“Stuff” in the Life of a Book Reviewer

Guest Post by Irene Watson

Justifications by Editor Why Book was Published with Editing Issues

We recently reviewed a book and the reviewer pointed out the copious amounts of editing issues in the book.  I got a response from the editor of the book:

As her editor, I was aware that [author’s name removed] book went to print containing grammatical flaws. However, it was my desire and intent to get her story out to the world as expeditiously as possible.

My response:

Your comment “As her editor, …” is disconcerting to me.  In fact, I’m appalled that an editor would even recommend to an author the book be published with grammatical flaws.  I do realize no book is perfect, even when it has two or three passes by different editors, but for an editor to allow a book to be published knowing there are errors is totally unfair to the author.

Unfortunately, readers don’t even consider that an editor may have allowed a book with editing issues  to be published but they would assume the author didn’t get the book edited at all. As I mentioned to the editor, this is unfair to the author. (btw – the email from the editor was riddled with typos.)

Accusing the Reviewer of Not Reading the Book

A few days ago, I got an extra long and an extra angry email from an author.  She made a point of writing in UPPER CASE (which denotes screaming in the Internet world) and large font, various colors of font, bold font, and highlighting.  I guess she was on a mission to get her point across to me that “HE DID NOT READ THIS BOOK!”   

I forwarded the email to the reviewer and his comment was

I am very sorry the author was so upset by my review. Yes, I read the book… I enjoyed many of its gifts and I tried to mention, within the constraints of my honest, personal thoughts, my positive reactions to the book.

The author also took the opportunity to slam-blast a review that was given in 2008 on a previous book submitted in for review.  The book or review had nothing to do with the present review but accused the previous reviewer of a “negative crusade.”  Can you imagine living in a body that has bottled up anger about a review given back in 2008?

Furthermore, the author accused the current reviewer of taking content from the review of a book that was previously written.  The author also alluded that both reviewers referred to her as a male.  The reviewer’s response was:

Based on the title of the first book, [title removed,] my expectations were that this sequel would be an adventure as well. In fact, I found it to be more like a nature ramble. It is this personal perception, not the reference in the [reviewer’s name removed] review of [title removed,] which prompted my comment. In fact, I did read her review, only because it was the only review of either book I could find. And my primary purpose for doing so was in hopes of finding some background on [author’s name removed.] Her home page includes no bio or mention of the author’s sex. Nor is there a bio in the book.  I assumed [name removed] to be a male in the lack of any bio information and recall being confused by the references to [name removed] as “her” My confusion about this seemed not worthy of mention in the review.

Since this book was entered into our Literary Awards Program we had an extra copy of the book in the office so I decided to check on some of the issues present by the reviewer. Yes, the reviewer is right; there is no author bio and there is no indication the writer is female. As for the rest of the content I can’t comment because I haven’t read the book.  But, one thing I did notice is there is no content on the back of the book which I find odd since this is the second place (first being the front cover) that potential readers look at.  The artwork is lovely but gives no synopsis, no blurbs, and no bio.  It never ceases to amaze me that authors don’t adhere to industry standards when self-publishing their books.  Is it because they don’t read books themselves and have no idea what the standards are?

Not Being Able to Find a Posted Review

Oih vey!  At least once a week I get an email telling me that the author couldn’t find his or her review on our site.  This is usually in response to an email I sent to the author attaching the tear sheet and saying the review has been posted.

Searching any site is simple – it’s no different than going to a library years ago and looking at a Card Index.  Believe it or not, we all do the same thing – searching should be easy because most of us list the books by title and author’s last name.  Some of us even have genre listings of the books. Not only that, our site has a specific link to “search site.”

Not Being Able to Open Word Documents or View a Video

Yes, I know…it does seem odd that some people can’t open a Word document.  I find this specific issue with those that have extremely old computers and have not taken the time and effort to update them.  Most computers have a lifespan of about four years and need to be replaced or updated. 

Granted, I am expressing some frustration here, and I have to admit I get frustrated myself with computers and how programs are continually being upgraded or you need to install new programs. Technology, however, is in many respects a necessary evil, and if we don’t keep up with it, we are going to fall behind, which will be detrimental for promoting our books and our author career.

Taking it Upon the Self to Tell the Website Owner How to Make it Look

Yep, you got it.  And no, this isn’t by a company that builds websites – it’s an author that couldn’t find the “contact us” tab.  To save future embarrassment the standard places this link goes is:

*upper right hand corner, or,
*on a tab in the menu bar, or,
*either on the right or left side bar, or,
*at the bottom of the page

I’ve had authors go on and on telling me how I should change the website.  The suggestions are nothing close to standards but reflections of a “homemade” website.  Homemade looking chocolate chip cookies are great but homemade looking websites are a turn-off.

Not Being Computer Savvy

Authors write me:

I don’t know how to attach a file. Please phone me and tell me how to do that.
I don’t know how to make a pdf file.
I don’t know how to make a zip file.

