Conundrum: Should Authors Wear the ‘Reviewer’ Hat? (Part 1)

And should they do so at their author blogs?

Welcome, friends! Warmer temperatures are hinting at spring–Yay!–and we’ve sprung our clocks forward. (I’ll get over the loss of an hour’s sleep. More sun and light, please!)

So the other day fellow author and online friend Carrie Rubin referenced a blog post by social media guru Kristen Lamb. The question: should authors write reviews for books they’ve read and/or publish them on their blogs?

Of course, both articles got me thinking, enough to get into one of my long-winded comments. (The kind that has blog-post-of-my-own potential—all as I happened to be trudging through a book whose characters caught my interest, but had me tangling big-time with issues relative to the prose.)

As per Carrie Rubin’s post: “One of the things (Kristen Lamb) recommends is never writing a bad book review. In fact, Kristen suggests writers should not publish book reviews on their blogs at all: ‘“Our BRAND is AUTHOR, not ‘book reviewer.’ My opinion is we can’t do both.”’

Carrie tends to agree and ponders the notion that an author writing reviews could be a conflict of interest. She also supplied valid arguments for both sides of doing so—more so for NOT writing a bad review—with support noted for the benefit and/or need for reviews by indie authors.

I don’t disagree with Kristen Lamb on “Our BRAND is AUTHOR, not ‘book reviewer.’” At the risk of sounding full of myself (which I pray I am not), and as a reader—a.k.a., consumer-of-books—AND writer/author, I hope I bring an expanded (?) set of skills to the ‘review’ table.

In the interest of brevity, I’ll get into those a little later this week. What are your thoughts so far?

Have a great day,

Joanna

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This Reader’s Pet Peeves

Welcome to November, folks. How does every year seem to go faster and faster?

Hope those who celebrate enjoyed a fun Halloween. ‘Trunk or Treat’ delayed our candy-seekers, but we wound up with a good turnout nonetheless. I was also thrilled when a former co-worker rang the bell; she wound up informing me she and a neighbor—a widower whose wife unexpectedly passed of an undetected aneurysm late last year—were ‘together.’ I’ve been praying for that man since September, 2013. So grateful and happy for him and his very young boys, and for her. Far as I know, he’s a great guy, a firefighter who writes–or has written–on the sly. That’s got to be good, right? 😉

To everyone taking on the NaNoWriMo challenge, I applaud you and wish you all the best. As much as I can churn out a report or a blog post under pressure, I can’t seem to generate the heart that kind of undertaking warrants. You’re an amazing group who inspire me.

NaNoWriMo--persistandwin

Image credit: From CommuniCATE Resources For Writers 

Lately, I feel my attention span is more and more compromised. Even reading, a life-long passion that helped spur me into the writer-world, has been suffering. Maybe it’s age, too much to do, life, internet-spawned attention deficit—all of the above. My tolerance isn’t what it was, either. Having learned first-hand some of the tricks of this trade messed with my reader side. I can rarely push myself to swallow content that doesn’t grab me right away or gets my pet peeves coming out in full force.

I’m not pointing at only indie works either. A few years ago, a well-established author released a long-awaited new work. I’d read at least two of her previous compositions and thoroughly loved them. The Big-Five publisher that backed her put out a LOT of fan-fare (and $$$) to promote her book.

Hate to admit it, but I never downloaded more than the sample. The style of writing was dated. Exposition went on and on. (Very 80s, I guess?) Don’t think I made it past page 20. So there’s pet peeve #1.

#2: A poorly-developed, contrite or dragged-out story. I’m not implying every story should have block-buster style action pouring off every page. Readers who’ve been around a while know every story has been done. PLEASE, authors! Give me a story I want to believe, and move it along at a forward pace that feels like it’s on some kind of continuum.

#3: Repetition: I’m forcing myself to read a romance that somehow found its way onto my Nook app. It’s okay, but if one more person ‘snorts’ I might decide how the author got to the HEA isn’t worth knowing.

#4: Crappy editing: Good service is pricey. I’ve looked into it (and hoping this post, or a future release, doesn’t haunt me one day). Heck, I’ve heard authors mention their editor this, or their editor that.

I hate when a book starts out decently edited, then slides down a steady decline. (Kind of dealing in that with those ‘snorting’ characters, among other complaints.)  I once read a supposedly edited book where love scenes were repeated for 5-page stretches every time they occurred. IDK, but that’s overkill and cause to skip the scenes or even give up on the story. And don’t get me started on head-hopping. (BTW, I have no problem with POV shifts within a scene and use them myself. But those authors whose books sell simply b/c their names grace the covers, while POVs shift from head to head within the same paragraph??? Nah, I’ll read someone else’s stories, thank you very much.)

