deborahjross: (Tajji in meadow)
"When someone does something good, applaud!" said Samuel Goldwyn. "You will make two people happy."

The past few years in the science fiction and fantasy communities (no slight to you horror fans, you can have your share) have been rife with insults, denigration of one another's work, and -- not to put too fine a point on it -- downright nastiness. More than once I have wondered why folks who think that tearing down someone else's book will somehow make theirs better. This is not to say there is no place for literary criticism or personal taste. Not every book that's published qualifies as great literature. I've done my share of scratching my head, clueless as to why a book that did nothing for me has made best seller lists. And there are authors I won't read because I find their public statements, actions, or subtext abhorrent. (When Mein Kampf goes off copyright anon, I doubt I'll purchase a copy.) So the discourse about negative reactions to authors and specific books is complex.

I find the reverse to be quite simple. If I enjoyed a book, I like to praise it. Or a movie, or a piece of music, or a painting, or a dance, or any of the thousand other things that light up my day. It might not be perfect, but a thing doesn't have to be flawless to be enjoyable. When I share my private delight with others, I find it makes me even happier. If the other person also loved whatever it is I'm applauding, that's even better. Curious, how human nature works. We all smile together. Our hearts lift.

And of course, whoever created the thing I'm applauding is happy, too. I've been on both sides -- giving and getting applause. How great is that?

The thing about writing is that so much of it is done in solitude, where our fears and self-doubts multiply in the dark. No matter how thick-skinned we tell ourselves we are, we are not immune to gloom. So instead of looking at another writer's success and thinking, "I suck, I'll never be that good" or "There goes my readership" (or reeling under a review or a rejection letter that compared my work unfavorably to a piece by A Bigger Name -- don't laugh, both have happened to me), I remind myself that no matter who wrote it, the world is a better place with this story in it. I'm a happier reader for having found it. Some day, I'll write a story that makes other people this happy. The other author's success shows me that mine is possible. It gives me hope, as well as something to aim for.
deborahjross: (Deb and Cleo)
Is it unspeakably gauche to point to a glowing review of your own work? From J. M. Frey's review:

The love stories between the alien pairs were the most important, and the most tender moments of the book, Not only for the fascinating look at sexual biology and the way Wheeler has shaken and blended gender norms like a Bond martini, but because they are also beautiful romances, familiar family issues, and heart-touchingly domestic. The aliens’ whole way of life is built on the family structure, the treasuring of the all-too-rare children, and the valuing of honesty and generosity between clan kin. The relationships span all ranges and makeups – from widowers to young lovers; from established partnerships with adult children to newlyweds with a baby on the way; from unrequited loves to loves cut tragically short. In this way, Wheeler has given us aliens with hearts as human as the readers, and that’s the point.

A starkly entertaining allegory of Middle East tensions, and a romantic and intellectually sexy gender discussion wrapped up in a compelling novel that solidifies Dragon Moon Press’ swiftly growing place amid the new wave of socially-aware and unafraid-to-make-its-readers-think genre fiction publishers.


Read the whole review:
‘Collaborators’ by Deborah Wheeler | Lambda Literary
deborahjross: (prancing horse)
What a great way to begin a morning - seeing The Children of Kings on the March Highlights at Kirkus!

Blog Post: Science Fiction & Fantasy Books—March 2013 Highlights | Kirkus
deborahjross: (Jaydium)
Are the reader reviews on Amazon.com better or worse than those penned by professional (and often academic and "litrary") reviewers? Or are they a completely different ball of wax?

In an article, "Amazon Killed The Book Reviewer Star," Gregory Ferenstein writes:

“The democratization of reviewing is synonymous with the decay of reviewing,” lamented Professor of English Morris Dickstein, “The professional reviewer, who has a literary identity, who had to meet some editor’s exacting standard, has effectively been replaced by the Amazon reviewer, the paying customer, at times ingenious, assiduous, and highly motivated, more often banal, obtuse, and blankly opinionated.”

Others have implied that Amazon contains far worse than uncritical literary buffoons; Cornell professor Trevor Pinch, discovered systemic corruption within the ranks of top 1,000 Amazon reviewers, many of whom are given perks for good reviews or abstaining from bad ones.

But, if Amazon really is a literary cesspool, why did Dobrescu and his colleagues find that consumer reviews were nearly identical, on average, to professional critics, (under conditions when professionals would not be biased)? The likely explanation is what social scientists call the “wisdom of crowds.” A randomly selected consumer reviewer is no match for a professional reviewer, but the average opinion of all laymen is less biased than an expert.

This fact was famously discovered by Sir Francis Galton, who found that crowds of people were astonishingly good at guessing the weight of a cow, despite individual guesses being all over the map. Stupid answers are tossed around the actual right answer in equal proportion, marking the truth like treasure on a map surrounded by circular dots.


Regardless of the quality or positivity/negativity of Amazon reader reviews, conventional wisdom is that they affect sales because once a book has received a certain number, it gets into Amazon's suggestion algorithms ("Readers who liked this book, liked that other book...")

So if you haven't posted a review of your favorite author's book (how about mine - Jaydium and Northlight?) this is a great time to do so!
deborahjross: (dolomites)
On SFRevue:

This was a beautiful, touching novelette that will be on my Hugo Short List for next year.

Author's heart goes pitter-pat...
deborahjross: (Default)
especially the bad ones...with total professionalism.

http://lingster1.livejournal.com/53123.html
deborahjross: (Default)
Tech Crunch comments on the recent hubbub regarding The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis, which received numerous 1-star customer reviews because it was not yet available in a Kindle edition. These people hadn't even read the book and were using the reviews as a way of punishing the author for something he had no control over.

I think the issue of bullying via poor amazon.com reviews is much broader. Paul Carr, author of the article, writes:

Amazon’s book review policy has long been a bugbear of mine, and most other authors’. Too often, especially with controversial authors, the most negative reviews come from people who haven’t even read the book in question. Their anger, and the resulting one-star review, is simply a statement of general antipathy towards the author and everything they do. I know of several authors who have had to ask Amazon to take down libelous one-star reviews that focus on their gender, their race, their political views and almost any other aspect of their character.

How many books have gotten poor overall ratings on Amazon because a handful of readers objected to (AKA were out to get) the author or the subject material. All too often, I've seen scathing comments that had nothing to do with the merits of the book but were thinly disguised attacks because the book dealt with, for instance, GLBT issues. (Cases in point: Vera Nazarian's Northanger Abbey With Angels and Demons, the beautifully done riff on Emma, James Fairfax by Adam Campan, and my own Hastur Lord.)

Do such reviews hurt or help sales? Are prospective buyers intelligent enough to tell when a review is an honest reaction by someone who has read and thought about the book or a politically-driven smear campaign? Are you more or less likely to buy a book that has such reviews? Or is any buzz, positive or negative, a good thing?

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Deborah J. Ross

May 2017

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