Thursday, November 20, 2008

Reviews

Rob Rosenwald, my publisher, once told me that “any review is a good review.” He was trying to make me feel better about a bad Kirkus review. Kirkus seems notorious for being hurtful, and most writers I talk to these days have a bad-Kirkus-review story. So Vicki, take heart. I was talking to an independent book seller yesterday about our upcoming tour, and he said, “I’m looking forward to this. Vicki Delany is an excellent writer.” I kid you not.

A year or two ago, there was an online article circulating about paid reviewers. It gave hard statistics about people being paid per review submitted to well-respected book reviewers. I can’t find it now, naturally, so if anyone did save it and wants to share, please jump into this discussion. The upshot of the article was that an assortment of marginally qualified (the Sarah Palins of book reviewing, like hungry, bored graduate students and angry, unpublished novelists) people were affecting authors’ sales. Or at least their feelings.

In my search for the elusive article, I did find this information in Wikipedia, which refers to Publishers Weekly reviews: “Although it might take a week or more to read and analyze some books, reviewers were paid $45 per review until June 2008 when the magazine introduced a reduction in payment to $25 a review. In a further policy change that month, reviewers received credit as contributors in issues carrying their reviews.”

Wikipedia included this compelling quote from a Texas novelist and reviewer: “What’s interesting about the PW reviews, though, is that copy is sometimes altered before printing. On a few occasions, I’ve had opinions utterly reversed from what I wrote. I’ve questioned this, but I’ve never received satisfactory answers. I keep doing it because it’s good work and satisfies the university administration.”

This reminds me of Harriet Klausner, who is a prolific reader and reviewer. This woman has to love books. True, her reviews were invariably positive, and I’d often balance her review with the others on a site—but I listened to her and respected her opinion. Yet she has been blasted, smashed, and panned for her optimistic view. The vitriol got so heavy on DorothyL that the moderators forbad further discussion. Amazon downgraded her usefulness.

I do respect a reviewer’s ability to point out problems with plot, writing style, or story, as writers learn from this. But not to the point of being mean (Marilyn Stasio is an excellent example of a kind critic), and he or she should NEVER give away a plot. Those reviewers should have their pens confiscated.

1 comment:

Vicki Delany said...

Harriet Klausner has stated that she only reviews books she likes. Why, she says, would she waste her time reading and then writing about a book she doesn't like. A fair opinion, I think, for someone not being paid by a review publication.