Thursday, August 5, 2010

That Familiar Touch

"Hey, Steve! How's it hanging?" - Would you walk right up to the author Steven King and slap him on the back with that comment?

"Whatcha doing today, Nora? Can I have one of your books? What do ya say?" - Would you saunter up to Nora Roberts and shoulder bump her to get her attention?

"Oh, my gosh, Gena, can I have your gnome? I just know it'll look great in my garden!" Would you steal Gena Showalter's garden gnome just because you liked her book series?

Sounds tacky, doesn't it? A bit uncouth? I'd think any of the authors would be stunned and taken aback at the familiarity these people showed - if it were to really happen. Familiarity has its place in life - and it takes time to develop trust and a comfort zone before people allow others to invade their personal space with back slapping and shoulder bumping. The one place familiarity should never be found is in a review. Did you know that?

The interesting thing about writers is that they are more accessible than say, Elizabeth Taylor. If you comment on an author's blog, they'll usually reply. If you friend an author on Facebook, most times they'll accept. If you gush about their books during a chat, you might even inspire an author to gift you with a free book. All these events can engender a feeling of closeness, of connection and dare I say it, possessiveness in a fan for an author. When they go to a book store it's not unheard of for someone to glance at the author's names and say, "I have her, read that one...Oh! There's so and so! That's right, she told me this one was coming out..."

"She told me so". Sure sounds personal, doesn't it? Familiar?

Now, if a fan writes a review of a book by their absolute favorite author, they might be lulled into using familiarity in the review. How would that look? Let's use a fictional author - Shasta LaDixon.

"Esme the heroine was a wonderful and sensitive character and Shasta did a great job of describing her fear of fish." or " Shasta has another winner on her hands with Phin and his Slavic Gills and I'd recommend it to every reader of erotic romantic suspense."

First off, a review is not a personal fan letter to an author. Secondly, a review is not for a private venue but for a public showing. Thirdly, once it's published, it becomes part of a professional marketing tool for authors. Being familiar, using the first name of an author, is unprofessional and shows disrespect. Not intentional to be sure, but the fact remains that there is protocol in the business world. Meeting Bill Gates for the first time? "Hello Mr. Gates." Having lunch and Warren Buffet asks if he can borrow the extra chair at your table, "Absolutely, please, go ahead, Mr. Buffet."

OK... I admit, more than likely Mr. Buffet will have someone else snag a chair for him. But you get the picture. Professionalism in the business world is expressed in many varied ways. First name basis is taboo on initial acquaintance. When a reader reads your review, they are 'meeting' the book/author for the first time and first names are to be avoided. Always. No exceptions.

"Esme the heroine was a wonderful and sensitive character and Ms. LaDixon did a great job of describing her character's fear of fish." or "Ms. LaDixon has another winner on her hands with Phin and His Slavic Gills..."

Do you see what I mean? I believe it makes a world of difference but I'd like feedback on this.

Can anyone come up with a valid reason for authors to be referred to as anything other than Ms. or Mr. in reviews? I'm very interested in your answers.


Anonymous said...

I don't know if this is a valid reason but I think it helps differentiate the author from the characters. You can't always tell who's the author and who are the characters at a quick glance unless the reviewer uses Mr or Ms.

Xeranthemum said...

Right, Nanny! The last thing a reviewer would want is for his/her review to confuse the reader. Never mind the Author confusing US when their name is gender neutral, a mix of more than one person or a guy writing as a woman, or visa versa.
In those cases...well, the author said or the author did works well against the ambiguity.

I'm so happy you stopped by , Nanny! Any other questions, just drop me a comment. :-)