Monday, March 28, 2022

Thirty Five Ways to Insult an Author

RHYS BOWEN:

I got an email this week from someone who began: Congratulations, we understand you’re a published author! I wanted to connect with you to find out if you are interested in increasing your book sales by producing an audiobook edition.

Okay, Mister who shall be nameless…. If you checked me out on my website or on Amazon or even on Audible, you would find that not only are ALL my books available in audio version, but they sit atop the bestseller list.  I wrote a civil letter back telling him he should do his homework before he contacts an author.

But really!!!!

I regularly get letters like this. Or ones that say “We can increase your visibility by putting your book cover on our social media.” Right. Let me think. You have ten thousand followers and I have 138,000 on Bookbub. And how can you help me again?

 I don’t ever reply “I wouldn’t give my book to you if you were the last human being on Earth” but it’s one more small annoyance that authors have to deal with. Why don’t people just do their homework first. I’m reminded of a Steven King tweet about the pandemic, mentioning his book The Stand, and someone replied “And what would you know about it?” Duh.

Here are some others:  I get blurb requests almost every day. Authors I don’t know, have never heard of, most self-published. Do they not realize that authors have work? That we get blurb request from our publishers, friends and agents and have no more time, even if we wanted to take the risk of being sued, which has happened to me before. Now I never blurb a self-published. Too risky.

Bad reviews on Amazon. I try not to read reviews any more and of course not every reader will enjoy my book. But getting a review for In Farleigh Field once that said I knew nothing about the British aristocracy or how they speak (when I am married to one and spent a good portion of my life with his family in large country houses) did get my dander up. John was so incensed he wanted to hunt the person down and give them a piece of his mind!




And reviews that complain my books take place in WW2 but have no battle scenes and explosions.

Hank mentioned this a few weeks ago and it also happens to me (and I expect the rest of us too!) Patronizing people: you meet at an event or party and they say “Oh, you’re a writer. Should I have heard of you?”  or “I’ve been meaning to write a book someday, when I get the time.”  Or “You write mysteries. Do you ever intend to write a real novel?” Or…”Mysteries? I only read literary novels.”

I do have an answer to the first of these. “Should I have heard of you?”  ME: Only if you read books.

Equally patronizing reviews:  The prolific Bowen. Yes. I write a lot of books but prolific seems to imply that I churn them out, production line style, doesn’t it? Again I’d like the right to rebuttal.

ME: At least one of those books I churn out is nominated for an award every year. This year it’s the Edgar. Does that tell you something?

I don’t know of other professions where people seem to think they have the right to put-down, make comments. Can you imagine me at a cocktail party. “Oh, you’re a brain surgeon. I’ve always thought I might like to try a bit of brain surgery one day, if I get the time.”

So Reds it’s your turn. What are the things that have annoyed you the most?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I am laughing so hard! The reviewer who said “Ryan clearly has no idea what a reporter does.” Um, yes, I kind of do, after being one for 43 years. But really? It’s the people who say: “Wow, you’re really churning/banging/pumping them out.”    Ah. That is NOT what is happening, not in ANY way. I could only wish.

I just read a quote from Francine Prose who said, when asked “what’s your process?” says she feels like saying “My process is allowing my soul to leave my body and enter into the body of another human being. So try that!”’

HALLIE EPHRON: I’m still annoyed at the reviewer who complained that my book had chickadees in New England in the fall… which we do. And cardinals and robins and blue jays and all too many Canada geese. That’s when I decided to stop reading reviews. Because seriously, you can poison your mood and output by perseverating on that kind of idiocy.

I have had the great good fortune of working with *so many* aspiring writers, people who’ve reached retirement, giving that book they’ve always want to write a shot, and quickly realizing what a steep climb it is from adequate to excellent. I know all too well how good I have it with my own modest success. 

JENN McKINLAY: When my first mystery came out and someone said they gave it to their seven-year-old to read (a murder mystery, mind you) because it was “so cute with cupcakes and all”, I decided never to read any reviews again since it felt like my own IQ got lower after that. My agent sends me the professional trade ones of note and that’s enough. 

I can’t really think of any slights I’ve suffered as a writer in person, but I’m also fairly obtuse with a hide like a rhinoceros, so it’s rather difficult to hurt my feelings. I’m always just grateful to be in the game - for the good, the bad, and the weird. LOL.

LUCY BURDETTE: Rhys, those social media/review site requests for $$ I completely ignore. I can’t believe they’ve taken the time to research who they are contacting, so why give them one minute of thought?

But my more recent beef on Net Galley and other advance review sites goes something like this: I don’t read cozy mysteries, but I liked the cover so I requested the book. And then detail all the things the person doesn’t like that are landmarks of cozies. Or, I didn’t realize this was #12 in a series and I don’t like series or I don’t understand the character or, or, or… Please please do a little bit of research before you ask for a book you know in advance you won’t like!

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Oh, Rhys, you're too diligent. I give those emails about as much attention as I give to the phone callers trying to sell me a warranty for my fourteen-year-old car. 

