Fuse #8

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

No Reviews Worse Than Bad Reviews?

This all refers back to the cyclical never-ending discussion of whether or not bloggers, nicest folks on the planet, should engage in negative reviews. Well Gail Gauthier probably wasn't thinking in those terms the other day when she wrote the following statement:
I'm not scared of bad reviews. I would prefer not to get them, but I'm willing to take a punch because a bad review means your book is important enough to discuss. You're still a contender. But no reviews? That is my big fear.
It got me to thinking. That makes sense, doesn't it? You tell yourself you're doing an author or illustrator a favor when you keep yourself from reviewing their book rather than give it a dressing down, but is that actually worse in the long run? If you don't say anything at all then how is the author/illustrator supposed to know what they did wrong? Silence leads to confusion leads to further books you don't review. Ugly cycle? Realistic one. Now I'm eyeing my "negative" pile warily. Maybe I'll get to one of them sometime this week. Ug.

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At 6:30 AM , Blogger Lazygal said...

I only "fully" review books I either love or hate - the ones I feel "eh" about are the ones that just appear as a one-line comment during my quarterly round-ups. Don't know if that's better or worse for the author, but I'm not really writing for them, I'm writing for the people I know reading my blog and as a sort-of journal for myself.

I guess if you're on an ALSC committee or otherwise involved with the awards process, or are someone prominent in the Child Lit field, you need to be more careful as your words will have more weight in the community than those of a casual reader/reviewer.

At 11:15 AM , Blogger Adam Rex said...

I've wondered about this myself. I recall a book critic guest on Fresh Air or something who said, "People don't need any encouragement not to read," when she was explaining why she didn't review books she disliked. I sort of think I'd take the same position if I wrote reviews, with exceptions for books that are already enormously popular and successful but I think suck. In fact, one of the few times I was moved to write a customer review was after I saw how many people were fawning over one of Billy Crystal's picture books.

At 1:31 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's no way you could ever have the time to write your extensive reviews for every book on every publisher's list. We authors understand that but, yeah, it still stings when weeks and months go by and we hear nothing from you about our books (some of which are quite popular and have been reviewed on other blogs). I'm going to remain anonymous here rather than out myself as a sulking, cry baby author but I always wondered if you could perhaps list titles you liked, in lieu of writing your detailed reviews. Just as a shout out to us poor souls who wait patiently for some word from you? Maybe?

At 4:47 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Actually, I'm going to start reviewing for Newsday (the Long Island newspaper) soon and I've discovered that it will be an excellent method of giving shout-outs to those books I haven't had time for on my blog.

Wanna know a secret, though? Honestly, if a book gets a ton of great press on other blogs I'm less inclined to review it because I feel everyone knows about it already. "A Seed is Sleepy" is a good example of this. Beautiful book, but everyone and their brother already reviewed it. If the purpose of a blog is to direct people to the little lauded or the brand-spanking new, repeating what others have already said doesn't make much sense.

That said, a Books I Like list is a good one. I was going to reserve it until the end of the year, though. Maybe I'll have to plug it in here sooner.

At 10:37 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a book-addict [full disclosure: I am an author too] I really DO want to purchase & read good books and so I've been appreciating getting recommendations about what bloggers feel passionate & positive about. For me the thing about blog reviews is not about them being 'nice' or not, its been about getting information from people who are reviewing books they feel strong enough about to devote their own time to. No surprise that this turns out to be mainly stuff they personally like a lot and want to spread the word about. Fine with me.

Negative reviews? Great for dialogue when they are about an otherwise hyped book as noted, or anything that freaks out the particular blogger and/or makes an important point [ie racism etc ], especially one that seems to have gone unsaid elsewhere. Beyond the egregious though, I don't think one needs to be too concerned that authors will be left unaware as to the weaknesses in their work - authors will get feedback from all the traditional review sources regardless of blog attention.

The main point I'd like to make is that I've bought [and enjoyed] more books after reading blog reviews then any other info source in the last year, precisely because of their being unlike other review sources.

At 12:14 AM , Blogger Saipan Writer said...

I review children's and YA books for my local newspaper. I suggested the column because I wanted to promote literacy, and discussions, about books in the community. So I decided to only review books I liked.

There was one exception: Madonna's English Roses, which I used as an example for discussing different aspects of a picture book. I didn't take a strong position, but pointed out both good and bad features of the book.

I do include the downsides in some of the books I review. But since my purpose is to chat up books, encourage reading, generate enthusiasm, it seems like a negative review wouldn't work toward that goal.

But perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps a negative sting is just what would excite some readers.

Time to think more on this topic.


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