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Writing Reviews

Got a question/comment about the business of writing or about the publishing industry? Here's your place to post it!
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Mythica
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Post by Mythica » Fri August 5th, 2011, 10:33 am

[quote=""Margaret""]I've noticed this, too, and I find it a bit annoying. It's easy to find a publisher's description of a current book at any online bookstore, and while these are useful, their purpose is to promote the book and get people to buy it. When I read a review, I'm expecting to get the reviewer's perspective on the book. But some bloggers seem to think their role is to be another layer in the promotional process.
[/quote]

As long as the reviewer also then goes on to give their own opinion, I don't see anything wrong with copy and pasting the publisher's blurb. I guess I just don't really see it as the reviewer's responsibility to recap the story unless you're a professional journalist/reviewer. For the average reader, I don't see why we should be expected to review like a professional when we're not. I simply give my thoughts and feelings on a book... what's wrong with that?

I do want a summery there but I don't care where it comes from and if it's a site like Amazon or Goodreads where there is usually already a description of the book, I don't feel the reviewer needs to offer a summery too. I tend to skip passed that when reviews include it anyway because I usually already have an idea of what the book is about based on the publisher's blurb.

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EC2
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Post by EC2 » Fri August 5th, 2011, 12:14 pm

When I write reviews these days, I try if possible towards the end of the piece to include a couple of authors who I think might be on the same page as the author I'm reviewing. Added to a brief synopsis about the content at the start of the review, I think it gives readers an idea of what they are in for.
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com

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Misfit
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Post by Misfit » Fri August 5th, 2011, 1:04 pm

I do want a summery there but I don't care where it comes from and if it's a site like Amazon or Goodreads where there is usually already a description of the book, I don't feel the reviewer needs to offer a summery too. I tend to skip passed that when reviews include it anyway because I usually already have an idea of what the book is about based on the publisher's blurb.
I think reviewers can often give a better idea what's in a book than the blurbs do, as long as they try to keep it short rather than longer. There are some books (i.e. Gone With The Wind) where pretty much every has an idea what the book is about and one more recap is really not needed. I've seen many an Amazon reviewer say they're passing on another recap for that reason and are just there to discuss the reading experience. If it is a book I know perfectly well what the main plot points are I'll generally skip to the last paragraph to read the impressions.
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Carla
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Post by Carla » Fri August 5th, 2011, 3:53 pm

I try to start reviews of fiction with a short summary of the setting and any historical figures who appear as characters, so readers can tell straight away if it's about a person, place or period that interests them. Then I try to give a flavour of the premise or set-up in another short paragraph. I wouldn't try to recap the plot. How would you do that for a novel without spoilers?

I don't generally include the publishers' blurb in a review, partly for reasons of space and partly because if the book is recently published the blurb is probably easily available on the net. I don't mind seeing the blurb in a review (as long as it's clearly indicated as such), but I often skip past it to get to what the reviewer has to say.
PATHS OF EXILE - love, war, honour and betrayal in Anglo-Saxon Northumbria
Editor's Choice, Historical Novels Review, August 2009
Now available as e-book on Amazon Kindleand in Kindle, Epub (Nook, Sony Reader), Palm and other formats on Smashwords
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Michy
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Post by Michy » Fri August 5th, 2011, 4:02 pm

[quote=""Margaret""]simply that a novel should be judged according to the general type of novel it's intended to be. So a reviewer who condemns a Regency romance for not being a deeply thoughtful literary novel like War and Peace is not being fair to the author (nor is a reviewer who condemns War and Peace for not being a pleasant beach read).

[/quote] I've seen this lately with Christian fiction -- I don't know if it's because the onset of e-readers has led to indiscriminate downloading of cheap e-books, or what. But I've seen readers who get hold of a Christian fiction book without realizing it's Christian fiction, and then write a review slamming the book in the snarkiest of terms for being Christian fiction. I couldn't help but respond to a couple of them -- not because I thought the books were good, in both cases the books were poorly-written DNFs for me -- but because the whole premise of the reviews were patently unfair to the authors. One reviewer sniped at the book's "stealth" Christianity. I responded that there was nothing at all "stealth" about it, and that if he/she doesn't want to read Christian fiction then they need to pay more attention to the publisher next time. The snarky reviewer actually ended up thanking me :) , so all ended well.

[quote=""EC2""]When I write reviews these days, I try if possible towards the end of the piece to include a couple of authors who I think might be on the same page as the author I'm reviewing. [/quote] What a great idea. I have done this once or twice, but it would be nice to see this more often. Great way to find new authors. And add to the TBR pile. :)
Last edited by Michy on Fri August 5th, 2011, 4:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Mythica
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Post by Mythica » Fri August 5th, 2011, 5:29 pm

[quote=""Michy""]I've seen this lately with Christian fiction -- I don't know if it's because the onset of e-readers has led to indiscriminate downloading of cheap e-books, or what. But I've seen readers who get hold of a Christian fiction book without realizing it's Christian fiction, and then write a review slamming the book in the snarkiest of terms for being Christian fiction. [/quote]

It's not just cheap ebooks, it's probably also the fact that a lot of limited time promo freebies are Christian Fiction. So much so, I added a tag for it on my blog for when I post about freebies (because I don't normally post Christian Fiction, only if it's a freebie). And it's not just the historical fiction genre - it's every genre! It's not always immediately obvious that it's Christian Fiction unless you scroll down to the categories - so a lot of ebook readers are just snatching them up for free, not realizing they're Christian. I admit I fell victim to this in the first few months I had my Kindle too. But I blamed myself for not realizing it and just made a note to be more careful about what I grab for free.

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Misfit
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Post by Misfit » Fri August 5th, 2011, 6:11 pm

[quote=""Mythica""]It's not just cheap ebooks, it's probably also the fact that a lot of limited time promo freebies are Christian Fiction. So much so, I added a tag for it on my blog for when I post about freebies (because I don't normally post Christian Fiction, only if it's a freebie). And it's not just the historical fiction genre - it's every genre! It's not always immediately obvious that it's Christian Fiction unless you scroll down to the categories - so a lot of ebook readers are just snatching them up for free, not realizing they're Christian. I admit I fell victim to this in the first few months I had my Kindle too. But I blamed myself for not realizing it and just made a note to be more careful about what I grab for free.[/quote]

The CF historicals that I've come across recently are not always packaged/labeled as such unless a purchaser looks closely at the product description and publisher. That said, it is very unfair to scorch a book for that. I know I inadvertantly bought a couple CF's off the Costco shelf. One stank, one was very good but the mistake of grabbing the books that may or may not be to my taste was mine and not the author's.
At home with a good book and the cat...
...is the only place I want to be

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Mythica
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Post by Mythica » Sat August 6th, 2011, 9:56 am

[quote=""Misfit""]The CF historicals that I've come across recently are not always packaged/labeled as such unless a purchaser looks closely at the product description and publisher. That said, it is very unfair to scorch a book for that. I know I inadvertantly bought a couple CF's off the Costco shelf. One stank, one was very good but the mistake of grabbing the books that may or may not be to my taste was mine and not the author's.[/quote]

I agree the book shouldn't be blamed for a reader accidentally picking up a genre they don't like. But even looking at the publisher doesn't always make it obvious it's CF. Some Christian publishers make it obvious in the name of their company but not always and the average reader isn't going to be familiar with that many indie publishers. Take this current Kindle freebie for example:

http://www.amazon.com/Vigilantes-Bride- ... 6TWVU5XWC2

The publisher is "Bethany House" - which doesn't scream "Christian" to me. If you google it, you'll quickly find out that it is but most people don't spend the time to do that especially when the book is free so it's not really an investment.

Additionally, the product description does not appear on the book page unless you click "See all Editorial Reviews" and I don't know how many people take the time to do so. Most readers probably just read what's already showing and in this case, there is no mention of God, faith, or other key Christian words in the two reviews.

If you scroll down to the near bottom of the page where it lists the categories the book is under, you'll see "religious fiction" is one of them. I find this to be the quickest and easiest way to check. But again, how many people bother to scroll all the way to the bottom of the page, especially for a freebie?

So I think it's understandable why people who accidentally pick up CF may feel like it wasn't properly marketed as Christian. Sometimes, you DO have to take extra steps to find out if it's CF and that feels a little sneaky. But at the same time, readers need to take some personal responsibility in what they choose to read.

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Misfit
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Post by Misfit » Sat August 6th, 2011, 11:20 am

The publisher is "Bethany House" - which doesn't scream "Christian" to me. If you google it, you'll quickly find out that it is but most people don't spend the time to do that especially when the book is free so it's not really an investment.
I had a friend interested in one of these books on Net Galley, and I did have to Google the publisher to ascertain it ws CF. I've also found that checking the book's tags at Goodreads is helpful. I've had more than one like this I was eyeing and then noticed the CF tags. I'm sure some might turn out to be quite good, but I like to be prepared going in. These snappy covers they are coming out with probably won't help, I can imagine lots of impulse buys at the Costco book table.

Still, just fairly rate the book in a review and mention you didn't realize it wasn't your *genre* when you got it. It can't be that hard...
At home with a good book and the cat...
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Michy
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Post by Michy » Sat August 6th, 2011, 3:03 pm

[quote=""Mythica""]Some Christian publishers make it obvious in the name of their company but not always and the average reader isn't going to be familiar with that many indie publishers.

So I think it's understandable why people who accidentally pick up CF may feel like it wasn't properly marketed as Christian. Sometimes, you DO have to take extra steps to find out if it's CF and that feels a little sneaky.
[/quote] There's really nothing at all "sneaky" about the way Christian books (of all genres, not just fiction) are published or marketed. The Christian publishers have all existed for many years (although nowadays many of them exist as imprints of larger mainstream publishers) and they have a dedicated following of readers who are familiar with these publishers and the types of books they produce. The thing is, until the last few years you could really only find and purchase these books at Christian/religious bookstores, or in the "religious" section of mainstream bookstores. The advent of Amazon changed that somewhat (because there are not clearly delineated "sections" as there are in physical bookstores), and now the advent of ereaders seems to have changed it even more (I say "seems" because I don't have an ereader myself, so I am only presuming based on what I've seen). The "burden of proof" as it were, is not on the Christian publishers or imprints; they're producing and labeling their books in the same manner they always have. It is incumbent on the reader who does not want to read these types of books to learn who the Christian publishes (or authors) are and then avoid those publishes and authors.

[quote=""Misfit""]Still, just fairly rate the book in a review and mention you didn't realize it wasn't your *genre* when you got it. It can't be that hard...[/quote] Exactly. :)

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