Sunday, August 24, 2008

Killing with Unkindness - Reviews Revisited

Continuing on the topic of reviews...a discussion on one of my loops prompted todays blog.

I'm not addressing 'a' review in particular, but why review sites are allowing their reviewers to post some summaries that provide no helpful content. Luckily, I've remain unscathed, but I know a few friends who bear the wounds. It's needless pain.

One of the most nail-biting experiences for an author is submitting work to be reviewed. Imagine someone has worked for months, perhaps years to finish a manuscript, find the right publisher, wait for a release date, and now, has to send the manuscript out and hope someone open-minded and kind selects it to read. The waiting starts anew to see what's said in the review. It's another anguishing time for us.

Believe it not, reviews are critical to authors as well as readers. We try to learn and grow from opinions. Although author's try to develop a thick-skin, painful comments from reviewers without any constructive guidance really hurt. Picture yourself pushing your baby along in a stroller. A total stranger walks up to the carriage, chuck's the child's chin and says, "that's the ugliest child I believe I've ever seen." Knife to the heart! Why would you possibly say something so hurtful when it serves no purpose? One can only surmise you're just a sad and lonely person wanting other's to join you. Reviews reflect the reviewer much the same way.

Opinions are subjective. (Let me clean this phrase up a bit...)They're like noses...we all have one, BUT it's possible to mention, in a constructive manner, that the book wasn't your cup of tea, or perhaps had editorial flaws that distracted you, but to totally bash the book and find no redeeming qualities only serves to destroy the creditability of the author, publisher, editors and anyone else associated with the book. There must have been something worthy about it, trust me. In today's publishing world, with small press closing all around us, there are plenty of submissions to choose from and no one is going to bank on a loser.

So why are nasty reviews posted. I can only guess. It's a free service, workloads are increasing, and the kinder, gentler generation is withdrawing. Is that it?

Times are tough and people are stressed. Nastiness comes out in the most unlikely places. Is that a reason? I'm stressed, but I certainly wouldn't bash a fellow author. I'm not talking mediocre reviews...we all get those. I'm talking about 'book burning, character annihilation, word slashing, cruelty.' If I don't like a book, I don't review it. Simple as that.

Luckily the credible review sites have guidelines and won't allow 'bashing' reviews. It's a good thing, because one person's nasty and negative opinion can determine what others think of a book. One bad review or rating can sully the waters for sales, even though it's only ONE person's opinion. Unfortunately, people tend to be like sheep, following the leader. Sad but true. How many wait for the NY best selling lists to decide what they want to read? I used to, but I don't anymore. I found so many there that made me wonder what criteria was used to rank them over others.

Since I became an author, I make my own decisions. Some people like Pepsi, some people like Coke. A vegetarian won't eat meat, and a Lactose-intolerant person steers clear of dairy products. I'm certainly not going to let their experiences define mine. I hope you won't either. I'm saying this, not because I'm e-published, but there is a wealth of talent in this field that deserves notice. I've got a whole new list of favorite authors and I rarely buy books listed on the top selling list in New York. Heck, most of those people got there on the talents of a real author (Ghostwriting). Yes, I'm taking a poke at Mr. Obama and Ms. Clinton. Imagine the money their ghostwriters made. I'm jealous. *smile*


Tabitha Shay said...

Great article, Miz Ging, and sooo true. There's no need to rip an author's work and dignity to shreds. As you said, a simple, "Not my cup of tea" is enough. I don't buy books based on NY's best seller list either. I don't care if my favorite author's books are NY's idea of a best seller. I buy what I love to read based on my idea of what a good book is all about. Thanks for blogging about reviews....Tabs

Vicki Gaia said...

As an author, I pretty much feel reviews are subjective. Still, it's difficult when a review is negative. And, it's more than difficult when the reasons aren't listed. I want to know why a reviewer didn't like a book. I especially dislike Fictionwise's rating system - since you can't comment why you give a book a five star or one star. This doesn't help the reader or the writer. At least on Amazon, you can state your reasons for liking or disliking a story. Much more helpful IMHO! *grin*

Jannine said...

