Monday, April 04, 2011

E.J. Copperman - Guest Blogger

Today, I'd like to welcome guest blogger E.J. Copperman. I reviewed the second book in the Haunted Guesthouse mystery series last week, so it's very interesting to see what he has to say about book reviews.

By E.J. Copperman

Lesa's very flattering review of AN UNINVITED GHOST (much appreciated, Lesa!) got me to thinking about reviews. Book reviews, of course, but also those of films, TV, music or any form of entertainment. (I try not to think of what I do as "art"; it just slows the process down, and I have deadlines).

Having written some reviews in a previous incarnation, I understand the way it works: The reviewer, working either for a "franchise" (publication, web site, TV station, really loud town crier) or independently, earns enough of a reputation that suppliers of said entertainments provide advance copies in one form or another in exchange for the possibility of a review. There are no guarantees even that the work will be critiqued, and certainly not, with any reputable reviewer, that the evaluation will be a positive one. You send a free book, screener, or other sneak peek, and take your chances.

That's perfectly fair. And when the reviewer in question is as principled and talented as Lesa (yeah, I'm buttering her up, but it's after the fact!), an author can count on at least a fair reading, which is all we ask. But as a former reviewer, I can also attest to the power of the Dark Side, and that is the time when a book is just bad enough that it's possible to be witty in your criticism.

Now, that's dangerous.

See, it's fun and easy to tear someone's work to pieces in an effort to make the reader laugh. And while I never did that, I can tell you honestly that there were times it was awfully difficult to resist. And there were also some books (and films) I reviewed that actually deserved to be ripped to shreds. It's not something we're supposed to admit, but yes, there are some really bad writers at work out there. A good reviewer SHOULD warn people away from those books. But not because it's fun to show off how wry and witty you are.

I remember one book I reviewed for my college newspaper that was, without question, awful. It's been quite a while, so I don't remember the details, but it was a thriller of some sort that had plot holes through which one could drive the Starship Enterprise. Which would have been okay if the author was a skilled writer, but, well... not so much.

Being 19 and full of myself, I took this guy out to the toolshed and punished him. And a few weeks later, received a note at the college newspaper office which called me a name I'd probably best omit here and then signed the author's name in a scrawl just barely legible enough to confirm that this was, indeed, the author of the sorry tome I'd read and written about. (It also confirmed that no matter how you define the term, the guy was a bad writer.) And while I can say that I might regret indulging myself a little in the review, I don't think I was wrong.

That author did what no author should do--he objected to a negative review. Even in the current climate of instant feedback on Amazon and Twitter, an author, I believe, should accept all opinions without emotion (except when they're raves) and in private (all the time). Getting into an argument with a reviewer who doesn't actually seem to have read the same book you wrote--and I've run into a couple--is a waste of time and effort, and bad form. As an author, you only come off looking petty and whiny, and the fact is, that assessment might be true.

People are completely allowed not to like my books. I hope they won't, naturally, but this is America (unless you're reading it elsewhere), and we're proud owners of the right to think what we want to think. One gentleman actually emailed me--he wasn't a reviewer--a number of years ago to let me know my title of the moment was "one of the three worst books I have ever read." He didn't mention what the other two might be, which was disappointing. I emailed back thanking him for the attention and the $19.95 (the book was in hardcover).

Luckily, he wasn't a reviewer.

E.J. Copperman's latest Haunted Guesthouse Mystery is AN UNINVITED GHOST from Berkley Prime Crime. It is the second in the series after NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEED, which was published in 2010. You can find E.J. on Twitter (@ejcop) on Facebook and at

Thank you, E.J. I always enjoy guest bloggers, and it's interesting to hear about reviews from the author's point of view.

An Uninvited Ghost by E.J. Copperman. Berkley Prime Crime. ©2011. ISBN 9780425240588 (paperback), 304p.


Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Great post, E.J. I totally agree--we can hope readers and reviewers enjoy our books, but there's no point trying to argue them into liking it if they don't!

E.J. said...

Tastes vary, Elizabeth/Riley. And some people, sad as it seems to an author, just aren't going to be attuned to our books. That's what makes it a horserace, my grandfather used to say (actually, he never said that once). So no, there's no upside in trying to convince them they really DID like it when they didn't!

Lesa said...

Thanks, E.J. I hope you have the chance to drop in now and then during the day to see if there are comments. Thank you again for an interesting guest blog.

Beth Hoffman said...

Terrific post! Just recently I read a blog where an author went off on a negative reviewer like a bottle rocket. I just shook my head. I'm a firm believer that taking the high road is the only way to go.

E.J. Copperman said...

Thanks for the comment, Beth! It's not just taking the high road, though--it's just good business not to get into it with a reviewer. You come across as petulant and gain nothing. I've disagreed with a few reviewers, but usually when someone says something negative, I figure it's finally an affirmation of everything I knew was wrong with me to begin with and I start thinking of other careers I could pursue.

Then I get back to writing again.

Pat R. said...

I'm looking forward to receiving my copy of your new book. Amazon tells me it is on the way.

Enjoyed your views on reviews.

E.J. Copperman said...

Hope you like it, Pat! Keep me informed!

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