Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Networking for Fun and Profit (**Sarcasm Alert!)

**Disclaimer: The following post may contain sarcasm, snarkiness, self-deprecating humor, and leading comments that may or may not be the actual opinion of the author who may or may not have composed them while under the influence of hormonal fluctuations. Now fully recovered, (at least for a couple of weeks) she hopes to entertain you for a bit of a moment. Read at your own risk. You have been warned.**
Glossy lip service... or a sincere endorsement?
How can a reader know?
So I was hopping around the other day over at my favorite place to drop large sums of money in small, downloadable doses (think of a jungle area known for its large warrior women) and found myself reading book reviews. Honestly. Sometimes I wonder about the reviews and author endorsements I see out there in book land. (Not yours, of course. Your reviews are both insightful and witty.) I have often become victim to a glowing recommendation found on the cover of a book and, I must say, the more I read the more I am caused to wonder if the quotes on the jacket of a book are entirely sincere. Especially when that book disappoints me. (And no, I'm not talking about your book. I simply adored your book!)

It's not that I doubt the words written. I mean, no self-respecting author or reviewer would LIE. I just wonder if there is a little missing disclaimer between the lines that otherwise seem positive, but are not necessarily radiating enthusiasm. (And BTW, I'm making these up. So if you've written similar lines, as I have from time to time, please don't feel that I'm picking on you, your review, or your book. I'm not. At least not anymore than I'm picking on ME or my reviews or my books which, by the way, none of you have yet read and, therefore, can neither endorse nor reject. So there.)

Let's say you ran across a book with this endorsement on its cover, 
written by an author or reviewer you trust:

"...an engrossing tale of love, loss, and triumph by someone who is sure to become a favorite new author." ~Awesome W. Riter, author of Don't You Just Love Me?

So you bought it, you read it, and you found the book to be... less than remarkable. In truth, you found it barely tolerable. (Thank you, Mr. Darcy.)

What could the problem be? Is it you? Is it the book? Is it (gasp!) a strange tropical fever to which only book reviewers are susceptible?
Diagnosis: Reviewer's Pinocchioitis

Perhaps the reviewer was honest. Mostly. She just left out a little disclaimer when she gave her endorsement.

Maybe it went a little something like this:
"Sure, I was a little bored, but I stayed up until 2 a.m. just to (finally) finish this torture. Um, I mean book, because the author was super nice to me at a conference. Oh, and the plot did include some love, loss, and triumph. It was a bit difficult to find, of course, amid the extraneous adverbs and sloppy dialogue, but it was there and I almost enjoyed it. Anywho, taste is subjective, right? I'm sure someone out there will find this particular style of writing awesome and will consider her to be among their favorite new authors."

or there's the "my civic duty" disclaimer:
"When I signed up for this organization/crit group/membership it was with the understanding that if any of us got published the rest of us were "unofficially" required to promote the book by any means we can. I'm just (groan)doing my (sigh) duty."

Or its ugly cousin:
"I mean, really! This author and I are in the same writers' organization/crit group/zipcode, and since the continuation of our organization/crit group/community depends on dues, and dues depend on writers being able to afford them, and writers being able to afford them depends on their books selling, why, sure I endorsed this book! If it sells a lot, she'll have to endorse MY next book. It's reciprocal!"
"Go... team?"

Yes, I know, this may sound a bit skeptical, a bit jaded, but... seriously. Have you ever bought a book because of an endorsement by an author (or a reviewer you trust) and then been bored out of your flippin' mind? I know I have. I know I've thought, "Really? I thought you had better taste than that." It makes me wonder. Just sayin'.

So I pose to you this very jaded-sounding question:  Has novel networking turned into some mindless pep rally where, if you're a member of the right clique your book will undoubtedly make the homecoming court of the social media semi-finals?


Or maybe I just need a Midol and some fudge.

In any case, I'm going to do my best to avoid that here. I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings by refusing to review or endorse their work, but I also fear what damage might occur if we allow ourselves to be pressured into endorsements -- into putting "our good name" on something simply because we fear of offending this or that "clique" within the genre. If we are a team, we need to have try-outs, right? Not every book is going to automatically make first team on the varsity squad.

Just my thoughts, for whatever they're worth (which is about as much as you paid to read this.) Now go read a book or something. For a few honest suggestions, see below!


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