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You know how it is: you write things, you put them out into the world. Sometimes people like them, sometimes not. Worst of all, sometimes people just don’t seem to care.

But let’s imagine you’re a book reviewer who is becoming frustrated by the fact that you aren’t becoming as prominent as you used to be: What’s the next step? How do you give yourself the boost to prominence you’re hoping for?

If you answered: “Write better, more insightful book reviews and dare to be honestly controversial in a way that gets people talking,” you clearly need to be more entitled. Try this instead:

I operate on a Quid Pro Quo system. I will continue to promote authors that do the same for me. Not only that, but the more times promoted, the more buzz you will see. Tweet to your followers, post on Facebook, etc.

See, getting a review is a service provided to the author. If you mark her Amazon reviews as “helpful”, sign up for her newsletter, like her Facebook page, circle her on G+ and… oh christ time to start skimming this ridiculous list.

Anyway, “Bookiemonster” is frustrated that authors just aren’t meeting HER needs.

What I would (gently) suggest in response is that reviews are for the benefit of readers, not writers. Sure, it’s publicity, and yeah, it sells a few copies, but not many. Not many at all. I can see my own sales, and I know what the bump from a review looks like (spoiler: not large). Reviews are not for writers. In fact, a great many writers never ever look at their reviews. Not ever.

If you doubt that reviews are for readers, not writers, consider reviews in other fields: are film reviews just unpaid publicity? Nope, they exist to drive filmgoers to a newspaper (or whatever) so they can decide what to watch. Same for theater. What about critiques of art galleries? Nope. they’re an attempt to say something worthwhile about art, and to engage the aficionado on the subject.

It’s the same for books. Reviews are there to share an enthusiasm for the written word with other enthusiasts; in fact, a decent reviewer should excite readers with their expertise. This is about an exchange of ideas, not moving product.

You write reviews because you think there’s something worth saying to other readers. Maybe you think a book is wonderful. Maybe you think it’s toxic sludge. Maybe you think it’s emblematic of the sort of toxic sludge we see all too much of lately. Maybe it’s part of a movement that no one other than you has noticed. Maybe it reflects a certain kind of cultural change. Maybe you could talk about those things.

Or you could just write stuff like this:

The novel is witty, intense and keeps your interest from start to finish. It reads fast, I mean super fast and not that the book is short, it just reads that well. Nothing stumbled me. And that rarely happens. While some Zombie snobs may not like this book, I certainly did.

or

I also felt that prior to Mary becoming a prisoner in a walking dead corpse, her conflict with Azrael the Angel of Death was vague and undefined. More details on how Mary discovers Azrael’s scheme to take over the spirit realm would justify him sentencing her to an undead dungeon as well as her rage toward him.

or

Dead Boys was a welcome departure from what I find myself usually reading. Would I have picked it up had it not been submitted? Probably not. Why? Because short stories aren’t my normal thing. Simply because I enjoy investing the time to get to know the characters and follow a story through it’s arc. Penkas succeeded by giving me the appetizer, but I still wanted the main course. Thankfully, his concepts were intriguing and thought provoking enough to make the read satisfying.

(all sic)

You say your book review site is not as prominent as you’d like? Inexplicable.

I’m a writer. I put non-fiction on the blog and fiction in my books, and when they don’t sell or languish in obscurity, it’s not because someone didn’t hold up their end of the quid fucking pro quo. It’s because the thing I wrote didn’t earn it.

The same goes for reviewers. Your words will bring you the attention you deserve. If you feel you deserve better, do better. Be more thoughtful and original. Write with care and style (advice I could certainly bear to take myself). If some of your reviewers can’t manage that, let them go and put less (but better) content on your site.

But don’t come around with some quid pro quo, because ugh.

Mirrored from Twenty Palaces. You can comment here but not there.

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Comments

( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
seawasp
Jan. 31st, 2014 11:55 pm (UTC)
Dear Harriet Klausner set the bar for online reviewers pretty low, unfortunately.
burger_eater
Feb. 1st, 2014 04:54 am (UTC)
Klausner was inevitable.
seawasp
Feb. 1st, 2014 01:04 pm (UTC)
She was our destiny?


What really drives me nuts about Klausner is that her reviews aren't GENERIC, they're WRONG, but NOT in the "Oh, I just read the back blurb" way. In the "I've somehow read pieces of the book in a way that causes me to drop key names and places right, but the way I fit those pieces into the review mangles the actual story entirely" way.

Oh, and the fact that apparently she's turned this into a moneymaking operation as well.
(no subject) - burger_eater - Feb. 2nd, 2014 01:22 am (UTC) - Expand
muirecan
Feb. 1st, 2014 02:37 am (UTC)
I keep promising myself to start writing reviews one of these days. Something along the nice lines of what Ryk posts on his website about on his shelf.

But the point of that is even if I was actually posting reviews I would be doing it for the joy of it and maybe the occasional ARC that found its way to me. I wouldn't be doing it for favors with an author. If I like an author I'll be glad to praise you all. If I could just just write something sensable. Which given the fact that I can dash this off in less than 5 minutes makes no sense to me why I go blank when I set out to write an actual review. ::sigh:: One of these days expect random acts of reviewing to appear on your amazon page but until then just keep up the good writing.

