Ready, Set, Stir the pot…….

Normally, I watch online kerfuffles with a jaded eye and let them pass by me. Maybe I’ve had too much time on my hands lately.
But I wanted to comment on this ongoing 2012 issue.
As you can see from the various links on Dear Author, several discussions about reviews and authors has occurred. I’ve decided to put my two cents in for shits and giggles.
First of all, I was a reader long before I was an author. I remember when I didn’t give one rats ass about which publisher put out a book. I was drawn to the cover, the blurb, the title. I was a peruser who bought books based on a myriad of incomprehensible reasons I couldn’t explain if I tried. I understand that not liking a book isn’t as cut and dried as it seems to be. There were times I read a book and instantly forgot it. Or I read a book and something weird struck me about it and forever ended up in my “That book sucked” category. In short, I was an arbitrary and confusing reader with very little regard for the author’s comfort.
Then, I became a writer focused on publication.
The first thing I noticed was my change in attitude toward publishers. It started to matter who was behind the author. The author’s name made more impression on me than the pretty cover or the scintillating blurb. I started to read reviews. (Yep. As a reader? Didn’t give a shit about reviews).
When I became a published author, my first few books garnered…well…crickets. My comments about reviews, bad or otherwise, would have been an academic discussion. A few of my early books received positive reviews, but mostly they were “meh”.
Recently, however, I’ve graduated to the “getting trashed” category. It was a shock to me to realize reviewers didn’t even want me to say “Thank you”. They wanted no comment from the author at all. Here’s my take.
Authors, once published, are no longer able to be “just a reader”.
Readers are completely arbitrary in what they’ll like and what they won’t.
Reviewers are not “just readers” either.
My opinion is that reviewers–I mean the kind that blog, write, and review consistently–have become something more than a reader. Like authors, they’ve learned a lot about publishers, authors, social media etc.
Reviewers have a huge value for authors. And reviews definitely are for readers. But this adversarial relationship between reviewers and authors is silly.
Look, it isn’t easy to take the criticism directed at my work. Not the valid stuff. I can take that and be grateful for the attention. But when a reviewer calls one of my characters a “cunt”, it’s hard to not let that get inside my head. But that is that person’s opinion. That reviewer HATED my character. That’s what happens because I write character driven books. If a reader hates my character, they’re going to hate my book. Period.
Saying “It’s not personal” isn’t true. Usually, a bad review attacks the editing (implying sloppiness/laziness on the author’s part and sometimes saying it outright.), or the plot (criticizing the author’s imagination) or the character (again, a stab at the author’s imagination). But from my own reviewing experience, I know that bad reviews often come from a place of disappointment or surprise. I once trashed a Nora Roberts book because that book was, for me, a departure from the La Nora stuff that I LOVE LOVE LOVE!
Here’s what I’m arguing today. We authors do need to toughen up. It’s difficult. It’s hard not to “just quit” when someone basically says “You Suck”! But writing isn’t something I do because I’m bored, or looking to be famous. I write because the little voices got too damn loud.
You know, reviewing might be similar. Sharing my opinion about books is something I don’t do so much because I consider myself biased.
It’s all very interesting to me.
Anyway, there’s my shit stirring post of the week.
What’s your take?


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Filed under Letters from a Redneck, Life Stuff, Whatever category, Writing

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