Tuesday, March 27, 2007
The thing about book review websites is that they may all look the same, but they are not.
Many book review sites are there largely to serve the industry, I tend to call these "fluff" review sites but I mean no particular insult by this. Fluff reviews have an important role; they tend to run: "there was a character, there was another character, stuff happened, the book was good". These reviews provide promotional quotes, and negative comments are largely forbidden (see my rant on the topic here). This is all well and good for marketing the book. Although it is reaching the point where a book has reviewers instead of customers--these sites are really proliferating. Given that readers hardly ever venture onto these sites there is no need, IMHO, to send your book to more than a handful of them. Your publisher probably has this covered.
There are, of course, other websites that are run (shock, horror) by readers. They buy the book and along with it they buy the right to say exactly what they think about it. Some of these places have a decent readership because readers trust what other readers say. If the reader likes your book, this can actually help sales. If they don't, well, you probably haven't lost anything and there may still be an up side so long as the criticism was specific and idiosyncratic. (I often run and out buy books based on reviews that say the equivalent of: "ew, there was terrible gayness all through, with the butt sex and everything. This writer is a prevert [sic]." Some publishers suggest not sending their books to these people (in which case you should not do it, naturally) and it can be a gamble. It pays to be familiar with the site and just where they rest on the scale of brutal honesty to malicious snark.
1) Fluff review are neutral to positive and are there to help you promote the book.
2) Reader reviews are customer word of mouth and if they hate the book you have to just suck it up.
It seems to me that trouble can occur when we blur the boundaries. For example, when a writer puts promo fluff in as an amazon review -- or some other place clearly intended for reader-to-reader communication. Also there can be trouble when a reader site accepts author-contributed books, which can lead an author who has not done their research to get a nasty surprise when the review comes out. Pretty soon I think book submissions by authors will start getting refused for the sake of clarity, because any author should understand that a customer buys the right to hate the book, and they are free to tell the world. This is, perhaps, a situation that gift horses should not become involved in?
What do y'all think?
p.s. So just how many of us here are New Zealanders? Can I have a show of hands? [raises hand]