Monday, July 9, 2012

Why I Applaud Editors of Reviews

I can only speak to the editors of the Long and Short of It Reviews because that's what I'm familiar with.

I was curious about any reviews of a book that I had just finished reading.  I loved it and felt it was one of the best books in the series, so far.  I can't link to it right now because it has to go through its own editing process before it can get published at LASR.  One thing my editors will not see are some of these that I snagged from Goodreads.

"...is an incredible adiction to the"  Addiction or Addition - not sure which but an editor could have helped tremendously. 

"It sparks me to want to re-read the earlier books in the series"   - alright firefly. An editor might have suggested  sparked interest in re-reading, or  It inspired me to re-read..., or It motivated me to want to re-read... but 'sparked me' just doesn't work unless you're a fire cracker.

One review gave critical plot points away, explaining about the hero's background IN DETAIL; information I only found out when I read the book myself - as it should be.  Not only that, but the so-called review showed a huge chunk of dialogue and then continued to give blow by blow accounts of what happened later.  I had to stop reading it. I was going to blow a gasket.  Telling readers what the story is all about, what happens and explains in intricate detail why something is the way it is has a name.  SPOILERS!!  They are not reviews!  


Ok....I digress.  Let's see what else I found. 


Oh, The Pout.  Yes, a reviewer pouted.  "This book would have been so much better if there were more of  (previous characters)....."   The book wasn't about those other characters.  This book was about one man, one hero, and his journey to redemption.  Because this particular book didn't have "those" characters, the reviewer trashed it.  HELLO!!!  ::face palm:: Review and rate the book on what IS, not what you wish it could be.  You didn't write the book, the author did.  Her world, her rules, her vision.   And then the "reviewer" ended with, " complete review to come."  Really!  So, this person took the time to trash the book because it didn't have the characters she/he'd prefer to see and left a CLIFF HANGER?   Interesting technique. 

Ah, I was wondering when I'd find a review with this element.  I know the hero was as anti-hero as a man could get. He has a history of being the villain everyone loved to hate - with good reason. 

  I left Goodreads with thankfulness and switched to random clicking and Lo!

"... he is also a complete asshole." That's basically true but profanity really has no place on a 'professional' review site.  Even if it's said throughout the book, profanity really should not show up in a review.  Remember, and I'm paraphrasing, 'lady on the outside, vixen on the inside'.  I think 'bastard' can be used because it is, in fact, a noun  and a well used one during those Regency times.

Yes, editors work magic. They fix the flow of a review with a simple tweak of a word here or there.  Their jobs are made much easier if I do my homework and proof my words.  Did I mix up a metaphor?  Did I type in reslut again instead of result?  Did I put there instead of their?  Spell check won't ever catch that because there and their are real words.  This is when the human brain is superior to any computer program.  I can't rely on auto-correct either because sometimes what the computer suggests is from outer space. I am the first and last to proof before I submit.  Because I've had the honor of assisting with editing, I know what a thankless, eye-straining, headache inducing job it can be. But the polished product is a miracle. We all benefit from our editor's efforts and the result is a higher quality review.  I'm honored to have such wonderful people scrutinizing my work. They make me look darned good.

Hats off to our editors!!!!

 **VBG** After reading all of this, you are probably wondering and demanding I reveal the name of the book I was basing this post on.   I'll instead share with you a review that I thought was awesome.  Even better than  mine and it's not out yet.  I loved the insight this reviewer put into it.  I enjoyed how she skirts the cliff of spoilers, giving enough to tease and make me want to read the book all over again. I love giving credit to a great review and this one deserves it.  Click HERE to see the answer revealed.  


As always, if you have any feedback regarding this post, I'd enjoy the chat. 


Thanks for stopping by!


Friday, July 6, 2012

Spam Spam Spam I Am - NOT!

First, a nod to Monty Python's Spam

I find it amazing that it's the perfect tie-in to teach about repetitive words in a review.  I have covered this issue before and I thought it was pretty clear about how annoying a Broken Record could be. However, it is a topic that begs to be revisited because it's a trap that we all fall into frequently.  It not only plagues reviewers but authors as well.

The use of the same word to refer to an item repeated in close proximity in the same paragraph is to be avoided. Like the counter 'lady's' reaction to all that repetitive Spam flying around, I too want to scream, "Enough!"  

The word most often abused is 'story'.  Here are other options to try in your review to break up the bad habit of story-itis.

Book
Cliffhanger
Comedy
Drama
Epic
Fable
Fantasy
Folk tale
Legend
Myth
Novel
Novella
Or use the actual title of the book instead of  "this story"
Plot
Saga
Sequel
Story line
Tale
Tall tale
Tear jerker
This mystery
This whodunit
This romance, the romance
Thriller
Yarn

I have a suggestion.  If you have a search function or (edit and replace) on whatever program you use to write your reviews on your computer, plug in the word "story" and see how often it shows up and where.  Same with "book".  They seem to be the most repeated and need to be mixed up and stirred. 

