Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Reviewing the Situation

A former skip tracer crosses paths with a beautiful con artist and learns that trouble in paradise would be easier to resist if she didn’t have such great legs.
PHOTO FINISH by Terry Ambrose

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Talk about trouble in paradise. Today, Reds, The "r" word. Reviews. I have heard some authors insist they never read them. I cannot believe this. However, I bet it would be healthier. So we all look at it (except for Hallie, another cross-over) from the standpoint of the author. But how about from the standpoint of the person who's sitting (and writing) in judgement?
Here's Terry Ambrose, who writes reviews for Examiner.com. He's also a Guppy, right? And his first novel is just out--hurray! And more about that below...including a giveaway! But first, he's gonna tell the Reds all his secrets.
(And oh--I asked my husband to choose a winner--he closed his eyes, pointed..and picked Dru! So Dru wins THE OTHER WOMAN! Dru, email me your address!)
And now Terry Ambrose has:

The Good News--and the Bad News

When Hank asked me to write a post about being a book reviewer, my first reaction was,
“Uh, okay, but what would I--"
Then, Hank started asking questions. How do you get books to read? How do you choose them? What if you hate them?
And that got me to thinking about some of the books I’ve reviewed that really weren’t, shall we say, my cup of tea. Before I answer the question of how I handle those books I don’t fall in love with, let’s start at the beginning with how a book might land in my lap for a review.
I’m a freelance writer for Examiner.com and write book reviews for a NationalCrime Fiction column. Some writers seek me out when they’re looking for a review. Sometimes, I’ll learn about a writer from a different source and may approach them.
When I seek out an author, I have a good idea of what I’m getting because I’ll have researched the book or seen the PR materials that describe it. However, when they find me, I may not have any details about their book. The good news is that sometimes, this means I get a delightful surprise and find a new writer that I love. And then there’s the bad news.
Let’s just say that everyone has books that someone raves about, but that they don’t like. When that happens with a book that I’m reviewing, I’ll typically have “The Talk” with the author—take an honest review or forget the whole deal. The bottom line is that I won’t lie about a book. But, if the author is willing to accept a less-than-stellar review that points out the strengths and weaknesses of the book, then I’m willing to write it up.
Unfortunately, the rise in self-publishing has allowed anyone—no matter how ill-qualified they might be—to write about any topic of their choice. I’d also like to add that I am not a reviewer who claims to know everything or whose judgement is flawless. I am, however, very picky about what I like. And, if  I don’t like a book, during The Talk, I’ll explain to the author that my goal is not to destroy their career, but to give potential readers enough information to make informed decisions.
That brings me to the question of how an author might improve their chances of getting a good review. Actually, it’s pretty simple. Other than the over-used cliche of “write a great book,” it’s mostly a matter of doing some “homework.” Many first-time authors start out by finishing their masterpiece, having their mom read it, and then publishing. Okay, that may be a bit unfair, but when a book has one typo or grammatical mistake every ten pages, something’s wrong.
So, my suggestion for authors in how to get a good review is to widen your circle of readers. Find people with whom you are not close friends, i.e., people who have no stake in making you happy.And have them be honest. Secondly, make sure those people are decent spellers and know grammar basics.
What if you’re an author who's getting ready to publish, but want to start obtaining reviews in advance? Easy. Just tell the reviewer that this is a pre-production copy and that there may be typos. For me, as a reviewer, that’s not a problem. And, as a bonus to the author, I’ll probably send them notes as I come across those pesky errors. Why would I do that? Because if I like the book, I want an assurance from the writer that he will help reinforce my reputation by correcting those errors.

As someone who’s just crossed the line from reviewer to author, I find myself in the dubious position of seeking reviews for my own debut novel. Suddenly, I’m on the other end of the waiting game and hoping that some reviewer somewhere doesn’t decide I need a public flogging. What do you think? Should reviewers be brutal? Is it the reviewer’s job to always find something bad? And, how do you feel when you read a five-star review on a one-star book?

