Friday, November 30, 2012

Fan Wars:: To Review or Not To Review

I was recently looking once more for someone to review my book.

I've given away 650 plus copies and have one review to show for it. I have two other reviews that were directly solicited by me so this one is my prize possession though it be short and well, not so sure how sweet.

"What a crummy ending, just left you hanging."

Short and to the point and she's right. I probably need to be slapped for that one. I'm writing a trilogy. Oh, and that's not my excuse- this is my first novel- that's my excuse. But really this is not about blame or pointing fingers. So, I should get back to my point.

I came across a critique site and was sorely tempted to leave a calling card. I did that and it is quite fortunate that most critics won't do anything with your work without a bit more than a calling card. I then proceeded to look at this critic's work. It was not bad- not sub par. But, this is the internet we're talking about so there is a lot of leeway for that merit system.

I discovered another feature here--The critic was offering to exchange site links and the review for a free copy of the authors work. This is of particular interest because it may just infringe a bit on the ability of the critic to give a fair critique. This made me a bit leery. Then I chanced across something interesting. It was a mention of a bad review and seemed to be the critics defense of a recent critique that she had given. I thought that strange. Thinking perhaps that some of her readers and fans had not appreciated her critique.

I was almost appalled to find that it was, in fact, the author who had taken umbrage. And there was a link to his rebuttal of her review.

I of course had to follow that and found the makings of a range war. Here I found the rebuttal and a link to the critique and another link to the critics defense of her review. I read all of these trying to figure out what I could about the situation, well that is what the blogs are all about, Right? It's not like I'm intruding where I shouldn't. I read these through thoroughly and thought that someone might have been breaching etiquette.

It only became increasingly clear there was some sort of breach when a fan of the authors defended the author and, by claiming their own authority in the writing business, besmirched the reputation of a critic who they thought was unprofessional in defending their review.

Now I normally hesitate to comment on blogs--mostly because each and every type of blog needs to have the commenter sign up for a new account. If I did that every time I wanted to comment I'd have an eight and a half by eleven sheet full of usernames and passwords.(oh wait I do have that.) The point is; it takes a bit to move me to comment.

I felt something a bit unsettling in: a writer refuting critic's critique and expecting that the critic would not respond. My thought being that writing a critique of a critique of your own work seems a bit of a mistake and would invite an immediate and direct response.

I tried to leave a comment at the writer's blog (tried 3 times before I suddenly was finding myself locked out of any ability to type in the comment field) Each of the three times I finished and hit enter and the screen would refresh and nothing more. So I finally left the author a rather heated comment in his email that if I were prone to paranoia that I might think he was sitting there moderating the posts and repeatedly deleting mine.

Of course his response to that was an apology and a rather concealed comment to me that he placed on his blog about an email that intrigued him and the fact that someone might get into the middle of his range-war without knowing the facts. Then there was something at the end about letting sleeping dogs lie.(I paraphrase here and might not be doing justice but this is part of my point that I might some day get to.)

His favorite fan came to his aid again and promptly suggested i should mind my own business and that I had too much time on my hands.(I have so much time when working 40hrs a week and writing the second novel.)(And, yes I know, Hornets nest and all I should have brought the flying bug spray.)

Needless this led to a short dialogue- email wise as it took a long time before I could make WordPress understand I already had several WordPress accounts and didn't need another since I've no intention ever of using WordPress for my personal blog. They won the argument so I have several plus one.

In the ensuing dialogue the author made a point that the critic could not have read the book and made the comments that they had made. To back that up there were apparently several other readers who read the review who apparently talked him into writing a rebuttal of the review. And that if I read the book and her review I'd see that clearly myself.

Now this critic also made the mistake of giving away too much of the plot-- which in itself seems strange for someone who is accused of not reading it. But in reading the review I'd have to agree that a lot of plot and ending were out there.

So I read the book- I enjoyed it- not so sure I'm convinced that it proves anything about whether this other person did or did not read it even based on having read the bad review the review of the review the defense and then the book. Some people just have specific opinions about things and that's what the review process is all about.

So, back to the point.

What is criticism about and when might it be appropriate to critique a critique and who has the right to tell either the critic or the writer to shut-up and listen.Here's an interesting link about criticism in general.

http://scottberkun.com/essays/35-how-to-give-and-receive-criticism/

Even more so this one on reviews. I specifically recommend both of these to people in forums in the hope they might learn a balance in whatever it is they claim they are doing when they invite new works to be reviewed by other members. They could stand to teach some of this, but sadly they don't.

http://www.lavc.edu/library/bookreview.htm

Anyway I've tested many forums and writers groups on line and one thing that you learn quickly is that when allowing others to critique in a forum- the writer should be a pillar of quietude and nodding acceptance to any and all criticism.

I believe Forums take it too far with these rules because this should be the one real place that a person can actually discuss more about the review or critic process without getting publicly shamed. Most forums discourage any sort of questioning and a good critique for value in learning needs to have a flow of information both ways.

But for lack of better ways to control things this is the code of ethics forums use and although I don't agree (that proven by the fact I've at least twice been banned all the way down to my IP address) They will continue to be that way because they can.

I believe those rules have no place in forums because it promotes internet bullying.

Conversely I do think that such rules or guidelines should apply to real critiques of our finished works that have been offered out there.

Putting your work out there invites the risk someone might not understand or like what you write and that they may actually take the time to tell you that.

If the critic points out a deficiency you can fix then that should be helpful for you. If it looks more like they are attacking then it's time to go to the next critic.

As regards such knee jerk reactions as our own readers might have to such a horrible criticism, though it is flattering to have such fans, the writer should discourage, not promote, defensive discussions. We should help the fans understand that not everyone will like the work.

And as to letting sleeping dogs lie. I thought they were dead and just figured someone should give them a decent burial.

Egregious Ghostwriter

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