The goal of this post is to polish your writing style. I hope this list helps.  Too much of a good thing, like SPAM, can make you sick. Using the same word over and over again in a 250 word review is not a good thing. Read it aloud and you'll see.

If there are other words that you find yourself over-using, let me know.  I can research and come up with another comprehensive list that other reviewers can reference.   And, if you have other words that I missed that I can add to the above 'story', I'd love to see them and I'll update this post.

Thanks!  


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Reviewing Isn't Singing Along with Toby Keith

I actually enjoy Talk About Me and it's great to sing along with - if I can keep up. 

The lyrics that stick with me are these:

"I like talking about you you you you, usually, but occasionally
I wanna talk about me (me,me,me,me- background singers)
I wanna talk about meeeeeeee (me,me- background singers)
(I wanna talk about me- background singers)mmmm me me me me
(I wanna talk about me- background singers)mmmm me me me me
You you you you you you you you you you you you you

I wanna talk about ME!"


What does Toby Keith's song have to do with reviewing? It is perfect to illustrate what readers should see in a review.   If I'm writing the review, you want to know what I felt, what I saw, how I was affected, what I liked, what I didn't, what I observed and what I looked for and what I found and what I didn't find.  Did I laugh, did I cry, did I faint from the scorching love scenes or fall asleep or did I want to rush out and tell everyone to read this book; all those things are points that make a review valuable to a potential buyer of a book.  What do they have in common? Me!  My opinion.

What I do not want to see is you: You will like this..., You will absolutely love..., You will cry when ..., You will want to ...., You will come to believe..., You must..., You are going to .... You you you you you.

Seriously, how can a reviewer possibly anticipate a reader reacting the same as the reviewer?

There are times when "You" can be fine to use.

"You might remember the old adage, "It takes a thief to catch a thief".

 At that point the reviewer is talking to the reader, drawing them in by using a common analogy or reference to make their point.   Nowhere in the above example is the reviewer telling the reader what they will do.  It's being chatty, and that's fine.  But when reviewers persist in talking...no telling the reader how to do this or that, then it ceases being a sharing of opinion and comes across as shaking a figurative finger at the reader with authority, "You will laugh...!" "You will do this...after reading this scene, chapter, book."

I don't think so.

To flip Mr. Keith's lyrics around from "I like talking about you you you you, usually, but occasionally
I wanna talk about me."


 It should be "I like talking about me me me me me, usually, but occasionally I can talk about you."

It's hard to refrain from You-ing all over the place.  A reviewer might do it because they feel that they're writing it in a way  that might relate better to the reader.  It's not. It's telling.  A review is your opinion and you are sharing about how the book, characters, dialogue, setting or sex scenes affected you.  Or not.

I need to see,  "I was amazed!"  not, "You will be amazed."  You can't possibly know that.

When I see a review telling me to do this or that,  I get all huffy and want to stomp up to my soap box  and hold up a neon sign that says STOP!  I don't like to see someone telling me how I'm going to react to the same book they're talking about. That's for me to decide.  I can only hope that I'll derive the same sense of enjoyment, awe, surprise or excitement out of the book as the reviewer.  But I can't be told to.

A reviewer's goal is to Make me want to experience those same things by hooking me, intriguing me, teasing me and painting with words that show me their enthusiasm and observations enough that it piques my interest, whets my appetite and encourages me to go and read the book for myself.  

Me.

Before you submit your review, look it over to see if you are sharing your opinion or telling.

Too much telling in a book can drag down the review rating.  Telling in a review is just as unwelcome.

Please be aware folks. And when writing, think in your head, 'talk about me'.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

"Revisit Me" Screams Number Three

Hello, again, fellow reviewers!
Welcome, fellow word grazers!

It's been awhile, hasn't it?  I've covered many aspects of reviewing so topics are fewer to come by.  Sometimes what is old is new again and this post proves it.  I heard it through the editing grapevine that ratings aren't equaling the review.  The ripple effect from that practice is not pretty and it affects the reviewer's credibility, not to mention causes untold confusion for the author as well as readers of your review.

The rating of three (3) isn't a bad thing.  If you need a refresher about a  three (3) rating click HERE -- remember the Rapunzel-effect?.  I know some of you do.  I even covered a three (3) rating in more depth HERE  -  personally, I think the 'Missing Link' is even more helpful.  Three(3) is a popular subject, can you tell?

The flip side of rating a book a three (3), is not writing the review to justify it.  In fact, what is being written is glowing, gushing and all perfectly positive.  If you're that enthusiastic about the book, why in the world are you rating it a three (3)?  To paraphrase Mr. Spock, "That does not compute."  Certainly, it's not logical.

