The Book Review: Bane or Boon?
I’ve been looking for book bloggers and reviewers to give me objective reviews of A Cup of Pending. Reviews are a numbers game for indie authors like me – the more reviews and ratings we get, the more readers we are likely to attract. It’s a snowball effect. It’s the on-line equivalent of word of mouth recommendations.
To this end, I have been trolling review groups on Goodreads. You’d think this would be a fairly straightforward process: find a post by a potential reviewer looking for books to read, reach out, and, if they’re interested, send them a book. There’s more to this than meets the eye, however. For example, you probably don’t want to send your military action adventure story to a millennial fan of paranormal romance. You are not likely to find an open mind in such an exchange. Of course, the reverse is also true.
With this in mind, I try to vet potential reviewers before I approach them. It just makes sense to get a sense of the kind of treatment I can expect before I put the future of my life’s work into someone else’s hands. Frankly, I have been stymied by this process.
It’s not that I don’t think anyone is worthy of passing judgment on my book. It’s more that I have yet to find someone who is worthy of passing judgment on any book. Just today, for example, I found a reviewer/book blogger whose most current review is of Melville’s Moby Dick. She gave it 2 out of 5 stars and recommended that no one should read it unless their principal aim was to impress someone with their knowledge of the supposed classics. I swear I am not making this up. Here are a few of her quotes:
- The focus of the story was less on the story and more on educating the reader about whales.
- While the descriptions were vivid, they caused the story to drag.
- There was very little plot.
- I would not recommend reading Moby Dick. It’s long and a bit lacking in plot/ characters.
Very little plot?! Really?! I don’t even know how to respond to that.
I suspect that this kind of review, where a person claims to be an expert based on their personal preferences, is part of the larger problem of the Internet. Facts are fabricated on the fly and gather credibility as they are repeated by a rabble that can’t be bothered to check their accuracy.
Yeah, but Everyone Knows What They Like
I remember a condemnation of populist criticism back when I was in college that went something like, “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like.” I’ve looked and no one seems to know where this quote originated. Actually, a lot of people claim to know where it originated, but they all think it originated where they first heard it. Suffice to say that its actual origins lie in a murky past when people expected their experts to know something useful. They liked their critics to give them reasons to appreciate, and not merely enjoy, an artistic work. They expected those reasons to be rooted in real knowledge, garnered through education, earned by hard work, honed in intelligent discourse.
Now, Cuppa is not meant to be a great literary work. It is comical in timbre and commercial in intent. Still, how could I reasonably expect a useful review from this young woman? If she has so completely missed the point of Moby Dick, discounting it’s genius because she found it long and tedious, what might she do to my book? IDK is the answer, and, frankly, I don’t want to take the risk.