HANK: So, questions for Terry? Now that he's here...he's gotta let us in on everything we always wanted to know...right? And let us ask: Do you read reviews? Which ones? Why? Have you ever wondered how to get a reviewer your book? Have you ever commented on a review? Have you ever written a review? (I was a movie reviewer in 1975 for a TV station--I was so intimidated by the responsibility!) And Terry--does being an author change the way your review others' books?
And the Reds are giving away a copy of PHOTO FINISH to one lucky commenter!

Terry Ambrose is a writer at heart.He started out skip tracing and collecting money from deadbeats and quicklylearned that liars come from all walks of life. He never actually stole a car,but sometimes hired big guys with tow trucks and a penchant for working in thedark when “negotiations” failed.
A resident of Southern California, he loves spending time in Hawaii, especially on the Garden Island of Kauai, wherehe invents lies for others to read. His years of chasing deadbeats taught himmany valuable life lessons including—always keep your car in the garage.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Thanks for the information, Terry, and good luck with PHOTO FINISH. As a discussion list moderator and blogger, I receive a handful of books to review. I also review movies, TV, DVDs, and short stories for various sites. I make no promise that I will post a review, so if I really don't like something, I don't review it.

    With an an academic background in writing and teaching, I can hone in on the material and not sound as if I'm grilling the author (because I'm not). I think reviewers have an obligation to give a balanced view of the material, pointing out what they liked, but also pointing out what others might not like (e.g. "The violence may be too much for some, but I found it appropriate to the story"). Most brutal reviews are the reviewer enjoying the sound of his own disappointed voice.

    I currently have a few ebooks out, and I read the reviews, but I don't respond to them. The quality of a review speaks for itself. I can tell when the reviewer has an ax to grind or is being too positive without addressing the material.

  3. Love your log line, Terry!

    My husband worked as a film critic for a time. He took the guff that critics love to criticize, and was accused of *wanting* all movies to be bad. So not true. He saw 2 movies a week. Who wants to spend that much time watching or reading something awful? He got out of the critic game and went on to the safer and calmer field of crime reporting.

    His newspaper stopped doing book reviews 5 or 6 years ago. They still receive hundreds of review copies, sometimes from publishers but often from the authors themselves. This is a waste, so confirming an outlet actually does book reviews is a good idea!

    I don't want to be the troublemaker who brings up the brouhaha at GoodReads, even though a talented YA author I know has decided to stop publishing her work because of an awful experience with her second novel there. And I certainly don't want to mention that Rotten Tomatoes had to shut down comments for a time on early-release reviews of the new Batman film because of death threats. Both crazy situations.

    About the typos...sing it, brother! Best of luck with Photo Finish.

  4. My first mystery is coming out soon, too, from a small press. Do you have any recommendations on how to find reviewers? Would there be a list out there somewhere?

    And good luck with Photo Finish!

  5. Edith, Meet Terry. Terry, meet Edith. Discuss amongst yourselves. (Although we'd love to hear it...)

  6. Thank you, Terry, for some insight into your process!

    As far as reading/not reading goes, I'll check once in a while to see what's going on, but I accepted a long time ago not every book is for everyone.... even mine..:)

    It's good to know professional reviewers try to be as objective as possible but, and I'm speaking personally here, it all comes down to personal taste. I've read some of the Hot New Bestsellers with glowing reviews and thought, "Huh? Did we read the same book?" Other that didn't receive such reviews I've enjoyed tremendously.

    Do I use reviews when I buy a book? Sometimes, sometimes not. But it's nice to know there are professionals out there!

    Off to check out PHOTO FINISH!

  7. ANd Ramona, when I did movie reviews, it was incredibly conciousness-raising.

    One, I always worried about saying something bad, because I thought about all the people who'd worked on the movie,and how SOMEONE obviously liked it, so who was I? PLus I was 26--so how could I know anything? It felt like I was on the verge of touching something fragile.

    Two, it was MUCH more fun to write a bad review. Weird, huh? It's MUCH easier to be snarky and funny than it is to be thoughtful and insightful. SO I had tone very careful about that. (And I did write bad reviews! I remember saying "A Bridge Too Far is about An Hour Too Long."

    So. All in all. Being a good and fair reviewer is very very tough.
    It made watching movies a completely different experience,know I was going to have to write about it.

