Monday, April 04, 2011
E.J. Copperman - Guest Blogger
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 http://www.ejcopperman.com/.
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.