Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Book reviews and those who do them.

The book is written and hits the market. The author now faces the reality that sales must be made to recover the costs. But what's more important is how the book is received. If it's not liked the old ego takes a header (and make no mistake, ego is a big part of a writer's psyche). If it's not liked, there probably won't be any sales to worry about.

I received a 3 star review to go along with a couple of 5 stars on Amazon.com. Okay, the reviewer wasn't too critical but I thought she missed the point of my book. She thought I wrote a travelogue. I think I wrote a series of essays with some traveling in between. I consider there to be a small difference between to two.

She thought I wrote in a passive manner. I think I combined both passive and active but will concede that active is more acceptable and probably easier to read. My English teachers always tried to tell me that. So I'll take that criticism to heart and be more careful, but I suspect that a passive voice will sneak in once in a while.

She likes to observe people and thought I didn't put enough faces on my characters. I thought I did the few times I mentioned them. But I was focusing on places rather than people in this book. I'll be willing to take a closer look at faces when I decide to write about people.

She doesn't list my type of book in her preferential reading list. That may put a bright light more squarely on her review.

All that said, I thank her for the time she spent and appreciate the good things she said - mainly that it deserves to be read, that it is interesting, and worth buying. She also conceded that it is "a bit of an escape." I'd thank her via e-mail but she makes it clear she wants no contact after a review.

What do I think of all this? I'm ambivalent. I've read many interviews with big time authors who sluff off critical remarks with a quick shake of their bank accounts. I'm not a author who has a bank account big enough to shake off published criticism. I need good reviews to sell my book and I love good reviews because they validate what I'm trying to do.

I tend to think of some reviewers as having a jealous streak. Their publishing record suggests they aren't striking the right chord with readers and take out their frustration on another writer who is enjoying more success. But that's not really fair because those I consider really good reviewers have the ability to couch their remarks in such a way as to still promote the book with positive enthusiasm even though there might be some aspects of the writing or subject matter they don't particularly like. The good reviewer might not have published anything at all.

I review a lot of books. If I write a review, that means I finished the book. If I finished the book, that means I liked it. Some parts might have been difficult for me wade through, understand, or agree with. But overall, I liked what the author presented and I try to reflect that in my review.

I suppose that's what I think a good reviewer should do. As for the 3-star review I received, I think there were enough positive remarks to keep my book afloat. What the review did was to shake me up enough to prompt me into more careful reviews of my own. I resolve to look more closely at my critical remarks to keep bias or lack of information from coloring them. I will also be careful to not bruise an ego or queer a sale. Do unto others I always say. Or at least I will from now on.

Schuyler T. Wallace
Author of Tin Lizard Tales

No comments: