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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 » Sat August 6th, 2011, 4:01 pm

[quote=""Michy""]There's really nothing at all "sneaky" about the way Christian books (of all genres, not just fiction) are published or marketed. [/quote]

I don't think they are purposely being sneaky, just that I can see why readers would feel like they were.
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.
But if you don't read Christian Fiction, you probably wouldn't know that.
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.
That's a pretty big expectation. I do think Amazon users should just take a closer look at the categories or book summery to find out if it's CF but to expect everyone to research and memorize all the CF publishers and authors out there is a little unreasonable in my opinion.

All I'm saying is that publishers could make a little more obvious when a novel is Christian Fiction.

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boswellbaxter
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Post by boswellbaxter » Sat August 6th, 2011, 6:42 pm

I think the reason some publishers may be vague about indicating whether a novel is Christian fiction is that they hope that a novel will appeal to readers outside the Christian market as well as those inside. Some of the Christian novels I've read are nearly indistinguishable from "mainstream" novels.

If a reader is so offended by religious fiction (especially fiction that's offered for free) so as to leave a negative review when she's picked up it by accident, I think the onus is on that reader to figure out which publishers and/or authors to avoid. That goes for other genres as well, of course, like erotica.
Susan Higginbotham
Coming in October: The Woodvilles


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Misfit
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Post by Misfit » Sat August 6th, 2011, 6:48 pm

You really can't judge a book by its cover. I've seen books that scream sex sex sex and they are quite tame, as well as covers that promise a tamer story and are nothing but sex sex sex. Blame the publishers for making an unwise choice, but geez don't knock the author or the book for it. I've paid the price of impulse buys without researching a book.
At home with a good book and the cat...
...is the only place I want to be

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Sat August 6th, 2011, 8:16 pm

Even Christian fiction --it goes by the label 'inspirational', for those who are checking -- comes in genres and categories. Harlequin's inspirational imprint, Steeple Hill, is so completely Protestant in slant that 'priest' was one of the 'no-no words' on an infamous list they used to give their authors. Which left Eastern Orthodox and Espicopalian/Anglican plotlines out in the cold, I guess.

On the other hand, there is the biggest independent Christian publisher, Thomas Nelson. Their fiction is just that -- mainstream fiction. I read a review recently by someone horrified by the lesbian plotline (though not LGBT by any means, it just dealt with the difficulties involved in the interface between liberal/fundamental Christians). And I recently finished a novel set in two times, with a strongly pro-Franciscan, pro-native American, anti-church plot, which I would have liked more if it hadn't been for the author's irritating voice.

Charles Martin is one of the newer lights in their stable who writes Southern fiction that is really gripping, plot-wise. As far as the spiritual element, almost all of the contemporary novels I've read from TN (for my church book group) have a strong message to churchgoers that they need to avoid acting like Pharisees. Which is great, IMHO-- they finally figured out they were preaching to the choir and started sending the message the choir most needed to hear.

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Sat August 6th, 2011, 8:23 pm

[quote=""Mythica""]I don't think they are purposely being sneaky, just that I can see why readers would feel like they were.

All I'm saying is that publishers could make a little more obvious when a novel is Christian Fiction.[/quote]
Why? Every novel is written from SOME worldview. You don't have to share that worldview to enjoy reading a well-written book and think about what the writer has to say. Should Khaled Housseni's Kite Runner be labeled "Muslim Fiction" for those who do not want to hear anything written from a Muslim's point of view? Or Marion Zimmer Bradley's Avalon series stamped with 'warning: anti-Christian novel'? Maybe the Twilight novels ought to be marketed as 'Mormon Fiction' since the writer's views on morality, sex, and the soul are clearly informed by her church.

All I want from a novel is to be entertained. Some books offend me--erotica, for one, or books with characters whose actions fly in the face of reality. I stop reading at the point I realize the book isn't a match, and if the cost is a consideration, then check the reviews, make note of what else the author produces, and don't buy more of the same.