For a book to earn a three (3) rating, it has to have faults. Has to. Not maybe. Has to. And how to address them was covered in The Rapunzel Effect - so go check out that link if you haven't already.

A reviewer does a great disservice to the book and all readers of their review when there is tons of gushing and positive opinions without sharing what dragged it down from a perfect rating of five (5) or Best Book to a three (3).  There has to be a reason.  It's the responsibility of a reviewer to express that; share what didn't work and what could have made it better in a concise but respectful manner.  Remember, no snark - it's never constructive nor truly informative.  Remember, I covered No Snark when I went 'fishing'.  Need a refresher?  Click HERE

I'm not sure why a reviewer would hesitate to share their opinion of what didn't work for them. I don't think they'd hold back if they were talking to their friends face to face about it.  I hardly think they'd recommend a book to their friends by waxing poetic about how great it was and then mislead them by not warning them of the book's pitfalls.  Friendship means taking the good with the not-so-good.  The relationship that a reviewer has with her/his audience is just like a friendship.  Some readers follow a reviewer because they feel that they can trust the opinion of the writer.  Why would you want to let them down?  What are you afraid of?  Are you aware that authors respect a well worded critique and find the information of what didn't work, helpful?  They do.  Well, most do.

 If a reviewer stated that the hero's dialogue came across sounding like a stubborn, childish cur instead of a man you could respect and swoon over, then they'd know to pay more attention to the male POV and how he's depicted.  Perhaps they need to do more research on how men talk amongst themselves to gain more insight.  And that insight may very well benefit the next hero, and reviewers will truly have reason to be enthusiastic. Maybe there was a ton of confusing head hopping in a book and the reviewer shared that it was overdone and threw them out of the story.  That might challenge the author to rein in his/her characters and the next book will be sharp and on target.

The bottom line?  Write a review that matches the rating.  Give details ( NOT SPOILERS) about what was missing, or what didn't work.  Something.  Don't just say  the book 'feels' like a three (3).  That means nothing.  Please do not submit a review that has "Happy, Happy, Joy! Joy!" (nod to Ren & Stimpy) all over it and then slap on a three (3) rating, or even a four (4).  When you do that, your credibility is on the line.

Please make your reviews match and/or justify your rating.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Getting the Kink out of the Fetish

For those who have been following my blog they will remember that I explored the use of toys, BDSM and fetish.  If you missed it, click HERE.

I find that it’s always good to revisit a covered subject from a different angle.  There are two sides to a coin, right?  Well, sometimes there are many ways to answer the same question.

A challenge for reviewers of erotic romances is in describing the content of their reviews when it comes to fetish or kink.

Marion-Webster defines kink as unconventional sexual taste or behavior.

As for fetish, the online dictionary has this to say:
c : an object or bodily part whose real or fantasied presence is psychologically necessary for sexual gratification and that is an object of fixation to the extent that it may interfere with complete sexual expression
2: a rite or cult of fetish worshipers

Those are the dry versions and strict interpretations and don’t really touch the reality.  All that the websites tell me is the psychology of a fetish.  But humans have taken the term and made it a lifestyle.  Since romance is all about living, loving and a state of being – that of being in love - and erotic romance explores the more graphic side of the bedroom, reviewers need to be aware of the difference.  

In the world of romances that push the envelope and for people who live the BDSM lifestyle, fetish takes on another more intricate and profound layer.  The object or bodily part referred to may be the focus of the moment but it’s a tool, a means to show another level of trust, of need, of experience and heightened sexual awareness – and of the person (the Dom) in charge of meeting that need, feeding that trust and controlling the experience to the benefit of the one being obsessed about (the sub) – there is a huge difference between that and kink.   To that end, toys are used.  As mentioned in the previous post, those toys are intrinsic to the experience and are wielded by a master.  They are not used a few times and forgotten.   They are expected, demanded and part of the whole.  They are part of a consistent pattern, with reward and punishment and the use of spanking, deprivation or overstimulation to enforce the pattern and/or the pleasure.

Kink, on the other hand, dabbles.  The couple or couples in question might do it in an elevator, in the dressing room of a department store, on the boss’s desk when he or she isn’t around or behind bushes where anyone who comes by might hear or even see them. (exhibitionism)  The heightened sexual frenzy from being so “naughty” ramps up the excitement and the protagonists experience the thrill of a lifetime.  The couple might even spy on a foursome engaging  in sex on a balcony in full view (voyeurism) and get really turned on.  They might try a little tying up of the hands with nylons or underwear, or spank a few times and find they like it.  They might even continue spanking on and off, but it’s not their lifestyle.  It’s a choice for the moment, an experiment or an exploration of what they like as a couple.  They aren’t going to suddenly start going to the clubs, buying the jewelry and have those actions and choices dictate to them on the outside world. It’s usually private, singular and just between them.  There is also the significant lack of the Dom/sub component.

