you, Julie. It must have been a
      Message 2 of 29 , Mar 1, 2008
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        I've been reading these posts with interest, especially in the light of recent discussions
        about reviews. I empathize with you, Julie. It must have been a real shock to have this
        person with whom you had made an agreement to do reciprocal reviews, to write
        something nasty about your work. It's probably especially bothersome since you ignored
        weaknesses in her book, when you wrote your own review.

        I can't say I've ever had a review of one of my books where someone tore into me. But I
        have had a mediocre review where someone just said something along the lines of, "Nice
        book. An enjoyable read." UGH! That says to me that either (1) the person really didn't
        read the book or (2) they hated it but are trying to be kind about it.

        I have to say that I do things a little differently when reviewing books professionally than
        when reviewing for a friend. (I know, that sounds terrible.) If it's a friend's book and I can't
        give it a decent review someplace like Amazon or just for them to use as a blurb, I just tell
        them that "it wasn't my kind of book... I couldn't get into it." Or, if they are receptive to it, I
        may give them a critique to help them in future. But I don't write the review or blurb
        unless they beg me to (which has happened) and if that happens I'm tactfully honest.

        On the other hand, if I'm writing a review for a professional reason (i.e. for my ezine or
        some other venue like that), I'm bluntly honest. No, I don't unsheath my daggers, but I
        don't cover things up, either. In any review I write, I try to tell what I liked about the book
        as well as what I may not have liked, if anything.

        Something I've said here before, but which is hard for many authors to hear, is this:
        Reviews are not for the author. They are for the *readership*, to give them an idea of
        whether or not the book is something they might want to read. That's the purpose of a
        review. As a reader, if I look at the track record of a reviewer, and see that things the
        reviewer liked are also things I liked and/or things the reviewer panned are things I also
        disliked, then I tend to trust the reviewer. If not, then I don't worry about his or her
        opinion.

        I think one problem is that sometimes we as authors confuse "review" and "blurb." It's
        great if a review is so good that we can use an extract from it in our cover copy, but that's
        not why the reviewer wrote it. On the other hand, a blurb is designed to be advertising
        copy. So if someone has agreed to write a blurb, they have an obligation to write
        something complimentary. You wouldn't want to buy soap where the ad copy says, "New
        'Bright' deodorant soap made me feel fairly clean but left a scum in the sink."

        Of course, these are only my opinions based on what I've heard from a lot of readers and
        reviewers.

        It's funny, but there's another group I belong to where a similar discussion is going on
        about reviews. Must be the Universal Author Mind at work.


        Tony Burton
      • John Nuetzel
        There is no reason to post a bad review. Why hammer anyone who is truly trying to do their best at writing? Please see my review of a very good book with a lot
        Message 3 of 29 , Mar 1, 2008
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          There is no reason to post a bad review. Why hammer anyone who is truly trying to do their best at writing? Please see my review of a very good book with a lot of technical problems on my blog. Jon Miller's Volcano Verdict. I gave him a fair read. I think. Every book is different. You either like to read them because the story and the writing is good or else it just doesn't work. Jon will be reviewing my book in the following weeks and I have no idea what to expect. I'm anxious about this but I'll take my medicine. We gotta do what we gotta do. Satchel Paige.


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        • Emily
          ... If you are a reviewer there is every reason to post mixed or negative reviews. Reviewers, like authors, have readers--and what those readers look for most
          Message 4 of 29 , Mar 1, 2008
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            --- In IAG-members@yahoogroups.com, John Nuetzel <mnrancher@...> wrote:
            >
            > There is no reason to post a bad review.

            If you are a reviewer there is every reason to post mixed or negative
            reviews. Reviewers, like authors, have readers--and what those readers
            look for most is specific information and accuracy/honesty. So if the
            tone of the review doesn't somehow give warning that a book might not
            be the full $15 worth the read won't come back to your review site.
          • Julie Ann Shapiro
            I don t know if I agree with this. If you make an arrangement with another author and you both agree to help each other with reviews I think that is something
            Message 5 of 29 , Mar 1, 2008
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              I don't know if I agree with this. If you make an arrangement with
              another author and you both agree to help each other with reviews I
              think that is something else. It's more of less cooperative marketing.
            • Nan Hawthorne
              Those of you who just joined or were already members of Facebook.. for some reason I only can get the silly security words to go through when I try to add
              Message 6 of 29 , Mar 1, 2008
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                Those of you who just joined or were already members of Facebook.. for
                some reason I only can get the silly security words to go through when I
                try to add friends.

