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Review Blues

I have always encouraged authors to seek professional reviews.  But now I feel the urge to add an asterisk to that recommendation since the word “professional” seems to be a loose term.

This comes on the heels of the professional review organization last week unfairly categorizing all self-published books as “crappy.”  But they are not the only less-than-professional review organization out there.  I recently read a review from an Indie site that trashed an Indie author by saying, “This is why some people should not publish a book.”

I couldn’t believe the arrogance.  All I took from this review was—this is why some people should not review books!  Too many reviewers out there think they are the star of the review, not the book.  They imagine themselves as the saviors of all mankind in the battle against less-than-perfect literature.  But they are not.

Let me tell you a true story.  An author published a title with us, a children’s book, and it was an awesome piece of work.  It was well written, very unique, entertaining, educational, and the art was top notch created by a professional artist.  The story was exactly 1000 words long, the same as every Winnie the Pooh book.

The author couldn’t wait to have her book reviewed by a local librarian, who, according to our author, was their local pinnacle of stardom in the general book review arena.  Upon getting her first copy, she took it to this librarian.  What happened next was horrible.  The librarian did not write a review, she drafted a diabolical attack upon this author; every sentence claiming the story was either way too long, written poorly, horrible art, etc.

The author was so distraught that she never promoted her book after that.  And it was all inaccurate.  To this day I have no idea why this librarian felt the need to do that.

If you want to know how a review should read, I suggest you to visit Kirkus Reviews, Foreword, Publisher Weekly, etc.  (I’m not endorsing these companies; I just reference them to show what a professional review resembles.)

A review should consist of two parts: the annotation and the summary.  The annotation will read like the synopsis as the reviewer explains what the book is about.  The summary will give the reviewer’s personal thoughts and this is where we learn about plot development, writing skills, and even errors, etc.

For example, I read a professional review recently, which was unfavorable.  The first part simply told about the story and the second part said something like this: “The story was interesting but there were a number of typos that distracted from the enjoyment.  With proper editing and proofreading, this could be a wonderful book.”

That is an unfavorable review.  You’ll notice no personal attack upon the author for having written and published the book.

My new advice is this: Seek out professional reviews, but do your due diligence. Research their other reviews and see what they are writing.  If you see an attack upon an author in lieu of an unfavorable review, know that you and your book could end up with the same.  My advice would be to forget them, even if they do not charge, and keep searching.

Remember, becoming a reviewer is like becoming a parent.  It takes no license, no skills, no experience, and some people just suck at it.  And the worst part is; you’re stuck with them.

 

Neal Wooten, Publisher/Indie Author/Illustrator/Cartoonist

Managing Editor; Mirror Publishing, Milwaukee, WI, www.pagesofwonder.com
Author of Reternity, www.nealwooten.com
 

Posted by on June 4, 2012. Filed under Books,Business,Neal Wooten. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

14 Responses to Review Blues

  1. I will keep my eyes OPEN. Thank you Neal. Your words are wise and particularly timely with me.

  2. Irma Jacobs Tirro Author of The Lonely Snowflake and It's Almost Friday

    June 5, 2012 at 4:25 am

    Those who “trash” self-published authors should check the Wikipedia Encyclopedia and see the list of self-published authors, which includes: Zane Grey, Rudyard Kipling, Thomas Paine, George Bernard Shaw, Walt Whitman and as well as many others.

  3. Dianna Skidmore, author of "Can You Be Like Me?"

    June 5, 2012 at 4:45 am

    Thanks for the outline of the review. I will be doing my due diligence!

  4. Rebecca Fronzaglio

    June 5, 2012 at 4:53 am

    Thanks for the advice. Even though I’m confident in my work, there is always that risk of a personal attack from someone having a “bad day”. Maybe that’s why I hesitate to seek many reviews. It’s my better to be safe than sorry approach, I guess. I know… not good. I give you so much credit and respect Neal, for being both willing and able to speak your mind on these subjects, let alone, with such accuracy, passion, and knowledge. You have what it takes to be a successful author and leader…extreme talent, confidence, truth and bravery. Even though this article on reviews may be a little frightening to new authors, it doesn’t shock me that great books end-up receiving bad reviews. In my opinion, it’s just anothor form of bullying. The sad part is…they’re not in school anymore. Theses reviews should be from professional adults that should act professional. Some people are just arrogant,rude, and perhaps even jealous of someone elses success. They build themselves up from putting others down. It’s another sad part of life these days. (Wish things were like they use to be when more people had compassion,common sense, and morals) Anyways, some people wouldn’t know a good book if it read itself outloud to their children, tucked them in, and kissed them goodnight. Sometimes people are just lazy and constantly want instant gratification. Some are too impatient or lazy (or both), to read through an entire book, let alone give it a fair review. Another fine example of brainless people in high positions, tooting their own horn, while being tone deaf.

