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Ton Lew Lepsnaci
06-21-2009, 01:21 AM
What book review venues would you regard as usually on the mark?

All? Some?

Are any provided by fellow writers?

I am curious as to how reviews are viewed in general by writers, though I realize it's a risky question :)

Ton.

CheshireCat
06-21-2009, 01:41 AM
Reviews are one person's opinion. And over the years, I've come to the realization that when it comes to reviews and readers no one opinion has more value than another. So whether it's a review in PW or a note from a reader telling me what he or she thought of one of my books, I consider it an opinion, no more and no less.

My agent's opinion carries more weight. So do the opinions of my editors.

As for the opinions of other writers, my view is that writers can seldom provide an objective "review" of a peer's work. I think we know too much about the mechanics of writing and storytelling to ever again be simply readers. And since I'm long past the point of thinking that input from another writer might improve my process -- after spending more than twenty years figuring out what works best for me and being successful at it -- I'm not particularly interested in another writer's "review" of my work.

And while I'll crit in the SYW forum here, and a couple of places elsewhere, I will not publicly critique another published writer's work. Because my opinion is just that, and worth no more than that.

:Shrug:

I seem to be in a shrugging mood today ...

ChaosTitan
06-21-2009, 02:47 AM
What book review venues would you regard as usually on the mark?

All? Some?


This is an impossible question to answer. A review I may find right on the money, someone else may think is way too generous/unfair. It's all based on opinion, so the reviewers whose opinions tend to be similar to mine aren't necessarily similar to yours.

veinglory
06-21-2009, 03:20 AM
Review blogs written by people kind of like me are the best bet for finding a book I will really like.

rugcat
06-21-2009, 03:20 AM
Reviews can be personally useful if you're waffling about whether to buy a book or see a movie. The caveat is, you have to be familiar with the reviewer and the books she's reviewed.

If over time, you discover a certain reviewer has similar tastes to your own and mostly loves the books you love and doesn't particularly like the ones you don't, it's a useful heads up. If she says, what a great book, chances are you're going to like it as well.

Other reviewers can be so far off in their assessment of books or movies compared to my own, that I can almost say I'm sure it's good -- so and so didn't like it at all.

ORION
06-21-2009, 03:51 AM
I agree with Cheshire...
One thing you learn after being published is the reviews are meaningless in the scheme of things. However...because Amazon is mostly made up of readers -- in general -- I find if a book has 100+ reviews and I skim them I find it is pretty accurate... I never make a decision to read a book based on its reviews but I will go to amazon and see what people say about it after reading... it's just interesting to me to see what readers say and what compels them to post a review...

Travis J. Smith
06-21-2009, 04:10 AM
Amazon tends to give you a great view of the big picture of reviewers. With most books, I'll look at the most helpful positive and negative review. That at the very least. If I'm particularly conflicted, I'll go through a couple pages of the reviews, ranked in terms of helpfulness.

Though I enjoy going back to the reviews on Amazon for a book after finishing it to see where I stand in relation to the general consensus. Of the few books I own, a good deal are not the darlings of the reviewers, to say the least.

But, as rugcat said, to really be able to gauge anything on reviews you need to, in essence, review the reviewers. Find one whose reviews seem in line with your own thoughts, or perhaps even one that seems to be your foil, loving everything that you despise. I must say that for these sorts of reviews I generally seek out a few select friends, however. Very rarely do I find a professional reviewer that speaks to me; the only one that springs to mind is a movie review, Roger Ebert, though even he misses the mark by a longshot at times.

Ton Lew Lepsnaci
06-21-2009, 02:09 PM
Thanks all!

It seems the situation for books may be similar to film reviews. I'll keep an eye on Amazon reviews/eeview blogs for a while to see how things pan out there.

Perhaps I should have been a bit more clear on what I meant by literary magazines, newspapers etc. out there that would get it "right" more often than others (realizing this is subjective).

I wondered if some venues put a lot more effort in the reviews than others. For instance reviews might be done by four experienced reviewers who are asked to answer a series of relevant questions and provide a summary report. Then someone else (with a lot of experience in literature) could distill a final evaluation from it.

From the feedback it seems this is not the case (or perhaps is not guaranteed to lead to a better result on average). I wondered if there are such venues out there that try reviews along those lines?

My curiosity is getting the better of me. Thanks for all the comments!

Ton Lew Lepsnaci
06-21-2009, 02:42 PM
I guess that method might work for book publication decisions but may not be suitable for actual book reviews :)

ORION
06-21-2009, 10:57 PM
Ton I really rarely see an even handed review like that...and there is no "getting it right"
certain books resonate with different readers for different reasons.
There is a certain amount of "wisdom of crowds" versus "sheep blindly buying what everyone else does"
In general both the Library Journal and Publishers Weekly tend to be fairly rational...
I think experienced reviewers are a bit jaded and I know they are catered to and receive thousands of ARC copies to look at...
I will say the UK magazine Myslexia does a great job with reviews ---
bottom line my editor and agent echo prevailing sentiment- the only bad review is no review...

