Friday, September 12, 2008

Book Reviews - The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

As a former fine artist and current graphic designer, I am no stranger to being reviewed. In fact, most of my undergrad evaluations came not from tests and papers, but from peer and professor critiques in the classroom. Every week as my work was displayed on a big screen for all to review, I braced myself for the impact. If you are lucky, only a few people tear you apart over the details, but mostly everyone seems to like the direction you took. These are the projects that result in a solid "B" or "A-" and you can rest assured that the next project will be better based on what you learned from the scrutiny. But some people are still displeased. They are the perfectionists. They want the coveted "A+" that results in a rare "everyone-loves-it" critique. Most people never get this. I know I never did. I took my B's and A-'s with grace knowing that I would never be perfect. I also knew the alternative, failing grades that result from when a design student only gets negative comments for completely missing the mark.

What does this have to do with book reviews? Everything. Authors are reviewed much the same way I was reviewed as a design student. Every author wants readers to love their book and receive nothing but favorable reviews, but the truth is everyone is not going to love it. Even if the book is good, someone is always going to have a dissenting opinion. What authors need to realize, though, is that these minority opinions are often the most helpful. I was recently alerted to a situation where an author, who sought a review, tried to suppress a minority reviewer's opinion once the author deemed it less favorable.

In reference to the APOOO Book Club discussion question, Should APOOO Reviewer Fight Back? I posted the following response.

Even though this is really sad, and a bit childish, I would let the situation slide. It doesn’t look like there would be any win here for the reviewer by contacting the author and voicing concern. This author is obviously not interested in true, independent opinions. I don’t understand is how you can be an author or producer of anything creative for that matter and expect that everyone will like what you create. It is just not realistic.

My bottom line for authors wanting their book to be reviewed:
Don't publish your work if you do not want honest opinions. Stop being so sensitive, do better next time and move on!