Writers love nothing more than receiving a review. It doesn’t even have to be a fantastic review – just a few lines in a magazine will do. It makes their day and any writer who says they don’t care whether they get reviewed or not is a big fat fibber.
At one time writers were a bit fussy about where the review came from. A positive review in one of the broadsheet newspapers such as the Times or Guardian was a VERY GOOD THING that deserved cutting out, enlarging to A4 size, laminating and /or being made into placemats.
Next came magazines. For children’s authors we’re talking the quarterlies such as Books for Keeps, Carousel, The School Librarian and Peter’s publication TkB. Better still are reviews in comics and magazines such as Girl Talk and Bliss because actual kids read these.
What the writer is looking for in a review is that succinct little soundbite that is usually found in the very last sentence. These are really useful for quoting on marketing material and websites. A ‘gripping’ is always a bonus. Ditto ‘a real page turner’ ‘better than Harry Potter’ and ‘laugh out loud hilarious.’ And if the review includes a picture of the cover… yabadabadoo!
However, there seems to be a shift these days. Newspapers are dropping their book reviewers and book pages faster than a Yorkshireman drops his aitches. Writers are having to seek out new sources and are turning to – where else – the internet. Amazon is one of the most influential book sites. It accounts for something as crazy as 15% of all books sold in the UK (maybe more?). Once upon a time writers were really sniffy about an Amazon review. Even the five star ones they wrote for themselves under a fake name were seen as somewhat second-rate. Now Amazon is where it’s at, baby. So are all other review websites such as bookbag and chicklish (see my links page). Publishers are falling over themselves to send proof copies of new books to these people to be read. Individual bloggers who happen to love reading have now got real clout, too. Book Witch, for example. Her billy bookshelves must be groaning with free copies. She must be, too. So many books… so little time.
I’ve never fancied being a reviewer myself. I have a lot of friends who review books but I’ve always steered clear. I’ve never enjoyed being told which books to read. That’s why I could never join a book club – that and my lack of Boden knitwear. I like reading books I’ve chosen and then, if I am moved by the story, I’ll rave about it until the cows come home.
So far, I’ve never had a scathing review from a bone fide reviewer, touch wood. I’ve had reviews where I’ve seriously wondered if the reviewer has actually read the book and I’ve had reviews from a couple of kids who thought ‘Accidental Friends’ was ‘crap’ but that was from the KS3 Chills Book Award so I guess AF was ‘crap’ if they were looking for ‘chills’ because it wasn’t a ‘chiller’, dudes.
Anyway, two recent reviews of ‘Do Goalkeepers Wear Tiaras?’ by people who have taste have recently surfaced. In the first, from Janet Fisher in the School Librarian, I seem to have acquired accents over my surname for some reason. I have become Helena Piélicháty. I quite like the accents. Très chic. I’d keep them but I reckon my name’s complicated enough. My quote-y bits from Ms Fisher’s review come, as expected, in the final paragraph. ‘There is real enthusiasm for football on every page – dot-dot-dot – football mad girls of eight and up will love this series I am sure and in this time of trying to get children off couches and onto the sports field these stories will help no end!’
Now, if I wanted to make the series have a broader appeal (and I do) I would be highly selective in my quotation and edit it down to ‘Girls of eight and up will love this series…”
See what I did there?
Same goes for this second review from Philomena Manson (INIS, Ireland) I’m not sure what INIS stands for but I’m sure its a prestigious imprint of the highest repute that everyone in Ireland from the bishop to the bishop’s dog turns to on a daily basis. Again, it’s the final sentence of the review we find the quote-y bit.
‘For any class teacher with female footballers and fans in their midst this book is a must for the class library.’
This is obviously going to become ‘… a must for the class library’ next time I make some bookmarks.
Enough already. I’ll leave you with this quotation from Danielle Steele about getting a bad review:
‘It’s like baking a cake with all the best ingredients and having someone sit on it.’