Sunday, July 27, 2008

Putting the brakes on negative waves

After chatting with countless book clubs over the past 3-4 years, last night I was asked a question I'd never been asked before. Here it is: "You often mention books on your blog that you've really enjoyed. Could you also start posting the names of those you haven't liked?"

"No," came my reply, followed by this explanation...

Working alone, with little or no feedback for months and months on end, authors pour everything they've got into their work, and after writing & revising & restructuring a manuscript time and time again they then offer it up to their agent for consideration (if they have an agent, and I won't get into how hard getting one is other than to say the process is filled with the kind of rejection most sane people would never purposefully put themselves through.)

Moving on... After reading the manuscript, your agent's opinion will usually result in yet another round of revisions prior to the manuscript's release to a handful of carefully chosen editors at various publishing houses, each of whom will have their own opinion about what's working, what's not, if the book "speaks" to them, whether a P&L (profit and loss) projection can be done up that will be accepted by their bosses, and if their house will have room for the book on their already tight list.

After a book is purchased there will then be another round of revisions as your editor rolls up his/her sleeves and aids you in fine-tuning that rough diamond of a novel that's ultimately on its way to readers at the far end of the publishing assembly line where it'll be plopped into book stores to compete against an average of 150,000+ other novels each year. Then, when it is finally released, book reviewers will weigh in with their opinions (some who've sadly never written a book themselves) in a most public manner.

I think you see my point here, don't you?

Writing a novel (for those who manage to finish one that's saleable) is hard work; getting it published is equally difficult; growing & continuing to write while under a steady stream of critical scrutiny, not an easy task. And then having a fellow author bad mouth your book on his/her blog after it's released?

Not cool. Not even a little bit.

30 comments:

ORION said...

Amen!!!
That is so the truth. I was on a panel at a book festival and they kept trying to get me to say there were 'good' and 'bad' books-
nope.
Don't agree.
my bad book will be your good one and vice versa.
There's a book out there for everyone.

moonrat said...

amen!

furthermore, stuff on the internet is there forever. and ever. and it gets circulated, and if it's mean, it can ruin a career, quite by accident.

good stance.

Adam said...

Good for your.

I think it would show a complete lack of class on an author's part to give another author's work a bad or even lukewarm review. As my Mamma always used to say, If yah can't say something nice, say nuttin at all!

Anonymous said...

I was at an event last year where an author verbally slammed one of her own by saying "I don't know why her books do so well. I could write circles around her!"

I think it goes without saying that my opinion of said author with big mouth and insecure ego dropped ten notches.

Nice post.

Victoria said...

Is there any profession that
isn't competitive? I don't think so (no offense intended to all you authors) but in each case how a person handles themselves -- with class for instance? -- helps them build the very reputation they become known for.

Love your pov.

Travis Erwin said...

I agree a hundred percent.

Larramie said...

Oh my goodness, who could ever ask you that? {shudder}

Mary said...

It was lovely to read this. Well said!

Nadine said...

I can see admitting to a
close friend that you didn't prefer a certain book, but publicly? That'd be in
such poor taste.

Nice post.

wordman17 said...

Wonder how fast people'd
stop popping by your blog
if you did post a list of books you hated?!! Like...a day?

Meltimom said...

I love your explanation to that person who wanted you to report on bad books. Besides, are there REALLY any bad books? (They got published...that means SOMEONE liked it!!) Everyone has their own tastes and what's good or bad to YOU may be the opposite for me. I've read books that have won awards or have been declared "Classics" that I personally have NOT liked but that doesn't necessarily mean I have poor judgement.
BTW, Holly, The Tin Box was one of the best books I've ever read!! Now, I need to go and look for your other books!!

Meltimom said...

I wholeheartedly agree with your explanation to that person. After all, are there REALLY any bad books? What you didn't like, I might enjoy and vice versa.

The Anti-Wife said...

Very well put!

ChrisEldin said...

Well said!

If I'm ever published, I am pretty sure I can handle any negative reviews from reviewers---but anything from a fellow author? That would be a HUGE insult! To me...

Joanne said...

Excellent post. I like how you refer to all the work that went in prior to publication, rather than just the end product. This respect in the writing community is commendable.

kyla-dale said...

Great post!
I've learned so much reading your blog, but what never fails to shock me is how much work it takes to get published and how much regjection you guys go through. Truly eye opening stuff.

Therese said...

To-tal-ly on the mark here, Holly.

I did an interview recently and was telling the show's host how much more empathetic I've become to EVERY published author since getting into the biz myself. He seemed surprised!

Whew--publicly criticizing other authors? Not.

Andy Scontras said...

Hi Holly!

You're so right!

In all my years of reading -- many years, countless novels -- I've made it a point to never quit on a book I've picked up to read. Certainly had a few that have been a struggle to get through but I feel I owe it to the author to at least acknowledge his efforts (and I know them to be painstaking) by reading the whole thing.

AND, by doing so, I've been able to see what flies and what flounders...

Aloha,
Andy Scontras

ORION said...

Hi ANDY!!!!!!!
(we live on the same island but only see each other on Holly's blog lol!!!)

Holly Kennedy said...

Thanks for all your comments everyone...

Andy, so good to have you drop by! How goes the writing?

TF (Therese), I hope you're having a fine summer down there in your corner of the U.S.

ORION, as always, well put -- "my bad book will be your good one" etc. I so agree...

Meltimom -- what a sweet comment re: The Tin Box. Thanks for the gush.

Moonrat -- Exactly, but even if a career can be ruined by posting negative comments I still see no need to bash other author's books offline either.

Holly Kennedy said...

Larramie -- To be fair, I firmly believe this woman who asked me the question meant no harm. She was quite elderly and I think the question was naive vs. mean-spirited.

She said she was tired of "wasting her money on books that ended up being horrible reads after she got them home." Fair enough, right? BUT my opinion is mine alone and she might love a book I might find boring. Anyhow... I think you see my point. I don't think she realized what she was truly asking or the implications behind it.

Holly Kennedy said...

Chris Eldin -- you're right.
Comments from reviewers start to flow of your back like water and you truly do develop thick skin in many ways. But fellow authors?
Uh-uh...

Kyla-dale -- always nice to have you stop in!

Joanne -- there really is so much work that goes into all of this, yes. It's something I tend to harp about quite often I fear! (I think I really want readers need to know)

Janet said...

Yes, but... (How's that for positive negativity?)

I've only dissed a couple of books on my blog and they were from well-established authors of indisputable talent. And I pointed out the talent.

I feel very ill at ease tearing apart books by new authors, so I don't do it. I just don't review them. When I give praise, I want it to be entirely sincere, and I'm not quite willing to embrace relativity to the point of saying if anybody anywhere likes it, it's good. Much better to remain silent.

The books I find truly offensive I don't review either. No way am I providing them with free publicity, which outraged squawking tends to do.

The problem with reviewers who are completely blind to any weakness is that one stops trusting them after a while. I do like reviewers who will explain what kind of people will or won't like the book. That often gives me a good idea if I want to get it or not. And that can be done without getting nasty.

Wendy Roberts said...

Great answer!!

laughingwolf said...

amen, holly...

Barbara Martin said...

To allow another author to post a negative review on your blog is to say all that hard work was for naught. No one who works hard on their writing wants to fling bad comments into the pubic eye. Outrageous to even ask that.

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