Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hats Off to Editors of Reviews

I personally think that editors of reviews have a slightly harder time than other kinds of editors. I want to thank them for doing their job to the best they can and maybe send a bottle of Aleve with the box of chocolates they deserve.

Why do I think they have a more challenging task? I've touched upon it before in previous posts. The fact that many reviewers are readers and many do not work in an industry where writing is part of their job description is the reason I say that. If creative word use is required on the job, a person gets used to being aware of a level of perfectionism required to produce an acceptable product. That includes: editing, rewrites, grammar and punctuation, format, and proper spelling.

There are those of us whose writing challenges in day to day life are no more than writing checks, filling out forms and maybe a "Please excuse BobbyJohn for the day" note to a teacher. All the practicing and demands of school work are long past having any relevancy to your day to day survival. The basics are there but there is no need to stretch your writing muscles any longer.

Unless you are an avid reader. Unless you have a passion of talking about favorite books to your friends with like interests. That can translate into wanting to share more in a different kind of way and you take the next step into a brand new world - reviewing. Reviewing is sharing in written form your love and/or your opinions about a book with others. And that form has almost as many rules as a short essay in high school or college. But this time, you want to do it. This time it's about the subject that you chose. This time, you are in control-but, there are still rules. And that is where editors come in, if a review site is fortunate enough to have them.

Reviews editors have to deal with many issues yet remain polite, firm, professional and have a thick skin. They have to deal with book readers who come from every walk of life that might have no actual training on what writing a review actually looks like. Through disuse, readers turned reviewers have spelling and grammar issues; they're rusty. So,on top of format and content, an editor has to do double duty. Some reviewers are sensitive to any type of suggestion of correction and they sometimes take it personally, so that thick skin comes in handy for an editor.

New reviewers need to understand that they're on a new learning curve.
How can a new reviewing relationship work? First, be open to being corrected. Don't take it personally. Make sure you understand the format. If there is a template provided to write the review, use it. If you have any questions, ask, ask, ask! Don't guess and don't assume. The site Admin and/or editor(s) will be happy to answer questions because they know that helping you helps them in the long run.

New reviewers also need to do one more important thing. LEARN. Oh, wait. Make that two things. Learn and APPLY. Being corrected is no fun the first time around but being asked by an editor to correct the same thing over and over and over? Well, that's just plain frustrating. And silly. I mean really! If that attitude of refusing to learn and improve was adopted by an author, their books would never get published. What a bleak place our world would be! By the same token, the same thing applies to your reviews - eventually they might not be able to use your reviews if they constantly require repeat editing -- not to mention that it takes time away from your ability to continue reading and reviewing other books. Where's the fun in that? So save time for YOU and your editor by LEARNING and APPLYING. And keep the fun and excitement of being a reviewer alive and kicking.

No one expects Pulitzer-type writing-- just genuine feelings about the effect the book had on you. And use the tools that come with most word processing programs. The all important (link) SPELL CHECKER

Spell Checkers are found easily enough on the Web if your computer doesn't have it already. The thing is - writing reviews is similar to writing a book. How? If an author submits a poorly edited manuscript with spelling errors, it either gets tossed out immediately (doomed to fail), or if there were only a few, it may not tank it but the book will absolutely be returned to the author for corrections of every single error. In light of that, reviewers need to understand that they too will have to expect editing requests and they have to take them as they are meant - to make your good review better, to make it shine and to insure your point gets across to other readers of your review.

Are spell check programs perfect? Heck No! Refer to the spell checker link and look at that paragraph to the right. It's a silly poem but it shows the imperfections in the program. It suggests using a language model but I've never come across one to use. In fact, until I read that, I had no clue that even existed! I love learning new stuff. Anyway, that's another reason why an editor is vital. Sometimes the human eye and brain is best. But it starts with YOUR eyes and brain first. Check for those words that look right but are not. Check for the spelling of the author's name and/or the character's names because Spell Checker has no clue about things in Gaelic or Sci-Fi names like Raptalina Argriptos Minor and the Piper Pirates. It's team work even if we only work together through the Internet.

So, Hats off
to editors everywhere. And cut them some slack. Their job is to buff your work and make it sparkle and shine. But you, the reviewer, have to put the figurative wax on your review first. When you make that effort there's a good chance you may not even NEED an editor's input. Or if you do work with one, eventually you'll get the idea of what you have to do and will no longer get emails from that editor. When that happens, you've graduated and become a professional. And I still say that looks great on a job resume.


Pauline B Jones said...

I would add that there is a difference in the books received for review.

an ARC (advanced review copy) is an advanced version of a book. That often means that it still has some editing processes to navigate. Why would a publisher send out a not-completely-edited book? Timing. Review copies have to be sent out well in advance of publication date. Review sites differ on timing, but that timing can put pressure on a publisher to send out an ARC.