As for the insults, I know there are people who are not going to like my books. I have had some readers tell me, in very personal terms, just how much they didn't like my books or my characters! Ouch. As if I'd rewrite an already published book, or–well, I'm never quite sure what the point is of the nasty letters and the mean social media reviews. So, like, Jenn, I read the trade reviews my agent and my editor send me, and try to avoid the rest of them. 

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Because I write about an Episcopal priest in a small town, I'll occasionally get readers who think my books are cozies, and then are shocked and upset because they do, in fact, have graphic violence, swearing, and sex. One lady sent me a hand-typed letter that began, "I thought you were a Christian!" Ma'am, I am, but lots of my characters aren't. (Also, I'm probably not what she thinks of as Christian...)

When I was starting out, I used to feel stung at the sometimes obvious condescension from LITERARY writers. At the Brattleboro Literary Festival one year, I mentioned what I write at the pre-festival author reception, and you would have thought I smelled like a wet dog with gas by the way people edged away from me. Then I went to my panel with the marvelous Archer Mayor, and realized 1) we were in the largest venue and 2) we had the biggest audience by far of any other presenter that year. That cured me of literary inferiority complex.

RHYS: Oh, and don't you just love the letters that say "I noticed a typo on page 147. Can you have them go back and reprint?"

I think it’s not just writers any more who have to put up with insults and criticism. Social media has made people feel powerful and anonymous. Look at Yelp reviews. Some are so stupid:  one star because the restaurant had run out of a particular item. One star because I haven’t tried this yet but I don’t think I’d like it. 

So who reads reviews? And fellow writers, have you had to deal with any of the above?

124 comments:

  1. I am constantly amazed at the insensitivity/stupidity of people who make these kinds of remarks and/or behave in this way . . . I’m not certain when or why such behavior became acceptable, but it certainly is a sad commentary . . . .

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  2. I am both laughing and cringing as I read what Rhys and the rest of you have written--it's very good preparation for my debut mystery, "Pesticide," being released in 23 days. So much to look forward to--haha. Seriously, it's sad but helpful to discover that seven excellent writers can be treated so rudely by colleagues and readers. I'm still at the stage of looking forward to any reviews at all, but forewarned is forearmed. As for what Rhys says about how annoying it is to be bombarded with requests for endorsements by total strangers (which I can well understand), my response is to say, "Thank you, dear Debs, for the wonderful blurb!"

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    1. Good luck with the book, Kim! We’ll be rooting for you

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  3. As my mom used to say about insults, "Consider the source." And remember, most people don't remember what they read about a book or author, they just remember the name. As they say in Hollywood, any publicity is good publicity.

    That said, reviewers should obey the old maxim that if you can't say anything nice about someone/something, keep silent. I have only once written a bad review; it was about a mystery written by a fellow lawyer who had once lived in Milwaukee, but who clearly had a very confused memory of the city. She had characters driving miles out of their way to get somewhere in a hurry, had the character's mother growing temperature sensitive flowers here in the land of extreme temp variations in a single day, and whenever she needed to insert a little action, had her main character eat a muffin.

    Interesting story about that book: I gave away my review copy to a friend notorious for not returning borrowed books-- and she returned it. I have it away again, and back it came. And that Christmas, a very old friend gave me another copy because I too am a lawyer and write books. I think I finally made a donation of both copies to the public library system. I THINK they stayed gone after that.

    But yeah, I love the people who say they would write a book if they had time. I always smile encouragingly and suggest they MAKE the time. (Misery loves company!)

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    1. On that last bit, I always say, "If you want to write a book, you will."

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    2. Oh Ellen, that is too funny! Those two copies may have ended up in a 'Friends of the Library' sale--where some books never leave, even during the 'all you can stuff in a bag for 50 cents' sale.

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    3. The case of the haunted review, or the haunting reviee

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    4. ELLEN,

      Exactly! Consider the source! I just read a wonderful debut novel by a new author, which will be published April 5th. Only one reviewer gave one star and I suspect that reviewer felt like their religion was attacked. LOL. I thought it was balanced but this person's review sounded like this person was a member of this organization. Most of the reviews were 4 to 5 stars.

      Diana

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  4. Oh, boy, yes. While I don't have the kind of responses Rhys can come up with (138,000 followers, Edgar nom, aristocracy, and so on!), I am always astonished by the emails wanting to promote one of my historical mysteries from five years ago. Those messages get marked Spam.

    I actually welcome notices of a typo on page 147, and my editor is always happy to fix it for the next printing and in the ebook. I mean, why not want to make the book more perfect? No matter how many eyeballs (a LOT) are on the book before it releases, some error always sneaks through.

    Agree that the "Literary" snobbery persists. A friend - a friend! - who writes women's fiction, with whom I have appeared on panels (Hallie knows her), tossed off a comment "But of course they're formulaic" about another author who writes several mysteries a year. I was cut - and angry. If anyone thinks there's a formula for the hard, creative work I (and all the Reds) do every single day, I'd like to know it. After I calmed down, I had a little conversation with her and she apologized.

