Reviews. What They Are, What They Do.

May 3, 2019

So. The last review-site review of novella But Worse Will Come came through about a month or so ago, I think. I say 'I think' because right now, I'm starting to lose track of time. Plus, I'm a little sore and listless from heavy lifting a couple of days back. I would have updated the journal there and then, but I've been up to the armpits in busy; business as usual. The main thrust of this entry isn't so much that particular review, but the nature of reviews. As well as those who review. And those who have their work reviewed. And those who read those reviews. Those aren't always the same thing. Anyhow.
 
What I did catch wind of a while back - again, I say a while, because I really start to lose track of time here - is when a reviewer (if memory serves) failed to give a response quick enough to an author looking for a review. The author's response was scathing, at best. At worst, ignorant and ill-advised. And there was backlash. Let me be clear here: I feel no need to jump on a bandwagon. But I'll break down the 'ignorant and ill-advised' for you.

 

As an author, your job is to write. If you're not authoring, you're not doing your job. That doesn't mean that you write every day. But it does mean that you continuously and consistently write. Life sometimes gets in the way. But that doesn't make you any less of a writer. The bottom line is, 'do you write?' Even without the recent anthology Imposter Syndrome, it's interesting to note that I've not encountered this until having heard of it from writers and about writers. No matter how much you may feel like an imposter, if you're writing, you're an author.
 
Now. Who you write for is something else. If you write just to amuse yourself and those close to you, then fair play. If you write for other people to read - beyond those close to you - then, here's an ugly truth: they might not like it. That's a truism of life which I'll continue to tell people and continue to adhere to: no matter how good you are at your game, there'll always be those who simply don't like what you do. It won't move them. Mama's one of those people. Oh, sure, she thinks it cool that her youngest writes and he has something that keeps him amused and something that he likes and something that he makes progress in. Hell, she has the books of my work. But to read them? No. 'But Worse Will Come' is something of an exception, because it's got my name on the cover. And because it has places in there that she's heard of, so she'll ask if I'm allowed to write about those places. Or if I'm allowed to use profanity in the book. But to actually read and digest what's written there? Not happening. To her, it may have well been written in a foreign language. Because she'll read the words, but as for what those words are trying to convey, it's largely meaningless to her.
 
Of course, that's not quite the same with reviewers. After all, it's their business to read books and review them - so they have a degree of appreciation for them to start with. But that doesn't mean that the reviewer will automatically like your book. That's assuming they get to read it.

 

Reviewers, like authors, are not always able to make a living from the business of writing. With indie (independent: not contracted with a publisher for a healthy and assured income) authors, they may hold down at least one additional job to pay the bills, as it were. That doesn't make them/us any less professional - which is a misconception I heard mostly from people who don't write at all. Assuming that all a reviewer does is review, it's possible that they may not get to review all the stories sent to them for review. It takes time, especially given how many indie authors may be 'out there'. (I speak from experience having been shortlisted for one open submission call, having made the penultimate cut from nearly 1100 authors. Anyhow). But these are people who may have other obligations. Day jobs. Spouses/partners. Children. Etc. You get the idea.
 
Despite the fact that reviewers may not get to review every work of fiction sent their way, they support those who write. We need them as much they need us. They may manage your expectations upfront, and tell you that they may not get to review every piece of work. In addition, they help put the authors on - and even without a review of a new story, they still assist. There'll be opportunities for interviews/Q&A. A chance to write guest posts for your defining moments in the genre: books, TV/film, freakish memories, etc. But don't take my word for it. The likes of the Bleeding Critic (The Clown), The Gingernuts of Horror, DLS Reviews, Kendall Reviews, Cedar Hollow Horror Reviews, etc. A nod to the former Grim Reader as well. There are no doubt more: I just cite the ones off the top of my head that have put me on. The ones that gave and continue to give me a platform. Which I'm grateful for.
 
What's worthwhile to note is that such reviewers will put you on, but they don't necessarily like your work. No. What they'll do is review it. Among other things, reviewers are people - and as such, their tastes may vary. What they do (ideally) is give a well-reasoned critique of the work: why it works or why it doesn't. These reviews/Q&As/guest posts/etc. aren't necessarily for the authors. No.
 
They're for the audience. The people who'd buy your work. Hopefully clamouring for more of it.
 
Reviews of my work haven't necessarily been favourable. But reviewers put the authors in front of the audience. They're not obliged to. And they're entitled to their own opinion, just like you and me.
 
Which is why it's a bad move to bad-mouth a reviewer. Even if it's done in private, chances are good that reviewer will spread the word. You'll be hard-pressed to find a reviewer who puts the time and effort into an honest, constructive review, and shrugs off being bad-mouthed by the author in question. That circulates to other authors. And other reviewers. And review platforms like Amazon. But don't take my word for it. The same way this has happened before, I don't doubt this will happen again. Just watch the backlash when it does. It's a sight to behold. A tidal wave of 'fuck-you-too.'
 
From an author point of view? If some people don't like your work or don't understand it? Be grateful they took the time to review it, accept it and move on. How? Write more. Which you'd be in the business of doing, since you're an author. And it's what your audience would be waiting for.
 
So give everyone something to write home about.

 

 

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