Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Does Your Opinion Matter? Why, Yes! It does.

Hello Fellow Fathomers

Today in The Locker I address the sometimes sensitive topic of book reviews.  One heavily heated banter exchange today on Facebook revolved around how and when someone should express their opinions about a book.  I realize as an author, if I have signed a publishing contract, I believe that book is worthwhile of anyone’s time.  However, as a logical human, I must also believe not everyone shares my tastes, visions, or opinions.  (Yes, I admitted to not always being right-and did so in writing.)

I believe a few things must be considered before you put ink or electronic signature to your voice:
·         Is this a genre you typically enjoy reading?  If you do not enjoy Steampunk, chances are you will not give the book a fair chance at entertaining you. If you decide to venture into a new genre to challenge your senses, think about your opinion before you put it out there.  Could a bad opinion be simply because you gave it a shot and truly do not enjoy the genre?  Or, on the other hand, could a glowing opinion be due to the fact you enjoy the author and would always give a positive review, no matter what?  In either instance, it is not as helpful to someone deciding to read the book or not.
·         Are you simply giving star rating without an explanation?   In a typical one to five star rating, maybe three stars is self-explanatory.  However, an explanation of any rating not middle of the road would be more helpful to a future reader.  Did you like it because the grammar and spelling errors were non-existent, or was it the reverse?  Was the story line imaginative and captivating?  Were the protagonists boring and lackluster? Inquiring minds want to know!
·         Great chances exist that any reader taking the time to peruse the reviews are really debating to take the plunge to read the book or not.  Much like, are you willing to spend your money on a movie ticket- movie trailer, reviews, friends’ opinions, etc sight unseen?  The specific opinions offered by a reviewer would be helpful for the buyer and assist to tip the scales in one direction or the other.
·         Fortunately, most of us have enthusiastic fans (mostly friends and family) willing to give us five stars all the time.  However, the opinion is biased.  Therefore, it is helpful for the reviewer to give a brief description of his or her relationship to the author, i.e. “I write this review as someone personally or not personally vested to the author.” 
·         On the flip side, unfortunately, some of us have people itching to discredit our work simply because of who we are or maybe the genre we write under.  Is that really helpful to a future reader?  No, it is not. Again, personal bias has no place in an honest review-whether positive or negative.
I recently began reading eBooks, (welcome to the 21st Century, Mrs. Davee Jones) and out of the few I have read, two had substantial grammatical and spelling errors.  Is the proofing team to blame here? One had such head and scene hopping, I had great difficulty identifying who was doing what.   I keep trying to go back and finish, but I just cannot do it yet, because the issues perpetuate throughout the book, making any understanding of the author’s story very difficult.  Is that the fault of the editor or the author, or maybe both?  In any event, we, the authors, will be held accountable for the quality or lack thereof for a book penned under our names. 
·         Are eBooks more susceptible to errors?
o   Is the massive volume of books released lending to less proofing?
o   Is the program or reader downloading the pages incorrectly?
o   Are shorter stories less satisfying to readers?
The first two issues are more with the publisher, not the author.  Therefore, it is very helpful to discern the reason for a negative review to accurately describe where the problem exists.  This could assist the publishing house in correcting errors for future publications.
Third, shorter stories are the rage these days.  In a world of time constraints, people who love to read sometimes find themselves with less time to indulge in their favorite hobby.  Flash fiction, novellas, or even blogs firmly established their value to give even the busiest person the opportunity to finish a specific reading in the limited amount of time they have to devote to it.  If you like Gone With the Wind, then, make sure to check the word count before you make the purchase.  It is not the author’s fault if you want to give a negative review simply based on length. 


I did not cover every worldly example in this simple blog.  My point is this- if you are angry at the world and someone tinkled in your post toasties, think twice before you throw an author under the bus because you are having a bad day. If you truly did not enjoy reading something, please explain why. Likewise, if my 11-year-old daughter can find glaring problems or cannot follow the storyline, please do not falsely sugarcoat a review just to be kind to someone. We, as authors, use the reviews to help us grow, improve, and create quality for our reading audience-YOU.  Please help us in our endeavor.



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