Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Books Are Like Fish

Books are like fish only in a figurative sense. I guess I'm lucky to review for the site that I do simply because of their policies.

I believe that some sites put reviewers at a disadvantage. How? By dictating to reviewers what books they'll read and review. No choice, no preferences just here you go and perhaps even give them a deadline. I wonder, do they even allow them to 'opt out'?

I prefer to fish for books. I prefer having the opportunity to say, "nope, not my thing" and toss it back into the water for another reviewer's fishing line.

I've read about an author's experience with a reviewer that concentrated solely on what they didn't like about the book and totally trashed it. I sat back and wondered, "Did that reviewer even have a choice? Was she forced to read something that wasn't even in her area of interest?" That could be one explanation for such a diatribe. Perhaps a passive-aggressive response? If so, totally not fair to the author!

I am of the opinion that review sites who dictate to their reviewers do the reviewer and the author a grave disservice. I believe this is especially true for those that are sent print books. It's also why I think Ebooks are so wonderful - another post for another time.

The site I belong to has a policy to never dictate to a reviewer. Nor do they insist that a reviewer write the review even if the reviewer has indicated a dislike for the book just because they requested the book in the first place. It's a personal preference and reviewing is basically opinions. If you go fishing for bass to eat and catch an eel, you're going to throw it back. Perhaps screech a bit before you do, but it's going back where it came from, right? So too, a book that doesn't resonate with a person. Send it back. Reviewing is supposed to be FUN!

Why should reviewers be allowed to send it back? It's logical. Think about it. A great review will throb with enthusiasm and positive vibes when it's written by an excited reviewer. It's unlikely to be a short one either. It will flow and the reviewer's voice will come through leaving a reader of the review in no doubt as to where the writer stands. Like this REVIEW. Or, this REVIEW

On the other hand, a reviewer who gets the willies from reading about zombies and vampires and avoids them in her personal buying choices will not enjoy reading and then having to write about it. It will ALWAYS show.

OK, you might ask why'd she request the book in the first place? Why wouldn't she write a review? If it's a site that allows for picking then perhaps the blurb was misleading OR she read a review about the topic and wanted to give it a try. (must have been a good review then, eh? ) Or she closed her eyes, spun around four times and then pointed. In any event, she tries it and finds that this book doesn't change her mind. She can't get into it. She discovered it deals with issues that are on her "never buy" list. She doesn't like the characters and can't even get past the first three chapters. Any number of reasons and all are valid. A good review site will allow her to send it back (Ebook) and put it out there for other reviewers to grab. They recognize (or should) that one person's opinion does not signal the end of the road for that book. It's better to have a review written by a person who enjoyed themselves and was entertained.

If a reviewer does request to return the book, they should provide the site's admin people the reasons why. Sometimes it's that personal preference thing and sometimes, whoa, it's major issues that can be objectively identified: poor editing, misuse of vernacular for the time period, objectionable content outside the boundaries of the site's protocols, TSTL heroine, no plot or the book didn't live up to the blurb or expectations. The review site I belong to actually gives a book two chances before notifying the sender why it couldn't be reviewed.

I give kudos to a review site that resists snark. I respect a review site that doesn't publish reviews that are negative to that extreme. If the points being made are valid and greatly affect the rating of the book (read low to zilch rating), then it's more professional to write to the publisher with the feedback, or to the author if it's an author submitted book. I don't have high a regard for a review site who posts all reviews just to have the numbers or to generate sensational feedback and visit hits. It reminds me too much of the National Enquirer or other sensationalist tabloids. ::shudder::

Poorly written, snarky and insulting and/or lazy synopsis style reviews should not have a place on a review site if they value integrity, takes pride in itself or cares about professionalism or how it translates to authors and an industry as a whole. Remember that not all synopsis reviews are bad if they include extra paragraphs that actually review the book. I only refer to the ones that don't. You know, those one-liners at the end. "I liked Dick and Jane. I liked how they ran. You should read it." ::rolls eyes::

So, have you caught any good fish lately?


Stormy said...

I agree, Chrysanthemum, having the option to not review a chosen book can be good for both the reviewer and the author. I chose a book a couple of months ago that, according to the blurb, was in line with the genre I enjoy reading. Once I actually got into the book though I realized very quickly that I wasn't the reviewer to do it justice. I was able to return the book to the database and noticed just recently that it had been picked up by another reviewer who do a beautiful job of critiquing the book. She even had author feedback that said thank you for "getting" the characters. Great blog BTW! I'm still a fairly new reviewer and this is some very good information.

Xeranthemum said...

Stormy! Thank you so much for visiting.

Also, I really appreciate your comment because this blog was started with the hopes of helping reviewers just like you. And maybe learn a little bit myself along the way.

I'm thrilled that you were able to experience exactly what this post was about. It'll make it more real for readers of the post that come after you.

So glad you came by, Stormy!
I hope you continue to have great experiences while reviewing.