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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Reviews vs Critique

“A review is NOT a critique.” The lady sitting next to me said in a firm tone as I listened with the utmost interest. You see the lady I had the privilege to chat with, is a well-known reviewer who has reviewed NY bestsellers before I even started writing novels, hence every word coming out of her mouth about books --yes every word-- was worth listening, understanding, pondering, and applying. Considering the number of participles—ing words--I am glad this post is not a submission to be reviewed.

“So how do you compare critique and reviews?”

“You don’t.”

“Ah.” I wasn’t going to argue and ask silly questions.

“A critique is done on a work-in-progress. The critique partner is expected to carefully read the submission, analyze it, dissect it, and point the author to the things that need corrections. A critique is not about flattering your best friend, it’s about being honest and helping an author improve her writing. No one except you and your CP is going to read the comments. But a review is a very different thing.”

“So what exactly is a review?” I said to encourage the famous reviewer to elaborate on reviews.

“Remember a review is done on a book already published. A reviewer cannot change the book by giving advice, therefore a reviewer should abstain from saying negative things about a published book. A good reviewer should restrict herself to highlight the points she likes in a book.”

“Do I understand you right? A review should always been good?”

“Yes, a review is supposed to help sell the book. Therefore a good reviewer will abstain from mentioning things she doesn’t like. Remember, reading and judging a story is so subjective and will depend on the reader’s taste. What I don’t like as a reviewer, another reader may like. A good reviewer should never destroy a book with nasty comments.”

“Interesting. You have a good point here. So what do you do if you really think the story is poorly written?”

“If I have nothing good to say about a book, I don’t review it.”

“What if you have committed to review it and discover mid-way, you don’t approve of the writing?”

“If I am already committed to review it and my employer is expecting a review, I will grade it, give it a 2 or a 3, but I will still say something good about it. Let’s face if there was absolutely nothing a reader may like about that book, the publisher wouldn’t have published it.”

“So you have never trash a book?”

“Never. By trashing a book, one would trash not only the author, but also the editor and the publisher. Trashing a book means that the reviewer is a bad reviewer who has a streak of nastiness and should not be allowed to review books.”

“Wow, I like that. I wish you could review my books.” It never hurts to try to get a review when one is guaranteed good review.

“Nope. I never review authors I know or met before,” the lady said with a peremptory tone and a sweet smile.

Have you ever received a bad review? I did from readers determined to hurt my book and promote others' as is the case with this last review I received on Amazon from 'Not Telling' who wrote: "Skip this and go find real Greek romances by Sarah Morgan and Abby Green." Two HQ Presents authors. If she likes Harlequin romances why is she reading my books?! I read Sarah Morgan. She's a wonderful writer, USA Today bestselling author, and 2012 Rita Finalist. Wow, to be compared to her, even in a negative way is fabulous, but the reviewer has no right to promote her authors on my review and denigrate me in doing so.

In that case, remember your book is good but your reviewer is bad.

Example of great review:
Amazing! By LAS Reviewer: "Babies in the Bargain was just amazing! It started out very dramatic and got my attention from the first paragraph."
http://tinyurl.com/6mcd6e3

Unforgettable By Seniorcitizen
"This is a five star plus from Mona Risk. Pulled me in within the first chapter of Right Name, Wrong Man, and kept me hooked. And oh, that night in Paris in a Heavy rainstorm - I just had to re- read it several times for the sheer pleasure of it. I couldn't have imagined it any better. "
http://tinyurl.com/85o4wg7


Highly recommend this book!! By Brenda
 "LOVED This story!!! Very well thought out and flowed so perfectly!"

Breathtaking Setting for a Scintillating Romance!"The tenderness melded with fiery passion in 'Her Greek Romance' is perfect for that gorgeous setting."~Beth Trissel
http://tinyurl.com/6lnbcuv



37 comments:

  1. Mona,
    The reviewer made some interesting comments. She has a very positive attitude and adhers to the adage "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

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    1. JH has been a RT reviewer for more than 30 years and reviewed the Heather Graham, Nora Roberts and similar ladies.

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  2. I like the sound of your lady reviewer!

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    1. Thanks, I will let her know. She is a good friend but never reviews friends.

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  3. Mona--I love this! Maybe we knew the difference if we'd thought about it, but I honestly hadn't. Of course, they're not the same thing.
    I also love the reviewer's stance about reviewing books. The woman has class. Perhaps a few of the "reviewers" on Amazon should take note of how others view them when they trash a book.
    And...a critic is different from the reviewer and the critiquer--right?

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    1. Some of my nasty reviewers could learn a lesson here. When I review a book I remind myself of her words. A critique should point the bad and help fix it. A reviewer should emphasize the good.

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  4. Good advice from an expert. Thanks for sharing. I enjoy leaving reviews for books I've read and enjoyed--and I do so as a kind of "thank you" to the author who swept me away, engaged my emotions and, hopefully, taught me something. For me, it's a private dialog between the reader and the author and also a sharing of something good with potential readers.

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    1. Vonnie, you are another classy lady with your concept of saying 'thank you' to the reader for entertaining you.

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  5. Excellent. I do think reviewers can say if a book didn't appeal to her/him, but that doesn't mean trashing it. I don't have time to write negative reviews. My fav books would bore some folks to tears.

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    1. Mary, many 'different' books are difficult to accept and understand by the vast majority. Good for you for being different.

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  6. Mona, you've had some great reviews from well-respected sites. Congratulations! Keep those great books coming and we'll keep reading.

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    1. Thank you Caroline. You made my day with your good review.