 As for voyeurism, they can have perfectly fine sex behind closed doors without the stimulus of watching other people first.  It’s a take it or leave it thing but they certainly can enjoy it – a lot. But it’s still a kink.

Another aspect of kink is getting turned on by women in  F**me pumps,  seeing toes in brightly painted toe polish or seeing a man’s navel or pecs.   It snags their attention and hits their erogenous buttons. Like when a guy wants the woman to wear her 4 inch heels during sex...it's because he finds it visually pleasing, stimulating and increases his enjoyment. That’s kink by life’s definition.  It can be naughty, saucy and sensually arousing by the sheer unusualness of it.  It’s never dangerous, intrusive or degrading.   It is NOT because it’s a requirement to get off.

However, if it’s the psychological version- these same “fetishes” take on a very unhealthy aspect, making the person with the ‘fetish’ unable to perform, find satisfaction or function without it.  Case in point, a man will rob a woman’s home just to be able to smell her underwear and is so obsessive about it, he becomes a scary threat.   Readers will only find villains who go to that extent.  I hope.  The reason I include this type of fetish is for reviewers to be aware.  Do not use the label or tag of ‘fetish’ with this type of behavior.  If you do, readers will be expecting some fun BDSM scenes and instead get something nightmarish.

This whole exercise is to clear up any confusion between choosing to label actions in a story as kink or fetish.

A couple in a glass elevator getting their jollies from doing something sexual in full view of the public by the guy doing something sensually stimulating to the woman as he’s hidden from view behind her is a kink. 

A couple in a glass elevator where the male Dom orders the submissive woman not to orgasm while he inserts a vibrating dildo from behind and orders her to move ever so slightly like she’s  f**’g it , and as he croons to her, tells her what her punishment will be if she dares to orgasm,  is labeled fetish.  

Reviewers, please be aware of what the difference is between kink and fetish.  There are some readers that in no way want to read about elements of the BDSM lifestyle in their books but won’t mind a little kink.  The information you provide helps readers make the best choice for their time and money. 


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Fish, Mice and Readers

What do fish, mice and readers have in common?

Bait.

For the first two, responding to bait isn't a good thing. For a reader, it can be a rewarding experience.
What do I refer to?
The first sentence or first couple of sentences in a review.

Why is that such a big deal?

That is where a reviewer has a chance to set the 'bait'.

Why would anyone want to entice a reader?

The purpose is to pique a reader's interest. ((Notice it's piqued and not peaked? That's a soap box for a different day ))

Ideally, bait gets a reader to read the rest of the review, to get interested in checking out the book further and in a perfect world, buy the book.

It's also called the 'Hook'. Yes, I've covered this topic in the past.  If you've not had the pleasure, sink your teeth into these past gems.

HERE
and
HERE

I'm pretty sure I covered it in depth but refreshers and reminders never go amiss.

The following are the first few sentences of a review which in my estimation are exactly the punch I'm talking about.

My fingers are still tingling from the erotic heat coming off this book. I was completely hooked after only a few pages and refused to stop reading until I had finished. This book had me captivated by its well written plot and titillating eroticism.
Review

In a hurry, but need a quick jolt of sensual excitement and seduction? Hop right into this very steamy tale because each command, every quivering sigh delivering a breathy ‘yes’, will jump start a reader’s pulse into overdrive. Once again Ms. Alex zeroes in on what a woman likes to read that seduces her mind and her senses.
Review

Proceed with caution when using Powertools, you just never know how hot they are going to get. Jayne Rylon’s fourth book in her Powertools series, Devon’s Pair, is smokin’ hot and exceptionally dirty!
Review

Life is never easy, especially when you are the nerdy heavy girl in love with the town hunk. Maxine’s love for Noah has nothing to do with his looks and more to do with the man he is when only she is around
Review

Garrett thought everything at home was just fine. He’d never been more wrong about anything in his life.
Review

Love is a light that keeps the darkness of evil at bay. However, memories of fear in a dark closet and echoes of the words—God does not listen to bad girl’s prayers—rules Adriane Darcy’s response to many things that happen.
Review

The preceding are examples that provide tantalizing information with words that make an impact in the first thirty seconds. Sometimes, that's all a reviewer has if they want to get their review read. Some readers will read it anyway because of the author or subject matter. But for readers who pop in just to check out reviews and to learn about new things they might want to try, those first few sentences that lead into that first paragraph are crucial.