There are beta readers, critique groups, online and in-person workshops. Translation: We shouldn’t be lacking for a way—via use of cash, barter or someone’s kind-hearted donation of services—that any book should be lacking in quality.

Any thoughts on this? How patient are (or were) you as reader? Do you have pet peeves about the stories that come your way? I’d love to read about them. Are you doing NaNoWriMo?

Residents of the USA, if you can, get out there and vote. (MHO: it’s become far too important to do so.)

Have a great day,

Joanna

Name Your Fave: E-Read or Hard Copy?

Hi friends,

I’m still so psyched about the NY Giants’ incredible run toward the NFC Championship. Working on a related post for later this week or next!

We were supposed to be talking about discipline vs. control with kids this week, but that dinky little post morphed into two and is now a five-part series. I’ll most likely start running it next week, once I feel each piece is ready to go to (Word)press. 😉

In the meantime, I’ve had a little over a year to consider myself an official user of an e-reader and thought I’d share my thoughts on some of the pros and cons.

As I’m sure you know, this awesome little device–in its many forms–is here to stay. Chances are, many of you recently acquired one right around that last week of December. That’s when my Nook Color sneaked its way into my happy little hands—last year, among hubby’s gifts. (Check out this year’s favorite here, then come right back now, y’hear?)

 bn.com

Yay! You didn’t get sidetracked! Back to e-readers, tablets or whatever device on which you choose to read. And yes, for our purposes, Kindle and Nook apps count. Like others before me, I want to lay out what I find advantageous about reading digital versus holding that print book in my hand. I’ve found disadvantages to the former, and I’ll cover those as well.)

We’ll begin with print books, probably simpler and more straightforward on both the negative and positive sides. The biggest advantage as far as I’m concerned, I can read my story from beginning to end without distractions (to be discussed below). I can mark up my copy any way I want, and use the notes for future reference. (Recently, I bought very colorful post-it notes and used those to mark pages/passages in a suspense to help me construct my own. My plan is to lay out the post-its in a notebook or on posterboard and substitute story ideas of my own. I figure then I can move these around as needed to get a first draft ‘outline’ together.)

Biggest disadvantage to print book: the ones I love are taking up too much space in my house (and gathering dust, unfortunately). At least others have made their way into a donation box.

E-readers/tablets:

Biggest disadvantage (for those of us who are DBD, or Distracted by Dust): distractions!!!! Other books, the internet, email, social media, blogs, shopping for more e-books, games, crossword puzzles, etc. (I believe this is significantly less with Amazon’s original Kindle and Sony’s dedicated device.)

Advantages: Love being able to look up information as I read—these can be word definitions or articles related to background information relative to the plot or time during which the story takes place (i.e., currently reading a romance set against medieval times; words for garments, weapons, tools, etc are unfamiliar. If the built-in dictionary isn’t helpful, Google is one touch away, assuming wi-fi is on).

I can highlight great prose or take notes on the story, note typos to inform the author, etc; these are auto-organized by page and ready to be viewed with another touch.

Virtual storage rocks! Eight gigabytes of space are on the Nook Color; this can expand to up to 32 GB via a memory card. I can also store the files on my computer and Barnes and Noble houses all my purchases in their virtual library. I can’t ever lose any book I bought via their website. (No dust bunnies anywhere, either!)

Viewing my work on a screen other than the laptop’s and not being able to mess with it while reading for flow. I save the file as PDF—just scrolls better for some reason—and just read. (I did, however, take extensive handwritten notes on a last re-read of a current manuscript, then went back into the Word-file and made those changes one at a time. Found a whole ‘nother level of the story that way. Now, the most recent version is in PDF and cooling a little before I upload it to my reading device.

I can share my work with others without having to print two hundred pages or so. Saves me $$ and spares the environment the extra paper, ink cartridges, etc that otherwise might have wound up in landfills. (Even recycling has its disadvantages in the energy needed for the chemical processes involved. I also learned the hard way that refilling ink cartridges at my local drugstore was a recipe for destroying my printer in the long run—which turned out to be less than a year.)

The cost of e-books is often significantly less than the cost of a print book (though not always the case).

E-books have created apparently infinite opportunities for writers and authors to indie- and/or self-publish works that might have otherwise virtually rotted on their hard drives.

So where does your favor lie? On the print pages or with virtual ink?

Have a great day and ttys,

Joanna