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Mythica
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Post by Mythica » Sat August 6th, 2011, 9:47 pm

[quote=""MLE""]Why? Every novel is written from SOME worldview. You don't have to share that worldview to enjoy reading a well-written book and think about what the writer has to say.[/quote]

Any product should be marketed effectively to the correct demographic. If you've got a LOT of people accidently picking up the wrong product for them, it's time to stop and ask yourself why. Particularly on something like religion where people have very strong feelings on the subject - you want to get your demographic right.
Should Khaled Housseni's Kite Runner be labeled "Muslim Fiction" for those who do not want to hear anything written from a Muslim's point of view? Or Marion Zimmer Bradley's Avalon series stamped with 'warning: anti-Christian novel'? Maybe the Twilight novels ought to be marketed as 'Mormon Fiction' since the writer's views on morality, sex, and the soul are clearly informed by her church.
I haven't read any of them so I really can't say. There is a difference between fiction about religion and fiction with a religious message though, if that applies. Mormons consider themselves Christian so I imagine books with Mormon messages would fall under Christian Fiction. But hey, there's a huge sub-genre of Amish Fiction so if there's a market for Mormon Fiction, why not?

I'm sorry if I've offended anyone, I have no problem with Christian Fiction and I haven't slated any Christian books in reviews simply for being Christian. I don't understand what is so controversial about suggesting that Christian Fiction is marketed better as Christian Fiction.

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Misfit
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Post by Misfit » Sat August 6th, 2011, 9:58 pm

Perhaps we can get back on topic? Or I can start a new thread under the debate/rant section?
At home with a good book and the cat...
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Miss Moppet
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Post by Miss Moppet » Mon August 8th, 2011, 1:37 am

[quote=""Carla""]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.[/quote]

What Carla said. I do think there's a difference between traditional reviewing - writing a standalone review for a print publication - and reviewing at a site like Goodreads or Amazon where your review will be one among many. I usually do three versions of my reviews - a long one, usually with quotes, on my blog, a shorter one for GR and shortest of all for Amazon, on the grounds that the more reviews people have to compare mine too, the less they need to hear from me.

I also think blogging is much more personal than traditional journalism, and so reviews have an altogether different flavour. I'm always interested to learn whether the blogger got given the book when she was ten by her grandma, read it under the covers with a flashlight when she was fifteen, found it in the bargain bin for a few pence and thought it looked interesting, or has been waiting breathlessly for five years for it to come out. I wouldn't expect that sort of detail from a review for a magazine, online or print.

I find rules #2 and #3 a bit confusing TBH. I prefer to stick to Florence King's two essentials for book reviewing: "what the book is about, and what the reviewer thinks of it." As discussed, at GR etc you need less of the former since there's plenty of information as to what the book is about.

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wendy
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Post by wendy » Tue September 6th, 2011, 12:40 pm

[quote=""annis""]Reviewers who enjoy letting loose their scathing wit in the Croker style might have to think twice in light of this recent ruling on a review judged malicious and inaccurate.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-14306115[/quote]

It's easy to spot the "malicious and inaccurate" review by the length of the rant. And a quick check on the reviewer's website usually uncovers the source of their bias and their own personal agenda!

I love this quote from John Grisham (Author's Note from "The Confession"):

"Some overly observant readers may stumble across a fact or two that might appear to be in error. They may consider writing me letters to point out my shortcomings. They should conserve paper. There are mistakes in this book, as always . . . . My hope is that the errors are insignificant in nature."

What other come-back has a professional writer got?

Poor Keates . . . .
Wendy K. Perriman
Fire on Dark Water (Penguin, 2011)
http://www.wendyperriman.com
http://www.FireOnDarkWater.com

writerinthenorth
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Confessions of a reviewer

Post by writerinthenorth » Thu January 12th, 2012, 11:16 am

I have to admit I never recap the story in any review I ever write. As a reader of reviews I find this boring and slightly irritating, especially if there are spoilers. It would also bore me to write a precis of the story when what I want to do is to make some observations on the writing. If I'm commissioned to write a review, which occasionally happens for magazines, I do try to provide some narrative context, but not to the extent of a book synopsis. I'm not saying my way is the right way - it's just that I choose to write reviews the way I choose to read them.

Writer in the North

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