Commenting on typos and editing errors in an ARC is not fair to the author, since they haven't had a chance to give a book that final polish.

If a reviewer buys a book OR receives it post-publication, then they should be getting a well-written, well edited book.

I have seen some review sites that won't accept ARCs and that's fine, but if your site accepts pre-published AND post-published books for review, be aware of which version you are reviewing.

Usually the books or files are labeled "Advanced Review Copy" or, in the case of my publisher, a file will be labeled a "pre-proof." If you're still now sure, ask. :-)

I know some reviewers offer to send authors a list of typos, ect and this is very kind (an extra set of eyes is always welcome to me!), but a reviewer is probably wasting their time sending such lists on an ARC. By the time a reviewer reads the books and can send the list, the book has already gone through the last round of edits.

Often the book is out of the author's hands and they are working on the next book.

I once won an ARC in a contest and it was great fun to read a fav author early, but I was also aware I wasn't getting a perfect copy (and I didn't). When the book did release, I bought a final copy for my keeper shelf.

Beth Caudill said...

Great article. I don't often think of reviewers having the need for editors as well.

Sherry Gloag said...

Another great post. There's a lot of debate going on about the value of reviews, but as you say, a good review -imho- is worth its weight in gold.
Thanks for sharing.

Wendi Zwaduk said...

I dunno how much impact a review makes for the reader on the street, BUT, as a reader myself, I've read some reviews and said, gee, that tells me nothing. I didn't buy the book. In some cases, I wished I had. In others, I'm glad I passed. I've also read some reviews that really got to the meat of the story and I did indeed buy the book. In fact, I loved the book.

What do I mean by a review that told me nothing? It said, a powerful read. Well? What about it was powerful? Another said, there were a lot of characters to keep straight. Ok, but was there a reason for all those characters? Did any jump out at you later?

Those things that turned me off about a book review are also--if written well--what would make me buy a book.

Vanessa A. Johnson said...

Great points. I'd also like to add, some who choose to review a book, but don't do it often have to remember to not give away the plot in the review, and also must remember to maintain a level of professionalism in their review. Authors can learn from some reviewers if it doesn't come off as a personal attack of the writer. My hats off to those who do reviews. I've done them in the past and they're not as easy as it seems as with everything else there are rules that a true reviewer will follow that will force them to keep it from being a personal attack. I think reviews play a part in helping readers choose books. I know they have for me. Thanks for sharing.

Xeranthemum said...

Sorry so late getting back to all these great comments ...
Now that I'm back to work full schedule, chaos reigns supreme again. ;-)

Xeranthemum said...

Hi, Pauline.
Yes, indeed. ARCs need to be cut some slack when it comes to editing issues. In this case, reviewers need to concentrate on content; character development -- whether or not they related to them and were moved by them and for them.

Most of the books we get are fully published and we should expect perfection to almost perfection when reading. If 'marshall arts' is spelled that way more than three times in a story before it goes back to being Martial Arts ...then it's going to get marked a whole grade lower. And yes, I saw that and I absolutely marked it down.

I love ARCs however. To get the early scoop on a book in a series I adore is one of the most thrilling things that can happen to a reader.

Thanks for bring up some valid point, Pauline!

Xeranthemum said...

Hi, Beth!
Oh yes, we DO need editors. Especially since a lot of new reviewers are regular romance readers with no training behind them. (cue the Spell Check post) They love what they read and think to share it with a wider audience. Editing is not easy and it certainly is necessary. The great thing is, most enjoy reviewing and are eager to learn. I'd love to clone them.

Xeranthemum said...

Howdy, Sherry!

Thank you for the compliment!

And why am I not surprised to hear about the debate...
It's one of the reasons why I started this blog. There are too many negative, snarky and synopsis reviews out there that they fan the flames and give ammunition to those that feel they have no value.
We have to stop giving them reasons to discount and undermine what we do.
If done well, I believe they are a huge asset.

Where are the seminars to teach writing reviews? There's no money in it, that's true. But I didn't become a reviewer for money, there wasn't any, lol, I did it because I enjoy reading and I love sharing. It's the best of both worlds.
Debates can be good, I just wish they would be constructive instead of destructive.

Xeranthemum said...

Thanks for the comment, Wendi!

Yep, that's why we do what we do.
If I SQEEEE! about a book, reviewing gives me a venue to do it.
What fun!

Xeranthemum said...

Vanessa, May I say, {{HUGS!!}}

I really enjoyed your comment.

You are exactly right and you said it very well. I can't add another thing.

Thank you for stopping by.

Pauline B Jones said...

I'm just starting to request reviews for my Dec release, so this blog is most timely! :-)

Sending a book out for review is both exciting AND nerve wracking! lol

Xeranthemum said...

Some day I hope to experience the 'other side of the coin' but in the meantime...feel free to point others to this blog if you feel they could glean some tips from it.
Thanks for visiting, Pauline!