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    1. Oy! Even women's fiction follows a loose formula of sorts. You can't have any kind of story without character and plot arcs.

      You get mad props for not slugging her, Edith.

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    2. I agree with Karen. I have only recently -- last couple of years -- expanded to reading women's fiction, and I find them to follow a predictable "formula" to a greater extent than good mysteries. In fact, now that I think about it, in both genres there are plenty that are formulaic, but in the many GOOD ones, if there's a formula, one doesn't notice because of the quality of the writing and character development.

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    3. Women’s fiction? I always wonder about that definition. Introspective neurotic character in search of a plot— right?

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    4. The first person to identify the dramatic "formula" was Aristotle. I say, if you think you're cleverer than Aristotle, go for it, sister.

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    5. Julia, I just love your thoughts here!

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    6. Rhys, her books are well-told stories, about women and their sisters and mothers and daughters, always with a touch of mystery.

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    7. Ah yes, my drama teacher at U of MN said there were five basic plots and the art was in the execution.
      I'm impressed that Edith's publisher wants post-pub corrections, as I've been told (gently) that there was nothing to be done with errors found, and I learned to ignore them unless there were multitudes.
      I only review the books I love, though I did twice ask the author of an ARC if she'd rather have no review or a 3-star (the best I could honestly do). I do know how to be gently critical, having written college recs for students who said I was their best shot, bless their hearts. Thanks for the hard work of taking books from okay to excellent.

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    8. Yes, totally a formula. Have a brilliant and unique idea, make it intriguing and compelling with a riveting beginning, wonderful pacing throughout, and a satisfying and wise ending. GO.

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    9. Only TWO plots: Someone goes on a journey, or a stranger comes to town. And, depending on POV, that's the same plot.

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    10. Of course there’s a formula. A crime is committed, then solved. Usually there’s a reason. How formulaic!

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  5. As someone who writes reviews, I try to avoid coming off like a jerk if I say anything negative in my reviews. I'm not always perfect, but I do try.

    For the most part, the books I read I end up liking so that does make things a lot easier. Plus, I don't pretend that anyone actually cares about what I think about a given title. That certainly keeps the ego in check.

    I do read reviews from Mystery Scene magazine, Dru's Book Musings and Bolo Books. Just to get a feel for a book that I haven't already bought, to see if it might be something I want to read.

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    1. JAY: I do enjoy reading your reviews from Mystery Scene magazine. They cover a good range of books with different reviewers.

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    2. I've read a few of your reviews. You do a great job.

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    3. Jay, I've read some of your stuff as well; you're a good review writer. And I expect, like most dedicated reviewers, you have more books to write about than you have time, so why not review the best and leave the rest?

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    4. Grace, thanks. I review what they send me so the variety is thanks to them. They know what I like and what I don't and they try to tailor (at least most of the time) what they send me to my tastes. Plus I do get to request something I want to read from time to time.

      Dru, you are welcome and thanks for the feedback about my reviews!

      Julia, if the books are the ones that Mystery Scene sends me I try to review them because I get paid if they use the review (and I can use the money, believe me). In the time since I've written for them they've used only 2 or 3 less than glowing reviews and two more that they decided not to use. Because they do try to highlight the good, not the "bad". But the last couple of years, when they send me a book that I just can't finish or force myself to finish I just message my awesome editor and tell her that I won't be reviewing the book. I don't want the hassle of doing a review that boils down to a wordier version of "This sucks!".

      For my personal Goodreads reviews, if I finish a book I try to do a review whether I liked it or not. But again, I don't get nasty with the review. It's the completist side of me, I guess. However, if I do give up on a book, I don't do a review.

      As it is, I'm currently trying to rediscover my book reviewing mojo because I'm 5 books behind at the moment. One for Mystery Scene and four for Goodreads. I liked them but can't seem to figure out how to craft my reviews. Which is kind of ticking me off.

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  6. I think there's room in the world for all kinds of readers and books, but I do object to people who don't seem to recognize that fact and want to rewrite your story. It is YOUR story. What I do find distressing in authors' works are large numbers of typos. I am sure all the JRW proof read carefully, and they have copy editors who support their efforts. But what I have noticed is that eBooks tend to have many more typos than those I buy in hard copy. Perhaps there's a technical reason for this. Typos distract from otherwise good books, and I have found that even established authors with reputable publishers suffer from too many. But even the NY Times, my standard for good copyediting, has cut back on their copyediting, so maybe it is a global trend, mistakenly using spellcheck and grammar software in lieu of real people with real copyediting skills.

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    1. Unknown, I know one company which shall remain nameless, which sends books to copyeditors in India--because 'they speak English there'. And somehow introduce errors and typos where there were none to begin with. The company saves money and authors and readers suffer.

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    2. The ones with lots of typos tend to be self published and haven’t gone through the whole editorial process. Also traditionally published authors are not immune

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  7. OUCH! Sorry Reds for your bad review experiences!!

