Wednesday, February 6, 2013
The Insecure Writers Support Group was created by author/blogger Alex J Cavanaugh as a way of allowing bloggers to: "share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!" IWSG has become vastly popular with a huge linky list. Alex has had to enlist the help of some bloggers to ensure all participants are visited with a show of support. This month's guest hosts are Misha Gericke and Joylene Nowell Butler. Please be sure to visit these ladies and show your appreciation for their assistance.
I had this post in a draft for a very long time, and eventually deleted it as too controversial. When I first wrote it, I'd read a book that I didn't like. Like, put it down within the first chapter type didn't like. Luckily it wasn't one of my blogger/author friends; but still the question nagged at me: what if I read YOUR book/novella/short story, and didn't like it?
For a while every time I read a book by one of my blogger friends, I posted a review on both my blog, and the purchasing site. I like helping my author friends improve their ratings and increase their sales with the reviews and recommendations. I also get a little high off the e-mail I receive occasionally that says something like "a customer just told us your review was helpful to them." It is the best reward for crafting an informative, well written review.
Some books are so good I forget everything but getting immersed in the world. With these books, I remember what it was like to read for the pleasure of it. And later I'm thinking: Oh shoot, now I have to analyze what I liked and that will just ruin it for me :( So I put off the review to savor the concepts for a while and then, well, I forget or get busy with other stuff.
Other times I have a hard time getting into the story or characters and as I'm a naturally slow reader with little ability to just skim and get the gist of the story (I'm always afraid the reason I don't understand a motivation or revelation is because I missed something important hidden among all the fashion details, repetitive action dialogue, or author intrusion) and so if I skip segments I always end up going back to re-read. Which is a time waste that will cause me to put the book down.
Not forever usually as I just hate to give up on a story just because its hard for me to get into. I usually end up liking it by the end - however long it takes me to get there. By that time the author has published 2-4 books and would rather focus publicity on the shiny new project - or the upcoming one in the works - than revisit old news.
But there are times, not many, that I just didn't like the book. Love the author, have no doubt they are talented writers, but I didn't care for it. At all. I might still try and craft a review, just because I didn't like it doesn't mean someone else won't like the very things that turn me off. Especially if I read comments on the author's blog raving about the story or read other reviews that love the book/story.
Ratings/Rankings on book sales sites like Amazon and Barnes and Noble are driven not just by book sales; but also the number of reviews, and the stars attached. So, if I read a book, and have a "meh" feeling about it for whatever reason; then to me, the prudent thing to do is not to review or rate it.
Now, this post isn't telling my blogger/author friends that if you haven't received a review from me on your published work it means I didn't like the story. The truth is I haven't read very many of the books I've purchased - or downloaded for free. It is hard enough to find reading time (I think I have at least 80 books on my Kindle that I haven't read), but when I do decide to read something, I know I need to keep in mind the author would appreciate a well thought out review.
Sometimes for me, reading a book is hard work. Like being back in grade school and told to read THIS book and write a book report. It is almost to stressful to pick a book from the multitude available from blogger/authors vying for readership, and the indecision puts me even further behind.
I rewrote this post again after reading Anne Gallagher's Review post and Anne R Allen's Bad Reviews post.
I'm glad some purchasing sites are "reviewing" the reviews before they are publishing them. I don't agree with trash talk in a review; but I see nothing wrong with a review that says "I didn't like the book/story." Hopefully the reviewer puts a little effort into reasons why they didn't like it, but a reader should still be entitled to their opinion.
I've read some posts from authors that denounced a reviewer that didn't give a 5 star rating. The gist of the posts usually focus on something like: doesn't that reviewer realize my sales/ratings suffer if they don't give a 5 star rating? or: that less than glowing review, and 4 star rating, came from a fellow author, who should know how hard it is to write and publish a novel so should be more supportive in their reviews.
My questions on this issue of posting reviews is this: Is an unknown reader entitled to/forgiven for their opinions - no matter how faulty they may be - but a fellow writer should show support whether or not they liked the story? As authors, do we have an obligation to like the books/stories another author publishes regardless of writing skill/style or quality of publication itself? Or if we just don't enjoy reading in that genre, do we still read/write reviews because we like the author/blog?
I've seen too many poll posts that ask the question (in some form or other): do you finish a book if you don't like it? or How much reading time do you give a book before you put it down for lack of interest? And I've noticed that authors have a tendency to put a book down within the first few paragraphs if it doesn't immediately grab them. Yet when it comes to reviews of their own novels . . .
Love it, hate it, or something in between, there are times I'd like to read a book without constantly thinking how I'm going to word the review, what phrases or scenes strike me most to add into the narrative, and what questions I should ask for the author interview that relate to the story or writing process. I'd like to be like my non-writing friends and family who say "you should read this book, its good." When I ask what they liked, they look at me kinda blank and say something like "I like detective stories."
There are no easy answers to the questions I'm posing for this months IWSG post. Perhaps if I just toss it out here it will stop cycling in my mind each time I pick up my Kindle or choose an unread novel from my overloaded book cases. Have you ever picked up a book you didn't love but knew somebody was counting on you to report back how much you enjoyed it?
Click here for the linky to more Insecure Writers Support Group participants.
And - shamelessly using my blog for advertising - if you're in the mood to write something for the sheer joy of having others read, perhaps you'll give RFW's March Challenge a try.