The author blog of C. J. Ivory

Tinkerer with words. Dresser-Upper. Adorer of Steampunk and VictoriaNoir fiction. Occasional Lawgineer.

November 11, 2011

Books, Jim, But Not As We Know Them...

As some of my writer friends will know, I have recently purchased myself a Kindle. Yes, admittedly I was for years one of the "Eww, e-books, how sterile and dreadful" people. I talked about the tactile experience of printed novels, the satisfying heft of them in my hand, the nostalgic smell of the binding glue.
So what's changed? Nothing, really; I still like books you can use to tone your biceps, and I can still occasionally be found in a quiet area of the library, furtively sniffing at book bindings. 

However, you can't beat an e-reader for convenience. That baby slips right into my handbag and barely weighs more than my makeup bag (I realise I'm inviting jokes about wearing a tonne of makeup!). I can store hundreds of novels on my Kindle, and - I'm told - I can even subscribe to magazines in e-book format. What's more, because I take it with me everywhere, I read more: I actually use those annoying five-minute down times when I'm waiting to pick up my husband, or sitting at the doctor's, to zip through a book.

I'm downloading my books from Amazon and Smashwords at the moment (if there are other amazing sites I should know about, please share). And today I did my first batch of reviews on Smashwords! (Still haven't figured out how to log back into Amazon to complete the reviews... why do I ever vary my passwords?!)

One thing I realised as I wrote the reviews, is how careful I am now that I am a writer. In my former life, as a non-writer but prolific reader, I was probably a lot more cavalier about reviews - or I didn't bother to write them at all. But now my attitude is Hey, this person put their heart and soul - and craploads of time - into writing this novel/short story. The least I can do is write a fair and balanced review.

The dreadful knowledge that comes with being a writer is that Critiques Are Scary. It doesn't matter if it's a friend's once-over of your draft, a beta-reader's crit, or a read from an agent. They're all scary, and they can all cut right to the bone.

I tread, therefore, lightly. My method is to pretend that I had written the novel, and see how I would feel if I read the review. It leads to some carefully-chosen words and several edits before I finally feel justified in hitting "Submit."

How about you, Gentle Reader? Do you find the time to write reviews? If you're a writer as well as a reader, has it chnaged the way you treat reviews?

PS NaNoWriMo Update: After a marathon effort today to play catch-up, my word count is 18 766, which, as the helping NaNo calculator tells me, is 1706 per day since November 1st!

Basking in the glow of her own verbosity,

~ Charlotte


Cat Carlisle said...

I've written a few reviews on Amazon and on my blog and I definitely keep the author in mind when writing them. It's been good in that some of my positive reviews have helped me start a dialog with other indie authors.

The bad side is that when I don't care for a book, I don't want to be the one to write a negative review and hurt the author's feelings, so I don't write a review at all.

For example, I heard an author speak, bought their book and gave up on it halfway through because I was bored. I considered writing a review, but since I "knew" them and had heard them talk about how much the one negative review they already had bothered them, I couldn't bring myself to do it.

I guess it's the "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all policy". On one hand, it keeps feelings from getting hurt but on the other, I'm holding back constructive criticism that ultimately might help the author improve.

Charlotte Jane Ivory said...

You raise a really good point, Cat - what does a kind reviewer do when a novel/short story has real flaws and isn't an enjoyable read?

Of course we can focus on the positives, but at some point it becomes like reviewing the Arctic Circle as a holiday destination and saying "The views are stunning" without mentioning the biting cold. And it's even more challenging, if you know the owner of "Club Med Arctic Circle" (to stretch my analogy a bit further).

Another problem arises, I suppose, if you only mention the positives in your written comment, and then give it a modest star rating due to the issues that you've identified (but have chosen not to explicitly mention). The author and potential readers are likely to become confused - Huh? It sounds like she loved the book but gave it just TWO STARS?

And who does the reviewer owe loyalty to? The obvious answer is, if she owes loyalty to anyone, she owes it to the potential reader - that's the person who might rely on it when deciding to buy the book.

But human nature doesn't always work that way - especially in the case you mentioned, Cat, where you may have an acquaintance/friendhsip with the author.

Eeeesh. It's a thinker!

Trisha said...

Great word count for NaNo, hope it's still going that well or better! I feel like I'm on the cusp of burning out. Guess it's a good thing I have a forced break tomorrow night.

I still haven't succumbed to buying an eReader.

Brandy Heineman said...

I am dancing on the edge of getting an e-reader. I've downloaded a few books to a Kindle app on my computer, but I dislike turning pages via arrow keys or mouse scrolling and it diminishes the experience to me. I'm sure a tablet or reader device will be more pleasant to use.

I agree with you about writing reviews -- I tend to write as if to the author and not the reader. I look for good things to say and sandwich any criticism between compliments. I also try to think, "Does this book do a good job of being what it is, even if I don't particularly like the genre?" In other words, can I recommend it to others who like this sort of book?

I do most of my reviewing at Goodreads. You might check that out if you aren't on it already. It's a social network for people who love to read. You can't download books there, but I love it for recommendations. :)

Charlotte Jane Ivory said...

@ Trisha - I'll be stalking your blog in about two minutes to find out where your word count is at :)

Charlotte Jane Ivory said...

@ Brandy - thanks for the Goodreads tip. I just took the virtual tour and it promises to be another site that will suck me into hours of blissful trawling!
Regarding the Kindle, I prefer it hugely to reading a PDF on the computer. The E-Ink means you don't get tired eyes as quickly, but your still do press the buttons to turn pages (mine, at least, doesn't have a touch screen).
My only weird moment is when I come to the end of a Kindle book and I feel a bit like "The End" snuck up on me. You can see at the bottom of the screen how far through you are, but I don't think this compares to the psychological effect of holding the book and feeling that you're near the end. Not sure if that makes sense! :)