Monday, September 24, 2007

BOOK REVIEW WEEK, 6: And Now For Something Completely Different--Jennifer McKenzie

Blogger is making life very difficult for me. I have crossed all my fingers and toes and hope this post from the inimitable Jennifer McKenzie will somehow go though.

And Now For Something Completely Different.

I read the other posts by the other contributors on this subject and realized that anything I wanted to say about doing reviews, getting a review or reading a review, has been said. And much better than I could say it.
So, I'll write what I know. In this instance, all I know is my own experience.

I'll tell you about the five stages after receiving a bad review. (I stole them too)

1. Denial
My first reaction to seeing a negative review or even a negative SENTENCE in a review is "That's not my book." When it is clear it IS my book, then I'll deny they read the same book I wrote. Denial can also manifest by being an author who refuses to read any reviews at all. Of course, this last form of denial can actually be healthy and effective.

2. Anger
This usually consists of "googling" the reviewer and finding out "who" they are. What right do they have to say such things? Never mind that I, the author, sent the book to them. If the reviewer is well known, every error they ever made in their online life is raked over the coals again for self righteous fodder. Phone lines and/or keyboards heat up as the recipient calls his/her "peeps" to talk about how "unfair" the review is and agree that the reviewer is "on crack".

3. Blame
This is an ugly stage. Brief, for some, it can create problems if it becomes serious. It involves pointing the finger at one's editor, one's publisher, one's critique partner and finally, in a fit of desperation, one's spouse and family. "If I'd been able to write the story I'd intended all along...." is the deadly beginning of a long, ugly game that no one wins. Well, except AT&T as our fellow authors talk us down from posting some inflammatory post somewhere.

4. Bargaining
"I swear next time I won't write the word "move" five times in one paragraph." "I swear I'll plot the next one if the reviewer doesn't note my three plot holes." "I swear I'll never write a nasty review, even if they deserve it, if they're nice to me now."

5. Acceptance
The author comes to a place of understanding. Reviews are subjective. Yes, they have an influence. But is a bad review going to make me quit writing? Hell no!!!! So who gives a fuck, really?

The truth is I'm an author. I'm a reviewer. I'm a reader. So, I know a reviewer has a tough job and when a book is awful, it's an opinion, not the end of the world. I know other writers struggle through rewrites, edits, fear, contracts etc., so I keep that in mind as I'm writing a review. (That means no smoke up their ass, but not kicking someone between the eyes if possible). And I'm a reader. I bring all my baggage with me to a book. It creates reactions, feelings, snarkiness, skepticism.

Reviews are READERS giving an opinion. That's what I want. Read my book and tell me what you think. Two years ago, no one read my shit. Now, I get to angst over people who do. What's wrong with that?


Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness...I am not looking forward to reviews. It is hard enough letting people I trust crit for me...oy.

Maybe I'll just send my books to reviewers who are my friends. How very high school of me. LOL.

(I am probably kidding about only using my friends for reviewers. Probably.)

Laura Bacchi said...


Jennifer McKenzie said...

Oh but Gwen, there will come that day when you think "I wonder if I really CAN write? Can I take a review from Mrs. Whatsername or Dear whatever?" and the insanity begins.
And Laura, I'm glad if I couldn't inform, I can at least entertain.

Laura Bacchi said...

Oh, it was informative. I'd never thought of describing the stages of dealing with a crappy review this way. I think denial is my favorite, followed by bargaining. Thanks for making my day :)