Monday, February 02, 2009

The Conundrum of the Book Review

For my friend Anita Daher and all the other authors I know...
just read an interesting column on the process of reviewing books with excerpts from both John Updike and Dave Eggars on the site HERE.

These thoughts are tender ones to me, as my newest book baby will be born on March 3rd. I both long for and dread reviews -- the whole process of selling books is one fraught with contradictory emotions for me.

As an author, of course I want people to read, love and connect with my book. But I find the process twists me -- I don't ever want to be in a position to have to sell the public on my work. I want to put it out there, set it free to be enjoyed. You can see where real-world values might clash with this artistic ephemera. I think I have to side with Updike and Eggars, here. What do you think?



Anita Daher said...

Thanks, kc, this is very interesting! As I also work for a publishing house, I ponder the value of book reviews (other than the kick-in-the-gut inducing reevaluation of self and goals). Some of them--and I'm speaking of children's book reviews only--like the ones in CM, reach teachers and librarians, but not readers outside of those institutions--unless they have gone through the effort to Google. This isn't a bad thing, as teachers and librarians are very big buyers of our books. But, we would like the books known "outside," right? The reviews most likely to reach these readers are in newspapers.

Except for on the occasional week dedicated to children's books, the Globe and Mail has one columnist who "reviews" picture books, middle grade, and teen novels all-together-now--as if at the small table (where did I read that recently?). Regional papers are generally good, because they are interested in authors in the neighbourhood. But...this doesn't do much for crossing borders.

Quill and Quire is lovely for those in the industry...I'm not saying it is a bad thing to review for we in the industry, because we DO read a lot of books. But, do they reach the broader reading public?

Personally, I've never had a book reviewed in either the Globe and Mail or Quill and Quire. I don't think I am on their radar. Which reminds me of a comment made by a co-worker. She said it seems the "bigger" publications most often review books by people who are already recognized, and probably don't need the reviews because they have an established readership who will buy their books no matter what. This isn't always the case, but often.

Something else...generally, newspapers pay their reviewers. Some children's book specific review publications, such as CM and Resource Links, do not. If they paid, they might attract authors to review books, which would probably be nice for them.

I think the best book buzz is created by booksellers. They always have a helpful, "Oh, if you liked that you might like this too." Perhaps we are better off getting our review copies to them, rather than the dozens and dozens of publications that might say hello who-ever-you-are, thanks for whatever-this-is, and then assign with more thought to who's next on the docket, or maybe "What shall I have for lunch?" than suitability to a subjective individual.

Seems like we won't reach the booksellers through Book Expo anymore, however....

kc dyer said...

I think it will always be a tumultuous relationship between the reviewed and the reviewing -- but the more experience one has, it seems, the less likely one is to stand in judgement. Or so one would wish!