An attempt to get more people involved. . .

Yes, I know I said I wouldn't get involved and I did. I also claimed that I wouldn't get caught up into that debate again, and when Gabe Chouinard gave it new life I ultimately gave in. And yes, I did say it wouldn't happen again. I guess I just can't help it!;-)

Ken has done an excellent job putting together a list of pertinent links. You can find it here. Most of you will undoubtedly recall that this entire mess began following the release of Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora (all the links associated with that rant are also part of the list). And since then, this debate just refuses to die, thanks in large part to people like me!

In an attempt to get a more interesting dialogue going, last night I emailed over 50 people in the publishing industry, including authors, editors, agents and publicists. My objective is to give them the opportunity to throw in their two cents concerning the endless debate pertaining to the quality and credibility of online reviews. I opine that it's ridiculous to sort of put all online reviews/online reviewers in the same basket and claim that they are mediocre at best. Just like "print" reviews, some online reviews are great and some are not. As for credibility, I believe that many online reviewers (and I'm not saying I consider myself part of that group) have as much or more credibility than their "in print" counterparts. Guys like Jay Tomio, Robert Bedford and William Lexner are just three of a variety of reviewers whose work I respect immensely.

Now that Guy Gavriel Kay has offered his thoughts on the matter, I thought it would be interesting to hear what professionals working in various fields of the publishing world would have to say on the subject. Hopefully this will generate a friendlier debate than the many flame wars we've seen over the last few months. . . Kay's thoughts can be found here. Scroll down to the October 3rd section.

Some people have already responded and told me that they were not comfortable with the idea of doing this on a public forum. I understand their reticence and respect their decision. But I do hope that others, like Kay, will share their thoughts with the rest of us!

Let's try to keep it clean!

9 commentaires:

Neth said...

Oh dear....

I've said my peace in all this, so hopefully I won't get sucked into this round.

We'll see where it goes.

Patrick said...

L. E. Modesitt, jr. is the first author to give it a go! Here are his thoughts:

«Dear Patrick --

Attached are my thoughts on the whole business. Admittedly, they're a bit like "on the one hand, and on the other," but what can one expect of a former economist?


Is an on-line book review “truly” a book review? Are such reviews of good quality and useful? Or are they just vehicles for pimping favorite authors – or the reviewer? Those seem to be some of the questions more than a few people are asking. From what I can tell, on one side are those who claim that the majority of on-line reviews are insubstantial, biased, and either puff-piece supports or vicious unsupported attacks, unless, of course, they’re merely totally vacuous. On the other side are those who support the on-line reviews by suggesting that on-line reviewers are far more in touch with the F&SF field, and that their reviews are certainly more on target than those of more conventional print reviews.

In terms of what are called reviews, I tend to see a spectrum of people who call themselves reviewers, ranging from those whose “reviews” are little more than statements of “I liked/disliked the book; that makes it good/bad” to detailed literary criticism. In general, there is theoretically more opportunity for detailed reviews online because on-line reviews don’t have to worry about the space limits imposed by print publications, but, interestingly, so far as I can tell from what I’ve seen, the most detailed reviews are in The New York Review of Science Fiction, and it’s a print semi-prozine.

Like it or not, most reviewers’ personal preferences determine whether a given book is rated as “good” or “bad.” Sometimes, however, those “preferences” reflect the publication, rather than the reviewer. As a personal example, I offer my own The Eternity Artifact, which Kirkus named as a “best book” and to which Entertainment Weekly gave a B-.

In all probability, most of the readers of EW would probably agree, because Artifact is a thought-provoking book, and I have my doubts that all that many EW readers are looking to have their thoughts provoked.

I’d like to make a related observation about reviewers and their personal preferences. In practice, a great number of reviews reveal as much, if not more, about the reviewer as about the book being reviewed. There are at least a handful of reviewers out there, both online and in print, who seem to get their jollies through pointless, if sometimes witty cruelty. Fortunately, such reviewers are few in number, and it is fortunate because, at least as I understand it, a review is supposed to be about the book and not the reviewer and is supposed to let the reader know to whom the book might appeal and why. I’ve also heard it said by a number of people, and I agree, that if certain reviewers like a book, they [and I] won’t, and most likely, if one of those reviewers dislikes it, I have a greater chance of liking and appreciating it. Obviously, I won’t name names, because it serves no purpose except to alienate any reviewer who might fall into that camp, and because probably almost every reviewer falls into that camp for some reader.