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  7. Thanks for posting this. I totally agree, but as a writer it is often difficult to step back from critique mode because we are constantly analysing our own w-i-p. Another thing I find difficult is to add a tight phrase to reviews I do that the author can grab and use. Reviewers who can do this so effortlessly I really admire.

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    1. Hi Linda, when I read I usually underline in a paperbook, or I highligh when I read on my Kindle to keep track of the pagragraphs or pages that I like. Or I make note not to repeat a mistake made by the author. But when I review all I think about are the items that attracted me to the book. Especially that readers have different tastes. I am not a fan of vampire stories, yet there are some great ones. We can't be partial when reviewing or judging.

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  8. Very insightful. Excellent topic.

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  9. I have to disagree. As an avid reader in many genres, I want readers to share what they didn't like as well as what they liked. I have a very long reading list and limited time so I want the truth about whether it will be worth my time. This is not the same as trashing a book. I never trash a book. I do leave thoughts about what I didn't like but only along with and focused on the good parts.

    As an author, I want to know what a reader didn't like (as long as they're honest and not scathing for no good reason) along with what they liked. We all have room for improvement. We should acknowledge that. How do you grow as a writer otherwise?

    However, there's always, always a nice way to say something! If you can't figure out a nice way to say it, then don't say it.

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    1. Hi Loraine, I usually don't check reviews before buying a book because I don't want other people's taste to influence me. In my opinion, reviews are not meant to improve a writer's style. She/he has workshops, contests, critique partners, and editors to do that.
      You are so right. Yes, there is always a nice way to express onself. A reviewer who trashes a book only reveals her lack of education and manners. It's like insulting someone in a conference or party.

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  10. I agree about not trashing a book. Mentioning that the pace felt slow or that a character was too whiny for my taste or that the end felt rushed is not trashing. Smart readers will know if those things matter to them or not. It helps them vet out what they will or won't enjoy. That's the whole point of a review. I don't want to pay $15 for a book that got only good reviews because bad reviews are verboten only to be annoyed about wasting my money.

    Honestly, I'd rather have reader opinions than opinions of editors and other writers. They're the ones paying me to work!

    Of course we all have different likes but all book blurbs are made to make them sound wonderful. I want more than that. ;-) Those nasty reviews, I ignore. They mean nothing. It's the intelligent reviews I appreciate. All artists open themselves to criticism when they put their work out there. It's part of the game.

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  11. Hi Loraine, I am sorry about my previous comment. I deleted and changed it, in order not to be blunt. I wrote this post because a friend of mine was hurt by a nasty review yesterday and I got my share as I mentioned.

    If I have to look for perfetion in a book and then be totally honest in my review, practically no books will garner a five stars.

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    1. Ah, nasty is prevalent these days and it's sad. It's not only with books but everywhere and it's hard to shake off. Sorry about your friend and your own. Maybe we should bring back tar and feathering for those who need to be knocked down a peg. ;-)

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  12. I really liked this post because I tend to agree wholeheartedly with your friend the reviewer. I feel the same way when it comes to reading a book. I know it might not be my cup of tea...the writing might not even be perfect, but if I can read the story and am entertained in any way then I can review it with a positive attitude. I don't even write one for a book I can't read.

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    1. Mimi, THANK YOU. You said in few words exactly how I feel.

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  13. Mona,

    I totally agree with what this reviewer said. The system is set up to sell books. Trashing a book hurts the industry and doesn't help anyone.

    At first I was reluctant to review books. I didn't want to inadvertently say anything that would hurt someone's career. Then I hit upon a similar strategy as your reviewer friend: say something positive.

    That's good manners at work.

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  14. Hi Maggie, I like your way of thinking. A book is not a camera or a car, or a product, that can hurt the consumer if not functioning properly and you feel it's your duty to report a defect.

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  15. Fascinating comments from the reviewer. I think this just shows the difference between a professional reviewer who understands and respects authors and fiction and people whose motives are less charitable.

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    1. Hi Helen I wouldn't call them 'lesss than charitable', but downright nasty, determined to hurt and depress.

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  16. So the moral of the story is...if you meet a reviewer you want to look at your book you walk away! Great post, Mona.

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    1. Nancy, I'm laughing, because maybe you're right!

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  17. Mona, I'm in agreement with what the reviewer said and that's how I try to approach my reviews. I loved the insights between critiques and reviews. Spot on, I say.

    smiles
    Steph

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    1. Hi Steph, your reviews are so professional I wonder why you don't do it as a part time, I mean real job.

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  18. Excellent information from a professional reviewer. I hate the snarky ones on Amazon that seem to come from non-published wannabes who IMO are jealous. Great post!

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    1. Thank you Tanya. That is exactly my thinking.

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  19. Only just spotted this but had to comment. It's such sound advice from your reviewer friend, Mona.

    Being able to formulate aspects you - personally - don't like in a polite, constructive manner is a rare sight on Amazon, Goodreads, etc.

    I occasionally review (under my real name) for the Historical Novel Society and have previously returned books I couldn't get into. This gives the co-ordinator the chance to send it to another reader who might appreciate the style I didn't like. Posting nasty remarks and even pointing potential readers to other authors is way below the belt. A tough pill to swallow, but then we're all grown up - and move on.

    Thanks for sharing.

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  20. Is there any way of reporting this to Amazon, as it is clearly an unethical practice?

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  21. Hi Cathy, I'm quite late discovering your comment that was waiting for moderation. Returning a book is another way to handle a book you don't like. When I get a nasty review, like you I try to swallow it, and hope that other readers may enjoy my story.

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  22. Hi Kimm, I tried to report it to Amazon, but they said they will not remove any reviews unless it's flaming language.

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