Here's a comparison of the same book: Touch If You Dare by Stephanie Rowe
Reina is on a mission to save the life of her sister. She has failed to save her mother and seven other sisters, so she is determined to do whatever it takes. Unfortunately, saving Natalie’s life will involve killing and reaping souls. Reina works for Death, and he has offered her a promotion (with extra powers and tools) if she will kill the world’s most talented assassin.
Review

She’s working hard on trying to be a reaper for death. He’s trying to stay alive and not explode from the hate and anger he carries around in him. Ideal couple, don’t you think?
Review

The above two examples show the difference between a recitation versus an infusion of the reviewer's personal touch. The second offers a question which suggests a tone of cheek and sarcasm. When I read it the first time, the first thing I thought was "Oooh, a conflict of the sexes and that means trouble!" -- My reaction to the first example, was, "Okay - thanks for the info."

The next two comparisons I'm adding as a lark. Although the first line is a bit more grabbing, what follows is a bit of a downer. The second review's first line doesn't have any fire but the tone of the following review is much more optimistic and easier on the mind's stress level.

His Destiny by Diana Cosby
Secret keeping between the hero and heroine is always a problem when it comes to romance
Review

Traumatic experiences in childhood govern the psyche of both Emma Astyn and Sir Patrik Cleary MacGruder.
Review

The last comparison between two reviews is focused on the very first line. Granted, the site I'm linking to has a different format, so I'm not too sure what a search engine would pull up as a "first line". In this case, I scrolled down to where the actual meat of the review started.

The book in question is: Sex, Lies and Midnight by Tawny Weber

Sex, Lies, and Midnight is the second installment to Tawny Weber's Undercover Operatives series.
Review

I’ve been hoodwinked in the most delightful manner.
Review

Which of the last two has more originality in it? It's the clearest, shortest example of my point.

The first sentence isn't supposed to be facts that a reader can get off of the blurb or the publisher's site. Certainly it's not supposed to be a statement of where the book lands in a series. B.O.R.I.N.G. !!

It's supposed to be the reviewer's own words, expressing something that condenses a thought or feeling about the book.
Sizzle
Pop
Tingle
Hoodwinked
Proceed with caution

There are as many ways to grab attention as there are books to read. There is no official right way, but there are plenty of wrong ways. Putting a reader to sleep is a wrong way. Reiterating the outline of the story is too Dragnet - just the facts Ma'am.

This is about...
Character's name, is an orphan, a woman, a man, an alien, a slug
This takes place.....
This is the seventeenth adventure in a long line of adventures about a family with a lot of kids who get into a lot of trouble. ::sigh:
This is this, that is that.
zzzzzzzzzzz

Wake me up when you find a good one.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Are Edits Really Worse Than a Root Canal?

Here's my latest observation.

If reviewers use "poor editing" as a criteria for marking down a book rating, why do they think they're the exception to that same standard?

Answer: They’re not. We’re not. I am not.

Bear in mind that I am making reference to those reviewers who contribute to organized review sites, not personal bloggers. Although they might find value in this, who knows?

How closely do reviewers follow their favorite authors? How much do they pay attention to the words the writer uses that touch base on what they do? You know, when they talk about not just their characters but the behind-the-scenes goings on?

If readers follow authors on Facebook or Twitter or any of the Yahoo Groups they’re a part of, or the authors’ own blogs, they'll notice discussions about galleys, edits and other components that make up their day beyond the initial creative process. It’s not glorious or fun – it’s hard work, time consuming and exacting. The payoff for readers is a finished product that will inspire imagination and enjoyment.

A review is a cousin of that process. Sure, some might say it’s a distant cousin but it’s related through the written word. We share our opinions of that final product; how it affected us, what worked or didn’t work and what our favorite parts were, or least favorite.  We even point out the things that got missed, like editing.

Reviewers are writers too. We use words to explain and share our opinions and, like authors, we also make mistakes. We know what we want to say but sometimes our fingers just don’t make the connection. From our head to our fingers or pen, weird things can happen. The brain is amazing. It can take words that should be there and insert them for us to see when we are reading it back to ourselves. But those words are actually missing! Therefore, we think it’s perfect and submit it. We never notice, we never question our perfection. Imagine the shock of being told to fix errors!

We know what we want to say but perhaps don’t know the right word, or, perhaps it’s a word not used often and we mess up the spelling. We are fallible. We are human.

I have to ask:

Why don't they use the many and varied tools that writers have access to? Such as: a spell checker, a thesaurus, even the humble dictionary. Why do they resist using them? Why do reviewers get their panties in a twist when their review comes back for edits? Why are they taking it personally when told that their review needs to be tweaked? Why do they think they’re above the process that authors are expected to deal with every day?

Does anyone have some answers for me?
Don't they want their reviews to be respected?