    LUCY: Yeah, sorry about those Netgalley comments. I totally agree you should not request an ARC that you don't think you will like! I have posted over 500+ Netgalley reviews and I take the review process seriously. I rarely give 5-star reviews and I don't usually post any reviews below a 3-star. I certainly don't expect authors to read my reviews (also on Goodreads) and am surprised when an author actually sends me a message.

    And I certainly am skeptical about 1-star reviews on Yelp and other social media reviews. There has definitely been an increase in trolls/bots sending in fake 1-star reviews to hurt small businesses.

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    1. I also read book reviews from BOLO Books, Dru's Book Musings and Lesa's Book Critiques but avoid specific ones if I am reviewing the same book. And I also reading reviews in magazines such as Deadly Pleasures and Mystery Scene, including JAY'S reviews.

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    2. I do the same thing, I don't read reviews of books I'm reviewing. After I post my musing, then I check to see if the reviewers are saying.

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    3. Yes, I may go back after I post my review to see if the other reviewers had similar thoughts about the same book.

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    4. I'm with Grace and Dru, I don't read reviews of books that I'm planning on reviewing myself. I might check out something AFTER I do my own review but never before.

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  8. Most of the time, I don't read reviews before I pick up a book. Hank wrote about a reviewer who told the entire plot, spoilers and all in an Amazon review. JUST NO!

    Because my TBR pile/list is so out of control, I only choose the stories I know I want to read and rarely begin a book I won't enjoy. I LOVE series. Even though I do not write reviews very often, when I do, I only write them for books I loved and for authors whom I consider to be friends, mostly through the JRW blog.

    Personal attacks on authors are shocking, Debs, as are the insults and insinuations that Rhys has endured.

    On occasion, I have sent a quote from one of my reviews to the author or the link, first revealing that it was 5 stars. Jim Ziskin wrote a hilarious commentary on bad reviews sometime last year, and although I laughed, I was also shocked. JRW's Jenn quoted a reviewer on Facebook who had written an insulting review and sent her the link. Well, I am gobsmacked for sure, that people are so stupid.

    If I were a reviewer like Dru or Jay, who reviews every book I read, I don't know how I would write the 3 star or 4 star reviews. Some stories are better than others. Some authors are better story tellers. I am still figuring out how to describe a book without telling too much of the story.

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    1. trust me, it is hard to write a review without giving away the story. Mine are simple musings.

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    2. JUDY: I agree with Dru, it's an art to write a thoughtful review without including any spoilers.

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    3. Writing a review that doesn't give away spoilers is to become an expert in obfuscation. You have to say enough to get the thrust of the plot across without blowing the whole deal for other readers.

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    4. Judy, I recently read a book I loved, and I decided to look at some Amazon reviews of it. I was so glad I didn’t read the reviews ahead of time! One reviewer wrote “”I was angry when ‘X’ died”. Gee, thanks for spoiling it for people who haven’t read the book!

      DebRo

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    5. JUDY,

      Not a fan of Amazon and I refuse to review over at Amazon.

      Diana

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    6. Deb, you made me laugh out loud.

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  9. Rhys, I'm laughing (and now I have to go back through my blurbs and see if any of those phrases in the graphic show up).

    I do get the "we'll put your book on social media" emails. Not that my own social media follow is huge, but...thanks, but no thanks. I don't read reviews. I've never gotten a trade review, even though I believe my publisher sends them out so I assume I've just never been "picked" although honestly, I'm not sure how that works.

    I have gotten the occasional, "I just wanted to let you know there's a typo..." comments. I usually thank them for their diligence, say it's too late to fix it, and I hope it didn't spoil their enjoyment of the book. Oddly, most of those messages start, "I loved your book! I wanted to let you know about the typo..."

    But those messages are far outnumbered by the people who write to tell me how much they enjoyed the story.

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  10. Interesting conversation for sure. I track my reading on Goodreads and enjoy seeing the books my friends read. However the reviews! There are readers with no attention spans. For instance, I loved Ash Davidson's Damnation Spring, yet a good chunk of reviewers thought it was too long and hated the details about the logging industry. I just want to say, "read and learn, people!" Currently I'm reading Flights by Olga Tocarczuk for book group. It won the Man Booker International prize. It received many low reviews. You just can't please everyone.

    Rhys, I wonder if your email was an auto-generated spam bot email. So much of that out there!

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    1. You are right. You can’t please everyone! I have hated some books others gushed over but kept my feelings to myself unless I was discussing with friendd

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  11. I write short musings and I never post a negative musing. Don't get me wrong, there are books I don't like, but I keep that to myself. Just because I didn't like a book, I don't want to discourage someone who may like it.

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    1. And you do a lovely job, Dru.

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    2. I don't write reviews in a huge public way but for several years now have tried to follow the discipline of writing a short review on Goodreads for each book I finish. I recently ran into the situation where I couldn't in good conscience post a review without mentioning several negative things that had kind of ruined the book for me. In the end I marked the book as "read" and moved on without reviewing it.

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    3. DRU: I like both your musings and short musings. I don't post a negative review on Netgalley/Goodreads/Edelweiss. Just because I did not like the book doesn't mean someone else wouldn't enjoy it.