  8. Yeah, Gerald, exactly. The "reviewer enjoying the sound of his own disappointed voice" is so perfect. It's very--unfortunate. Because a good review-and by "good" I men fair and well-written--is a valuable thing, and a treat to read.

    The New York Times reviewers, you know? Sometimes their writing is just--brilliant.

  9. Responding to reviews! I'd NEVER. Does anyone?

  10. I usually won't let reviews sway my decision as to if I am going to read a book. Especially with books since they are so many genres and styles.

    If I like a book, I will usually post a positive review to help the author out. I would more likely believe a well written review, over one that is hard to understand.

  11. I am looking forward to reading this book. If the Jungle Reds like it then I probably will too. Dee

  12. Yes, William...I think about when Jonathan and I read the same book. One of us *loves,* the other not so much. It's the same book!And we are both intelligent people.

    So there's room for every view. And you learn which reviewers have your same taste. It's just scary, as an author, when there's a "bad" review, and you worry if everyone is going to believe it--instead of saying,oh,okay, that's one opinion.

    Were you at Thrillerfest when famous authors read their nasty reviewed out loud? It was--hilarious.

  13. OH, Diane, that's wonderful--nothing authors love more than a good review! And Dee--aww. xo

    Do you know the Lyric Stage in Boston? It's a terrific theater. At the beginning of every performance the producing artistic director says "If you like our show, tell all your friends. If you don't--DON"T SAY ANYTHING."

  14. So interesting, Terry. I agree, there's nothing worse than having to read (never mind write about) a book you don't like. And what a delight to find an absolutely fabulous read, one where the pages seem to turn themselves.

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  16. Interesting post Terry--thanks for visiting! As a writer and a reader, I've pretty much given up on writing lousy reviews. If I really don't like a book, I won't finish...does that happen to you Terry?

    I'm quite amazed at you having The Talk with authors--that sounds so time-consuming and difficult. But it could be truly helpful too. Have you had writers take your feedback and run with it?

  17. HOw often--anyone--wold you say a book turns out to be FABULOUS. One in--how many?

  18. Hi all,
    It's 5:45 am here on the West Coast and I'm just catching up here. I see that you all have been busy commenting and raising questions, so I'll jump right in.

    Edith, finding reviewers is mostly just a matter of spending some time doing research. For instance, Examiner.com has a presence in most large metropolitan areas. For instance, you can find me by looking for "Examiner San Diego books." Go to one of the links and look for a direct way to contact that person. If not, do a search for their name. If you write about a particular geographic area, do the same for that area. Search the web for "mystery book reviews," etc. Ask friends and fellow writers who has reviewed their books.

  19. Hi Lucy,
    About "The Talk." That part doesn't take that long. It's usually a couple of emails in which I describe what I found wrong. What takes the real amount of time is when they say that they really want the review anyway. At that point, I am reading a book I'm not in love with, so it tends to drag out. At that point, I start telling myself that I can learn from their mistakes, so I keep pushing through.

  20. Lucy, I forgot to answer your question about do I finish. I'm one of those people who has always felt that once I started a book, I needed to finish it. No. Matter. How. Bad.

    Yes, throughout my life, I WAS one of those people that ALWAYS finished a book. Now, I'm starting to realize that just because I picked a book up, that doesn't mean I have to read it all the way through.

    After getting stuck a few times, I'm starting to get information about a book before I take it on and, if it's a new writer who self-published, may even require a few chapters as a sample to see if I feel it's ready for the market.

  21. Gerald, I couldn't agree more that reviewers ought to be giving a balanced view of the material. There are some reviewers who just seem to summarize the plot and never address strengths and weaknesses of the book. I feel shortchanged by those because I can get a synopsis anywhere.

  22. Hey Ramona, thanks for the compliment on the log line.

    I think that there are some critics who feel they must find "something bad" about everything. The flip side of that is that very few writers get everything, absolutely everything, perfect. But, if the review says, "this was a really good book and the only weakness I could find was blah, blah," then that should help readers who might be bothered by whatever blah, blah was.