What a daft person you have linked to there.
muirecan
Feb. 1st, 2014 02:39 am (UTC)
Hell I can dash of a 1000+ word history of a state program I have to provide support for when random questions come up that a bit of historical perspective could help. Why oh why can't I write a nice 2 or 3 paragraph review of a book I loved?
(no subject) - seawasp - Feb. 1st, 2014 01:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
burger_eater
Feb. 1st, 2014 05:06 am (UTC)
Many places (not Amazon) will let you drop a straight star rating with no text, but that's not going to go a lot.

Frankly, writing good reviews is a complicated skill. It's not just reading, but having opinions, too. (I joke, but having an interesting opinion is no easy thing. If it was, those people wouldn't be writing synopsis->"I liked it!" -type reviews.)

And thank you.
msagara
Feb. 1st, 2014 06:16 am (UTC)
Well - this whole thing made my brain hurt, and I probably should have read everything on twitter & etc., before I tweeted.

I find it difficult because it’s the *exact opposite* of what we’re generally told to do: do not interact with reviews/reviewers; they are not writing for you.

But the support in the inbox for this really confused me - and worried me, because...what if this is a new paradigm? What if this is something that I am totally otherwise unaware of, and I’m offending people who tweet reviews to me, etc, when I don’t retweet them?
muirecan
Feb. 1st, 2014 07:53 am (UTC)
Personally I would put it in the same category as those stupid chain letters and chain emails people send. This seems much the same a desperate reaching out for validation from the authors. Err no, if you want to review great but you are doing it first for yourself and your friends and only secondarily for the authors. I think its a flaw of modern social media where people want instant interaction back from others as proof that they are real or something like that.
burger_eater
Feb. 2nd, 2014 01:28 am (UTC)
I think early support she received has become criticism, some extremely angry and awful. From personal conversation with the original poster, she's recognized her error and is rethinking.

You're completely right, though; it's not a reviewer's job to promote. It's their job to have thinky thoughts that intrigue (to the readers' delight). If they can't get traffic by being intriguing, that's not the author's fault.
(no subject) - muirecan - Feb. 2nd, 2014 03:45 am (UTC) - Expand
martianmooncrab
Feb. 1st, 2014 08:28 am (UTC)
Anyway, “Bookiemonster” is frustrated that authors just aren’t meeting HER needs.


I feel her pain, each book I read just doesnt hit all the receptors as it were, but then, if I read the most perfect book in the world, I wouldnt read another single thing after that.

So, I keep reading.
seawasp
Feb. 1st, 2014 01:29 pm (UTC)
No, you wouldn't. You'd keep looking for that hit AGAIN. You know you would.

(no subject) - martianmooncrab - Feb. 1st, 2014 03:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - burger_eater - Feb. 2nd, 2014 01:29 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - martianmooncrab - Feb. 3rd, 2014 06:54 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - seawasp - Feb. 2nd, 2014 06:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - martianmooncrab - Feb. 3rd, 2014 06:56 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - seawasp - Feb. 3rd, 2014 11:46 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - martianmooncrab - Feb. 3rd, 2014 08:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
nick_kaufmann
Feb. 1st, 2014 03:34 pm (UTC)
There's long been this misunderstanding in genre fiction -- maybe it exists in literary fiction, too, but I wouldn't know -- that reviews serve the authors, not the readers, which is the exact opposite of reality. I remember lots of controversy on message boards about how bad reviews can ruin authors and kill genres. "And for what? Just a chance to be mean!" I even remember one author, whom I normally respect a great deal, suggesting that readers shouldn't read reviews of a book until after they've read the book itself, just as a fun game to see if they agree or disagree. It was insane.
burger_eater
Feb. 2nd, 2014 01:32 am (UTC)
Heh. When Child of Fire first came out, I went nuts trying to get it reviewed. I sent it everywhere that would take it, and it got lots of favorable writeups.

It barely affected sales at all.

A negative review might feel like a knife in the heart of a writer's career, but the actual effect it has is negligible.
(no subject) - nick_kaufmann - Feb. 2nd, 2014 04:39 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - burger_eater - Feb. 2nd, 2014 07:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - seawasp - Feb. 3rd, 2014 11:47 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - burger_eater - Feb. 3rd, 2014 05:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - seawasp - Feb. 3rd, 2014 05:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
msagara
Feb. 2nd, 2014 03:12 am (UTC)
This was posted in response to her blog post & the surrounding kerfuffle:

http://www.dreamfarmer.net/2014/01/reviews-a-service-for-authors/
burger_eater
Feb. 2nd, 2014 05:46 am (UTC)
"Bookie-Monster is presenting, I believe, an accurate representation of the state of things in her corner of the internet; she’s just too new to realize (or too ambitious to care) that nobody talks about Fight Club."

That hadn't occurred to me. Huh.
( 30 comments — Leave a comment )