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    4. Dru, your musings are fabulous and a boon to writers.

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    5. I think there is a difference between not liking a book and pointing out a flawed book

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    6. I recall once reading Marilyn Stasio's approach to her NYT reviews; she only wrote reviews of books she loved and wanted to highlight, EXCEPT for huge names. If it was a book that might be on everyone's auto-buy list, she would point out the flaws.

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    7. If there’s a good reason to skip a book, I want to know about it. If all reviewers give all tip top 5 star reviews to everything, that’s useless. If the sense of place is great but the plot has holes, I want to know that.

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  12. Those blanket, form letter requests for access to whatever? Most of them are scatter-shot marketed via mailing lists. I'm still getting mail to my (self) publishing company that's been closed for over 15 years. I can tell it's generated from mailing lists by how it's addressed. File 13 for all that stuff, ie. the recycling bin.

    My first, horrible, review as a published author came at the hands of a friend, sadly. He had not bothered to actually read the book, and he got everything wrong. So was the marketing material for my second book, and that was written by the publisher. Both these sins were compounded by the first review on then-brand-new Amazon, which panned my first book for... reasons. None of which were addressed in my book. Oh, and the publisher of the second spelled my last name wrong in ALL the promotional materials. At least THAT didn't happen in my self-pubbed process.

    Up until then I'd never been much of a review reader, but that experience put me firmly in the camp of NOT one.

    Professional reviewers often differ in opinions from mine, but at least they try to get it right. Now that anyone can "review" anything, every wacky opinion and perception possible gets public airing, and it's so difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.

    I do not review anything myself because I'm terrible at it, and I know it. It would do the author/maker/establishment more harm than good, frankly, and I don't like that responsibility on my head. That said, if there is a book or product or institution that I like or who provides excellent service, etc., I will tell everyone.

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    1. Karen, my (major) publisher's catalog said I was from Minneapolis, not Milwaukee, because after all, those ARE the twin cities, aren't they? So much for "hometown" reviews and interviews.

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    2. Karen, I'm published by one of the Big Five (or are they four now?) and one book's back dust jacket said I was a two time winner of the Tony Award. (Picture a HARD eye roll here.) My husband said, "Your acting dreams have finally been realized."

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    3. Thanks for the out-loud laugh, Julia!

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    4. Julia: Oh, my. I hope that someone, somewhere at some point was embarrassed.

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    5. JULIA: Wow, that is some endorsement, lol.

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    6. Julia, when are you taking your show on the road?

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    7. JULIA,

      That is hilarious! I wonder if a Tony winner was writing a novel at the same time as you were writing a novel?

      Diana

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    8. KAREN IN OHIO,

      So sorry about your horrible experiences as a self published author. Is it OK to ask you for the title of your book? Agreed that it is a responsibility to write reviews.

      Diana

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  13. "If you're not making any money, why bother trying to write?"
    "I find short stories so unfulfilling. I never read them."
    "Know a good airplane read?"
    "Do you put recipes in your books? I like recipes more than the story."
    "Some authors publish three or four books a year. What can't you?"

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    1. Ah yes. It’s amazing what people think it’s all right to say!

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    2. Some people think everything is about making money. It's so annoying.

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  14. Thank you for the morning entertainment! I don’t read a lot of reviews because I don’t want preconceived notions about a book I may read totally differently than a reviewer. I used to be part of the sugar arts community so I’m very familiar with critics. It’s just cake, how hard could it be? It’s just flour and sugar, why does it cost so much? If you lower your prices for me you’ll get a lot of orders from my social circle.

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  15. Rhys, I was surprised that you found "the prolific Bowen" an insult. In all honesty, I would have considered that a compliment if I read it in a review. I can even imagine myself saying it about you, with only positive intent! After all, we are blessed that you write a LOT of very good books.

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    1. I had someone say. “You keep churning them out!”

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    2. And here I am, just can't wait for the next couple you "CHURN OUT", Rhys. When's the next Georgie due?

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    3. Rhys, I second what Judy just said! LOL

      Diana

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  16. I have actually read some reviews on Amazon and Goodreads for books I was thinking about trying. It was an interesting experience. But I vote with my hands--if I don't like what I'm reading, I close the book and move on to the next one. I don't spend any time trying to diss an author or warn off readers. After all, what I find awful or boring may be my problem--too tired, too frustrated, too distracted to give a book a chance. A good friend and I will often suggest books to one another--and we often disagree about a book--she liked it, I couldn't get into it, and vice versa. I generally don't write reviews because it is hard work! Don't give anything away, but don't be too vague, etc. But I'll tell anyone who will listen about books I love!

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  17. This was one of the funniest posts I've seen in a while. Funny, and too true. I'll simply add that I stopped reading Amazon reviews when one reviewer gushed that I did a great job of describing Oregon. My books are set in Texas.

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  18. Hysterical, Rhys! It's amazing what some people get up to.