  5. Rosalyn Petroff

    June 5, 2012 at 7:04 am

    Neal,

    I am trying to be on my way as a professional reviewer. I have reviewed around 20 books so far and I send the author the review before posting it. For instance, if there were too many typos, I would ask if they would like me to edit their book before I post it. The review is no charge but the edits, I charge a comparable fee. I am always fair and know that the author wants to “make it” and I love to see them succeed as I am an effusive reviewer and a loyal reader. And you are welcome to send any my way. In fact, I would love it at rospetroff@comcast.net.

    Thanks
    Rosalyn

  6. Victoria Williams-Fisher

    June 5, 2012 at 7:14 am

    I know I am not going to please everyone with my writing OR MY EDITING! But I kept that in mind when I began to write. The key is like Neal said, keep an open mind and know when to “let it go.” My job is to keep my readers entertained, not worry about some reviewer who picks up one of my novels on a bad day and calls it crap. There will be those who don’t like me and that’s okay. It’s never bothered me before and it’s not going to now. Writing has become a form of self-fulfillment for me, it is who I am now,and I am not going to let someone take that away.

  7. Concetta M Payne

    June 5, 2012 at 8:59 am

    Great advice, Neal! When my first children’s book was published just thinking about receiving a written review was a scary thought. Some of my reviews were from friends on facebook. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate all the positive and honest comments. But, I was still questioning myself. I searched for professional reviewers and kept my fingers crossed. Fortunately, their comments and reviews never attacked me being an Indie author. Their reviews were based on my stories which was very satisfying. I’m not a great writer, but I do have an innovative mind that can capture a child’s attention. Thank God for individual differences.

  8. millie richmond

    June 5, 2012 at 9:36 am

    As Neal points out, a CREDIBLE review is a good thing. When it offers positive and/or negative critique, not name-calling, it’s one of the ways we writers can improve our craft.
    Remember, simply because someone dons a “Reviewer” hat, does not a Reviewer make.
    Thank you, Neal, for bringing this issue to the forefront.

    Millie Richmond
    Author of “Daddy’s Gone”

  9. Maranda Russell

    June 5, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    I am lucky to have not received a bad review for any of my books, however, I was told by one local librarian that my picture book “Ode to Icky” was too long (at around 800-900 words). However, when I reminded her that most picture books fall between 500-1,000 words, and that most publishers require picture book manuscripts to be under 1,000 words, not a lot shorter, I think she kind of realized maybe her thoughts weren’t completely accurate. That is why it is so important for any author to know their field and what kinds of books are currently being published.

  10. Barbara

    June 5, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    Great advice Neal. I never had my book professionally reviewed but kids love it and that was what I wanted.
    Thanks for the heads up!
    b

  11. Sandra Fishel Brandon

    June 5, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    Good thoughts, Neal. Like others have commented, if the children I write my books for like them, that is good enough for me. But your advice was interesting and helpful, should I ever decide to seek a “professional” review.

  12. Neal Wooten

    June 7, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    I just ran across this quote. Wish I had found it before I wrote this article.
    .

    Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae.

    .
    Kurt Vonnegut

  13. Paula Parente author of "Annie's Amethyst" & "Rosalind's Rose Quartz"

    June 9, 2012 at 7:38 am

    Great article Neal!

    I’ve long taken “issue” with critics writing BAD reviews. Working around the theatre’s on Broadway, New York, all too frequently, I’ve seen many a show open and close almost “instantly” because of a critic’s bad review.
    With just ONE or two BAD OPINIONS, many people ended up loosing their jobs.

  14. Judy Seaberry

    June 25, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    Judy Seaberry author of “A Day in the Life of Amanda” thanks Neal for the different perspective. I am just learning how important a reivew can be to an author’s success.

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