Linda Adams
06-21-2009, 11:40 PM
Ton I really rarely see an even handed review like that...and there is no "getting it right"
certain books resonate with different readers for different reasons.
There is a certain amount of "wisdom of crowds" versus "sheep blindly buying what everyone else does"


That's for sure! I do reviews for a publisher, and I read one novel was just plain awful. It was like a middle book in a fantasy trilogy that doesn't have a story, except that it was a first book. The author was setting up for a trilogy and spent much of the book doing not much of anything (I kept waiting, desperately, for anything to happen!) until the last chapter when he sprung what the story was about on the reader. I scanned the other reviews on the publisher's Web site and was surprised to see everyone else giving it 4-star reviews, raving about how good it was. What I found interesting though was that the publisher had posted it for review not when it came out, but more than six months after it came out. Made me wonder if, despite the rave reviews, it hadn't sold that well ...

BigWords
06-22-2009, 03:33 AM
I'm thinking about writing a few book reviews for my blog (really obscure / weird / ignored books) but every time I try and put my feelings down, I get all self-conscious about pissing off the author(s). It's hard being both honest and remaining a fun read for people.
Also I don't want to annoy any publishers I'm thinking of approaching with novels.

Salis
06-22-2009, 03:36 AM
That's for sure! I do reviews for a publisher, and I read one novel was just plain awful. It was like a middle book in a fantasy trilogy that doesn't have a story, except that it was a first book. The author was setting up for a trilogy and spent much of the book doing not much of anything (I kept waiting, desperately, for anything to happen!) until the last chapter when he sprung what the story was about on the reader. I scanned the other reviews on the publisher's Web site and was surprised to see everyone else giving it 4-star reviews, raving about how good it was. What I found interesting though was that the publisher had posted it for review not when it came out, but more than six months after it came out. Made me wonder if, despite the rave reviews, it hadn't sold that well ...

Well... to be honest, I don't read book reviews much at all, but I can say that in most businesses, reviews are almost always one of two things:

1) Basically paid advertising, where all reviews have to be at least 4 stars/80+%, and only mention minor flaws in order to establish "credibility".

2) Incredibly cruel and unfair reviews intentionally panning just about everything, in order to establish even more credibility. Sometimes, you will even see #2 from people who do #1, because when they are told to review something that doesn't have a big company behind it (i.e, they're not being paid to fluff it), they let loose all the invective they've been stopping up.

Actually fair and balanced reviews are very rare.

This is why I like customer comments/customer "reviews" the most, they aren't necessarily incisive or good, but they're more likely to be people's honest opinions, and there's a much wider gamut.

Mr Flibble
06-22-2009, 04:02 AM
I'm thinking about writing a few book reviews for my blog (really obscure / weird / ignored books) but every time I try and put my feelings down, I get all self-conscious about pissing off the author(s). It's hard being both honest and remaining a fun read for people.
Also I don't want to annoy any publishers I'm thinking of approaching with novels.


I've just started reviewing

And the site has a page for each reviewer to see what they do / don't like so you can maybe try and match to your tastes - and see where a book might get marked down( or up) because of this reviewers preference.

Because in the end, all it is is one person's opinion. I know what I like - and I also know that my 'bookshare mate' doesn't like all the same stuff I do. I recommend some of the stuff I read to him - but not all. Because all tastes are different and I know what he likes and doesn't. Same goes for reviews - find one that you agree with most of the time. Listen to that one.

Reviewers are just readers with a voice. No more, no less.

BigWords
06-22-2009, 04:22 AM
The books I was considering are kinda off. The old Vampirella paperbacks, film novelizations from the early eighties, seventies kung fu books (of the King K'ung Fu type) and other strangeness.

I have very, very strange reading material lying around.

Ton Lew Lepsnaci
06-22-2009, 12:49 PM
That's great feedback, thanks for the insights!

Orion, I'll follow up those tips on review venues.

Salis, that's a bleak picture you paint, I had some concerns this might be the case ... but had hoped there would be more balance.

I've done a good bit of reviewing in other contexts (mostly articles and proposals, not in the literature context). It takes a good bit of effort to keep things "fair" (let's say approximate fairness).

Reading through readers reviews and book summaries to make up your mind seems the best guide :) I only look at covers when selecting and read the rare review.

Salis
06-22-2009, 09:56 PM
That's great feedback, thanks for the insights!

Orion, I'll follow up those tips on review venues.

Salis, that's a bleak picture you paint, I had some concerns this might be the case ... but had hoped there would be more balance.

I've done a good bit of reviewing in other contexts (mostly articles and proposals, not in the literature context). It takes a good bit of effort to keep things "fair" (let's say approximate fairness).

Reading through readers reviews and book summaries to make up your mind seems the best guide :) I only look at covers when selecting and read the rare review.

Well, I'm basing a lot of it on game reviews, which are a dismal swamp of commercialism. I imagine in mediums that have a long history of artistic integrity, you might have more reviewers who are genuinely interested in being forthright.

Ton Lew Lepsnaci
06-22-2009, 10:03 PM
Ok :)

IceCreamEmpress
06-23-2009, 02:12 AM
Well... to be honest, I don't read book reviews much at all, but I can say that in most businesses[....]
Actually fair and balanced reviews are very rare.

I think your take on reviews is probably quite a bit less accurate for book reviews than for reviews of some other media.

Also, a "fair" review isn't necessarily a "balanced" review. My own perspective on this is that, as a reviewer, I'm a consumer advocate: I want to let people know what they're getting in a book they consider buying and/or reading, and that means putting the book in the context of all other books that are available for purchase (or on loan from libraries). I don't think I need to "balance" my point of view, just to be clear about where it comes from.