Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Why I Rarely Rate/Review Books Online

I have steered clear of this topic for so long because it's very taboo for authors and especially YA authors and there was this whole thing on Goodreads back in January....

I'm not going to relive January's drama here today, but I'm also not going to shy away from taboo topics anymore. Call it the new me, call it whatever you want but the truth is, slowly I've become aware of the fact that I have very little to hide. And I might even have some important things to say.

But again, just like my posts on Things You Need to Know Before Meeting an Author, I can't speak for other authors, not even other YA authors. I can only tell you my thoughts/feelings.

[First, I have to change the subject and tell you that if you're reading this before August 25, 2012 then hop over to this post and enter my HUGE giveaway!]

Just like the last Things You Need To Know post, I'm going to diffuse some myths and weave that with movie quotes.

Myths Relating To Authors Rating/Reviewing Books Online
 

Myth #1- Authors Only Talk About Their Friends' Books


"He does dress better than me...what would I bring to the relationship?"--Clueless

Yes, if I have a friend who is also an author and I like their book I'm going to talk about it, but guess what? I'm also going to tell you...hey, this is my good bud's book and I like it and you guys should check it out. I'm not going to make it sound like we're perfect strangers and I just stumbled on their book on my own. I have made some awesome author friends along my road but 99% of the time, I read their book, LOVED it and wanted to fangirl them and because we are both writing books, this led to friendship.

As far as the authors who wrote blurbs for Tempest, I didn't know any of them personally before they read and blurbed Tempest. BUT after...once I got un-shocked and un-nervous, and more gutsy, I found a way to thank them (twitter, email, FB, ect...) and that led to friendship in several cases. For example Courtney Summers' books were a very early influence on my writing. She is still one of my favorite contemporary YA authors. And guess what? She wrote the very first blurb for Tempest. I got teary when I read the email from my editor, from her.


 THEN, I got to read THIS IS NOT A TEST very early and then her editor asked ME to write a blurb for that book (which I totally, totally went nuts over) and it was just an amazing moment because it was actually the first book I was ever asked to blurb and her blurb was the first ever I received for one of my books so yeah...

But from the outside, it looks like two St. Martin's authors decided to promote each other which is true because we are two YA authors publishing books with St. Martin's Press, but its so much more than that. So, when you make these connections and assume authors are just helping their friends so that they reciprocate and everybody sells more books, there might be a little more going on under the surface.

Myth #2- Authors Make The Best Book Critics

"Why should I listen to you, anyway? You're a virgin who can't drive."--Clueless

Yes, authors are readers to, but some of us, like me, can't explain or put into words the choices we make in creating a story or the reason we showed certain scenes or why a character is a certain way and therefore, we can't always verbally explain why we like a book or didn't like it. Most of the time, it's easier to explain why you don't like a book than when you do like it. I'm very good at suggesting books. If I know what someone has already read and liked, chances are I can come up with a good next-book-choice. I can even cross TV shows and movies with books and make suggestions.  

But that doesn't mean I'm capable of writing a formal, fancy review like a seasoned book blogger. Most of the time book bloggers are more up-to-speed about upcoming titles and release dates and all of that.

Myth #3-All Authors Want More Money And Promoting Good Books Will Hurt Their Own Sales


"Sometimes you have to show a little skin. This reminds boys of being naked and then they think of sex."--Clueless 
I totally don't think like this. Maybe I should? But I doubt it's within my abilities to worry about books I mention getting ahead of my stuff as far as sales and awards. Plus, choosing a book isn't like choosing a cell phone company...you don't have to sign a two year contract with one title and it's impossible to read any other books. Yeah, it would be weird for an AT&T worker to suddenly start tweeting about how awesome T-Mobile is, but books aren't like that. I've found that once you open the door for someone to discover an awesome book in the YA genre then they just want more. And if I lead them to one book and they don't choose to read my book, there's a chance they're still going to mention it to someone who likes time travel or something along those lines.

Every. Single. Week there are 10 titles listed on the NYT Children's Hardcover Fiction list and 10 titles on the NYT Children's Paperback fiction list. Every week. That's a lot of books that get to be famous for a short or long time. That's a lot of authors who get to wear the title NYT Best Selling Author for life.

Some people think authors might be afraid to promote a book that is similar to their book, like another time travel for me or a YA Sci-fi....well guess what? I know for a fact that the reason Beth Revis, NYT Best Selling Author of the Across The Universe series decided to read Tempest with the potential to blurb (and no, I didn't know her personally before that and yes, I consider her a friend now) is because she, as a reader, was seeking out more YA sci-fi and couldn't find enough. So, that inspired her to write a YA sci-fi series and of course, getting an email from an editor asking for a potential blurb and seeing that its a YA sci-fi book is going to spark her interest because she WANTS to see the sub-genre bloom. She wants more of those books out there for kids to read. Cause if you like Tempest there's a good chance you'll enjoy Across The Universe. And the other way around.

 

But none of the above mentioned details changes the fact that I just plain old LOVE talking about books with people. It's a passion and it started forever ago. I would never ever get tired of talking YA books with someone who also enjoys YA books.

