"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Sunday, August 23, 2009

What did they mean when they said...?

This weekend was not nearly as spectacular as last weekend at the Placentia Library, but I got a little work done, which is always a good thing.

1. I worked a bit on the new book. My mechanic, Allen, gave me an interesting way to tamper with the tire on Peri's car so it goes flat after about a mile, without letting Peri suspect it was sabotaged. I'm thinking of giving him a small part in the book. He's quite a character.

2. I re-did the "Where's Gayle?" page of my website, so that I have actual calendar pages with events listed and links to those events. I think it's easier to find things, although I'm now thinking I should work on it a little more so you can go directly to a month, instead of scrolling through January to get to April. Of course, I'm assuming that anyone wants to know where I am, which may be a great leap of ego on my part.

3. I added a page to my author pages to list some of the very kind reviews from folks about Freezer Burn, which brings me to my question(s) of the day…

As a book reader, how important are reviews to you? And, in keeping with that theme, how important is the source of the review?

Here's the thing: I'm getting really nice reviews from people. Some of them are from "professional" book reviewers who've posted on Amazon and other places. I have a lovely review from my friend and humor-mentor, Gordon Kirkland, and one from the delightful Mr. Dino Martin Peters on his I Love Dino Martin blog. And then I have some great reviews from regular Joes (and Janes), if you will.

Does a review only matter if it's from Publisher's Weekly or an incredibly famous person? I mean, if the debut author happens to know a reviewer on the PW staff, or the incredibly famous person, and asks for a review, they're probably going to get, at the very least, an ambiguously nice one. "A well-written thriller from a promising new novelist" doesn't sound like wild applause to me.

Then there are the reviewers (famous and not-so-much) who don't post reviews if they didn't like the book. This is fine, except there's no way to mark a book "not reviewed by X", because if there was, it would automatically be known they didn't like it. When I see 5 stars from a reviewer on all of their reviews, I start to wonder if they like everything, have no taste in reading material, or are paid for their opinion.

Or does it carry more weight if Joe Schmo says, "What a great story"? Unless I'm related to Uncle Schmo, or his best buddy, shouldn't a reader who doesn't owe me diddley-squat carry more weight than another writer? Especially another writer who may want me to return the favor.

Let's say you go into a bookstore, just looking for new reading material. You see a cover that catches your eye. You read the jacket blurb and find the plot intriguing. Maybe you read the first page, or perhaps give it the "page 99 test" - is Page 99 as fascinating as Page 1? Is there any point in there where you read any review blurbs on the book? And do the reviews actually influence you?

By contrast, maybe it's two a.m. and you can't sleep so you're shopping on Amazon for a different author in a genre you like. Without Page 99, how important are the reviews?

Tell me what draws you to a book as a reader. Then, next, I have some questions for writers.


Ali Trotta said...

I don't always pay a lot of attention to reviews. Sometimes, you can tell when a review is just being a jerk. Take amazon.com, for instance. I've read reviews on there, for certain books, where it just feels the person has an axe to grind.

If I like the blurb of the book, I'll get it, despite whatever reviews are there. If the book was written by, or rec'd, by a friend--I'll read it.

Basically, I don't put a large amount of stock in reviews. If the summary interests me, I'll read it.

Nick said...

I don't see a lot of reviews but a good one, no matter the source can make me want to read a book. Books are so hard to grasp sometimes, you never really know what they're about, even with the blurb on the back. A good review can make the difference whether I buy it or not. I really don't care where the review comes from. Heck, I sometimes feel like Publisher's Weekly has an agenda on what they do and do not review. I often ask myself, "Is the publisher just paying to have their books reviewed?" So an independent review is nice.


Anonymous said...

I will look at cover blurbs for an author I don't know. If it's by certain organizations or authors I respect, it can influence my decision to buy. I won't read blurbs by Kirkus, because they are usually so bland and generic as to be useless. I won't read anything by Harriet Klausner, because she either gives spoilers, or else doesn't sound like she's read the book at all. I usually won't read reviews until after I've read the book, because I hate even tiny spoilers.
Avis in NH

Karen Walker said...

I don't pay attention to reviews at all (with movies either). I almost never agree with the reviewer. I do read back cover blurbs and a few paragraphs of the book. If those grab me, I'll buy.

dino martin peters said...

Hey pallie, likes to read reviews and actually I think I enjoy more ones written by "de common folk" as our Dino woulda say. With the advent of the internet it is much more possible to read a variety of reviews from all sorts of sources... which, to me, is much more interestin' then just readin' reviews by the top guns.

Miss Gayle Carline, how nice of you to speak of me as delightful and to lift up the name of our Dino and the ol' ilovedinomartin Dinoblog in your blogg so often.

And, as you woulda guess, loves to see you so often with our Dino...the twos of you makes such a great couple...and how nice of our Dino to be so often by your side these Dinodays.

Wonderin' what kind of stellar role our Ben will be playin' in the new Peri caper?

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