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  19. Rhys, I used to be a title searcher. Another searcher I knew said her husband and kids always asked her when she was going to to get a “real” job, “ you know, in an office.” Her response was that the money she made was real and helped pay the bills.

    I don’t read reviews until after I read a book. I don’t want to be influenced by someone else’s opinions. I try not to read Amazon reviews because so many of them are just ridiculous. An Amazon reviewer once wrote in a review of one of Dana Stabenow’s books that “Stabenow has clearly never been to Alaska”! Did the reviewer not read the Author Bio at the back of the book?

    DebRo

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    1. I forgot, Deb: at a college reunion once I was asked whether I’d ever had s proper job!
      I replied no, but my improper job had paid off two houses and put four kids though college !

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  20. Oh, my goodness, I just thought of the opposite of what we've been talking about - does anyone remember the highly lauded debut memoirist - let's call her Hauren Lough - who threw an absolute fit when Goodreads reviewers gave her book 4.5 stars instead of five? I think she compared it to being persecuted in the Holocaust.

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  21. Someone with a lot to learn! But it’s hard not to want to respond to unfair criticism

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  22. The problem with amateur reviewers is that you get what you pay for. You get reviewers who didn't understand the book, or who had unfair expectations, or who were simply in a foul mood and wanted to take things out on whomever.

    Which is why I discount most of them. Giving a one-star review of a book because of how it was packaged from the seller is ludicrous in the extreme.

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    1. Or, Karen, someone jumps into a series at book 16, and doesn't know any of the character development that has gone into the first 15 books, then makes stuff up in her review to explain relationships that she doesn't understand because she doesn't know the back story of friendships. One reviewer surmised that there must have been a love affair between two men when an officer went looking for his missing sergeant in a WWII mystery. WTF?

      Delete
  23. The importance of leaving reviews on Amazon and such - I heard somewhere that its nice to leave even a short review, especially to help new or lesser known authors get promotion.

    The sheer number of reviews can be more important than the depth of insight in any given review. Of course, as noted by many of you, don't give bad reviews, just move on. But if you like a book and can give it a four star review it helps even if your review is short and sweet.

    So, the more reviews, the more eyeballs on an author's work.

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  24. It is amazing that people who make patronizing remarks don't realize how rude they are being. Or maybe are just so self-important they just don't care.
    I tend not to read reviews of books before I read them because I'm afraid they may give away or hint at some plot points and I like to be surprised! In some of the reviews I have read after reading a book I wonder if we read the same book.

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  25. I ignore the requests about "let us get you followers," and usually block the sender or move the email to "spam."

    Once at a book festival a seemingly nice older lady told me that she really liked the first novel in my series. (GREAT!) So much better than the next ones. So SO much better. Then she repeated her assessment, all over again. Perhaps she felt I did not understand (oh, I did), given the dumbstruck look on my face. Why she felt compelled to tell me this, I'll never know. I just said "thanks for your feedback," several times, and was so relieved when she moved on!

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    1. UGLY. It reminds me of the left-handed compliments of certain family members concerning choice of dress for a party or new haircut. "Oh, do you like your hair that way?"

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  26. RHYS, this is a great post! Yes, I remember you talking about bad reviews and I remembered something about three stars. Since then I write reviews ONLY if I really liked a book. If I made a commitment to review a book and it was not my cup of tea, I refuse to give any rating at all. I write that even if I did not like or did not finish the book, there is always someone else who would love the book. Often there are "popular" books that did not grab me and that is ok.

    As Karen in Ohio said, it is a great responsibility to write a book review. I take it very seriously and even if I did not like a book, I try to find something good to say about a book.

    Regarding blurbs, I have seen new to me authors' blurbs on your book covers and I discover new authors that way.

    So sorry to hear about the cutting remarks. When I read a novel and even if the "facts" do not match, I always remind myself that the novel is FICTION. In Fiction, the author can write anything. That is fiction, right?

    The other day I read a wonderful funny/sad debut novel. I read other reviews and most of the reviews were four to five stars. There was a one star review and I could tell that the reviewer felt offended by the portrayal of a certain religious organization and I suspect that one star reviewer came from that religious background. Someone wrote a comment above and I remember that line "Consider the Source".

    Sometimes it is really hard for me to write a book review because I have to remember Not to give away spoilers!

    Speaking of typos, if I am lucky enough to get an early copy before publication, I TRY to contact the author and let them know about the typo and I mention the Chapter and the page. If possible, I take a screenshot of the page and send it to the author.

    Always loved your books. Constable Evans, set in Wales, is my favorite then when you started the Royal Spyness series, I loved the books. I felt disloyal to Constable Evans for reading Molly Murphy, which started around the same time the Evsns series ended, LOL

    Diana

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  27. HANK,

    Thank you for sharing your story. I have several Deaf friends who work as journalists or reporters and I know it is a lot of work! Not only do they have a story to chase but they sometimes have to deal with discrimination because they are Deaf women. Deaf men also have been discriminated against. There was a story about a TV reporter in the mid 1990s who lost her hearing suddenly and she lost her job. She sued the company under Americans With Disabilities Act. I never met her though I remembered the news story in deaf newspapers.