  23. Hallie, without naming names, of course, do you have a worst "review from hell" story?

  24. Hank, does being a writer affect how I review books? I'd say, yes. The thing is, I've always known that I was headed in this direction. I've been writing fiction for a lot longer than I've been writing about authors and their books. I think that's why I have "The Talk" with authors—I always hoped that if I put something out into the market and a reviewer didn't like it, I'd get an honest evaluation rather than getting flamed.

    But, PHOTO FINISH is doing well with the reviews—at least, for now. Got my fingers crossed!

  25. Hi, Terry! Is your book set in Kauai? Such a gloriously beautiful place; what a treat it must be to write there.

    I wrote non-fiction for 15 years, so it's a bit different, but one Amazon reviewer griped about a whole lot of issues that had nothing to do with one of my books. There was no way to defend myself without actually coming out and saying she was dead wrong, and I'm sure it hurt sales. This was awhile back, when Amazon was the place to go for reviews, and author pages did not yet exist.

    So I tend to take reviews with a heaping helping of salt, if I read them at all. Reviewing is so subjective. I used to read the reviews in The New Yorker, but now I skim to see how many of the books reviewed are by women, just to prove to myself how biased they are. (Very.)

    Once bitten...

  26. I think it was..Lee Child? Or maybe Micheal Palmer--someone really successful--who said he'd gotten a review on some site that said: "Your book was so terrible, I wish I could UN-read it!"

    And there's the one who complained about Edith Wharton's House of Mirth, saying --it wasn't funny at all~!

  27. Hi Karen,
    PHOTO FINISH is set in Honolulu. We are fortunate to be able to visit Kauai each year for a few weeks. It is a gloriously beautiful island. And, in fact, the next McKenna novel will be set on Kauai.

    I hear you about the reviews. I'm trying to prepare myself for that first "it sucks" review, but for the time being will enjoy the glow.

    My wife recently read a book by a popular (relatively young author) whose first few books we both loved because they were so hilarious. Her latest, which my wife read (and couldn't stop laughing as she read it...very irritating). I've started reading and just can't get into the book. To me, it's a draft that needed heavy editing to hone the story and give the characters some real depth.

    I may (or may not) finish the book. Not sure yet.

  28. Hank, I'm always leery of reading a book (to review) that's gotten great reviews elsewhere. Were the reviewers being honest? Do they have the same tastes that I do? So often, I'll pick up a book for pleasure reading, check the reviews, get high hopes, then be disappointed because it just doesn't measure up. So, in some ways, I have to question my own sanity in doing book reviews. What are people saying about me when they've read a book I reviewed? Yikes!

  29. Aloha! From first-hand experience, Terry is a good reviewer--and writer! I would think all of his reviews got him in great shape for his novel! (Just as I think being in a writing group has made me a better reader!) Good luck with Photo Finish, Terry--it is a great, fun read!

  30. Hi Terry! So nice to see you here! Very interesting about The Talk, and I admire your dedication to helping authors make their books better.

    Hank, I generally read the professional reviews. I don't usually read the reviews on Amazon, etc, unless a friend tells me they've posted something. They've a bit overwhelming, even if good.

    Terry, good luck with Photo Finish! Am checking it out now!

  31. Good morning, Terry. Thanks for a very interesting glimpse into the world of the reviewer . . . I loved “The Talk” and think that process could be so helpful to an author who took the time to actually pay attention to what you had to say about their book. As a reader, however, I tend to choose books based on the author rather than on a review since I seldom, if ever, read reviews.

    I currently have a book on my Nook that everyone has given great reviews and, although I have tried countless times, I can’t get past the first page . . . it’s a science fiction piece, a field I have enjoyed reading since I first learned how to read. [I remember reading every book in the genre in the school library . . . several times . . . and then pestering the librarian for more.] However, If I’d been looking at this book in the bookstore and had the ability to glance through it, I never would have purchased it, no matter what the reviews. [Maybe that’s why the majority of the books on my eReader are written by authors I know and love . . . .]