And please don’t respond with, “Well, I am not an writer/author. I‘m just a reviewer.” That is a cop out. You ARE a writer – you’re not reading this because you are singing or a tap dancing. You. Are. Writing! Ergo: a writer.

Edits - a necessary component for anyone who takes what they write seriously. You can even call it a necessary evil. Embrace them – they’re actually good for you.

Taking it a step further – if a reviewer wants to review for multiple sites, realize they can’t take the cookie-cutter approach. Nor can they expect one format to be accepted by all of the sites they belong to. Not only that, but they can’t re-use the same review because of intellectual property rights.

Did you know that?

In addition, some sites have an attitude of laissez faire while others require a level of professionalism and are more proactive. Most are willing to work with their reviewers and help them grow, and others don’t put in that kind of investment. Ask yourself – What kind of site do I review for?

If you don’t want to put in much effort - the thrill is just getting to share your opinion, then go with the sites that aren’t picky- they’ll be a good fit.

However, if that is your modus operandi and you start to review for a site that requires attention to detail, with the burden  falling on the reviewer for submitting a decent review the first time, then it might not be a good match at all. A reviewer will be faced with their lack and their review will come back for edits. For some it’s a hard pill to swallow. For some reviewers, it’s so insulting that they just up and quit.

HOW DARE THEY!! OTHER SITES LIKE MY STYLE JUST FINE!!!

That kind of reaction isn’t very professional. And even if you don’t review for an organized site, certainly it comes across as very high school-ish and thin-skinned. You can’t tell me that a job in the corporate world doesn’t have moments of criticism, correction and instruction. If a person can survive that, then certainly a little editing request shouldn’t be the end of the world. Suck it up and do what you do with pride and honor.

You are worth it. Your opinion is worth it. The story is worth it. Edits help you learn, grow and create a better final product. What can a reviewer possibly find objectionable about that?

Someone, please tell me.
Because I think edits are much better than a root canal. Any day.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Know Your Publishers

In my previous post about Keeping the Negatives in the Closet - an author replied and added a very good piece to the reviewing tableau that I missed.

Yes, I said to "know your publishers", but that was referring to book size and style: shorts and serials.

She contributed a valid observation.  Be aware of the HEAT LEVELS of the books published by the publisher. 

If a reader/reviewer is requesting from, for instance, White Rose Publishing - then expect sweet romances only, with inspirational themes.

If a reader/reviewer is requesting from Ellora's Cave  , then you can expect romances that turn the sheets to ashes from the intense passion and heat in the bedroom.

For a reviewer to mark a book down because they wanted an erotic romance and received instead a book with sensual nuances, happiness and the ending is only a kiss of celebration and commitment, then that's totally wrong on the reviewer's part.  For shame!

Don't make the book pay for your mistake. Again, if you are lucky enough to belong to a review site, (assuming the book is not a print) where you can easily say, "Please put this book back up for grabs", do so.

No review should have a negative comment about heat levels when it's the nature of the publisher to be sweet or nice and have no bedroom action.  Conversely, if a reader is of a delicate sensibility and they find the book has some BDSM and are shocked...return the book, don't mark it down.  You shouldn't punish the author with a bad review because the elements weren't your cup of tea. 

Know Your Publishers!

Friday, January 13, 2012

This Is Not A Test- So Why Are You Asking Me Questions?

I like to be teased.
I like to be intrigued.
I like to have my interest piqued.
I like to read a review and get informed.

I don't like to be bombarded with questions I have no way of answering.
I don't like being asked so many of the darned things that I feel like I'm being tested instead of learning anything of value about the book I might want to read.

And that's the latest bugaboo. The question. The sentence that ends with a (?) aimed at getting a reader to wonder, to get interested and to want to know more. I believe the intent is to leave them dangling, curious and clamoring for what comes next.

Instead, I want to walk away.
Why? It's a great technique.

Yes, in moderation and in context.

Reviewing is an art. Like all artists we experiment with different mediums and techniques but for us, it's not oil paints vs. watercolors,or marble vs. wood, it's the written word.

Sometimes a bit too much of one color can overwhelm a painting and instead of a masterpiece it becomes a dartboard. If you chip off that one extra piece of the sculpture and more comes off than intended, the art is ruined. So too with the technique of teasing with a question. Use too many and it loses effect.

How is it done? How or when is it used? When should it not be used?

Good questions. How it is being used and in what way makes a huge difference on the effect it will have on a reader.

The answer to when it should NOT be used has partially been addressed before, believe it or not. The first part is my pet peeve, No Synopsis

Why do you think I'm bringing up my pet peeve, the evil synopsis? Because there are times a reviewer thinks that by writing a synopsis-style paragraph with a hook at the end, and in this case, it's the use of a question, they've made the reader interested in the story. And that might work - once. Maybe even twice.

