(…thank you, Scary, Posh, Baby, Ginger, and Sporty…)
It’s funny, isn’t it, how one sentence, just a few words, can stop you in your tracks and make you go…aaaargh! Let me explain…
I review books; some of you may know this, some perhaps not. How did that happen?
I’ve had a Kindle for a couple of years now, and I was pretty much instantly hooked. I became a bookworm…or rather, an ebookworm. When some Facebook friends started their own reviewing blogs, I had a ‘Eureka’ moment and thought, gosh, what a good idea! In my case, this was a solution to the ‘closure’ I wanted after reading a book, and it was a nice neat way of recording all the ebooks I’d read on my can’t-leave-home-without-it Kindle—an anthology if you like. And if ‘virtual’ passers-by dropped in…well, even better. How nice!
So, armed with a few hints and tips from a couple of review sites for whom I’d reviewed some books, I mapped out what I thought would formulate a worthy review: something I’d be happy to look back at (and not cringe at with embarrassment). I decided long drawn-out reviews with endless analyses and explanations of the plots were just a big yawn…a short synopsis would suffice, I reckoned. Then again, one- or two-line reviews don’t satisfy me either. I’m clearly not clever enough for those punchy, concise, but all-embracing reviews I so admire (viz. Rich Meyer (a learned member of our team), Ed Drury (a frequent flash-fiction flyer—and winner!), so I knew I had to leave those to the smarty pants (Rich Meyer, Ed Drury).
Well…would you Adam and Eve it…I suddenly found myself inundated with review requests. My ‘anthology’ suddenly became a busy book-review site. My basic little formula seemed to suit a good many authors. How chuffed was I! (For the uninitiated, Adam and Eve is cockney rhyming slang for ‘believe’. I can always be relied on to teach you something extraordinarily useful.)
And then…Pow! Zap! Bang! Crash! One utterance by a prolific reader knocked me for six. “Why do reviewers feel the need to tell us the story of the book when we’ve already read the blurb,?” she asked.
I beg your pardon? Oh no! Don’t tell me I’ve been doing it all wrong. Have I?
My blog is my anthology…I need a reminder of what the book is about. I don’t want to have to go to Amazon for the blurb. I don’t have time to doctor my reviews: one for my blog, one for the retail sites where the blurb is right above the review.
Every reviewer is different of course: each has his/her own style. There are many, many reviewers out there I admire and respect and of whom, if I’m honest, I am slightly envious. For every review I write, there are heaps about which I always say, oh hell, why can’t I write like that?
I’ve always considered my reviews are for both the reader and the author: for the reader to help decide whether or not the book is worth buying and the author for valuable feedback. There are so many novice authors out there, who better than the reader to let them know if they’re getting it right? Even the most experienced and successful author needs to know he isn’t losing his touch. I can’t speak for other reviewers, however. Some may agree, but some may think their reviews are solely for the reader or the author.
Anyway…let’s get to the point. That reader’s comment made me quite wobbly for quite a few days. Hang on, I thought, there I am, writing my reviews for me and the author, but…but, but, BUT…wait! Have we, the reviewers, actually stopped to consider it from the author’s point of view? Exactly what does the author like/want to see in the review of his book (apart from ‘outstanding’, ‘novel of the decade’, ‘eat your heart out, JK Rowling’, ‘buy this now’—superlatives and praise are a given, naturally).
It has been suggested to me that a short two-line review with nothing but words of excellence is just as treasured as a more detailed one. Of course it is. But what if that two-liner had nothing but ‘dire’, ‘don’t buy’, ‘waste of Kindle space’, ‘lost a precious three hours of my life’…you’d want something a little more, wouldn’t you? Perhaps a reason for a reviewer thinking a poke in the eye would have been better than reading your book?
So, the floor is open to you my lovely author friends…what would you like from your (faithful) reviewers? Let’s get it from the horse’s mouth. What do you want to see in your book’s review…whether it’s good or bad?