    Reviews helpful? For me, not so much. I seem to have much better results going to authors who consistently deliver wonderful stories [or to the authors that they have recommended] to find a new, satisfying book to read. [Of course, thanks to Jungle Red, my to-be-read pile is now a teetering tower on the edge of the nightstand, continually threatening to topple over . . . I need more reading hours in my day!]

  32. Hi Dee and Deb,
    Thanks for the comments! Dee's right about critique groups, but, they can also be a problem. It's like a min-review every time you meet and can be a grueling experience if you start getting "beaten up."

    And Deb, I agree that those reviews on Amazon can be pretty flaky. When I read them, I notice that some people are just on a rant and are closely tied to the writer. Those, I'll just skip. Some do provide good feedback on a book. Those are the ones I like to mark as "this was helpful."

  33. Yeah, Joan! SO interesting...the Sisters in Crime report says the biggest key to "discoverability" is word of mouth.

    That's why authors LOVE when reviewers give them a good short pull quote. It's easy to repeat and casually drop into emails and conversations. :-)

    If there's not a pull quote--you've got to figure the reviewer did it on purpose. Don't you?

  34. Oddly enough, Joan, I think I'd agree with you. It seems that everything in the publishing world is subjective—from agents and what authors they choose to rep, to publishers and what book they choose to print, to reviewers and which books they like and hate.

    I'd never buy a book based solely on reviews, but I will check one out. And those first few pages, they really do tell all. If I'm just reading and don't like those opening paragraphs, that one's a goner!

  35. Hank, I'd agree with that wholeheartedly. If I like a book, I'm going to write some flowery/spicy/intriguing mumbo-jumbo that the author can use as a pull-quote. If not, you can bet I'm going to make it bland so that if my quote is used, it doesn't sound like a rousing endorsement. But then, I've had that happen, too. I give a bland endorsement and something still gets quoted because the author is grasping for anything to help market the book.

  36. Very interesting post, Terry. And the comments have been fascinating.

    I review books for various literary magazines (used to for the KC Star newspaper when it still had a books section and books editor). I also post reviews on my blog.

    I only write reviews of books I think are good and deserving of readers. It's not my primary job, so I don't want to waste my time writing a review of a lousy book.

    I do think some people on Goodreads and Amazon want to find an excuse to be snarky and hateful, and if they can't find one, they make it up. That's pretty sad.

    I've been reading my way through the Reds and was surprised to find mean reviews of one book I'd just read and loved. Ben then read the book, adored it, and read the reviews and said flatly, "They can't have read this book. They've just made these up out of thin air." I do think there's a good bit of that out there.

    I tend to look at reviews by professional reviewers at magazines, newspapers, and on dedicated book blogs, so I normally never even see those at GR and Amazon. But I've been told that GR reviews and Amazon reviews sell a book. Maybe even the bad ones?

  37. Terry, I've seen your honesty up close and personal, including "The Talk." I never for a moment regretted opting for the honest review. You have my respect as a reviewer.

  38. Terry--and any author!--were you intimidated to write your book? I mean, there's that moment when it's--out there.

  39. Hi Linda, I think you're right in that any review on Amazon will help a book. A potential reader might just assume that the reviewer got it wrong or was having a bad day, but did that the time to do the review, so could it really be that bad?

    I have to wonder when I see a reviewer crank out a review a day. I could NEVER read a book a day, let alone do that and write the review. Maybe someone who took the Evelyn Wood Speed Reading class (am I showing my age?) could do it, but for me it's a slow process.

  40. Judy, thanks. I try to make the feedback in that type of case meaningful so that the author can recover on the next book. I do have your next one, but haven't gotten started yet.

    And Hank, I loved writing as a kid and, even in school, when everyone else would complain about their term papers, enjoyed the process. But then, I got into business...yeah, yeah, stealing cars...what kinda living is that?...and then forgot about writing for about 20 years. I only picked it up again out of pure frustration.

    My writing began again much like Sue Grafton's, but where her "muse" was her ex-husband, mine was an employee. Like her, I was afraid I'd "bungle" the kill and opted to write about it instead. I realized how much I enjoy the writing process and decided that I'd work toward publication.