When it doesn't work for certain is when the "review" isn't a review at all but a different style of a synopsis.

It would have been better if they'd just taken out a few sentences and wrote about their own observations about what works in the story because that is what readers are really searching for.

If the entire review has four or five paragraphs, and every one ends in a leading question but every one of those four or five paragraphs retells the blurb or narrates the progression of the story, then no matter how clever the question, the 'review' isn't giving a reader the information that makes a review, a review.

Warning: This next paragraph is harsh with a caveat.  It's only for those who review for sites that include the blurb from the book with the review.

Writing reviews like that is a waste of both a reader's and the reviewer's time. The review should be sent back for edits. Why? Because it's not a review. Asking leading questions after rehashing the blurb is not a review. Reciting narrative about what the book is about is not a review. Simple. There is no actual investment by the reviewer. Yes, it took time to write four or five paragraphs but there is nothing from the reviewer herself/himself in the review. There isn't anything in the way of personal opinion or observation about the contents. And the only thing that they contribute in their own words is the final paragraph that basically says, "I liked it."  It's copy. It's lazy. It's slothful.

Harsh enough? Perhaps not for those that have to edit that drivel.

What does a question that can hook a reader look like? Well, first, it's going to follow some information that comes from the reviewer's own influence. It's fluid, individual to the review and situation and is probably a question the reader will find value in the asking. It doesn't have to be clever, just real.

Ecstasy Untamed "...What is even better is the hint that another warrior is about to find true love and I knew it was coming. I knew it! This book confirmed it and it’s going to be so exciting. I’m sure it’s also going to be equally dark and challenging to read. The thing I’m almost afraid to ask Ms. Palmer is: “What dastardly conflict is she going to come up with to curl my hair this time?”

The Norse King's Daughter "...She comes across as a woman who knows what’s going on but even when she’s hit by the figurative wall of bricks, she remains inured from the thought of possible harm to her. She’s a king’s daughter, what could possibly happen?"

Queen of the Sylphs ..."
Speaking of which, will you think less of me if I say the ending made me cry? It was beautiful, passionate and sentimental. It was true to the story; it was emotionally powerful and humbling and it made everything that went on before have meaning and relevance. If I could, I would have wanted to give them all a group hug, but I bet one of the battlers would have growled at me."

Once Upon a Groom ..."I just wished it didn’t come across like a broken record for me. As for Jenny’s dad, he’s an idiot. I don’t care how hurt he was when Jenny’s mother died. His neglect doesn’t deserve the level of tolerance and forgiveness that the heroine allowed him. Why didn’t she ever get angry? Why did she wait until the point in the book where she finally, sort of, expressed her feelings? As far as I’m concerned, the author didn’t have her character go far enough."

In the Hay ..."My absolute favorite part in this whole book, when it comes to choosing something off of the heroine’s wish list, is the slip and slide. I adored how the author wrote that scene. It was zany, fun and totally off the wall. And, it was romantic and sweet and made me laugh. In fact that is something I did frequently throughout this story – laugh. And the cutest part about that scene? The hero wanted to do it again."

The Man With the Money ..."Jack is bored. See Jack perk up. Watch Jack think he’s getting his cake and eating it too. Enjoy the cake, in this case, Cara, the heroine, as it bites back. Marvel at how much Jack is clueless as to what it means to dream about a person when they aren’t with him. Poor Jack. He’s about to get a reality check and a mirror thrust into his face – and he doesn’t like what he sees. But what to do?"

After going through my own reviews for examples, I was stunned to see that I hardly ever use the technique. None truly matched the criteria of using a question as the last line on a paragraph as a hook. Using questions in a review certainly has a place, my examples clearly illustrated that.

What I need from you, visitors and fellow reviewers, are examples of a non-synopsis review that uses a question as the last line of the paragraph with the purpose of 'hooking' a reader's interest. Obviously, I can't provide that. I wonder what that says about me?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Keep The Negative in the Closet

Happy New Year!  It's been awhile but reviewing goes on. Thank goodness for that.

In previous posts, I've mentioned how a review is subjective. It's an opinion and everyone has different tastes or expectations. That has not changed.

What needs to change and what reviewers need to be aware of, are the kinds of personal opinions that should not be in a review.

I'm talking about making the decision for a reader that a book isn't worth the money because of its size. I've mentioned before that a reviewer should not rate a review lower just because the formatting is wonky on their electronic reading device - Kindle or NOOK. (Pinned Down to the Mat)

Today, I'm adding another "AVOID THIS".

Please, do not make negative or disparaging comments about a book because of its size. Or because it was a part of a series and you 'felt lost', or because you checked the publisher website and felt the price was too much for such a short story. A tale can be told well in as little as twenty pages. Does that mean that people should not buy it because of its length and miss out on a well crafted tale? No.

