Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What I Want to Know

Welcome to TNBBC's "What I Want To Know" - a mini series of sorts that will hopefully answer some of the questions and quiet some of the concerns I know fellow bloggers, authors, and publishers have regarding how to choose a reviewer or book to review, review etiquette, how to pitch and be pitched.. among other things.

Last week, we listened as the book bloggers explained how they choose what they will read for review. These week, the ball is back in the authors' and publishers' court, because I want to know:

How do you handle negative reviews?

Here is what they said:

"As we all know, reading tastes can be very subjective and not all reviews can be as positive as you’d hope they would be. It’s certainly easier to stomach a negative review if the criticisms of the book are constructive and thoughtful. And you have to consider the fact that the reviewer is reviewing the book on behalf of its intended audience, and of course not every book is a great fit for every audience. You can’t dwell on negative reviews; you just have to read them, consider them, and move on." - Marisa, Graywolfpress

"I would leave (the review) as is, and likely not approach the reviewer again unless I was in agreement with the reasoning behind the review, and felt it to be smart and demonstrate careful reading." - Lucinda, Book Marketer

"Thankfully, my book isn't out yet until January, so I haven't had to deal with negative reviews yet! Most writers advise against reading reviews altogether, but I'm enough of a narcissist that I doubt I can resist the allure. When I encounter the first negative book review of my book on a blog or review site, I will undoubtedly transform from my mild-mannered self into a fire-breathing, angry demon and leave scathing comments on the post ripping the reviewer apart on a very personal level. And then link to the negative review from my blog, Facebook, and Twitter feed and ask my friends and followers to join in tearing the reviewer apart." - Andrew Shaffer, HuffPost columnist and author of GREAT PHILOSOPHERS WHO FAILED AT LOVE (Harper Perennial, Jan '11)

"They are to be expected because writing is so subjective. I had a couple of mediocre reviews for Venus and I posted the links for my readers to see. I never respond to reviews. Okay, I take that back. When my poetry collection After the Poison was reviewed by The Pedestal, the reviewer called me a racist after failing to read the collection in context with its political themes. It was clear this reviewer had their own agenda and I wrote a very strong letter to the editor and reviewer, but I also posted the review. That is the only time I have protested a review because it moved from critical thinking to personal attack." - Collin Kelley, Poet, journalist, social media consultant, author of Conquering Venus

"I haven't gotten one yet. But to go back to an earlier point from a different angle, a good book reviewer is one who can write a critical review in such a way that even the author says, "yeah, okay; that's fair."" - Gene Doucette, author of Immortal

I love the variety in responses here! A confident author with a sense of humor, a publisher who understands not every book is a great fit for every reader, a poet who links his readers to the negative as well as the positive... It's great to hear how well negative reviews are received by the people who supply us our books.

Writing a negative review can be a very difficult thing to do. When I've written them in the past (thankfully this is something I do not have to do very often) I am basically reviewing the feelings I had as I read the book, and stick to critiquing the specific elements of the story line or writing that did not work for me . I never bash or belittle the novel or author or use subjective adjectives. I also try to offer up some constructive feedback - what would have made this novel work better? what could the author have done differently?

I also try to point out the things that DID work for me. It helps to keep in mind that this novel might be perfect for someone, somewhere out there. I want to try to help this novel find it's readership!

As you can see from the statements listed above, most people want to know what it is about their work that you didn't like. They understand that not everyone is going to like what they wrote, or what they publish. Be honest, be constructive, and give examples. Write a review you can be proud of!

What did you think?

Was this post helpful and insightful? Was there anything here that shocked you? What interactions have you had with publishers or authors that support or negate what you read here?

Next week, we turn the tables and hit up the book bloggers - I want to know how they handle writing negative reviews. Be sure to check back next week to see what they had to say! Thanks for reading...

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