Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What the? Wednesday... Don't Blame Me!

I've got lots of friends, writers and non, and I was given a gigantic piece of advice. Don't whine on the blog. I'd like to think I don't. I'd like to think when I get frustrated and soap box that I'm...just voicing an opinion. Yanno?

Now I just talked to a friend who read my yesterday post. She loved the cover, didn't comment. She actually emailed me instead. Ok, so here's her issue, and I find lots of authors with this problem or this set of problems.

Authors take a lot of heat. A Lot. Her issue was a review. I haven't had any new reviews that I know of, so I can honestly say this isn't me talking about me in hypothetical. Her problem wasn't that the reviewer didn't like the book. Nope. Wasn't a spelling issue, editing issue, or even a gross cover. The person rated her a one star of five because the book wasn't on the format the person wanted.

I'm sorry?

Actually, I'm not. You see, writers have some control over what happens with their work. Some houses want the author to change the name of the work if it's too close to another published title in their arsenal, some even request the author change her name. Most are pretty okay with your name being your name. Authors get input on covers, but they don't always get the last say. Sometimes, you're stuck with what you've got. We usually don't get to say when the book will be released. It's the nature of the beast.

Sure we get say on the editing. A good editor will take the work and shape into something fantastic without changing the author's voice. There's also push/pull, give and take in editing.

What we cannot control is what format the book is on. Most publishers are great about making sure a book is on Nook, Kindle, the Sony version, pdf, HTML, etc. They want to make everyone happy and sell as many books as possible. I could be wrong, but I know with Kindle (I'm not sure about Nook) there is a conversion program that can be done, and most everyone can read pdf.

But to rate the book poorly for the simple reason that you couldn't get it on the format you wanted (this was a NY book, so really, it should've been in whatever format the bookstore sold but whatever), seems a little petty.

I've done reviews in my time. I still do. I like to tell the author what I liked/disliked/wanted more of in their work. I've written fan letters. But what seems to be lost here is what the point of a review is for.

Ok, this is my opinion so take it or leave it, get angry and tell me or not.

If you're going to review a work, don't give a huge synopsis--that's what reading the blurb is for.

Don't give spoilers, but if you must, MENTION that. Don't just plunk them in. Authors get snippy when a plot point that's supposed to be a surprise gets let out of the bag.

Tell what you LOVED about the book. Everyone loves praise. Authors just eat it up. Conversely, tell what you thought could've been improved--if there was anything--but do it in a positive fashion. I mean, if you said, the book was trash, well, how can an author improve on that? Toss the book in the garbage? Really? Probably not. But if you said, I liked the book because the hero has real stamina and he looks like Brad Pitt, but what pulled me from the scene was when he called the heroine by the wrong name. I realize editing mistakes happen because we're human, but a second or third look would've helped. See? That gets the point across without sounding mean and gives the author food for thought.

You can by all means say this book wasn't in the right format for me. But rate the book based on the work not the format. Chances are, the publisher goofed and is in the midst of fixing it.

What it all boils down to is this, if you're going to write a review, by all means do so. Make it intelligible. Get the point across. But give the author credit for things that are beyond their control. We grow from constructive criticism and wither from snark.

Just a thought. And since I know I'm going to make someone mad, feel free to comment. I'm open to changing my mind. Let me know.


Karen C said...

Thanks for your insight into writing reviews; I found it helpful.
I struggle with writing reviews because I don't want to rehash the book and am happy if I limit the review to about 150 words or less -more than enough to say if I thought is was good or not and why.
One piece of advice I was given by another reviewer - remember that you are reviewing the work (book), not the author. I've seen reviewers 'take on' the author and believe it's wrong, just wrong!

Wendi Zwaduk and Megan Slayer said...

YES! Exactly. If you don't like the author as a person, then you probably don't want to review their works. Why? Your opinion of them may (may not, but why chance it), your review.

Karen you are right on.

Marianne Arkins said...

One of the problem of allowing "the man on the street" to review stuff is that those kinds of things happen (i.e. rating it 1 because of the format). There isn't any kind of class they have to attend or a list of protocols they need to read. If they decide they don't like something (even for a stupid reason), they are allowed to bash away.

Of course the reverse is true, too... Someone who writes a truly horrible book can have all their friends rate it a 5.

Trutfully, unless something has hundreds of reviews on a place like Amazon, I don't always give those numbers credence.

But then reviews are a hot button for me. *G*