Yikes!   If you are one of these authors, please take note that your lack of computer skills are not the fault, priority, concern, or responsibility of others. We are not computer instructors and we have enough to do without having to get on the phone with you and spend an hour trying to help you figure out how to attach a file or make a zip file. Please use your “help” tab your program provides or do a search on the Internet on how to do specific things like attaching a file. Or, enroll in a simple Computer 101 class to learn the simple basics.

And Then There is:

A friend of mines is building my web site for free, so is their still a charge for the free review. If not, I will mail the book out on tomorrow.

Huh?  What does this query mean?  Does it mean that since a friend is building a website for free we should review the book for free? But then, it says “If not…”  If not what?  If it’s not free she will mail the book but if it’s free she wouldn’t?  Your guess is as good as mine.  From an email like that I wonder what the content of the book is like.

There you go, a little glimpse into a reviewer’s life…but, let’s not discount the authors/publishers that are grateful, courteous, lovely, attentive, and are on a mission to produce the best product they possibly can. Those are the ones that make the end of my day feel like it has been worthwhile and I look forward to the next day.

Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, where avid readers can find  reviews  of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity  and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.


Posted on December 4, 2011, in Publicity & Writing, Writing & Publishing. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Oh, Irene, you sound so (understandably) frustrated. Don't let the buggers get you down.

  2. Love your comments Irene! I had one author blame me for his poor sales all because my review was not exactly what he wanted. All in a day's work.

  3. Oh man, that book BETTER be well edited, because you will get nut-case torpedo reviews bewailing the editing and will be awarded one-star reviews! I say "nut-case" because these "punctuation and spelling" reviews will always contain miis-spellings and poor punctuation.Takes my wurds, for it;

  4. Absolutely amazing, Irene. I'm so obsessive about getting my books out that I've said that a mild case of OCD is a requirement for a successful Indie author. I can't imagine people thinking like those in your article. An EDITOR says, "I wanted to get the book out quickly, so I . . ." didn't do my job. As a counterpoint to some of the attitudes expressed, take a look at my article about how to win a book contest. Here's a link: http://www.yourshelflife.com/?p=903 There's also a link in the article to another post about how readers can have more certainty about the quality of self-published books before they buy them. (ReaderViews Literary Awards are mentioned and linked.) As a consumer, I want to make sure that books I buy are top quality. I don't care if they're Indie produced, I want them to look and read like they came from Random House. I'm sick of paying good money for books my kids could have done when they were ten years old.

  5. There seem to be quite a few people offering editing services to independent authors when it's clear from the typos and grammatical errors in their own marketing materials that they're not qualified to do what they promise to do. The authors who take the bait, though, have themselves as well as the "editor" to blame. On what basis can they assume their books will turn out any better than the "editor's" publicity? That's where one should expect to find zero errors.Those other bizarre complaints and requests you describe, Irene, no longer surprise me. Many would-be writers appear not to realize that damned hard work and a willingness to listen to thoughtful criticism are the first two requirements of the position.

  6. Dear irene you have certainly had a year to remember. I hope that you will still review my next book. I hope also that m y changes in editing will bear results. My books have been "cleaned up" by good friends who know how to use the modern tech and they are now on kindle, iTunes, Nook as well as amazon, barnes and noble and the other ebook and print stores. It has a been a long road but your reviews have certainly helped. What I don't know for this next one is the status of paid reviewers with regard to amazon where most of my reviewers post. Anyway, you have been a good friend and very honest and that is what has gotten my little books off to a good start. Check out my Facebook page River Sunday Romance Mysteries and give it a "like" if you can. Tom

  7. Dear Irene,I had my book reviewed through Reader Views several months ago. As a first time author, it was very exciting to receive my book review. I cried with enthusiasm as the reviewer expressed her thoughts and feelings on my book's content. I also cried when I discovered that my book needed better editing than what I had already paid for. The vanity publisher that I went through actually made my book available in it's unedited format. I was disheartened, embarrassed and outraged to discover this. I had put my heart and soul into my book, not to mention all the time and finances I had invested. When I contacted the publishing company, l was told, "Sometimes mistakes of this fashion can happen during internal changes within a company. We will rectify this situation within three to six weeks." Urgh! I have changed publishing companies and as your reviewer suggested, I had my book edited again. I am grateful for receiving an honest and sincere review. After all, that is what I paid for. As a new author, I believe in the art and power of telling the truth. My sincerest gratitude to all of your reviewers who take the time to read our books and offer up their most honest opinion as readers. I am most sincere in my desire to share my story with the world and most importantly, to author a book worth while of reading. Namaste!

  8. Thanks Irene, as always so informative. Those are some unbelievable stories. Again, thanks for providing such an essential service to authors and for your integrity and passion. I appreciate all that you're doing.

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