Having been the target of more than a few reviews of all kinds, I obviously feel strongly about reviews, and particularly about “bad” reviews. For me, a bad review is one that is factually and/or technically inaccurate and/or does not actually address the book that is purported to be reviewed. There are far more of these than meet the eye, and too seldom are such reviewers chastised for one simple reason – usually the author and his/her supporters are the only ones who catch the inaccuracies at the time of the review – because, after all, one of the main points of a review is to reach most readers before they read the book. And if an author complains… well… of course, the author would complain, and so would loyal supporters.

Then, there are the “dishonest” reviews. By this, I mean those reviews which pretend objectivity only for the sake of being able to either overpraise or trash the work being critiqued.

Now… this all leads to the question of whether there are more “bad” or “dishonest” or cursory reviews online than in print sources. In practical terms, the answer is obvious. There are more online, but that’s because there’s a very low barrier to access and there’s virtually no editing/ pre-publication critique of many online reviews. So there are more of all kinds of reviews – good, bad, and indifferent.

Emerald City has been mentioned by others, and like many, I regret its passing. I freely admit that I will miss it because the reviews of my books actually addressed and discussed the issues in those books, even if Cheryl and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye.

A related aspect of online “reviewing,” however, should be noted, and that’s the impact of the short, often casual, mention of books in blogs. Such mentions can be enthusiastic, or incredibly cruel and destructive, and I’ve seen both, and of more than a few books by other authors. Generally, this kind of notice does not occur often in the print media, but online, it takes on the best and worst features of small-town gossip. The problem is that what “everyone knows” as a result of this online gossip isn’t necessarily so.

But then, that can be true of reviews as well.»

Anonymous said...

Please shut up about this stuff. Seriously dont post any more on the blog please please please. OK the GG Kay thing was funny with this part: "Bloggers are being cultivated by some publishers, webmags pitched, authors are posting regularly on various blogs (including each other's and reviewers') and scoring technorati points like basketball players 'in the zone'." That is the only decent sentence that came out of this whole mother ffreakin fiasco!! please please stop it pleaes!!!

Anonymous said...

Dude, you don't have to read about it if you don't want to. If it doesnt interest you just ignore it.

Anonymous said...

just ignore this ridiculous shit that's on every blog from here to fricken Pareeee!? Maurice, my son, how bout you just ignore me from now on. That would be much easier than me ignoring this gigantic internet shit stain. and im not ripping on pat. i love pat. the stake was put through the heart of this matter months ago. let it end. please please please by the seven let this end!! please!!

Anonymous said...

I have to agree this has dragged on for a very long time. It would be nice if this was finished. It was dumb to begin with.

Patrick said...

Here is what Jacqueline Carey had to say:

«Hi Patrick,

Honestly, I haven't followed the whole kerfuffle. From my perspective as a writer, online reviews are a good thing. They provide additional venues for readers to discover my work. Some reviewers are good, some aren't, just like in traditional print media. End of story.

- Jacqueline»

Patrick said...

Hi guys!

I haven't done this to bring new life to a pointless debate. I do believe that, among ourselves at least, we have reached the end of the line.

But I thought it would be interesting to see what the people working in various fields of the publishing world would have to say on the matter.

Too bad that most of them prefer not to be quoted... This should demonstrate just how far this issue is from being resolved!;-)

Anonymous said...

Anonym here again. Y'know I was complaining, but it is nice to hear ANYTHING from interesting writers like GGK and Carey. GGK said that one funny bit, and now Carey stated the VERY OBVIOUS that we all should've known from the beginning. I agree with Carey on this part as well: "End of story."

Pat, I think this blog is awesome. In all honesty I just hated this debate from the start - and how it spread like a fire over the community - because I had the exact same statement that Carey made in my mind, including the "end of story." lol.