Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Reading, wRiting and REVIEWS


In the three writerly Rs, the third is Reviews. Relieved that it’s not ‘aRithmetic?’ Relief may not last long.

I’m thinking less about the anxiety of being reviewed than my struggle with reviewing others’ work.

The great blogger/author/former agent Nathan Bradford asked in one of his posts if authors lose the right to review. This brought a barrage of comments, (writers have few rights already) and started writers’ chat boards buzzing. I should add that the Great Nate used the word ‘casually,’ as in casually trashing for the sport of it. I’m not a casual enough person, so it didn’t apply to me. But it got me reflecting on my own policy for self when it comes to reviews.

I should add that I adopted these self-rules before I became an author, and a beneficiary or possible target. I have no illusions that my few reviews amount to a mound of beans, but what I put out there matters to me.

The first self-rule was that I will use my real name. Anonymity is too tempting a place to release the snakes. No hiding behind Medusa from Maine or New York Nymph, (don’t I wish) – not for me.

The second was that I have no need to post publicly so-so reviews. It’s of no significance that this book was all right but well just not that great, and the main character could have… You get it. To me only clear endorsements or clear warnings of a deceptive dangerous product warrant attaching my name to them. Since one star reviews could draw attention to an otherwise seriously flawed book, I have yet to post one of those. I’d probably have to be pulled by a nose-ring to do it. (This may be one reason I don’t have a nose-ring.)

The third rule was to write few reviews, because it can become a full-time job to read and review. I still have other things to do. (One look at my house will confirm this.) To this end- my reviews are short, more like back-cover blurbs. No-retelling the whole story and never ever giving away the ending. I may wax eternal in private conversations about books I’ve read, but public utterances are in the no-spoilers-zone.

These are my own guidelines from which I am sure to stray, because I’m not a good rule-follower.

And to any out there who find any suggestion of constraint placed on their speech/reviews ludicrous, feel free to review this right here. I feel strongly that public discourse should be civil and considerate, so I set my comments to be ‘subject to approval.’ Censorship? Yup. But know that I censor myself first.

13 comments:

  1. This post got me thinking about my policy. And if I even have a review policy. Reflecting, I decided that yes I do. I only post reviews on Goodreads, not Amazon, and I rate every book I read, writing brief reviews on nearly all of them. If I finish a book, I can find something good about it, and I'll try to give positive, intelligent reviews. The exception to this is if the book was a huge disappointment by a bestselling author and then I'm just mad that more care wasn't taken to make the book fit the reputation. (Stephen King's last book is the one I'm thinking of.) And I know I won't hurt that author by being totally honest with my response. Another one that fit that category was Mockingjay, which I felt didn't come up to the standard of The Hunger Games.

    I won't review a book that's so bad I can't finish it. Nor will I rate it and make a comment to that effect. And I try not to gush unless I really loved the book, give it 5 stars and find it truly gush-worthy.

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    1. I don't know enough about the difference in review formats or 'vibe' to prefer Amazon or Goodreads, so I'm curious as to why you have come to prefer one of them.

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  2. Good reviews are HARD to write! If I love a book, I end up babbling. If I don't love a book, but still like it, I'm still in danger of babbling ... sigh ... but I do not review or mention books that I do not like. I think life is too short for that ... and there are so many wonderful books to talk about so I focus on the ones I like.

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  3. Funny, you are thinking about reviewing books this week, because I've been thinking about the role of authors as book reviewers as well. I'm considering joining the Perfect Picture Book Friday contingency who regularly champion great picture books. Of course, by definition, Perfect Picture Book reviews will be positive, but I'm looking forward to participating and think that as writers we learn so much from analyzing and reviewing the work of our peers. I second your opinion that public discourse should be civil and considerate. Bravo, for your forthrightness on this touchy subject.

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  4. I've come to some of the same conclusions as you. I don't write full reviews any more. I only write brief raves when I'm really excited about a book.

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  5. Really interesting post. I like your point about anonymity--if we're going to comment on others' work, we should have the courage and respect to put our name to it.

    It's a tricky discussion for me (as I think you know, since we've had this conversation before on the BBs!), as I thoroughly believe in honest reviews. But as an author, I think reviewing others' books can result in some sticky situations. Personally, I usually only review books I'm passionate about, or books that don't have many reviews (no point in adding my small voice to the wind if thousands of others are saying the same thing). Personally, I'm pretty curmudgeonly, so as much as I want to complain about books, I usually try to resist that urge for my own good.

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    1. "Personally, I usually only review books I'm passionate about, or books that don't have many reviews"

      That's^ another point I haven't thought about and I think I'll adopt- books that have few reviews could use input.

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  6. Mirka, I totally agree with your first two rules. I post reviews on my blog, so there's no anonymity. And I review only books that I like and want to recommend it to others. If a book wasn't for me, I try to keep my mouth shut--at least in public!

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  7. Since I review for YA Bound, I will continue to review even though I'm a published author. Why not? I love when authors review other books. I never review books I don't like so I don't have to worry about posting a negative one.

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  8. I took this discussion to heart at the time, and my policy now is not to review per se, but to "shout-out" books I like/love, usually one per month. I'm being honest in loving on the books I choose to mention, while simply not mentioning any others.

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  9. It's hard for me to think analytically about books, I usually get so wrapped up in them. So I find reviews hard to write. Mostly, I just like to give a shout out to books that I love, hoping that others will enjoy them as much as I did.

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  10. My approach to reviewing books is very similar. I only highlight books that I enjoyed (and why they worked for me) partly because I much prefer to focus on the positive and also because writing a thoughtful review is just so darn time-consuming!

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  11. I don't do many reviews at all - save for giving my opinions on mega sellers that can take or leave a bad or good review. I have a real issue with reviewing books by writers I know. If I shout out the awesomeness of some and don't mention others do the writers I haven't mentioned think I don't like their work? So I tend to avoid the issue altogether by having a non-review policy. I will celebrate the release of their books, however, because that is something that should always be celebrated cuz that is a major accomplishment!

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