Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Well, lots of Interwebs talk about reviews.

Let's start with the Salon piece...

And then the New York Times article.

Which got link reposted by Do Some Damage, with more discussion.

These all bring up the new big questions about reviews. How much to believe them?

My writing group got to talking about it last night. I said I didn't post really bad reviews, that if I hate a book, I'll just ignore it. Someone else suggested that we have an obligation to post the bad reviews, to do our part as professional writers to weed out the bad books.

What do you think? Should we call out the crap in strong language? Or just ket the junk sink on its own?

1 comment:

  1. I recently came across an article that stated, "Nowadays anybody can publish a novel, but not everybody should."

    People have a misconception that since we're taught to write from a young age, anyone can write a book, and since anyone can write a book, well that must mean that literature is the simplest art form to master, right? This is laughable!

    Literature is just as difficult of an art form to master as music, painting, sculpture etc, and takes YEARS of practice...only a scant few ever make it to the level of master, just like in any other art form. Many people don't seem to comprehend that writing fiction is an art form, that proper grammar and story structure is just the tip of an infinite iceberg. The equation goes something like: Love to Read + I Have a Book in Me = Must Publish = Imminent Success.

    Fortunately there is a Darwinian aspect to the path of authorship - may the strong (meaning best) survive. I understand that this doesn't always work - how many questionable books have made it onto the NYT Bestseller list - but as a general rule of thumb I think it's sound. The cream of the crop tends to rise to the top over time.

    The percentage of quality work in traditional publishing still far outweighs the percentage of quality work in indie publishing. That's just a reality because traditional authors go through a vetting process (although deeply flawed). This process weeds out the junk, and if it doesn't, then the critics in the traditional publishing field do the work for them in the form of bad reviews and general poo-pooing.

    Not so in the indie field. When anyone can publish and have Mom and Dad and Cousin Joe post 5 star reviews, well, this is bad for indies and hurts our credibility. Why? Because it translates to readers in the form of disappointment. They start a book (or several), realize it doesn't live up to the hype, and then turn their backs on indies in general. I've seen it happen more than once. Readers are customers, and customers tend to get fed up.

    I have stacks of indie books on my bookshelf, and dozens more in my Kindle. Maybe 1 or 2 in 10 are any good. It may sound harsh, but it's a reality. They're riddled with plot holes, poor dialogue, bad editing etc. But then there are the gems that really stand out as professional works, and when I find one, I get all giddy (Steven S. Drachman's "The Ghosts of Watt O'Hugh" immediately comes to mind, winner of the Indie Excellence Award 2012)! I think to myself, "See, not ALL indies represent poor quality!"

    Indies aren't doing themselves or their readers any favors by ignoring the elephant in the room, the thousands of poor titles self-pubbed every year. We have to act as one of the mechanisms to weed out the junk and bring the best possible literature to readers as a whole, just like traditional publishing has and continues to do. We have a responsibility to tell other indies, "Look, you have this major problem or that major problem." If they can't take the criticism then they shouldn't be in this game, period.

    Indies have to be as good as, if not better than, traditional publishing precisely because we're engaged in an uphill battle. We're the American colonies and they are the British Empire circa 1774.

    When traditional publishing can point to 1 or 2 out of every 10 indie books and shout, "Look! Look! This is OBVIOUSLY self-pubbed," and then list a dozen reasons why, well, that's not good for anybody except traditional publishing.

    It's certainly not good for me.

    ~Vlad Vaslyn
    Author of Brachman's Underworld