Tuesday, September 27, 2005

When reviews are wrong....

The reviews have started to come in for my next book. Most are wonderful (yeah, because I wound up throwing out at least half of the book and rewriting it -- good to know that effort was worth it), but there's one that has me muttering, "Huh? Did you actually read my book, or did you just skim it?"

I know this happens, because how else could a reviewer describe one of my heroes as "lisping?" The guy's voice box had been crushed in an assassination attempt, so he could only speak in a low rasp. That's not lisping as I understand the term. I've had other errors in terms of story events in other reviews, too (one had the setting off by a couple of centuries!). I can only think the reviewers either skimmed, or made lousy notes.

And here's the thing:
I can tell when a book was probably skimmed because of the errors in the review but somebody reading the review wouldn't. And sometimes, the reviewer's judgment is clearly biased based on their misconceptions. I've explained something they took issue with, but they apparently missed it completely.

What can an author do? Generally, nothing. To complain about a negative review, to imply that the reviewer "got it wrong" in any way, is to risk withering scorn. It's just sour grapes. If you put your work "out there," you should be prepared for criticism. The reviewer has every right to express his or her opinion.

Sure they do -- but doesn't the author have the right to expect accuracy, at least in terms of what happens in the story? That's not "an opinion." Unfortunately, in the case of a print review, by the time a correction is printed, if ever, the book's been on the shelves for weeks, and in the case of a category romance, may already be gone. So authors just generally grit their teeth and bear it.

Well, for the most part. I was so upset about the mistake made about my rasping hero that I emailed the reviewer. She did alter the review, but it was days after the initial posting. I wrote the reviewer who had the setting wrong, too. I suppose I should be grateful they eventually fixed the reviews, except...nah. If you set yourself up as a reviewer, you should be prepared to do the work -- and that means reading every word of a book you review and making accurate notes. If you don't have the time or inclination to do so, you shouldn't be offering your opinions to the public under the guise of a reviewer. It's not fair to them and it certainly isn't fair to the authors.

And if a reviewer can hardly bear to read past the third page because of the style or premise or any other reason? That should be the review. I think it would pretty much say it all.

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