Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Book Reviews -- Don't You Just Love 'Em?

Here are the reasons you want to send advance review copies of your book to as many magazine and online reader review sites as you can:

1. Reviewers are real people. Real people have a variety of preferences, preferred genres, and writing styles. Just because one reviewer doesn't like your book so much, doesn't mean that all reviewers will feel the same way.

2. Reviewers are real people. They have bad days and good days.

3. Reviewers are real people. It's not all that easy to read a book, keep track of the characters, sort out the plot, identify the book's good points and its not-so-good points, and then write a competent, clear report. We're grateful for the book lovers who are willing to perform this service for authors and readers, aren't we?

Aren't we?

Well, sometimes we are and sometimes we aren't.

Here are four nice quotes from the reviews of The Desert Hedge Murders I've received so far:

From Mary Elizabeth Devine for reviewingtheevidence.com:

"The book is told from alternate points of view -- first person by Sylvia and third person focusing on her clairvoyant brother, Willie. That sort of shift is often difficult to handle, but it works out very nicely in this case."

From Lesa Holstine at Lesa's Book Critiques:

"Since the Flippers need to return to Oatman a couple of times, Stoltey has the opportunity to capture the town with all of its charms. ...Sylvia's reactions to the wild burros that actually roam the streets is priceless."

From Harriet Klausner:

"The story line is as fast as Freda the amazon drives her bike and never slows down even when the seniors are a bit tired. Fans will enjoy this zany Nevada-Arizona whodunit."

And from Caryn St. Clair at armchairinterviews.com:

"...there were enough of references to their first adventure to pique my interest so I am going to look for the first book, The Prairie Grass Murders."

And that, my writerly friends, is called selective perception, because there were also less than favorable comments in a couple of those reviews. Each of these reviewers focused on very different aspects of the plot. Each focused on a different character or characters.

Mary said, "She [Sylvia] keeps saying that she realizes what she's doing is stupid but that her pig-headed personality makes her do it anyway. Sorry. Admitting you know something is stupid is no excuse for stupidity."

Lesa says, "Willie, with his lovable quirks, is a more likable character [than Sylvia]."

Harriet added that the story is "...over the top of Hoover Dam," but hey, I decided to take that as a compliment.

Caryn, bless her heart, went very easy on me.

In addition to the review copies sent out by my publisher, I mailed an additional ten or so. As a result, I'm hoping for a few more reviews before mid-September. Lots of feedback gives me a better sense of what's working and what needs to be improved.

Does a negative comment hurt my feelings? Yes, sometimes. But it doesn't last very long. All I have to do is think of all the novels I read and how often I find something I'd pick on if I were to write reviews. If I'm not tough enough to take criticism, then I'd better go back to watching television and crocheting afghans. No risk there.


Karen Walker said...

Oh, Patricia,I can learn so much from you. I received half a dozen reviews, all with good comments, and one really negative one (not from a professional reviewer) and allowed that to take me down for a few days. Your advice is so right on. You just can't take it to heart.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I know what you mean, Karen. It's hard not to take a negative comment personally. But I was thinking about adding book reviews to my blog, and as I was figuring out how much work it would be, I realized that we're lucky to have readers who are willing to do the job. It's hard work.

Elspeth Antonelli said...

Anyone not wanting to hear criticism shouldn't start down the road to publication! On the other hand, just because you're a book reviewer doesn't make your opinions correct. I think you've got the right attitude, Patricia. A prerequisite for putting your work out into the public is the development of a thicker skin!


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Good for you! And congrats on your great reviews.

You can knit afghans?

Mystery Writing is Murder

Patricia Stoltey said...

Can't knit, Elizabeth. My stitches get way too tight (probably a personality thing).

I crochet. I do a lot of baby-sized afghans, but also have a favorite pattern for a larger one that I can work on while watching TV. It's therapeutic, and a very cozy thing to do in the wintertime.

Anonymous said...

I loved your selective perception line! It's like selective hearing...

I'll admit that bad critiques of my book can get me down pretty easily, but recently I've been able to shake it off and think "Hey they might have a point".

The Old Silly said...

"If I'm not tough enough to take criticism, then I'd better go back to watching television and crocheting afghans."

Amen and true dat. This is no business for the thin skinned. Kudos on the fine reviews from all the "real people," too. :)

Marvin D Wilson

Galen Kindley--Author said...

You know, Selective Highlighting is key to book reviews. A mentor once told me that, save for the most scathing review—and possibly even in that review—there are nuggets to be mined. You go in dig ‘em out and post ‘em. It’s how the game is played. On my website, I’ve a page called Critics Reviews. It’s nothing more than snippets…all good, of course. Anyway, all a reader has time tolerance for is a snippet. Readers know you’re gonna put good stuff up. Be crazy not to.

Best Regards, Galen
Imagineering Fiction Blog

Helen Ginger said...

Pick and choose, that's what you do when you decide what to put on your site from various reviews. I love that you were very honest about the reviews. That's not always easy.

I can't crochet. I tried knitting, but gave it up because my stitches were so tight I couldn't get the needles through even though I'd gone to the biggest dang ones I could buy. (It was during a stressful time that I took up what I thought would be a relaxing pastime.)

Straight From Hel

Gayle Carline said...

I admit, my first impulse toward a bad review is to put up my dukes and say, "Yah? Well, so's yer old man." Then I calm down and look at what they've actually said. If it's a good critique, I take it and apply it to what I'm currently working on. If it's one cranky person's bad day, or if they're just clueless, I laugh... and usually either blog about it or write it up in my weekly column.

I think your attitude may be healthier than mine.


Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Great attitude. I think snippets of reviews are all people really want to read anyway so an author may as well use only the very best tidbits.

N A Sharpe said...

What wonderful snipets from your reviews! Remember, everyone hears negative comments from time to time - even those at the top of their genre. Focus on the positive and post them proudly - they are well deserved!

Nancy, from Realms of Thought…