    As am author, you write about the world you know from your work as a reporter.

    Diana

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  28. Astounding, isn't it, how people assume the authority to judge what you do and say. I think you are all brave to put yourselves in their paths.

    I rarely read reviews. Occasionally, I'll hear a recommendation on the radio and pick up a book and I indulge in the game called "Canada Reads." I have indulged in the philosophy of literature and literary criticism. I am a political philosopher and mysteries, at least the ones that I enjoy, are about good, evil and justice. Whatever critique I have, even if it is about a specific author, is about the ideas that one finds in the book, that is it is abstract and philosophical. I don't know enough about the task of writing a book to even come close to talking about that, but I do have a huge curiosity about how ideas play out in the world.

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  29. HALLIE,

    Please ignore what that reviewer said about Canada geese or whatever. Writing a novel is hard enough without having to worry about what the reviewers would say! Since I am writing a novel in progress, I am learning how challenging it is!

    Thank you for sharing,
    Diana

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  30. JENN,

    Why on earth am I laughing at the person who thought your novel was for children because there were cupcakes on the cover? There is a saying "do not judge a book by its cover". LOL

    Since I am a big fan of your Hat Shop mysteries, it is always wonderful to read your novels. Thinking that if my book ever gets published (after I finish writing that book), I would feel grateful that it got published. I think that it's a good idea to have a thick skin. I was reminded of a story that my father told me about exhibiting his artwork at an art fair before I was born. He mentioned a few people who criticized his work. He can draw. I cannot draw. LOL. I can doodle but not draw. I admire people who can draw. I like some art and not others. If I do not have anything nice to say, then I don't say anything.

    Siana

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  31. LOL! "I noticed a typo on page 147. Can you have them go back and reprint?" Of course. And they probably asked to have a corrected copy signed and sent to them, too, as a thank you. LOL!

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  32. Of course we understand that people have different tastes, and that's great. But truly, when someone gives a bad review by saying "Not what I expected"--it's so depressing. Because the ephemeral and solipsistic "not what I expected" is supposed to be the gauge? What you EXPECTED? What YOU expected? Sorry. Ranting.

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    1. HANK,

      When I discover that a book is not what I expected, it is because it is a happy surprise! For example, I did not expect to love a book as much as I did. If I said this in my reviews, I'll try to remember Not to say this in future reviews. LOL

      Diana

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    2. Oh, if it's not what you expected and you LOVE it, that's a good thing! xxx

      Delete
  33. LUCY,

    Regarding the social media attempts to promote, thank you for the reminder. I got several solicitations after I posted my reviews and I have blocked these accounts.

    Thank you for mentioning NetGalley. When I started reviewing, I would request books that looked interesting then find out they were too steamy or too violent. Now I am more careful. I got a request from a publisher to review a book and that book description sounded too violent so I declined. I explained that I do not read novels with graphic violence.

    And I LOVE cozy mysteries! I mentioned to that publisher that I prefer cozy mysteries, Yes, it is important to do research before requesting a book.

    Your books have mystery and yummy recipes! Love that.

    Diana

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  34. DENORAH,

    Shocked that anyone would not like your characters! I loved your characters in the novels. The maps are also wonderful. Sometimes I get confused and I ask questions.

    Diana

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  35. JULIA,

    So sorry about that person who was disappointed that your books had graphic violence. By now, I think it is a given that there is more violence than sex in novels with Christian themes, unless I am mistaken. If I am warned about the graphic violence in the content warning before reading the book, then I think I can read the book. If I cannot, then I don't read the book. I always remind myself that there are always readers who do read novels with graphic violence.

    Hope I did not offend here.

    Diana

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  36. As others have mentioned, Rhys, they're just bots. Zap them to perdition.

    I have a website (fangirl that I am) dedicated to one of my favourite authors, D E Stevenson, who died nearly 50 years ago. So the other day I got an email from a bot offering to help me publish "my" book, naming a book of Stevenson's published ca 1940.

    Sure. Whatever. Thanks.

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  37. JULIA,

    p.s. I am so sorry about that experience you had with LITERARY authors. This reminded me of an author who is married to a famous actor. She was at the Book Expo years before the pandemic and someone told her that the only reason she was published was because of who her husband was, They went on to insult her book too. I felt so bad for her.

    There are snobs who look down on "romance" novels or whatever. They remind me of my classmates who were always very competitive (who got straight A's) It is really sad, right? My philosophy is as long as someone is reading, it does not matter what genre they like to read.

    Please do not feel inferior. It is their problem, NOT your problem. I had to deal with people who tried to make me feel inferior. I learned a long time ago to ignore that kind of behavior. And be coldly polite to people like these. LOL

    Diana

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  38. The only time I am tempted to criticize is when the author uses bad grammar or the proof reading is bad. Once my mother-in-law and I were both reading a book set in the South Carolina low country and the author had a boat going under a bridge on the causeway leading to Pawley's Island and we laughed and laughed because that was impossible but the book was FICTION so the author had the absolute right to create the scene she wanted.
    The internet and social media have given people delusions of power and, dare I say, intelligence. Rhys, if it makes you feel any better, your critic's comment only made me start rereading my copy of IN FARLEIGH FIELD.

