Saturday, December 18, 2010

Unofficial interview of a famous reviewer

“A review is NOT a critique,” the lady sitting next to me said in a firm tone as I listened with the utmost interest.

You see the lady I had the privilege to chat with, is a well-known reviewer who has reviewed NY bestsellers before I even started writing novels, hence every word coming out of her mouth about books --yes every word-- was worth listening, understanding, pondering, and applying. Considering the number of participles—ing words--I am glad this post is not a submission to be reviewed.

“So how do you compare critique and reviews?” I asked eagerly.

“You don’t.”

“Ah.” I wasn’t going to argue and ask silly questions.

“A critique is done on a work-in-progress. The critique partner is expected to carefully read the submission, analyze it, dissect it, and point the author to the things that need corrections. A critique is not about flattering your best friend, it’s about being honest and helping an author improve her writing. No one except you and your CP is going to read the comments. But a review is a very different thing.”

“So what exactly is a review?” I said to encourage the famous reviewer to elaborate on reviews.

“Remember a review is done on a book already published. A reviewer cannot change the book by giving advice, therefore a reviewer should abstain from saying negative things about a published book. A good reviewer should restrict herself to highlight the points she likes in a book.”

“Do I understand you right? A review should always been good?”

“Yes, a review is supposed to help sell the book. Therefore a good reviewer will abstain from mentioning things she doesn’t like. Remember, reading and judging a story is so subjective and will depend on the reader’s taste. What I don’t like as a reviewer, another reader may like. A good reviewer should never destroy a book with nasty comments.”

“Interesting. You have a good point here. So what do you do if you really think the story is poorly written?”

“If I have nothing good to say about a book, I don’t review it.”

“What if you have committed to review it and discover mid-way, you don’t approve of the writing?”

“If I am already committed to review it and my employer is expecting a review, I will grade it, give it a 2 or a 3, but I will still say something good about it. Let’s face if there was absolutely nothing a reader would like about a book, the publisher wouldn’t have published it.”

“So you have never trashed a book?”

“Never. By trashing a book, one would trash not only the author, but also the editor and the publisher. Trashing a book means that the reviewer is a bad reviewer who has a streak of nastiness and should not be allowed to review books.”

“Wow, I like that. I wish you could review my books.” It never hurts to try to get a review when one is guaranteed good review.

“Nope. I never review authors I know,” the lady said with a peremptory tone and a sweet smile.

Have you ever received a bad review? In that case, remember your book is good but your reviewer is bad.

Some of my reviews:
Romance Junkies~5 Ribbons. BABIES IN THE BARGAIN is one novel that pulls you into the story and holds you captive to the last page.
Joyfully Reviewed~ Romance blooms amidst tragedy in BABIES IN THE BARGAIN. It tugs heart strings and stirs emotions.
WRDF Review~ This was a great read, romantic and at times bittersweet.Enjoyable from beginning to end, Babies in the Bargain sports believable characters, an ultra romantic story line, and a thoroughly satisfying ending.
Readers Favorite~ 5 Hearts This is Mona Risk at her best. The story will bring tears both sadness and joy. The characters are easy to relate to. The plot is excellent. Fans of romance will love this story.

Night Owl Romance: Prescription for Trust was a fantastic read. The plot was also very well thought out and the pacing on target. The wonderful healing that took place in this book also made it a very sweet read.
Got Romance! ~ 4.5 Diamonds Mona Risk writes a charming story. Keeping the reader entertained with the twists and turns in the plot. With great characters like Luc and Olivia the reader will enjoy the world that she has built.
The Long And The Short Reviews~ Mona Risk’s writing sweeps you into the story from the first page, and keeps you turning the pages.

SIMPLY ROMANCE REVIEW: Outstanding Read. Mona Risk's TO LOVE A HERO is a wonderful love story... I definitely recommend TO LOVE A HERO , and while you're at it pick up a bottle of vodka! Nazhtrovia!!
Two Lips Review: Mona Risk tells a poignant yet beautiful and sweet story of two people falling love, who must fight their attraction... This is a story readers will enjoy.
The Romance Studio: Sweetheart of the Week. ~ Ms. Risk is one of those authors who puts together a tale that’s captivates from first page to last. I’ll have to look for more of her work in the future.

Night Owl Romance: Recommended Read Mona Risk will pull you in with her amazing characters and in-depth twisting suspense... Travel has never been this suspenseful nor this cheap!
Review Your Book: In French Peril, Mona Risk creates a swirling air of mystery around the excavation of a chapel ruin... French Peril is a great contemporary romantic read.
The Romance Studio: This is a wonderfully exciting romantic suspense novel. The characters are appealing and the setting is very romantic, a chateau in the Loire Valley.
TWO LIPS REVIEW: Pick up French Peril, a sweet mystery romance you’re guaranteed to enjoy.
Coffee Time Romance: French Peril is a great romance with an excellent mystery. Ms. Risk writes outstanding dialogue and this, combined with the lushness of the Loire Valley, are the final elements that make French Peril an excellent story.
Publishers Weekly Saturday Blurb Barbara Vey's Special Beyond her Book Blog ~ Who wouldn't want to lose themselves in Mona Risk's French Peril? Traveling to the beautiful French countryside, staying in a marvelous, ornate chateau, eating fine food and drinking the chateau's wine, and let's not forget the charming and handsome host. Sign me up, Ms Risk, I'll be looking for your next foreign escape.
All books available at Amazon.con
If you like to travel and love to read, come and enjoy my international romances. I will take you around the world through stories that simmer with emotion and sizzle with heat.


