Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Road of Being a Reviewer

I've covered quite a few reviewing issues over the past few posts. I hope I've helped some reviewers and educated some as well, without being so dry as to need moisturizer after reading them.

I'd like to take a moment and thank reviewers. Yes, even the ones that do the dreaded synopsis type. Why? Because they cared enough and loved the romance genre enough to want to do reviewing in the first place. Because even though there might be issues, they're still taking the time to read and write and belong to the reviewing community. I also wonder where we all come from? And what impact that may have on reviews in general?

This is my blog, so I'll talk about me. Why did I become a reviewer? Wow, can I think back to three years ago? Yes, actually, I can. I was blog hopping and came upon a plea for someone to read this author's book. I ignored it. Yes. I really did. I thought to myself, there is no way I'm qualified to do that. What would I have to say? And I don't know this person. How am I to know they're legit? So, I continued blog hopping and forgot all about it.

She was persistent, this author. She posted again! She really really needed a review for her book. And there were no takers! So, skeered little me decides it can't hurt to ask her what it's about and where can I buy it? And she says something like..."I'll give you the book if you'll write a review." Like I said, she was persistent. I thought about it.

That's right, I did not jump at the chance to be a reviewer. I thought that you had to be trained or needed to have some sort of course or needed to be a real writer to be a reviewer. But a FREE BOOK? What a nice carrot! So yeah, I bit. I read the book, liked it and wrote a little review.
The next thing I know, I get this note: Want to be a reviewer? Um....

The rest is history still being written.

So I ask you, why aren't there written guidelines out there for reviewers? Has someone somewhere written up a gold standard for reviews and we just haven't been clued in? Even brick and mortar stores have How-To books on writing; writing screenplays, poetry, biographies, you name it. Why isn't there one for reviewers? It's just as much an art. Some authors rely on reviews to spread the word about their books. It's written word of mouth. Links can be shared all over the Web and ideally, a groundswell of enthusiasm for a book could generate many sales therefore making a good review a valuable marketing tool. So where's our How-To info?

A lot of us are fans. That's where we come from. We. LOVE. Romance novels. And some are outgoing enough to put themselves out there and talk up their favorite parts and well-loved characters and they figure that is what reviewing is. Easy, right?

It's not so simple. Good grammar and basic sentence structure notwithstanding, Spell Checker is one of the tools of the trade. You'd think everyone would use it but they don't. Heck, even if they did, that program can't catch what another pair of human eyes can. That's why a review site should have some editors on hand just for reviews. Heaven forbid that an author's name is spelled wrong. ::raises hand:: I'm guilty. I have ADD so it's especially challenging for me. I found that if I copy/paste right from the PDF, then I can't make a mistake. It works perfectly, unless the PDF itself is wrong, and wouldn't that be embarrassing!

I also think there is a huge difference in reaction to the suggestion of edits between authors and reviewers. Authors know that edits and crits come with the deal. A thick skin is needed and a Can-Do attitude that values learning and honing their craft. Many reviewers are regular moms, college students, professionals in their chosen careers, and a few published authors who actually have time to read - for fun! Many non-authors don't have a thick skin. If they've not immersed themselves in Yahoo groups, author chats or author blogs, they may not know just how common edits are and exactly what it's like to be told it's not up to par so rewrite an entire chapter or two and resubmit. Or, they get one shot and if the manuscript isn't up to the publisher's standards, they outright reject it. That hurts.

Sometimes I hear about reviewers getting upset and even quitting over edit requests. I can empathize. There are no standardized manuals of reviewing out there to help them. Some sites actually have helpful files they can visit to refer to, but it can be overwhelming. So what's a reviewer to do? I don't think they should take it personally that's what.

I believe that reviewers who review for more than one site need to follow the expectations of each individual site. I think it's unfair to a reviewer if sites don't make it clear exactly what form their reviews need to be in. One review does not fit all sites, and shouldn't. Oh, man that's an understatement. And another SOAP box moment for another post. I would ask that reviewers find out the requirements of writing reviews for the site they want to be a part of. It will save hurt feelings in the long run.

If synopsis style reviews is all a reviewer wants to write, stick with review sites that are okay with that. If you try that same format with a review site that expects a more personal and in depth commentary on what worked in a book from their reviewers, they'll return your review for edits again and again until it meets their standards. If not expected, that can really steam a reviewer. And give an editor an eye twitch. So, my advice is to find your happy fit. It's out there.

Being a reviewer is a rewarding road to travel. I'm still traveling on mine; its curvy, twisted and never boring. I think becoming a reviewer is one of the most exciting things I've done in my life and it challenges me at every turn. I find it helps on a resume too. **wink**


Beverly's Book Reviews said...

I am also a fellow reviewer. I am fairly new at the game. It has only been about 6 months and only for one site, but I enjoy in. The reason I became a reviewer was because reading is my one vice in life. I do it whenever and however. I also enjoy discussing the stories I read with others and recommend books I highly enjoyed frequently. Most of my family and friends come to me when they want to know what books to read because they know I am always full of suggests and if allowed will go on for hours.
I have to say becoming a reviewer it is one of the best decisions I have made. It has opened my eyes to the writing industry as a whole since it was a snowball effect for me. Around the same time I also joined a few author and writing sites some related to reviewing others not so much. It also allowed me to experiences various types of writing that I would not have taken a second glance at on my own.

Xeranthemum said...

Hello and Welcome, Beverly's Book Reviews!

Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. I share your book vice -- in fact my closet holds more books than clothes and shoes combines. lol

Isn't it amazing the things we've learned during reviewing? And the people we meet are amazing. I too only review for one site, and truly, considering the books I get to chose from, one is enough. I'd have to quit work just to read as much as I'd like but I sort of enjoy eating too.

That's great that your family and friends come to you for recommendations. I bet it's your enthusiasm and joy that comes from your love of books that makes the difference in what they choose. And isn't it why we do it?

When a book makes us smile, being able to get another person interested in the book because of our recommendation is like spreading smiles around our neighborhood and around the world. How cool is that?
And it sounds like you do that just fine.
::high five::

Have a great weekend!