I've been lucky so far and haven't had a really bad review. However, I have been subjected to the reviewer who has a problem with certain scenes, although the overall review is great. I've never relied on reviews to help me choose which book I'll buy and read. In the end, it's the story/plot that will be the deciding factor. I do appreciate reviews, but I don't live by them.

Great article, Ginger. But then, you ALWAYS write great articles. *grins*

Ginger Simpson said...

I totally agree with 'hating' the comments left on Fictionwise. They are not in the least helpful because they provide no feedback. How can we possibly learn why someone finds a book 'poor?' Did we do something we could have done differently?

My first novel, Prairie Peace, received a 'poor' rating for my first publisher. After that, I never saw another rating. I'm sure when other readers flashed on the ranking, they moved along to something else.

In defense of the book, which is now offered in an improved format at Eternal Press, The Romantic Times reviewer gave it 4 stars, and it garnered great reviews elsewhere. Maybe I said something that pissed the Fictionwise person off that day...who knows. I wish they'd change the system there. I'd at least like to why I earned a particular ranking...but of course in a constructively written paragraph. Not too much to ask after all the work I put into a book, is it?

Jen Black said...

I have a suspicion that there are people who offer to review via websites because it ensures them a free supply of reading material. Is that so strange? You have to like reading to want to do reviews. But they can be a tiny bit biased to their favourite authors and their particular reading tastes. They are not trained to review and evaluate as I hope the reviewers of big nations are. So then publishers seek reviewers who will be kind - but is that any better? You have given me food for thought and I may take this over to my own blogpage tomorrow -
Come and add your two penn'orth!

Jen Black said...

Of course, that should read "big nationals" and not "big nations."
Thoughts running ahead of fingers again!

Molly Daniels said...

I got slammed a few months back for writing my personal opinion of another author's work. All I had said was I liked another book of hers better than the one I'd just read. She didn't 'talk' to me for 2 weeks. So now, if I have a less-than-favorable response to a book, I simply note that I'm reading it. Nothing more.

Terra57 said...

I agree that people who review should not book bash. I can't say I'm not guilty of this as I think I might have with one or two early on in my reviewing but I know better now. Authors have feelings too!!!

When I review I read the book from beginning to end even if I don't care for it. I live the story and give my review from that perspective. If I find fault with the book I will kindly point out that this or that could have been a wee bit different and make a suggestion. Most times though I will just hit on the good aspects of the book and what I really like about it. Everyone has different opinions and just because I like or dislike something doesn't mean the world should.

One thing I do dislike intensly is the rating system. I have had my rant about this on my blog and different people emailed me about how all authors look for the stars, hearts, roses, candles, ect. I just can't believe that the authors only care about that. It's the review that counts.

Ginger I think you are right on with your rant and Kudo's to you.

Just one more thing that one of you addressed and I'd like to make a statement on it. I am guilty of asking for ARC's so I can read them for review but only because I can't afford to go out and buy all these books with being on disability and getting only $662.00 a month from SSI to live on. It's really hard and if it wasn't for the ARC's and kind authors I would simply go nuts with nothing to do. I hate television!! Plain and Simple!!

Thanks for listening!

Si's blog said...

Imagine being a politician running for office and what they have to put up with. As a teacher dealing with adolescents, got my share of the adolescent crap. But knew it was just that. Likewise the really small politics of private schools. The world is full of small people.

Elaine Cantrell said...

I try not to take it to heart because it's so subjective. I've had the same book be praised to the skies by one reviewer and trashed by the next. Still, it's hard to hear that someone disliked your work.

Elaine Cantrell

Ginger Simpson said...

Thanks to all of you for your comments. I so appreciate that my blog can generate such great 'intercourse.' *lol* You realize this is how Merriam Webster defines the word:

1: connection or dealings between persons or groups
2: exchange, especially of thoughts or feelings

So, I love having intercourse with you gals. *smile*

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