20 November 2008

My Blog, Review Copies, Honest Criticism

I haven't participated in Booking Through Thursday before, but I do read the posts of some who do regularly. Today Ted's post caught my attention.

I received a review copy yesterday and I started reading it today. Someday I will post about it. But, like Ted, I have no obligation to write niceties about a book simply because the publisher or publicist gave me a copy. When I first started writing reviews, I tended to be very harsh in reviewing books that I didn't like. I have soften that somewhat -- not because I don't want to hurt the author's feeling, but because I don't want my blog to be a snark-fest. That doesn't mean that one can't be critical, however. If I choose to write about a book -- whether it is a review copy given gratis or a book I have purchased -- I will write about it honestly. As Ted writes in his post: This is my blog.

Only once have I had an author comment about a negative review. The comment was very simple; paraphrasing, it was something like: I'm disappointed you didn't like my book. It pained me at first to read that. I thought: Oh, he actually read my blog. I might have hurt his feelings. Then I recovered, realizing that he shouldn't -- who knows, maybe didn't -- expect all reviews to be positive.

Upon further reflection, I realized that I was not only disappointed in the book, but disappointed in the author's comment. I wish that he had addressed some of the issues I had brought up (this was a non-fiction book, and I questioned his approach and assumptions). It seems like there was a lost opportunity there.

I don't get too many requests to review books. I do get review copies sometimes through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer Program, and occasionally through a program offered by Harper-Collins. I have been approached a few times, but I've been wary about accepting them. When I first started blogging, I had someone, who appeared to be a publicist, request that I review a book. I agreed, but was astonished at how amateurish the book was. I didn't finish reading it and I never posted. I figured that if it wasn't published professionally, a negative review might not be accepted in a professional manner either. I never regretted not having reviewed the book.


Ted said...

Thanks for the link. Yes, this buzz is really making its way around the web, isn't it? For a while I had found myself thinking that I wish I could accept more of the requests to read books from people. Given what I have been hearing about other peoples' experiences, now I'm glad that I haven't!

Dorothy W. said...

Your post makes so much sense. I'm totally annoyed by those who feel they owe authors/publishers anything when they accept a review copy, except an honest attempt to read and review the book (attempt, not necessarily fulfillment). I'm reading bloggers who tell publishers they didn't like the book and then agree to refrain from reviewing it! I can't imagine communicating with a publisher in that way. Anyway, I must stop getting annoyed about this :)

Cam said...

I agree that we how the artist/author an honest attempt. I think that one can disagree or dislike a work without showing contempt. What I think is dishonest and unfair, as Ted points out in his post, is not respecting the efforts put into the creation of the work.

I can't imagine telling a publisher I'd refrain from reviewing, or telling a restauranteur that I wouldn't give a good rating, or suggesting someone go to an art exhibit that wasn't up to par. You'd lose any credibility in doing that.