Friday, March 07, 2008

Discussion Friday

Yesterday I followed Vicki's dubious lead and lost a writing session's worth of work when a catastrophic failure fried my thumb drive before I'd saved it off elsewhere. Darn PCs. Grrr. Fortunately it was a short session yesterday, and I think I can recreate it fairly well. I also lost an hour's worth of work on a Photoshop file for class, though. {sigh}

I burned off the last of that frustration last night finishing BREATHE MY NAME by R.A. Nelson. I highly recommend it. The writing is tense and vivid, with a strong, unique voice. There were times I had to put it down because the subject matter was so difficult, but I always went back to it, and I'm glad I did. Check it out.

My "review" brings us to our topic for Discussion Friday.

I liked the book very much, and so I recommended it here. But what if I hadn't liked it?

--Many, many (many) authors post reviews of books on their blogs, good and bad reviews. Writers are often readers, and one hopes they have a critical eye. So these reviews could be valuable to other readers. But...

--I've gotten some advice that says as an aspiring writer, I should never post bad reviews on my blog, and "trash" other writers. This writing/publishing business is a very small, closely knit community, and negative words get around. By saying critical or harsh things about another writer's work, you could (a) hurt or upset the writer herself (I know for a fact writers do google themselves and their books) or (b) even damage your own career and potential networks.

I dunno. I'm fairly cautious about what I say online, so I lean toward the second view. My mother's words still echo in my brain ("If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all"). But I can see how peer reviews are important as well.

What do you think?


Carol A. Spradling said...

Hi Susan,

You bring up a good point. The idea of posting reviews can be as harmful as helpful to more than one author's career.

I think it is possible to give an honest crit. Surely there are good points that can be expressed about the book. Highlight those. When bringing up negative points, and yes, every book has them, you can point out why this was of issue to you and remind the readers that others might not share in this prospective.

I think as long as it doesn't read as a personal attack on the author, the readers, as well as the author, might walk away with a feeling that you were fair in your assumption. This would vaildate your review and not put you in bad standing with your peers.

I have heard of many writers who, while they love their writing friendships, they dislike their friend's writing. This is very healthy and also keeps egos grounded. (g)

Lindsay York Levack said...

So sorry for your loss. I hope the reconstruction produces even better results than the originals.

As for reviews, I think it is unwise to write a review that is entirely "bad". First, no matter how much you hate a book, there is someone out there who loves it. These people will hunt you down, and roast you for hating their beloved. Second, there are at least two people in the publishing industry who also liked it enough to make it into a book: the agent and the editor. (And likely also the editor's boss. You know, the one who agrees to spend money on it.) Suggesting these people have bad taste or don't know what they are doing is foolish and unprofessional.

I think most bad reviews are just frustrated writers who are venting, and thus these reviews are more self-serving than anything. The whole point of a review is not just to throw up an opinion of the work, but also give others a chance to decide if they might want to read it or not. If a person is more interested in spouting opinions, then it's not so much a review anymore.

There is always something positive to be said, and there is always an audience somewhere.

Jennifer Hendren said...


Interesting question. I usually shy away from writing bad reviews. That said, I'm sure you saw the recent torchfest I gave one particular book. I can't really say what ramifications I'll see because of it...if any. But yeah, I've definitely opened myself up to criticism because of it.

BUT..and this is a big one (g), I'm allowed my opinion and I'm not going to wax on about a book, putting forth the good things about it in order to be PC. Especially when there aren't any discernable good things to say about a book. In said review, I me, I come up with something positive to say. Other than the spelling being mostly correct throughout it, there wasn't anything for me to put forth. And well, I was under an obligation to review it...and I didn't want to lie. *shrug* Saying you love a book that's terrible is something that could also come back to bite you, imho. Might have gone a bit far with the fire thing...but I was in the heat of the moment. (g)

Oh and one caveat -- it wasn't a book I would've chosen to read independently. Being able to cull out the books you think you'll like goes a long way in helping to ensure you actually...yanno, like 'em. (g)


Julianne Douglas said...


I suppose I'd only agree to review books that I felt I could say positive things about. If I couldn't find anything good to say, I would probably refuse to write and post a review.

Chris said...

I agree with Jen. I don't agree that writers shouldn't criticize other writers. Writers are readers too and sometimes you don't like what you just don't like! If you don't want to read anything bad about yourself, lordy, don't Google! (Google, bad). Can't it also be considered unprofessional to hold a bad review against a writer/reviewer? Seems a bit petty to be punished for expressing an opinion, especially if it's a thoughtful one.

If a review writer feels uncomfortable writing something negative, then don't write anything about that book. Period. I can't stand seeing all these positive blurbs from authors on the back of a book that is really awful. Readers have a right not to invest time and money into a book as well and shouldn't be scammed.

Amy said...

Hi Susan,
I wonder about this a lot. I read an ARC of a certain book that I had to do a review on for the publisher, and I HATED the book. Hated, hated. It gets rather modest reviews in other areas I see, now that it's published. . .but as far as deals go--$$. WOW! I knew within 2 pages that I regretted even offering to review it. I gave a even-handed (though, overall less than positive) review though because I didn't know if the review would have my name on it for the author to see. I had understood that the reviews might be used for publicity, and I knew that people might see my name and later have bad associations.


When I do private crits for friends, I try to be helpful.

On my blog, I figure, I'll rave about the books I love and, uh, the ones I don't. . . I'm not sure. I'll probably try not to say too much at all about them.


Carol A. Spradling said...

Do you mind if I comment to Chris?

I agree with you about the endorsement blurbs. I have been burned from these endorsements so much so that I have adopted a buying policy. If a book has another author's endorsement on the cover, I won't even read the back cover even when I like the author endorsing the book. A small tagline, I'll overlook, but not a blurb.

Susan Adrian said...


Whoa. Wait a second. You won't consider buying a book if it has a blurb? You mean you wouldn't buy Vicki's books, for instance, because of the blurbs on the front?

But...but...but...authors, agents, and editors work hard to secure those blurbs. They send copies to authors THEY like, and hope hope the author will like the book enough to "blurb" it. I've already discussed possible blurbs with my agent. And wouldn't it be punishing the author to not buy it? Rather like not buying a book because it has a--let's say--unicorn on the front, when the author didn't choose that?

Can you clarify? I hope you didn't mean it the way I understood it. {s}

Chris said...

I don't think I'd go as far as Carol but if I read the a book endorsed by an author that was bad, I wouldn't buy another book because that author endorsed it. I wouldn't trust his/her judgement or would be skeptical of their motives. "Fool me once,..."

Chris said...

Btw, I tagged you for 6 word meme. I hope you can play.