Friday, March 28, 2008

Just Call Me Simon Cowell

It's come to my attention that I am earning a reputation as the Simon Cowell of book reviewers. First, I got an email from an author telling me how much she enjoyed my "very honest and candid" reviews. This, she wrote is "something I appreciate very much as a reader but which terrified me a little as an author who is very aware of my own limitations." I laughed at the thought of little ole me being that intimidating. Then, last night, I got an email from a friend who has been telling me about an author she really enjoys. I've "met" this author via email, although I haven't gotten to her books yet (I promise I will, R). Anyway, my friend wrote, "I'm nervous about your review of R's books and I didn't even write them!" Between these two conversations as well as other comments I've received, I've realized that I'm starting to resemble Mr. Cowell (although I don't wear undershirts in public). I really am a very nice person. Seriously. In real life, I'm much more like Paul Abdul (without the hit records). I would be more likely to gush, "It wasn't your best performance, but you look gorgeous" than "It was horrendous. Absolute rubbish."

The funny thing is, I am the least opinionated person you'll ever meet. If my husband asks where I want to eat, I usually say, "Oh, Olive Garden. Or Applebees. Or Outback. Whatever. I don't care." But, when it comes to books, I know what I like and what I don't. Amazingly, I form very strong opinions about the things I read. So, if I slam a book you've written and/or loved, I just want to quote my favorite American Idol judge: "Saw-ree, it's just my opinyon."

(Image from www.starblogs.net)

13 comments:

  1. Sometimes I think I'm more like Paula in public while in private I'm more like Simon Cowell. Ever the diplomat. Haha

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  2. That's very funny. I try to be honest about my opinion on books, but really, it's just my opinion. I would never think authors would find reviewers intimidating!

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  3. Let's not leave off the end of the conversation, where I very specifically said that you are a great hybrid of Cowell and Abdul! To quote myself:

    "You, however, are a pretty good mix of Abdul and Cowell. You're to-the-point, but you don't call the author stupid. You don't use a lot of words like 'horrible,' 'disaster,' or the other Cowell favs. You write good reviews, girl!"

    Just setting the record straight. :)

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  4. True, Robin. I wrote this post before I got your email. Thanks for setting the record straight!

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  5. So here's a question for you: I received my first ARC of a book, read it and didn't care for it very much. I have an interview set up with the author (it's her first book and my very first author interview). Do I just give a synopsis? Leave out my recommendation? I'd love to do way more author interviews but don't want to burn any bridges with my first one. Hmm . . . I'm not quite sure what to do. Advice?

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  6. Maw - I actually had this happen a couple of weeks ago. Since it was setup through a publicist, I emailed her and explained that the book was so poorly written, I couldn't review it. She agreed that the book was bad, and said I could do one of two things: either I could just spotlight the author/book, meaning to put up a synopsis, but no personal opinion; or, I could just cancel the author's stop on my blog. I did the latter. Since people expect me to be honest and candid, I didn't want to even give the impression that I recommended this book. In the end, I actually stuck the book in the trash. It was THAT bad.

    Luckily for me, I didn't have to deal with the author directly. I haven't had to do that yet, and I'm not sure what I would do in that situation.

    Does anyone else have any advice for Maw? Any authors out there have an opinion? Other bloggers/reviewers? Anyone?

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  7. Susan- Thanks! At least it wasn't that horrible of a book. I just didn't understand the characters or exactly what it was they were trying to overcome. Overall, the writing wasn't that bad but not the best either. Since I am dealing with the author directly I'm leaning towards just writing up a synopsis without a recommendation either way. I really want to start doing author interviews on my blog, so this first one will give me a chance to build up some "authority" to bring in other authors. Thanks for the advice, keep them coming if anybody else has any.

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  8. MAW--depending on the flaws in the book, would it be possible to ask questions about the parts that were confusing? Why did she do this? What motivated his decision here? Obviously she (or her editor) should have already asked these questions so that the answers would be clear in the book, but it's possible that knowing what was in the author's mind will improve your enjoyment of the book. Depending on the author it's possible she'll either 1) catch on and improve her next book or 2) really enjoy explaining the high-falutin' themes she buried inside her masterpiece. Your readers should be able to tell from the questions/answers whether they'd like to read it--and you can stick to saying "it wasn't my favorite" but "readers interested in ___ could really enjoy it." You can emphasize the positive aspects of the book enough to soothe the author's pride, but still bring out the flaws (diplomatically) to maintain your own credibility. (I do it in court all the time.)

    Just my 2 cents--I'm no authority on this.

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  9. Simon may be rude, but a lot of times he's right on. Paula is very nice, but makes no sense whatsoever when she speaks. I would have to agree with Robin, you are a mix of the better qualities of both. I like to read reviews I can trust are an honest opinion.

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  10. I like the fact that you write honestly about the books that you review. I would think as long as it's done in a constructive way, that authors would feel the same as well. Although, I'll admit that sometimes I have a hard time with a review when I haven't liked the book. Luckily, I very rarely finish reading anything that I don't like.

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  11. First, I love your reviews and count on your honesty. I appreciate that you don't use fluff to mask feelings that may be difficult to convey. It is YOUR blog, so we shouldn't expect anything other than your opinion, right!?!

    Secondly, I have thoroughly enjoyed the comments on this post.

    Keep up the good work Susan! And, thanks!

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  12. Your reviews are great. You state your opinions very well and you're always fair.

    I have trouble reviewing books I don't like. Not sure I could interview the author in that situation (I am so non-confrontational).

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