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    1. Atlanta,

      Yes! The author has the absolute right to create the world she wanted since the book was FICTION!

      Diana

      Delete
  39. I'm laughing. Remember Art Linkletter and Kids Say the Darndest Things? Is this what those kids grew up to be?

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    1. Pat, I am laughing too. Is that what these kids grew up to be? LOL

      Delete
  40. Rhys, your letter about "I noticed a typo on page 147. Can you have them go back and reprint?" reminded me of an email I received, pointing out a typo on page such-and-such and offering to proofread my next book for me, provided I send them a free advanced copy, of course.

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  41. I understand that there are some people who are just plain thoughtless and even ignorant reviewers, people who obviously just like the sound of their own words claiming superior knowledge when they know nothing. These are people who actually don't enjoy reading, and it hurts me, as a reviewer who cares deeply about reading and reviewing, that those kind of reviewers would stop authors from ever reading reviews. I know there is a limited amount of time authors have to give to reviews, but I am saddened that my work is cast aside because of those pretenders. First, I don't do negative reviews for several reasons. I don't consider myself the high judge of what is good and what isn't. I may not like a book, but that doesn't mean others won't. And, all the authors I know work damn hard and don't deserve any negative judgement. Also, my goal is always to support authors, whether they need my support or not. I'm not foolish enough to think that my support will make or break an author, but I do know that my love of an author's books will catch the eye of a reader. That's why I review, to connect readers to some amazing reading. And, I work hard at my reviews. I never just bang out a review in one sitting. I revise and rewrite and look back in the book countless times to make sure I get it right. I actually have a review I've been working on for several weeks now, as I want to do justice to the amazing book it's for. I always worry about conveying just how a book reached me or grabbed me or made a difference in my life. Oh, and I do it for free, and I usually buy the books, even when I get approved for one on NetGalley. I do it for the love of reading and the respect I have for the authors who create such incredible storytelling. So, while I understand that reading reviews can be an unpleasant experience at times for authors, I can't help but be saddened that my hard work would be lumped together with the "pretend" reviewers. Anybody who works hard at something they love deserves some consideration. I didn't intend this to be a rant on reviewing by any means, but I don't think people always realize that we reviewers who care put our heart and soul into it.

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    1. Kathy, great points. Thank you for sharing. I am careful about what I write in my reviews. Perhaps I could be careful in my conversations with readers as well. Someone raved about a novel that many people loved. For me, it was a struggle to follow the story and I felt like I needed to earn a PhD before I could read the book. And I love to read. My reading also depends on other factors. Sometimes I just want to escape or to laugh so I look for books that will give me the opportunity to do that.

      These days I look at reviews as guidelines before I write a review of the same book. Just wanted to make sure that I do not give away spoilers!

      Diana

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  42. Rhys, I cringed when, at a Sisters in Crime Norcal event many years ago, a visiting self-published author of romances said she loves getting "there's a typo..." responses because she doesn't always have the time to proof everything and so her readers are doing it for her and, yes, she just goes into the e-book and fixes it.

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    1. SUSAN: I do not remember a romance author at a Sisters in Crime Norcal event. I cannot believe the author would say that! I just read a stand alone novel (to be published this week) by an author I know and her early copy was perfect! No typos.

      Diana

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  43. I think Rhys is right that social media has made everyone fair game for criticism and some of it's quite vicious. It's unfortunate that the world is currently like this, but I remind myself that what other people think of me is none of my business. :)

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    1. Good point there, Jenn. I will try to remember that when my book is published.

      Diana

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  44. Off topic:

    Did anyone watch the Academy Awards last night?

    Diana

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  45. From a fan today about my three cozy series: "my mom would absolutely love these, she loves these little mysteries."

    From me after reading: Little mysteries? DEEP SIGH

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    1. Edith, the silver lining is that someone would love your books. I Love your Quaker Midwife series, since I love historical mysteries.

      Diana

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  46. Firstly, it’s important to keep in mind it’s (or should be) the BOOK, not the author who’s being discussed. Secondly what’s written is opinion, not fact. It is almost always easy to differentiate between a review describing strengths and weaknesses as opposed to expressing bias (“the character wore blue, I don’t like blue”).

    There are many thousands of mysteries published each year. Without some guidance, often reviews, how can one know which to choose to read? I appreciate honest reviews, including those pointing out a weakness, such as getting the setting wrong, or a confusing plot, or a deux ex machina ending.

    All that said, I’m very careful of my review sources (Mystery Scene, JRW, Lesa’s, a handful of book blogs).

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  47. it is almost 10pm in California and boy have I missed a great day of comments. I know I won't get to read all of them before the end of the day but I'm enjoying what I'm reading. I've left one or two reviews after reading a book on Amazon because I hadn't figured out how to skip the process.

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