THE TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS OF A BOOK REVIEWER (OR NOT)

In his post about book reviews, Tim Hallinan  points out the pluses and minuses of reviewing.  Murder By Type is primarily the work of this amateur who got into the blogging world when I realized that only the top selling authors were afforded publicity support by their publishers.  It seemed strange that authors like James Patterson, who now has people co-authoring his books, would have his publishers pay for prime real estate in bookstores when his fans had likely pre-ordered his new book already.

To draw some attention to excellent writers who had no such support, I started Murder By Type.  I included a tab that set out my review policy.  The bedrock of that policy is that the reviews I write are always positive.  I would not want to cost a writer a reader based on my less than positive opinion.  That was the straightforward part – read a book, write something that  will encourage others to read it, post it in  a place where people can find it, and then read  another book and start the process over.

When I read reviews on Amazon, I only looked at those which gave the book four or five stars.  Knowing why a reviewer thought the book was good was enough information for me to decide if it was one I would want to try.  But when I started posting reviews on Amazon I got curious about those reviewers who awarded books one or two stars.  When we were in first grade, most of us learned that one star on a worksheet signified to the world that we did really good work so it didn’t make sense that one-star books were so often panned by the reviewer.  Why tell people why they shouldn’t read a book?  There aren’t enough days to post about the books I thoroughly enjoy.

At the risk of sounding pedantic, I believe that the review of a book is supposed to be about the content of the book, about the story, the characters, the mystery and how the author successfully presents each part.  Yet, there are negative reviews posted about books because the reviewer didn’t like the size of the print or the way a book was bound.  Some have given books one star because they find a word misspelled. This is where reviews can be far less than straightforward.  I know nothing about the publishing industry but are there not proofreaders who would be responsible for that sort of mistake?  Blaming the author in a review for that sort of an error makes the review about something other than the story.

If the plot doesn’t make sense, if the characters are one dimensional, if the descriptions are drab and the dialog dull, blame the author.  Reviews should entice a reader into a bookstore or a library so a potential fan can scan some pages, read the first page or any page in the middle of the book and, if it strikes a chord, buy it or use your library card.  The library is really an author’s best friend.  That’s how I discovered Tim Hallinan and his Simeon Grist series.

Writing reviews isn’t easy.  There is always the risk of giving too much away.  Writing reviews is easy.  There is never any difficulty in being enthusiastic about something we really enjoy.

I could never write a book.  I admire those who can and I want other readers to admire them, too.  Write a review of a book you loved and post it on Amazon.  You will find yourself in the company of those who loved the book, too, validating your opinion.  Who doesn’t like that?

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6 Responses to THE TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS OF A BOOK REVIEWER (OR NOT)

  1. Just Sayin' says:

    “Why tell people why they shouldn’t read a book?”

    You’ve answered your own question. Because “If the plot doesn’t make sense, if the characters are one dimensional, if the descriptions are drab and the dialog dull, blame the author.” I appreciate it when reviewers sometimes give bad reviews: I find it more honest (because true to my own experience), and therefore more trustworthy, than reviewers who only give glowing praise all the time.

  2. Beth says:

    First, the sentence was taken out of context. It refers to people blaming the author, and giving the book a bad review, for things that have nothing to do with the content of the book, the story.

    Second, I don’t finish books that I don’t like: too much violence, gratuitous sex, the abuse of humans of all ages and animals will prevent me from reading a book. Yes, I realize that the limits that these can be tolerated is subjective but reading preferences are personal. I have a political philosophy so I am not going to waste time for reading books that are for entertainment when I spend the earliest part of the day reading newspapers and magazines..

    Third, I don’t see the reviews I post as “glowing”. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not effusive. The review policy at the top of the blog explains that I only post positive reviews because my opinion should persuade people to try a book and author not dissuade them from doing so.

    And finally.the purpose of the blog is also clearly stated. It has been to bring attention to authors who are worth reading but who have to seek their own audience. Every book I review has multiple reviews posted on Amazon. Plenty of those reviews are primarily negative so my reviews don’t exist in a vacuum. There are enough opinions available for readers to make informed decisions as to whether they want to invest time and money.

  3. Joe Barone says:

    I think it is important to get to know the blogger. We used to have a movie reviewer in the KC Star. His name was Robert Butler. I often didn’t agree with his reviews of a movie, but I’d read enough of his reviews that I knew from the review whether I was likely to want to see the movie. And that was true whether his review was positive or negative. When the KC Star “retired” Butler and started using hit-and-miss reviewers, different reviewers from different papers in the same chain, I quit reading their movie reviews. I didn’t know the reviewer so I couldn’t judge the review.

    To me that’s the blessing of being able to read the same blogs day in and day out. I get to know the bloggers and, because I have gotten to know them, their reviews (positive or less positive–I find few totally negative reviews) tell me whether I want to try the book.

  4. Beth says:

    Getting to know the bloggers is the easiest way of trimming the lists of bloggers who compete for readers attention each day. If you find, after reading the book, that the blogger gave a fair representation of it then you can be comfortable in knowing that the review is something you can use as you formulate your own opinion.

  5. Condorena says:

    Amen, Beth. I agree with your approach.

    • Beth says:

      It is nice to hear from you. As you know, there is an ever-growing number of books in the mystery/thriller genres. Like the proverbial kid in a cndy store, we are spoiled for choice. With so much we want to read available to us, we should give a pass to those books we know aren’t going to suit our taste.

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