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This topic has become a comedy of ironies.
Herein lies the oft-repeated back-handed compliments and erroneous and mixed opinions we authors often deal with, in relation to our work. It seems that some readers just don’t understand nor appreciate what authors are offering, and why. And they don’t seem to understand the function of short works in this regard. Would that we could be treated with the same respect that other professions enjoy, without suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
In one blog, Distracting Fiction: Brand Vs. Generic, I tackled the criticism of including brand names of things in my stories, in another, Diversify & Die, I address the challenges of marketing yourself and why I started concentrating on writing in just one major genre, and in another, Stranger Fiction, Reviews & Truthiness, I said “Historically, there has been a notable chasm between the author’s craft and the reading public’s knowledge of what that craft includes” and discussed the odd complaints of readers who missed critical nuances and story elements, and in Bloody Hands, I revealed the intensely personal emotional development a writer must have in order to write well, and the abject vulnerability that revealing yourself on the page entails.
Imagine my dismay when, in the second review of Giving it Away : Spoilers as Both Noun & Accusation (Why Book Reviews Matter & How to Write a Proper One), I found:
Review by: (MT) on March 19, 2013 :
This book is 10 pages and 20+ promotional pages for the author’s other work. It is a short read. It goes a little long on don’t give away spoilers. The meat of the book for me was in two pages. The author gives useful tips on doing reviews. Which I plan to use in the future when reviewing ficiton. Thanks for your work. Your other books look interesting as well.
(review of free book)
In the first review, this:
Review by: DHK on March 19, 2013 :
I found this book timely, although a bit vague and short on specifics. I’m not knocking the book – it’s only some 5100 words long, after all – but simply saying Baeli could have done more with it even if that entailed a much larger book. I think the topic itself – writing thoughtful reviews – is certainly something that needs addressing and I applaud Baeli for beginning that conversation. I hope she expands it into something a new reviewer can keep readily to hand just as one should a good dictionary or manual for one’s primary job.
Yes, the MT review, she gave it 4-stars, (thank you) and she did say something nice in the last few sentences, (thanks again) but also seemed troubled by the fact that the article was short, and had promotional material in it. [IRONY ALERT] she also said at the end of the review that my other books looked interesting…um, wasn’t that the material at the back of the book she complained about? I included that extra data for both marketing reasons, and because [IRONY ALERT] I wanted to be able to toss more in there for the reader, so it wouldn’t seem they were getting nothing for something, even though they were actually getting something for nothing, because the eArticle was FREE.
Then she said it also “goes a little long on don’t give away spoilers” when [IRONY ALERT] the article was ABOUT SPOILERS.
Why do some readers seem offended when we add information in the back of the book about our other work? Do they not understand that this is our vocation, and the goal is to sell the creations we toil over? Don’t we have the same right as others to advertise the fruits of our talent and hard work? And when we offer some of our writing for free in order to do that, why is that such a burr under their saddles? And why do they seem pissy that a SHORT work of say, 10 pages, is not LONGER, when it’s not intended to be a thorough examination of a subject, and the download of it is even FREE????
In the FIVE star DHK review, he said the “book” was “a bit vague…” (when there was nothing vague about it, even though I had said in the book blurb, “This is one time when you should be vague.”) Isn’t it ironic? Doncha think?
He also said the article was “short on specifics” while the MT review said it “goes a little long on don’t give away spoilers” (when that was indeed the TOPIC of the article). DHK said, “Baeli could have done more with it even if that entailed a much larger book” when it wasn’t a book, but a short article, and the intent, clearly stated, was that it was a micro-topic, not a topic under a microscope.
As I said in the previous blog post, I don’t have TIME to devote to expanding nonfiction subjects, even though I have published quite a few nonfiction books, with a list of them still sitting unfinished, as I am busy writing full-length novels, for which I hope to get quality reviews from those who know how to properly WRITE a review, which is what this article was about. If they want full-length works exclusively, I could point them to 33 of my other BOOKS.
Oh, and did I mention that the article WAS FREE?
All this, after a collection of respected and qualified authors posted thanks and kudos for what I was sharing in that article, the author and board member of Lambda Literary Foundation, KG MacGregor, sent me an email saying “Thanks so much for your blog on spoiler reviews. As a board member at Lambda Literary Foundation, I forwarded it to our LL Review editor and asked him to share it with our reviewers. That’s the best set of questions I’ve ever seen!”
So much for the mistaken concept that you can please everyone, which is also something I said in the article:
But remember that we writers can’t please everyone, we can only write the stories we feel compelled to write, and hope there are those who are interested in reading them. And more importantly, writing well is hard work; we pour ourselves into the job, and we have feelings, just like you do.
And in the blog before this, I asked the burning question: Ironically, I wonder what the reviews for his publication will be like?
I’m beginning to think that we authors need a place to review the reviews on our books. Hardly seems fair that the public at large can say what they want about our work, even if it’s erroneous or misinterpreted, and we just have to sit there like we’re in the dunking booth at the county fair.