Hi and welcome to my blog, Julie Eberhart Painter. Please make yourself at home and grab a drink from my hunky cabana boys, Zeke and Jake.
“Gentlemen. (Sigh) Before you read my blog about reviewing, I’d like to answer one question from the interview board: Do you have any guilty pleasures?
“Chocolate, it’s an occupational hazard.”
Why I no longer review books…
Although I can be persuaded to wax joyful over a new literary find, be it author or book, I will no longer review for a reviewer.
The reasons are many, but the focus is the same: I don’t like to criticize already published work. It’s not fair to an author who may have already discovered that he or she has committed the unforgivable information dump or author intrusion sins. Often the sin resides within the publishing house and not with ourselves.
I’m interested in recent period history. I was there and have been blessed with a good memory. I use it in my own period pieces. So if a writer creates a sagging middle (not in the biblical sense) or is lax on research, I catch it. This makes me sad.
When one reviews for a professional reviewing site, two rules make the job harder: one is that the reviewer may be assigned a book he or she would never have picked for pleasure. (The coordinator tries to line the reviewers up with compatible genres, but if the author has slipped into an odd ravine, it could be unappealing to the reviewer and still be enjoyable to customers.) The second problem is editing distractions. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve discovered content and grammar problems with an otherwise okay book but haven’t been allowed to pin the onus on the culprit and say “If the editor hadn’t died on the job, this would be an good book!”
Reviewers should be able to suspend disbelief just as the readers will. But we are a picky lot and can be tough on an otherwise worthy book. That doesn’t just hurt sales; it discourages authors who struggle with bruised egos. Once reviewers pronounce their baby ugly, authors don’t hear anything else. I know, I’ve been on both sides of that wall.
Examples out of my nine books, two of which were taken to the cleaners:
The World, the Flesh and the Devil uses scenes from my great grandfather’s lumber business in central Pennsylvania. The description of the logging camp with the jacks playing a game of “giant fiddlesticks” refers to the logrolling, a serious business. A scandal in a nearby monastery in 1904 happened but not to my heroine who fell in love with her confessor. (One reviewer called the early romance a rape.)
Daughters of the Sea cobbles together via legend my multiple trips to the paradises of the South Pacific. The island folklore creates the impetus for the book and set me up to later write travel articles. The legends make good blurbs describing visual scenes without disorienting the readers. (An impatient retired military reviewer said the plot was too slow, too much detail.) Fortunately, other reviewers enjoyed basking in the sun and believing in the magic of Polynesian myths.
One paranoid idea authors believe about reviewers is that they are paid. Not so. Their bosses are paid; they may be salaried, or be volunteers. Reviewers like to read, and are doing their job not only for you but for the entertainment value.
So…as a recovering reviewer, what advice would I give authors? Double check your research, watch your consistency in spelling, and selecting characters’ names. Make sure that logic prevails then stick to your guns. If authors read over their own work and ask, “I wonder what I meant by that?” and then dismiss it—MISTAKE. Go back into that sentence long before the content editor sees it, and make it work. Editors can begin to trust an author they’ve liked and let an error slip by.
One last reminder to authors: reviewers are not your adversaries. They are your readers. Most are not failed writers or picky patrons; they provide doorways to additional sales. Protect yourselves and then forgive the obviously harried ones.
And never ask to have a review taken down. You look like a crybaby. Just live with it, and be sure you solicit other reviews that counter the bad review. You’ll soon discover that any publicity is good publicity.
Thanks for coming. Is there anything else you want to add?
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About the Author:
Julie Eberhart Painter, a native of Bucks County, Pennsylvania and has nine books published. The tenth will release in January 2014. Previously, Julie worked with nursing homes as a volunteer coordinator and later as a community ombudsman. She spent eighteen years with a local hospice in Port Orange, Florida, now her hometown.
She is a regular blogger on The Writers Vineyard, www.thewriterbeat.com, and a columnist at Cocktails, Fiction and Gossip Magazine, a quarterly online slick. She’s a frequent blogger on http://thewriterbeat.com, were nothing is sacred.