Review? Or, a snark attack?

6 Apr

In the middle of writing these two last pieces for my blog, one of those extraordinary coincidences occurred. You know, the kind that proves the exception to the rule? Well, on the night I was about to submit the last piece, there was suddenly a wind in the willows, or some such, and it carried a note about the ‘train wreck’ of an author, who had destroyed her career. Of course, I had to go look, and I was dumbstruck by the amateurish behavior of this author. She has surely killed her career! There is a reference to this whole mess at the end of this piece, if you want to investigate it for yourself. That said, we’ll now go back to our regularly scheduled programming . . .

One of the first things I tell aspiring writers (you can look it up!) is this: Your manuscript is your ambassador to editor, agent, or anyone else in a position to further your career. It MUST be clean, professional caliber, no typos or mis-spellings, incomplete sentences, goofy word choices or anything else that can send out an ‘I’m a careless writer’ signal to the reader. If you are of a mind to self-publish, it’s the same command. And believe, me, this is not just a suggestion.

If you are not able to accept criticism of your work, do not submit it for publication. You must also be able to accept criticism in reviews, even if you publish it yourself.  Read on to find out why.

I happen to be an excellent editor and proof-reader, just not necessarily of my own stuff. I have a crazy memory system (eidetic, not photographic, meaning it’s not total recall, but seems to work best with numbers and letters. Anything written, in other words.) I was born with this trait, so I’m not trying to take credit for something that just is, but I also know that it’s rare. It can be taught to a certain extent, but not completely. It’s visual, to a great extent – I can recall where on a certain page that I’ve seen a similar phrase, or question or mis-spelled word, or whatever. At times, it drives me nuts, because I remember things I don’t want or need to, and cannot expel them from my sub-conscious.

However,  as I’ve stated previously, many times, although most people want to be a writer, not everyone is capable of producing a professional-quality manuscript. Some people are excellent story-tellers, but their writing skills are not at the same level. For many others, the reverse holds true. They write fluently and beautifully, and say nothing! I’m not sure which is worse, to be honest. As a judge in a goodly number of writing contests, I have, on many occasions, felt that the author was not a native-English speaker, and I’ve been proven correct every single time. There’s just something that’s not quite right. Personally, I feel that the contest coordinator should have caught these entries and not accepted them. It’s hardly fair to accept their money, even if the entrant is a whiz-bang story teller, when the basis of the contest is the writing ability.

Currently, there’s a real wing-ding going on regarding reviews. No matter how many books one publishes, an unkind review still hurts. But even worse is an unkind, incorrect, illiterate contribution. Free speech is great, no question, but sometimes there needs to be a way to balance these attacks against reality.

As I’ve mentioned here several times, I have a number of ‘free reads’ available at Amazon.com and elsewhere. (If I ever figure out where they all are, I’ll certainly post a notice here, somewhere.) I am, in no way, the only author in this category, believe me—some authors have posted older books in their entirety in the free reads category. Anyway, free means NO COST. None. Well, other than the cost of the e-reader, but I truly doubt that anyone bought one of the things merely to read my free short stories. So why then, would someone post a ‘review’ to say ‘this is not worth your money’ or ‘this is a waste of money’? Darned if I know how you can get something for nothing, and have it be a waste of your money. Strange economic system, I think.

Another major complaint about these short stories is that they’re only the first and last chapters of a ‘real’ book as an enticement to get readers to buy the whole thing. Really! Or, these are just the middle section, so buy the whole book to get it all. But what if there is NO more to the story? A short story is just that. Short. A story of 5000 words can hardly have all the attributes of a 50,000 word novel. But of course, snark is the big thing these days, and a good many of these so-called reviewers want to show off their own capabilities by exhibiting just how snarky they can be.

I have posted some 400 reviews at Amazon—as a top 1000 reviewer. I’ve been posting there since 1998, as I recall. You can check me out, if you wish at: http://www.amazon.com/gp/pdp/profile/A1G17R47N27OXE/ref=cr_cm_rdp_pdp Every single one of these reviews is more than 100 words in length. I think maybe two are close to that, because I just couldn’t get into the book for whatever reason, in spite of all the other glowing reviews, and felt I should explain why I couldn’t. I didn’t demonstrate snark, however, just simple English to say why I couldn’t like the book.

If you find a review at Amazon that you like—or don’t like—you may (and probably should) at least check other reviews from that particular reviewer. Some authors review themselves. Interesting, if not very objective.  But as an old saying advises “consider the source”. Would you place more trust in someone who’s been reviewing a variety of books and CDs, for a number of years, –or the person who has posted –oh, maybe– 20 very brief (one or two sentences worth) reviews in the past three months – all (or most) of them for ‘free reads’? It’s all very interesting, isn’t it?

What started this particular blog entry was a now-viral, very famous public meltdown by a self-published author who demanded that an independent reviewer remove his review of her book, because it wasn’t a 5-star glittering paean to her general excellence. Actually, the review was not a bad review at all; it was honest in the reviewer’s opinion. (Based on this blog entry, I’d say he was generous, but that’s just me.)  If you want to know how NOT to respond to a reviewer – here it is:

http://booksandpals.blogspot.com/2011/03/greek-seaman-jacqueline-howett.html

Are you sitting there, trying to figure out if you have a book or not? There is always the possibility that I can help. You have but to ask. Write to me at: bookmechanic@gmail.com

Cheers!

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