Saturday, July 14, 2012

Reviews have been a big topic these days, but many articles and discussions miss the ethics of the process. Mindy Philips Lawrence writes a regular Itty Bitty column for my Sharing with Writers newsletter and this particular column reminds us one of the ethical consideration of writing reviews--whether you do it because you love reading, want to help readers, want to help other authors, do it to promote your own book, or a mixture of the above. As always, Mindy gives some great resources for more reading on the topic.

On Scathing Reviews and More

By Mindy Phillips Lawrence

Many years ago, I wrote a scathing book review of a book I just couldn’t stomach. I'd seen many of these in literary journals and read about them in the biographies of famous authors. After all these years, I’ll never forget the problems it caused and the lessons I learned. The author turned around and threatened legal action and, to my editor’s credit, she stood by me and published both the book review and the e-mail I received from the writer. The writer continued to send notes to me and I stopped answering her. The entire situation could have been avoided if I had done one of two things: (1) Found something of merit in the book to review or (2) sent the book back stating that, in all honesty, I was unable to review it.

I’ve learned to do something different now when I am reviewing and writing. I streeeeetch out first. I try to think about the writer, the time he or she has put into the work and I try to be constructive about what I say. 

I ran into another book recently that I was to review and couldn’t be positive about. I set it aside, did some stretching, realized the writer came from a different world from me. He was using that very negative world as a backdrop for his story. I reread his book and pulled a number of positives from it. It was actually a very constructive story. The book review I had written beforehand became an excellent lesson on how not to berate someone’s work. I came up with something much better to say about this book than the one before.

Now I stretch before I edit this newsletter. I stretch before I write something of my own (including this post) and I stretch when I have to work out any problem that comes up. It circulates air to my system and makes me think better. I also learn more.

I use one book as a model for book reviewing because I think it’s such a good model. That’s The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing by Mayra Calvani and Anne K. Edwards. Nope. I’ve never met either author and I don’t have money invested in them. I was just lucky to get this book to review when it first came out. And WOW! It’s such a good resource for reviewers.

So stretch, think, read, and THEN review and write. It will keep you from remembering your mistakes ten years later.
LINKS

The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing



 
How to Write a Book Review, Bill Asenjo




Stress Relief


Writers’ Rights



Reviewers



~ Mindy Phillips Lawrence, www.freewebs.com/mplcreative, is the author of the poetry collections One Blue Star and Above and Below. She is co-author of The Complete Writer, an editor and a publicist. She is in the process of putting together an e-book and paperback based on her Itty-Bitty Column for Sharing with Writers (subscribe in the subscribe window in the upper right corner of the at www.howtodoitfrugally.com site). Blogging at:http://mplcreative.blogspot.com/. Her specialty is helping writers with their media releases. Reach her at mplcreative1@aol.com.




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  Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including the award-winning second ediction of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor . If your followers at Twitter would benefit from this blog post, please use the little Green widget to let them know about this blog:

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