    Because I've worked into this for so long and had such good teachers (Ed Stackler as an editor, for one) along the way, I'm not intimidated at all because I'm sure "it's time."

  41. Well-done reviews have introduced me to many writers -- fiction and nonfiction -- I would not have otherwise read, or even known of. So cheers for the reviewers who take their work seriously, and help readers and writers find each other!

  42. "It's time." I love that, Terry. I'm putting it on my wall. Thank you.

  43. My favorite "review" came from a teenager who said, "My teacher made me read your book. I thought it was going to suck. It didn't."

    Good luck with Photo Finish.

  44. Hey Hank, that quote's a freebie! Glad I could be of help.

    And Darlene, what a priceless comment. That's the best kind, where you win someone over who started out expecting to not like you! I love it!

  45. When I was a little girl my father read Eliot Norton's reviews to me from The Boston Globe. I became enamored of his columns, and later his TV show, but never saw most of the plays he reviewed. When I did, I usually found his commentary much more interesting than the plays.

  46. Hi Reine, you're so right about it being difficult to breathe life into something dry and lifeless. That's why I really appreciate the authors who give me great material. Sue Grafton gave me so much great stuff that I ended up turning the intended one article into a three-parter. I can see where, as a child, you'd want to say, "Dad, just read me the review. I can skip the play." Thanks for the comment!

  47. Linda, your comments on reviews are especially timely given the recent/current Goodreads controversy. It has put me off reading, or writing, reader reviews. I also wonder about the writers who have responded to the offensive reviews irresponsibly. It's something I don't want to be in the middle of. I am only interested in positive reviews. I don't care to read pans. I just want to know the things that might draw me to a book. That's why I read your blog and your reviews. You do a terrific job of it.

  48. Terry, yes... absolutely. Now I have to discover your reviews and see if I can unearth the Sue Grafton's! I am still on a waiting list for B IS FOR... from the Recordings for the Blind and Physically Disabled, so perhaps your reviews will tide me over! Makes me think, though, that I might check again for e-format... .

  49. HI all! HAnk, Hallie, Ro, Roberta, Juila and Jan are all at Hank's house! Eating shrimp and drinking gin and tonics in the evening coolth...

    We are discussing how much we love doing this...and how happy we are to know you all...

    Wish you all were here!

  50. Terry, thank you for your post. As a relatively new book blogger, I found it very helpful -- as were many of the comments.

    Regarding the recent Goodreads controversy and positive vs. negative reviews: As a reader, I'm not interested in seeing only positive reviews. That said, I want balanced, honest, and above all specific reviews. "This book sucked" is no help to me as a reader at all, any more than a gushing "this is the best book I ever read!" The reviewers I respect, and Terry clearly falls in this category, will discuss both what worked in a book and what did not.

    As a blogger, so far I've been able to choose the books I review, so I haven't yet "had" to review any books I really disliked. I've written a few reviews about books which disappointed me in some way, and I've tried to be as clear as I can about why, while still pointing out what was good about them. Today I added a page to my blog stating my review policy, which emphasizes honesty and integrity. After reading Terry's post and these comments, I plan to add "fairness" to that policy. I also like Terry's idea of The Talk -- giving the author the option to take the honest review or no review.

    Edith, you can offer review copies of your new mystery as giveaways through Goodreads and LibraryThing, but you have no control over who ends up with them. You can also search for people who write mystery blogs, or review mysteries on their book blog; reading their reviews will give you some idea whether you'd be comfortable having them review your book.

  51. Hi Lark, thanks for the compliment. The Talk does make things easier in that the writer has the chance to withdraw and go search for another reviewer. As Judy mentioned, if you assure the writer that you'll be fair, most agree to the review. I'd also suggest that you add a clause to your policy that you want new writers to send you a synopsis and the first 30 pages (or whatever number you're comfortable with) so that you can determine before making any commitments. Of course, if you know the writer, that's a different story.

  52. Hi Terry and Reds! Nice to meet you all. This is my first time here. Great blog and a very good topic today.
    Terry, what's your reaction when you see an author has reviewed and rated their own book?