                Therefore, if you will be so kind, would you go to my smiling face on
                Facebook.. Nan Hawthorne in ... I think I said Mill Creek... and add me?

                Thanks!

                --
                Cordially,

                Nan Hawthorne
                www.nanhawthorne.com
                Historical fiction blogs, books, and a Celtic music radio show!
              • Tony Burton
                Then it s not a review. It s a blurb. Reviews are honest appraisals, albeit hopefully tactful. Anything that only hits the positives is not a review, but
                Message 7 of 29 , Mar 1, 2008
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                  Then it's not a review.  It's a blurb.  Reviews are honest appraisals, albeit hopefully tactful.  Anything that only hits the positives is not a review, but promo copy.

                  Here's the definition of "book review", from the Random House Unabridged Dictionary:   "a critical description, evaluation or analysis of a book, especially one published in a newspaper or magazine."

                  From the same source, the definition of "blurb":  "a brief advertisement or announcement, esp. a laudatory one."  And The American Heritage Dictionary defines blurb as: "A brief publicity notice, as on a book jacket."

                  Note the differences.  A review is specifically evaluative and critical, which sometimes means saying negative things about the book (play, movie, performance, etc.) in question.  Reviews of restaurants tell us which places to avoid.  Reviews of Broadways shows tell us which ones are hits and which ones are not living up to their billing.  Why should book reviews be any different?  Fundamentally, a review is meant to be critical, to inform the public.  

                  But a positive promotional statement from some authority is a blurb.  A blurb is meant as ad copy, and may or may not be totally honest.  

                  If the review is positive, wonderful!  Use a pull quote from it as part of your back-cover promotional copy and be happy.  But if it's not, remember that every review is simply one person's opinion and go on to the next one.

                  I have a really bad habit of being bluntly honest about things, and here's a dose of it: authors do each other the favor of blurbing, sometimes erring on the side of less-than-honest.  But anyone who does dishonest *reviews* immediately discredits himself or herself, and makes every other review they do, suspect.  We, independent authors and independent publishers, are rebels.  Rebels have a habit of trying to swim against the tide.  But sometimes we have to accept the definitions that are established by the the status quo if we intend to try to garner even a little respect.  If we become known as mutual backscratchers, giving each other unearned positive reviews, we merely confirm some of the worst things that the established big-house authors are saying: that we are dishonest, cheaters who couldn't survive in a real, competitive publishing environment.  



                  Tony Burton
                  Fax & Voice Mail: 206.337.0639



                  On Mar 2, 2008, at 12:53 AM, Julie Ann Shapiro wrote:

                  I don't know if I agree with this. If you make an arrangement with 
                  another author and you both agree to help each other with reviews I 
                  think that is something else. It's more of less cooperative marketing.

                  __
                • starpeople_books
                  ... I agree with Tony re: reviews. But noting that a review and blurb are two different animals, I know that big house authors are literally required to
                  Message 8 of 29 , Mar 2, 2008
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                    >If we become known as mutual
                    > backscratchers, giving each other unearned positive reviews, we merely
                    > confirm some of the worst things that the established big-house
                    > authors are saying: that we are dishonest, cheaters who couldn't
                    > survive in a real, competitive publishing environment.

                    I agree with Tony re: reviews. But noting that a review and blurb are
                    two different animals, I know that big house authors are literally
                    required to positively blurb books by their publisher. It is not only
                    common, as I have heard from reliable sources, but most authors are
                    precluded from "blurbing" books from other houses.

                    It may be true that big-house authors say we are dishonest cheaters
                    and mutual backscratchers, but so are they with their blurbs-- which
                    are promenently displayed and thus more widely distributed than any
                    review except maybe in NYT, etc.

                    Truth is, I really don't pay attention to those author reviews. In
                    most cases I've never heard of the author and I know they were required.

                    Linda/Mary Clay
                    www.thedaffodils.com
                  • Nan Hawthorne
                    Well in fine all I can say is that I am terrified of what will happen when my book comes out in a few months... eeek! Especially if the critics don t like my
                    Message 9 of 29 , Mar 3, 2008
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                      Well in fine all I can say is that I am terrified of what will happen
                      when my book comes out in a few months... eeek! Especially if the
                      critics don't like my characters.. I do love them so.

                      --
                      Cordially,

                      Nan Hawthorne
                      www.nanhawthorne.com
                      Historical fiction blogs, books, and a Celtic music radio show!
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