Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Endearing plot and sweet characters!

Someone hinted the other day that all those "five-star" reviews of my first book by Amazon customers weren't genuine. While that comment appeared designed to take me down a peg, I just chuckled. Whether "EL" believes this or not, my self-esteem isn't derived from what strangers think about my writing.

While I'm pleased that my first book received so many good reviews (in point of fact, I've been able to find only one bad review on the internet--if you know of any more, please shoot me a link), I really don't care as much about them as you might imagine. Sure, the gushy ones make me feel all warm and fuzzy, and they're great for quoting on my website. But what do they mean, really?

I believe they can help create "buzz," so I use them. But I don't think they have any measurable effect on book sales. As a reader, I've never found reviews to be accurate predictors of whether I'd love or hate a particular book. What I'm looking for in a review is a sense of the story. Because I realize not everyone likes and hates the same things I do, the reviewer's praise or condemnation of the book is immaterial to me.

Yesterday I found this stinky review of my Finding Hope over at Bookcrossing. I am so far from being wounded or embarassed by it that I am willing to quote it here in its entirety:

Ugh. Ick. Bleh. Terrible. Couldn't read it - couldn't finish it...so trite, the author works SO HARD to make this plot endearing and her characters 'sweet'...it made my stomach ache!

Um, okay. Let me just object to the reviewer's assertion that I worked hard to make the characters sweet. I think I'm a better authority on my intentions than she is. Still, I'm cool with the fact that she didn't like the book.

I love strawberries and ice cream, but I do not love strawberry ice cream. Rum Raisin? Sign me up. Cherry Garcia? I am so there. Even plain ol' vanilla has its charms. But strawberry? No thanks. It's just plain wrong, that's all. I can't explain it to you. Neither can I explain why this reader despised my book while others have called it their all-time favorite romance novel.

That's why I'll never submit to the emotional tyrrany of bad book reviews and snarky comments from readers of this blog. If I don't allow the good stuff to overinflate my ego, I'll never have to worry about the bad stuff making me cry.

But speaking of reviews, have you ever noticed how movie and book ads spin indifferent or even bad reviews to make their films or books sound like huge hits? I've just come across this fun page over at Gelf Magazine that shows the spurious quotes alongside what the reviewers actually said. Here, for example, is a "quote" used to publicize the movie "The Bad News Bears":

Jami Bernard, New York Daily News: "There's plenty of good news for the 'Bad News Bears' ... a comedy that comes out swinging!"

Actual line: "There's plenty of good news for the 'Bad News Bears,' Richard Linklater's remake of the hit 1976 comedy about an underdog sandlot team that comes out swinging."

Or how about this book blurb for Franklin Foer's How Soccer Explains the World:

Joe Queenan, New York Times Book Review: "An eccentric, fascinating exposé of a world most of us know nothing about."

Actual line: "Foer has overplayed his hand here; the fact that soccer can be 'linked' to so many cultural phenomena does not mean that it 'explains' them. But Foer's book is such an eccentric, fascinating exposé of a world most of us know nothing about that his inability to prove his central thesis seems almost irrelevant."

So, back to my own stinky review. Maybe I should give it a little spin and post it on my website. Hmm. What do you all think of this:

"Endearing plot and sweet characters!"


kstar said...

Hahaha! Go for it!

Heather Diane Tipton said...

LOL All you would be doing is "editing" *gg*

Anonymous said...

I love strawberry ice cream. And Cherry Garcia. I do not care for rum raisin (pistachio, yes). And I have purchased books after reading well-written and informative amazon.com gushing reviews. Plain gushing, no. But thoughtfully explained reasons for the five stars, yes. Many, many books in my TBR piles ended up there from particularly fine reviews that pushed my reader buttons.

And while we all know that some authors have their friends and families stuff amazon with five-star-ers, it's easy enough to spot a real, a heartfelt, an intelligent review.

So, to the complainer about your reviews, Brenda, I say: THHPPPTT!


Chris said...

I like: "I...T ... r...o...c...ks SO HARD ... t...ende...r ... and ... 'sweet'...!"

--Chris (dFm)

Val said...

I am thankful that I found your page it is nice to know what I can expect when I finish my MS. My first attempt at a novel running 1 year and 45 days I pluck away at the keys like a junky on a quest for their fix. Most days I feel like I'm drowning but I still love it.

Brenda Coulter said...

"It rocks." Yeah. I'm sure that's what she meant to say.

Val, welcome to No rules. One year and 45 days? Oh, sweetie. Sounds like you've got it bad. ;-)

Neal said...

Hi Brenda. I think you should go for "Read it. Finish it. The author makes this plot endearing."