Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Literary Reviews and Literary Revenge

Debby here, posting on the later side Eastern time, merely lunch hour in Hawaii.

Rick and Vicki have got my wheels turning on the topic of reviews. I think anyone who’s written more than one book gets a bad Kirkus review. If anyone reading this has had ALL WONDERFUL Kirkus reviews, let me know. Not sure if I’ll celebrate or cry, but I’ll figure that out later.

Vicki and I share the same publisher, part of the time anyway, and this gentlemen reminds us, “Any review is a good review.” His point is that even bad reviews get the name of the book in front of potential readers, which is what writers and publishers need to do. This is getting harder all the time.

I’m packing today for a trip to Indianapolis and Bouchercon, the big mystery writers’ conference. Packing brings out my ADHD traits. Hey, I need an umbrella! Oops, no, what I was thinking about was how much good going to conferences does a writer in terms of getting the book in front of new readers. Conferences are wonderful for other things writers need to do, such as network with other (often more famous) writers, meet with agents and people in publishing, touch bases with organizations like Sisters in Crime or MWA, commiserate over life at a computer monitor, or in my case lately, deal with hard disk crashes. Don’t even get me started—I know, I know, it’s not a matter of if. Sorry, my pretrip ADHD again.

What conferences probably don’t accomplish is introducing an author’s books to new readers. A handful, sure, but not enough to support the cost of the trip. There’s no concrete way of measuring this, as far as I can tell. Some writers look at their Amazon numbers, but I question the effectiveness of that technique. You can talk to the bookseller(s) at the conference, but they’re probably being hounded by 250 other writers, and don’t have the time or inclination to discuss your personal sales. Also, fewer booksellers are going to conferences. Fewer reviews, fewer independent booksellers, fewer new book sales to publishing houses. The economics and publishing numbers are daunting.

What’s a midlist author to do? If anyone has any ideas, post a comment. Meanwhile, I’m going to enjoy visiting with old friends, meeting other avid readers, and picking up a bag full of new books to read. Not too bad, is it?

I loved Rick’s list of bad reviews, so I’ll add a few more to the list. Just a reminder that there is a universe of diverse opinions.

On Marcel Proust: 'Reading Proust is like bathing in someone else's dirty water.' — Alexander Woollcott

On A Tale of Two Cities: 'It would perhaps be hard to imagine a clumsier or more disjointed frame-work for the display of the tawdry wares which form Mr. Dickens's stock-in-trade.' — The Saturday Review

On a new novel: 'This novel is not to be tossed lightly aside, but to be hurled with great force.' — Dorothy Parker

Last, to any and all nasty reviewers: Having a sharp tongue does not mean you have a keen mind.

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