Friday, January 12, 2007

Guilty of Soliciting

You can vote for your favourite ezine editor until Sunday January 14.

I’m not going to try to solicit votes, but I am going to shift gears and talk about another form of solicitation: reviews.

There’s been some discussion recently elsewhere on the blogs about why reviewers give glowing reviews to some books that really aren’t that spectacular. All of which promoted me to discuss reviewing with another author.

I’ve always maintained I don’t like reviewing. I feel a hefty weight of responsibility for setting myself up as judge and jury over someone’s work, and I take it seriously. Sometimes, there’s a fine line between fair criticism and unfair criticism.

But there is another reality to this, one that I wonder how many readers think about. There are a lot of reviewers who are aspiring authors. And that’s a tricky position to be in, because if you have a reputation as a reviewer and pull apart books represented by certain agents or published with certain publishers, you might get a reputation with those agents and those editors.

And not a good one.

Which makes me wonder, how many reviews are soft-pedaled in order to curry favour with people in the business?

You know, this is at least one advantage to being with an insignificant publisher: Nobody’s trying to gain an advantage with them. The reviews will be about the book.

I know I’ve mentioned some of the issues for reviewers here before. I’m always going to remember the strong opinion expressed to me at Harrogate that reviewers had no business schmoozing with authors, that it was incestuous.

I know that it feels like I’ve had this conversation too many times. I will say this, as a reader. The reader in me seldom reads reviews. I read reviews at Crime Scene Scotland sometimes, and Reviewing the Evidence. In my experience the reviews there have been well balanced and I usually agree with the assessments, so I trust the referrals.

I always go through the review section in Crimespree.

A lot of the newspapers I ignore. In Canada they seem to be more about reviewing “literary” fiction. And beyond that, a lot of them seem to review the same books over and over and over again. Nobody needs to read 20,000 reviews singing Michael Connelly’s praises.

And there are a couple of notable places that publish paid-for reviews. The minute a place offers that kind of service it undermines their credibility in my eyes, and cheapens all their reviews. You don’t know if their praise was bought. It tarnishes the whole publication.

Reviews are necessary for authors. Like it or not, they have an impact on sales, they have an impact on getting news about books out. One of the things about Spinetingler is that we 100% don’t care about the source of the book. We look at the description. If someone is interested in the story, they’ll take the book, because there’s a better chance they’ll stick with it. I mean, give me some fluffy chick lit and you know how long I’ll last? Not long. I much prefer reviewing something a bit darker. It’s good for me to read what I’m interested in, and it means there’s a better chance that the author will get a balanced review, because the fact that it isn’t to my taste preferences won’t get in the way.

There’s only one thing I concern myself with when I review a book, and that’s the quality of the story. I don’t concern myself with who the publisher is, or the editor, or if the book is POD. The book stands or falls on the writing and storytelling.

Now, it’s true that it’s hard to review people you know. But one of the things I know about a lot of people is that they will accept fair criticism when it’s warranted.

There is just one thing I need to get off my chest about the whole process. Please please please follow our guidelines for requesting reviews.

Or I won’t consider them. Not to be a bitch, but, well, oh hell. I am going to be a bitch about that.

I’m getting way too much email these days to keep up with everything. I don’t particularly care f the book comes through the author or the publicist. What I do care about is having that brief description when someone is cold-calling and asking for a review. I don’t have time for all the email… Which means I don’t have time to look the book up. And if I don’t know what it’s about, I can’t offer it to my reviewers.

Now, all of that said, I’m looking for another reader/editor for Spinetingler. The pay sucks. You lose time you won’t ever get back. And you have to deal with me. If anyone’s still interested, you can email me.

Meanwhile, I’ll be sifting through the dozens of submissions, pulling my hair out.

Oh, and don't forget to nominate your best crime fiction reads at Crimespree - you have to scroll down, as I couldn't get a direct post link.


JamesO said...

I very rarely read reviews. I'm not sure why, but they just don't appeal to me. I've enough trouble reading all the books by authors I already know and like and the ones I hear about through word of mouth without having to go guddling around in the review sections to find more.

Which isn't to say that reviewing books is a waste of time, far from it. Just that it's a waste of time if you're trying to interest me in a book.

M. G. Tarquini said...

I'm with James. I read SHORT reviews. The ones that say, 'I like it,' or 'I hate it'. If somebody wants me to read a book, I ask, 'why?' and they tell me why they think I'd like it.

That said, on occasion I'll read good reviews for books I thought were godawful. That's so I can feel superior to the reviewer. Other times, I'll read bad reviews for books I think rock. That's also so I can feel superior to the reviewer.

And I'm not to proud to solicit votes for editor. I'm on that page, everybody. Vote for ME ME ME! And get your mother to vote for me and your father to vote for me and your sister and your brother, cousins, grandparents. Hell, if you're dead and living in Philadelphia, you can vote for me, too.

M. G. Tarquini said...

sorry. TOO proud.

See what a good editor I am?

Sandra Ruttan said...

LOL Mindy!

I hate to tell you this, but once you have a book out there, you'll pay more attention to them. It's human nature...

M. G. Tarquini said...

I know I will. I'll pay attention to the reviews for my book. And if the reviewer doesn't like it, I'll wonder if he actually read it. If the reviewer likes it, I'll wonder where he got his amazing good taste.