A reviewer's role is to comment on the content of a book. What is inside that makes it the story it is. The characters, plot, dialogue, setting, personal interaction between protagonist and antagonist are all topics that readers expect to see discussed. Do not anticipate that a reader is going to be disappointed at the length or the price of the book. Do not let personal feelings distract you from the contents. Don't presume that you can speak for all readers.

Speaking of speaking, be alert to tales from across the pond. What do I mean?: "spelled" is "spelt", color is "colour", a 'dustman' is a garbage collector, tire is "tyre", check is "cheque", and humor is "humour".

If your book takes place in England or Australia, or more likely, the publisher is based there, then words spelled in that manner will pepper the story. Do NOT take points off the rating for these. They are not evidence of bad editing or typographical errors. They are geographically and culturally correct. If the British spelling bothers you bad enough to want to drag down the rating, return it. Or better yet, learn to enjoy the unique flavor reading books from other countries can provide and expand your trivia for Jeopardy.

Another thing that I've noticed - reviews being written about a type or genre never before attempted. On the whole, that is a very good thing. It shows the reviewer is expanding their reading base. The downside is a review riddled with negatives because the parameters of this new sub-genre are not only foreign to them, but perhaps outside their comfort zone. They inadvertently try to paint it with the same brush as the comfortable "old shoe" genres they already read. By doing that, of course, it won't rate high - hence a negative review.

If such is the case, don't review it. If you are lucky enough to be a part of a review site that lets reviewers pick and chose the books they’ll read, return it.

I have a suggestion for you. Instead, before choosing a book in a new kind of story technique or subject, investigate how the genre reads before attempting to review it. Find out what is normal and typical for style. Read other reviews to get an idea of what it's all about. You'd be doing yourself and readers of your reviews a huge favor.

Another aspect to keep in mind - a reader may very well have been following a series or a reader may be buying from a site that specializes in short stories of fifty pages or less because that fits their needs. You know what that means, right? That they find treasure in something you want to trash. You see, a reader is as variable as the books that get published. Their reading needs are fluid so some days a short eighteen page erotic romp between a were-wolf, a were-mink and the farmer's widow is just right. The next week that same reader will crave a high-brow murder mystery with emotional elements even Oprah would swoon over.

A reviewer needs to be objectively subjective. If a reviewer is concerned that they might accidentally request a book that is part of a series and they usually avoid those because they don't like feeling left out, check the publisher website before asking for the title. Quite a few list all the books in a series. Some author's sites do the same.

Additionally, there are many books out there that are part of a series and yet are complete unto themselves. But don't assume. If a reviewer does end up with a soap opera type tale where you really do need to understand what went on before, but there was enough to entertain you and keep you because it was that good - then resist making it a negative. Just give a reader a heads-up. Like this:

"This book totally kept my interest and it had a lot going for it. I had fun and I enjoyed the snappy dialogue between the hero and heroine. However, I need to give readers a heads up that this isn't a standalone read. I could tell there were pieces missing and I also realized that my reading experience could have been richer had I read some of the previous books in the series. As it is, it's definitely worth checking out. It has certainly whetted my appetite for more and I can't wait to find out!"

This example lets a reader know that it is enjoyable while giving voice to something positive. It also gives the information that it's a part of a series and while not a standalone, that the reviewer was able to enjoy the story as is. For first time readers, they'll understand what the book offers and what it lacks. In no way does it allow a reviewer's disappointment to color the review with a negative flavor. And remember, for followers of the series, they are going to want to know what works in the story as it is. They know what’s going on, so please avoid trashing it just because you didn’t.

Taking this one step further – I agree that a really super awesome book will not leave a reader feeling like they missed one of the main courses in their five course meal. I also know that books in a series can and do give you a complete tale while leaving cookie crumbs about the overall story arc. Be aware that there are publishers that excel at and promote short stories in a serial manner, much like the old T.V. cliff hangers. Once all the installments are revealed, they’ll then publish a “collection” which condenses them all into one giant volume.

Know your publishers.

If that is the style they are known for and you’re not a serial reader, then avoid reviewing the installments. Wait for the collection. Or read tales from a different publisher. But don’t paint a story in a negative light for things outside of the actual contents in a book (book length, cost, unfamiliar genre).

There are enough reasons to rate a book lower, from plot holes an elephant can fall through, lazy editing (let's call the hero different names), alpha men who wail and squeal and waffle, heroines who aren’t assertive but abrasive and unlikable (you want to make her go down those squeaky stairs into that dark musty cellar with the creepy scratchy  noises when the lightbulb pops), and dialogue that doesn’t match the characters’ personalities (A regal queen talking like a punk rocker on steroids), just to name a few.

Please remember: review the book, the story, the part that people read. Everything else is up to them.