Maeve Greyson said...

Well said and AMEN to every word! I so agree with the motto: if you can't say something nice - don't say anything at all. What might not strike me as a favorite read could easily be someone else's passion. Excellent post (and I love your books, Mona)


Joanne Stewart said...

Excellent post! I too agree with every word. Two thumbs way up for her!

LK Hunsaker said...

I disagree. There's a difference between presenting both good and bad in a nice manner and in trashing a book. If all reviews are nothing but good, there is no longer a point to any review at all. Maybe the author can't change that book, but she can take the comments and consider them for her next book. An author who wants to grow wants to know what readers honestly think.

I do believe, though, that a review should never by nasty. There are always nice ways to be honest about what you don't like.

Mary Ricksen said...

You know I so agree with you Mona.
A trashing can ruin a writers self esteem. Not to mention tears. I do believe there is something nice to say about every book, if not, don't review it.
The lady you spoke to is spot on.
And so are you my friend, you are a wonderful and talented author.
I loved every book I read of yours and look forward to many more!
You rock Mona!

Karen Michelle Nutt said...

Wonderful post and so true.
Maeve, you hit it right on.

Unfortunately, there are those who thrive on being mean and go out of their way to trash someone's work. You have to let those go and move on. Most of the ones who trash, trash everyone's work. There's a pattern.

Funny, before I wrote my first novel, I never read the reviews, looked at who the publisher was or cared if the author was a newbie or a New York Best Seller. lol I chose the book because the blurb caught my interest. I read it and made up my own mind if I liked it or not. It never crossed my mind to leave comment or that the author might want to know if someone like the story. How about any of you?

Your books sound wonderful. I wish you the best success!

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

I like the way this woman thinks. Behind every book is a brave dreamer who shared his or her soul with us. Books contain mental pollen that the writer uses to make our souls bloom and grow. Why trash their efforts? Our society is too bent toward nastiness. Thankfully, wise people like her bring the sweetness of their spirit to their work--and to our lives.

AJ Nuest said...

Thank you Mona for sharing this advice with us! What a great, great way to look at reviews. Especially after pouring our hearts and souls into our work!I will remember every word when reading the first of my reviews. Thanks again.

P.L. Parker said...

I think this is a wonderful slant on reviewing. Wish every reviewer held to that same concept.

Mona Risk said...

I will answer all your comments at once. I think I understand this famous reviewer's thought. By the time a book is published it should really be as polished as possible through many critiques, revisions, editing, proofreading, so it's really not up to the reviewer to explain what is wrong with a book. If a reviewer doesn't like a book it's probably because she doesn't like that genre. As an author, I would not change my writing just beacuse a reviewer doesn't like it. Another may like it.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

That's a cool idea for a post, Mona. I wish all reviewers thought like her. Of course, I don't have a published book, but some day I will and would love to see what she had to say about it. :)

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Mona,
Great blog. I certainly wish all reviewers were as caring and sensitive as your friend.



Brindle Chase said...

That's a very interesting take and I agree with much of it. But I think a reviewer needs to give their honest opinion. If they didn't like a book, or enjoy the plot, disliked a character... whatever it was that made reading it a less than favorable experience, then they should say so politely. I Don't think they should skip over these negative points. They aren't doing the book any favors by saying it was awesome, when it wasn't. Readers of reviews will come to distrust the reviewer and the author if the reviews are not truthful.

With that said, there are very positive and polite ways to express dislike. Tee'ing off on a book is not the way to do it. Snarky comments only tell us the reviewer is an A--hole, who likes to shred other peoples art. I've had very positive reviews that were quite honest in pointing out aspects of the book they really didn't enjoy, while also highlighting all the things they did.

A great example of why the negative should be included is one I received. They absolutely loved the story, but gave it 3 stars instead of 4 or 5, because the short story was "too short" They said so very politely. When reading a review to see if it might be a book I would enjoy, it would be great to know why this awesome book only got 3 stars. If a reviewer notes the only negative aspe3ct of the short story was that it was short, I would be inclined to overlook the 3 rating and give the book a shot.

If you give only positive reviews, I'm left wondering why one got 5 stars and was excellent, and another was excellent and got 3 stars.

Anywho, great article! Thanks for sharing with us Mona!

Liana Laverentz said...

This is something very good to know. Thank you for sharing with us, Mona!

Cryselle said...

I'm with Brindle -- a review that is all positive does the reader very little good, honesty about points strong and weak (expressed kindly, of course) are a lot more useful. The reader, after all, is the one who is trying to make a decision about how to use her limited resources of time and money. While a review certainly does affect the author, is the review for the benefit of the author, or for the reader?

I have no idea who the lady in the interview is, but I suspect she's known for damnation by faint praise.

Stephanie Burkhart said...

Mona, awesome post, Sweetie. I like the philosophy, but I feel reviews should always be guided by honesty. I agree that what one person likes another might not, but there's always a tactful way to say it. I review a lot and if I find something that just doesn't sit right with me, I try to find a tactful way to mention it in the review. Being Nasty is just not cool.