The Real Reasons I've Avoided Rating/Reviewing Books Online

"I don't want to do this anymore. And my buns: they don't feel nothing like steel."--Clueless
1) It Hurts So Good--First off, saying I don't like something, hits close to home for me because I know 100% how much goes into creating a story and I just find it truly hard to trash another person's work

2) It's Gotta Be Someone's Favorite--Hardly ever do I come across a YA book that I can't find an audience for. There's a lot of books I didn't enjoy myself or couldn't finish for whatever reason, but I know exactly the type of reader that would enjoy that book so it makes rating really hard, because do I rate on my own taste? Doesn't seem fair to me

3) My Guilty Pleasures--Tempest is an intense epic series to write which is why, in my TV viewing choices I often find myself watching Dance Moms and Glee and DCOM movies because my brain just wants that guilty pleasure, take me away, soaking in the bubble bath, I can fold laundry and still watch it, feeling. So if that's what I'm in the mood to read, too do I give the fluffy fun books all 5 stars and get bored with the in-depth literary or too emotional to finish the epic YA and give them all 1 star ratings? Nope. Do I think book bloggers should do that? Honestly, book bloggers are great and they will do what they want to do no matter what I suggest and recommend. I think any review helps spread buzz about a title so in that respect, book bloggers/Goodreads reviewers are getting it done. And I love them for that.

4) So You Like Her Better Than Me?--I worry about mentioning one author and not another...but sometimes a book inspires me to talk about it online for a specific reason (and no, not just because it's my friend! Or maybe but, like I said, I'm upfront about it) and I often stop myself before I post about it because I think of all the other books I've not blogged about.

This Is Me Turning Over A New Leaf

"Until mankind is peaceful enough not to have violence on the news, there's no point in taking it out of shows that need it for entertainment value."--Clueless
I've let the Perfect 10 shoulder the weight of reviews on my blog for months now and that time is done. I still want them to review like crazy of course, but I'd like to join them now and I'm done being worried about the above mentioned items, though I still probably won't score or rate. I've gone back and forth about blogging as a different identity because truth be told, I love to read...I read 2-3 books a week and they are YA titles 99.99% of the time. But I'm not good at pretending to be someone else. I just want to speak freely as myself.

I don't care if I've structured my review properly and I don't care if everyone's going to realize I was at an event with ____ author and THAT must be why I'm yapping about that author's book on my blog...or oh! they have the same agent or whatever. Make up all the rumors you want. I don't mind. If I meet an author and that inspires me to want to read their book, then I'm totally going to put that in my review because guess what? That's a cool thing to brag about.

And here's the other thing to admit, I have met authors whom I thought were such awesome people but their book didn't end up on my favorites list. It happens. Do I like them less? Hell no. Unless they write about teens who are baby killers and get away with it and win the lottery and send the message that baby killers win the lottery and never get caught...that would kind of freak me out.

So now that I've made my big announcement, what book would you like to see me discuss here on my blog? 

6 comments:

  1. I love this. (Plus, the Clueless quotes were an extra bonus.) : ) I made the decision once I got serious about my writing to not do bad reviews. It's just not worth the drama it can cause author to author. However, like you, I love to read and love sharing books. So I still recommend books that I love on my site and rate books on goodreads. And no, not just friends books. If I can't give something higher than a three, the I don't blog about it and I just mark it as read on GR without a rating. I'll leave the tough reviews to the book bloggers. But I do like your idea of just writing your feelings about a book without necessarily rating it and giving an idea of what kinds of readers would enjoy it. :)

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  2. I understand your comments, and say that I agree with most of what you say. However, I operate on a slightly different set of rules. I review when I want. If I think the work is good, I say so. If I think it lacks skill, I tend to hold my tongue. In those cases, I have usually settled for tactfully suggesting problems that need correcting.

    I only review when I can do so favorably. I get no kicks out of trashing someone's work. There's always a curmudgeon out there who will do that for me, at no charge. But I do like seeing good authors praised for their works, and enjoy giving a good, well-deserved review when it is appropriate.

    Natalia Darque

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    1. yeah, I still don't have it in me to trash a book, even with the whole turning over a new leaf bit. it's just not me. I will find positives and suggest who I think might like the book, "Fans of John Green..."

      But honestly, I stopped doing even positive reviews for nearly two years. So, I'm ending that now.

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  3. great write-up of a tricky issue. Love the breakdown of myths.

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  4. Seriously, I love your insightful posts. And Clueless! <3 As a book blogger, I actually find it hard to rate also. Because I don't know on what terms should I rate. Is it about how much I enjoyed the book or about the technical stuff. Because I admit I loved books which weren't really THAT good but it just had a place in my heart. Another problem would be I rated this book for example, 3 stars. And then after some time, I will realized that I should have given it a different score. Should I change that or should I just go on? So many dilemmas haha!

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  5. When I write my reviews I always state why I like/love or disliked about the book, making sure to enforce these are my own opinions and unless you have the same dislikes as me you probably will like it. I hate not liking a book and trying to figure out how to positively write a review, I never want to trash an authors hard work. On my blog I don't even put a star rating to them, on GR, Amazon and Library Thing I do the star rating and if I'm in the half range I will usually be generous and go up to the full star.

    As to the question, no idea what I would like to see you discuss.

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