    I'm an author and a book reviewer.
    Like Terry, I have 'The Talk' with an author if I find editing errors. I've been ask to review the book for content to let readers know my opinion of the book, not point these mistakes out to the public. I do see a lot of reviewers mention the writing and editing errors in the reviews. I guess this can be done delicately if the reviewer is giving a high rating. I prefer not to.
    Reviewing books has really strengthened my writing! And with my honest reviews and having the talk with authors, I landed my first paid editing project. Needless to say I did the 'Happy Dance'. LOL

  53. Lark, and others who might have misunderstood my comment about positive reviews-- I did not mean that I only want to hear positive comments, rather I meant that I look for things that correlate positively with my interests.

  54. [Sorry... cut myself off there.]

    ...and I am not interested in pans. I can sort through the "good and the bad," the positive and negative,' if you will. That is good. I was using the word positive in its other sense. Sorry for the confusion. I hope this clears it up.

  55. Thanks, Reine! You're a sweetheart, as usual. xoxo

  56. Hi Bren, nice to meet you also. I don't think authors can review their own books—at least, not without bias. I had this debate with an attorney once when I was called for jury duty. He wanted me to say that I would judge on the facts. I told him that I would do that, but that my interpretation of the facts would be influenced by my own experiences. He didn't like that and we went back and forth a few times. He finally had me dismissed. The point is that the writer of a book IS prejudiced. Even the writers who can see their own errors will be biased in what they see and how they interpret the book. I'm not saying that they do it intentionally, merely that we all filter the information we take in based on our backgrounds and that, in my definition, makes it impossible for an author to create a truly unbiased review.

  57. Hi Reine, here's the link to the last of those articles. In it there are links to the previous articles. Since they're all standalone pieces, it won't matter which order you read them in. http://www.examiner.com/article/sue-grafton-discusses-v-is-for-vengeance

    And, if you're looking for the National Crime Fiction column, it's at http://examiner.com/crime-fiction-in-national/terry-ambrose/

  58. By the way, I've really enjoyed this today. Had a lot of fun. And speaking of fun, just in case anyone needs a good laugh, check out what may be the world's most pathetic excuse for a bookstore and how I decided on my marketing campaign photo for PHOTO FINISH. That's at http://terryambrose.com/2012/07/the-wicky-wacky-bookstore/

  59. Hi, Bren, so lovely to see you here! I hope you'll join our often..and tell us about your editing adventures. That's terrific.

    Terry--you're amazing! What a wonderful guest..I hope you'll come back! And of course we'll all be following your reviews..and your success with PHOTO FINISH!

    Tomorrow-the secrets of Agatha Christie--from the person who knows best! And..another chance at a free book for one lucky commenter about Christie mysteries..

  60. Terry, thanks for the links... fantastic!

  61. Hank, I'll be happy to come back anytime. This has been a great experience. And Reine, you're welcome and thanks for the follow on Twitter!

  62. Hi Terry,

    You have always provided wonderful reviews and articles for our authors at Oak Tree Press. I have always enjoyed working with you. I wish you all the best success with your first novel " Photo Finish. "

    Jeana Thompson
    Public Relations
    Oak Tree Press

  63. I have mixed feelings about not publishing a review unless it's a positive one.

    As a reader, I want to know the good and the bad. Plus, I've discovered there are a lot of reviews "out there" that are written by the author, alternate identities of the author, the authors friends and families, and THEIR alternate identities. Sometimes, I've checked the title and author of a book I'm reviewing, just to make sure I read the same book the other reviewers read! There needs to be some balance.

    The only time I have "The Talk" with an author is if I start reading the book and realize it's just not something I want to read. I've learned to be more selective about what I agree to review, but sometimes the description just isn't adequate and I find myself with a book that isn't my cup of tea. At that point, I DNF it and tell the author I'm sorry but I am not going to read/review the book.

    Otherwise, if I read it, I review it. I advise anyone asking me to review a book to read some of the reviews - good and bad - as well as the guidelines before asking. If they've read my reviews, they should know what to expect, including my belief that anyone who writes should have a stellar command of the English/American language.

    For me, the hardest reviews to write are the ones where I didn't love or hate the book.