Friday, October 03, 2008

People Are Talking...

by Jennie Bentley

With a month to go until FATAL FIXER-UPPER hits stores everywhere—OK, a month and a day, but what’s 24 hours among friends?—word has started to get around.

Yesterday, for instance, I went to my local Barnes and Noble and bought their entire stock of Romantic Times Book Review magazines. (It’s not as bad as it sounds. They only had two, and I’m not sure what to do with the second. If it comes to that, I’m not entirely sure what to do with the first.)

The reason, of course, is that there’s a review in there. A review of my book. A—no kidding—4 ½ star review. Which is as good as it gets, from Romantic Times. (All right, so one of the stars could have been gold, but still, 4 ½ stars for a debut book is pretty darned impressive. Or so I’ve been told.) I counted (pitiful, I know) and of the seven 4 ½ star reviews of mysteries and thrillers in the November issue, the other six went to—wait for it—Michael Connolly, Jeffery Deaver, Reginald Hill, David Morrell, M.J. Rose and J.D. Robb. Some pretty exalted company there.

You can read the whole thing HERE, if you want. Don’t feel you have to, though. And just FYI, 4 ½ stars translates to FANTASTIC – Keeper, in their ratings guide. Yay, me!

So I’m pretty psyched right now. And what made it even sweeter, was that it came on the heels of another review, one that was 180 degrees the opposite. That one was from one of the Big Four—Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist and Library Journal—and boy, did the anonymous reviewer hate my book. Enough that the attack felt almost personal. Kind of along the lines of, “whose high school boyfriend did I steal to receive this kind of treatment?”

In the interest of total disclosure, you can read it on this page, down toward the bottom, among the mass market paperback reviews. If you don’t care to—and I don’t blame you; I wish I hadn’t—let me just share that my favorite sentence was, in describing my protagonist, “she’s about as bright as her boyfriend’s crowbar.”

Ouch.

Funny thing is, they both read the same book. But where one thought the “first-rate” mystery was “unusually strong,” the other thought it had “no substance.” And where one mentioned the “bang-up, frightening surprise ending”, the other saw “predictable anticlimactic peril.” Where one thought the heroine was intelligent, the other thought she was dumb as a post. I could go on, but what would be the point?

So who’s right?

Hell, I don’t know. I’d like to think that one of them ‘got’ the book, and the other didn’t. Of course, I’m not exactly unbiased...

Do I care, though?

No, not really. I’d hate to think that someone would chose not to read the book based on the crappy review, when they might actually like it if they just gave it a try. On the other hand, I think I’d hate even more for someone to buy the book as a result of the glowing review, and then be disappointed. If you start at the bottom, there’s no way to go but up, but once you’ve disappointed someone, it’s awfully hard to get that trust back.

Anyway, that’s the view from Jennie’s Planet. Feel free to chime in with your own thoughts, on reviews, trust, or anything else that strikes your fancy.

10 comments:

Tory said...

Thanks for your story, Jennie, it puts my Wednesday in perspective! I was presenting at a conference to the biggest audience I've ever had. They were supposed to turn in their evaluation forms to the conference organizers, but 3 people left them in the room where I gave my talk. In picking them up to hand them in, I, unfortunately, read the comments of someone who is obviously arrogant, condescending, and REALLY HATED my style and the way I'd organized the presentation (which I, by the way, thought was quite engaging.)

In a snit, I fumed to lunch, and was fortunately invited to sit next to a woman who worked at the organization I work for and LOVES my trainings. I did grumble briefly about "some a___hole" who didn't like my presentation. She said just the right thing. "Maybe they're from UPMC?" (For those of you who live outside of Pittsburgh, UPMC is our biggest competitor, a former employer of mine, and known for more than their share of narcisstic a__holes.)

Here's the deal: this woman obviously likes what I do. Several women stopped me in the hall and told me how much they liked my presentation. (I'm sure they were being nice, but would they have really done that if they hated it?) One audience member said I'd "made her conference." BUT: Why do the bad reviews stick with me while the good ones so easily fade?

Something I'll need to work on BEFORE I get a book published!!!

Annette said...

CONGRATULATIONS, Jennie! Four and a half stars from RT is huge! Way bigger than that piddlin' little uneducated moron who did that "other" review.

I would have to say that the "other" reviewer just was not your target audience. (blowing big raspberry)

Sending you big cyber congratulatory hugs and a magnum of virtual Champagne.

Tory, raspberries to your naysayer, too. You're a terrific speaker. That person was obviously an idiot in addition to being an a__hole.

Joyce said...

What Annette said.

I don't pay much attention to reviews when I buy a book. There's one author who has a series that I like a lot. A couple of years ago this author came out with a standalone that reviewers raved about, so I bought it. I hated it. So now I just look at the books and choose for myself.

I've already decided when I finally have a book out I'm not reading the reviews.

Annette said...

Joyce, I'll read them for you and only tell you about the good ones. ;-)

becky hutchison said...

I've had your book on my Favorites list at amazon.com since I first saw it listed, and I can't wait to read it!

I used to do public outreach presentations in historic preservation. My colleagues and I would travel around Maryland giving workshops and seminars, at the end of which we'd ask for written feedback. At almost every single venue we received 99.99% "great" "very useful info" "interesting presentation" and so on, but usually one person in the room would write "awful" "waste of my time" "terrible presentation" or something along that line. Eventually we just expected one grouchy person per venue and tried not to let the bad reviews bother us.

Jennie Bentley said...

Thanks, y'all! You sure know how to make a girl feel better. Virtual champagne for everyone, on the house!

Jena said...

Rejoice in those four and a half stars and ignore the PW review -- I'm wondering if it's the same bad-tempered reviewer who slammed my friend's book. She said:

"I had a good review in X, a joyously fabulous review in Y, and then bam! A rabidly hateful review in Publisher's Weekly. My agent called up the review editor to find out, if she could, what the *** went wrong, and the editor said she had double-checked with the reviewer that he really did want to publish something so vicious -- and he did, so she was obliged to put it in. Then apparently he quit. So he clearly had some major issues going and I caught the blowback, lucky me."

Jennie Bentley said...

Jena, thanks for sharing. I feel for your friend. And I love the words 'rabidly hateful', because that's kind of how I feel, too. I know the review wasn't THAT bad, but it felt almost personal, you know?

Joyce said...

And who knows what kind of agenda some of the bad reviewers have? I'd bet some of them think any kind of genre fiction is beneath them.

Give me genre fiction any day over some of the other stuff.

Jennie Bentley said...

A couple of people have suggested - based in large part on that crowbar crack, I think - that the reviewer might have been a frustrated writer. Gives a new dimension to the whole thing, I think.