Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bad News is Good News

I'm apparently enjoying titles with an aspect of conflict recently.

Todd Newton posted an interesting piece about why he encourages everyone to review his book the Ninth Avatar, whether they liked it or not. Check it out here:

I find this interesting because it conflicts with my opinion. I was of the feeling that I shouldn't bother to write a review for a book I disliked because it was of a negative aspect and I wanted to focus on the positive. Problem is that there is some disingenuity to that. And I want to be honest. Obviously everything I write is my opinion though. So if I dislike a book, it does not mean that another will find it the same way. In fact I will point out a particularly well watched and reviewed movie: Batman Begins. I could not get into this movie. I have my reasons why I didn't conform with the masses, but I loved the Dark Knight. Absolutely.

A lot of it has to do with our expectations and prior experiences. I've heard of a lot of anger from X-Men comic fans regarding the X-Men movies, but I liked each one. Why? I had little expectation going in. I read some X-Men story lines when I was a kid, but I never collected them. (Simple fact for any person offended by that is  I didn't like coming in late to such a large series—I felt lost as to how to approach it.)

The reverse is probably true if you have the background necessary to enjoy a certain piece, whereas a layperson does not.

So I am considering reviewing about books I did not like. Not to dismiss the author, or garner visits from those interested in controversy, but because I like to discuss books. How they work, they don't.

So how do you approach reviews? What is your opinion on the matter?


  1. Hey, thanks for the (repeated) mention.

    You'd think criticism would be easy to come by in the literary world, but to be honest just getting someone to read the book is a challenge. I know I'm reiterating here, but it's for the purpose of a point. If someone posts a review of your book, the assumption is that they've read it (the whole Amazon situation is likely due to people not reading it and posting a review anyway, as James at Speculative Horizons has mentioned).

    Bad reviews can be helpful for future projects, just as constructive criticism is helpful for current projects. When artists stop trying to improve what they do, I think a lot of their "fans" lose respect for them.

    I just prefer honesty because, frankly, it's worth more to me. I don't write stuff because I think you'll like it, I write it because I want you to read it and see what your reaction is.

  2. You're welcome, hope I'm not sounding like a broken record. But I was just thinking about it further.

    I will take your note a little further. I don't think any of us should really write something that someone else will enjoy. First and foremost we have to enjoy it. Once that is achieved we can always take input from others and see if we find validity within it that will help us improve. 'Course that requires being open to change, which I know some are not. As a detriment to that they will never get better.

    I for one am open to change/improvement and will (along with Todd) welcome criticism. Just keep it constructive.

  3. I think Todd hit it on the nose. I'm always saying how I'm not doing my job as a writer if I can't make someone laugh, cry, or send a death threat. It's all about getting an emotional response from the reader, even if it is a scratch of the head or a shrug of the shoulders.

    Honesty in book reviewing is a great policy.

  4. Well I guess another good example is the writer that has garnered levels of spite from their lack of continuing/finishing their runaway success series. *Ahem* GRRM. Fantastic work, yet not complete and it has caused fans to nearly froth at the mouth as they wait with pitchforks in hand for the next monster of a book to consume with their fiery hatelove.

    So maybe you're right. Maybe getting that response whether good or bad is all that is needed to keep your book above water. Maybe the true death toll of a book is the lukewarm lack of...just...anything. Like the ghostly silence of a graveyard.

    Hmm... Then there are people like my wife who hate cliffhangers. I mean the bad ones, where you're reading along, just zipping through, on the edge of your seat, and then all of a sudden the narrative flies right off of a cliff and cuts. END. Those kinds of books/movies she very convincingly claims she will never read/watch more of. I believe her and haven't seen anything to the contrary yet, but maybe she is in the minority there.

    I also started a thread of this post on Absolute Write with some interesting feedback, where claims have been made that bad reviews are nearly as good if not possibly better than good ones. Makes me further wonder if I need to seek out a hatemonger to review my eventual book.

    I hope they aren't expensive.

  5. LOL I'm sure they'll work for free, if they do truly hate your work.

    I loath cliffhangers because I think it's such a cheap tactic and because I think audiences have evolved/grown up since the times where they worked. The "tune in next week" generation is over, IMHO.

  6. Yet they still happen. I'm not a fan either, but I think my wife outdoes my annoyance. The end of Pirates 2 was pretty lame in that regard.


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