Sunday, March 28, 2010

Witterings on reviews again

Just swung back by that site I mentioned in the last post, and realized something else. This is on LJ, where you can pick the avatar for each post, to suit your mood. Her avatar today had a stabbed voodoo doll today, though she has others, and I just realized that's a big fat signal, too. I almost didn't check the text, knowing that she was gonna skewer the book and the only real question was 'why.' Turns out that she had a valid reason, but ow, ow, ow, for the writer.

Some books aren't all that great, and that raises another question. How to say so without turning it into a bash-fest. No one likes everything they read equally well, and honesty as a reviewer doesn't require expounding on it. I was going to say it did, and then recalled that Elisa Rolle doesn't bash on books, and I trust her judgment. There is opinion by silence, although that's hard to tell from just not having read something. Do you have to review everything you read? Some of the review sites get books from the publisher or the author, some review things they've purchased, some are a mix. If it's a gift, should you review it, even if you didn't care for it?

This came up a few weeks ago on one of the review sites, and I kind of thought there had to be a middle ground between yes and no. If there is a promise made explicitly, like 'yes, publisher X, I will review this book', do it. Even if it's not favorable. That's how publishers learn about handling acquisitions.

If an author has requested a review and sent the book, there might be the option of contacting the author and saying, "I read it, but I can't be enthusiastic about it and still be honest, do you want me to post anyway?" Some authors figure that any publicity is good publicity, others might be grateful to keep certain opinions under wraps.

It wouldn't work for Kirkus Reviews or the New York Review of Books, but most m/m reviewers are independent and have some leeway.

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