There is a certain amount of vulnerability in submitting a book for review. I’ve been there. You hand your work–your time, your sweat, your soul–off to a stranger so they can pass judgement on it. It’s like standing naked before a large audience, and there’s no guarantee that what they say will be positive. Every time I do it, part of me wants to say, “I’m fragile! Please handle with care!” But that doesn’t always happen.
As a writer, I’ve learned to develop a thick skin. I expect criticism. I even go looking for it. I know I’ll never become a better writer without it. But when the book is done, when the editing has ended, the flaws are fixed, the prose is perfect, at that point I really want to hear good things. Opinions vary widely, of course. Not everyone will like my subject, my style, my characters, my plot. The world would be a boring place if we were all the same. I tell myself this. I prepare for it. But when I get a bad review, it’s still difficult.
Perhaps having my own work criticized has made me a better reviewer. More balanced, more polite. Even when I don’t like a particular book, I try to find something worth commending in it, and I like to back up my dislikes with examples or solid reasoning. I want my reviews, even the bad ones, to be constructive.
But objectivity can get really difficult when an author gifts me a book and asks for a review. When I’ve had personal contact with an author I feel more pressure to give a good review. I don’t expect this of reviewers I contact, and I know it’s not expected of me, but it can be really hard to let down someone I’ve “met.” A review is worthless, however, if it isn’t honest, so I point out the bad AND the good, and I try to do it in a way as helpful as possible.
This policy has held me in good stead. I’ve met some neat people, made some great contacts, and even made some friends despite reviews that aren’t always one hundred percent positive. All because of a simple word called respect.
This entire reflective post was prompted by an incident that happened last month that could have ended badly but turned out to be a fairly positive experience. I was gifted a book that I really enjoyed at first, and then my attention wavered. It was an odd case. Usually the books I put down are of poor quality and never make it onto this blog. This book was quite well-written, but the setting was losing me and I did eventually put the book down. It was a matter of personal opinion. But of course that’s hard for anyone to hear, and this happened to be the first negative review this author had received. The blow was softened, however, by the inclusion of the good with the bad, and by the very short list of typos I passed along. Overall, the rejection was easier to take because it came with a dose of courtesy, respect, and honest goodwill. I think the contact was professional and gracious on both sides, and I really enjoyed meeting another author. I wish her all the best.
Because this was a new release, the author didn’t want the negative reviews posted on Amazon and Goodreads–yet. And I can respect that. But I still wanted to post it on my blog because it is such an interesting case. I bet you’re really curious now, aren’t you? I won’t disappoint you.
The Sound and The Echoes, by Dew Pellucid, 2012, Book Review
This story has a great premise. Every life in our world has a matching life in another world. Sort of like how every picture has a negative. We are the Sounds; they are the Echoes. And according to Echo law, if a Sound dies, the Echo must be put to death. Unfortunately for 12-year-old Will Cleary, his Echo is the crown prince of the Echo realm. And the easiest way for political schemers to remove the prince…is to kill Will.
The book opens with a very engaging note from the author, a participant in the story, inviting the reader into the Echo realm. It’s laden with hints and foreshadowing. I was hooked at once. The first chapters are also very well-written, with just enough information given and just enough withheld. But as the story progressed and the pace slackened, I began to lose interest. I finally put the book down at 57%.
This is so unfortunate, because Ms. Pellucid has a fabulous writing style. It’s a very pretty style, with lots of imagery and an easy-to-read word flow. But the plot’s momentum began to slow, and I was having a hard time assimilating all the unfamiliar details of the Echo realm. Eventually, I simply disengaged.
I do have to mention the fabulous artwork within the book. And I want to mention that the content is perfectly appropriate for kids. I really appreciate that, along with all the hard work the author put into a professional product. I don’t want to turn people off to trying it, because it is very unique. But I also need be honest and say that it lost me before the end.
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Ages 10+
If you’d like to make your own judgement call about The Sound and the Echoes, you can purchase the ebook here, or the paperback here.
Now some questions for you, fellow bloggers: Do you accept review submissions? Do you accept indie submissions? Have you ever had to tell an author you didn’t like their work? How’d you handle it?