Reviewing the Reviewers

These days, anyone can get published, and anyone can write a book review. Which in some ways is a good thing, and in some ways is not. I have Google alerts set up for Maggie MacKeever and was recently notified of a reader’s review of one of my early books that called it ‘dumb’ and ‘really bad’. I don’t take these things too seriously any more — for every book that someone hates, there is at least one someone else who loves it — but I have a problem with people who review books without understanding what they are.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of that sort of thing going around. It’s the equivalent of me reading a Dan Brown book and saying the story’s bad simply because I don’t enjoy that kind of thing. In reality, what I do or don’t enjoy reading has nothing to do with whether or not the book is ‘good’. Generally, I don’t care much for best sellers. That hardly means the books are ‘bad’.

‘I liked it’ or ‘I hated it’ doesn’t make a decent book review. Neither does ‘it wasn’t what I expected’, which implies that the author is supposed to figure out ahead of time what a particular reader wants to read, and then write that book instead of what’s in his or her heart.

The book of mine so recently panned was a Traditional Regency, basically a comedy of manners set in early 19th century England, with no onstage sex. It’s a genre that few publishers handle any more. So now, twenty-five years after it was published, a reader picks up the book, doesn’t understand it, and informs the world that it’s ‘bad’ when it’s actually a pretty good example of what it was supposed to be.

I’m tempted to say, Bite me. But, really, what difference does one  person’s opinion make?

Update, two days later. Another Google Alert, another review of an old book. This reader got it. She gave me five stars.

Published in: on February 21, 2010 at 3:10 am  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. All good points. I try to remember that if my editor liked the book, then at least one person did, and if one person did then there must be others. It is like operating a store, hundreds of customers go away happy and never say a word. The only people who the store hears back from are those with a complaint. Thus it seems like no one is happy.
    At least, that is what I tell myself. Still, it hurts.

    • I love the store analogy. I also love the idea of simply not reading reviews, but doubt that I have sufficient will power. Because then you miss out on the people who loved the book, too.

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