|A review by some bloke
These days, apart from reviewing for www.popularscience.co.uk and for my blog, I do a fair number of book reviews for print publications from Wall Street Journal to Nature. And I have noticed a worrying trend. Probably because of the increase of easy communication through websites and social networking, people rather expect to be able to get in touch with a reviewer after reading their review. And a rapidly increasing number of authors are dropping me an email.
I put these emails on a scale, from 'appreciated' to 'not a good move', and sadly there are rather too many down the bottom end. Here's how they look:
- Appreciated - a nice little note saying thank-you for the review. What's not to love, though the only downside is than when I see an email from an author titled 'Your review' I do get a few moments disquiet before I see it's a nice one.
- Okay if justified - some emails correct an error in a review. This is fine with an online review as the correction can be published, though there's not a lot of point with a print review. However, make sure it is a genuine error. I recently had one complaining because I'd said the author used a technical term without saying what it meant. He asked me to correct the review, as he had explained the term in a note at the back of the book. Sorry, hardly anyone reads notes - the book was still difficult to understand as there was no explanation in context. I did correct the review, but I can't say I was impressed.
- Silly - complaining about an opinion. A lot of the content in a review is inevitably an opinion. I recently received one as an editor (someone else wrote the review) starting 'I'm really sorry you thought this, and I am surprised at your conventionalism.' Frankly, so what? Why should I take any notice of your opinion of an opinion? All you are going to do is irritate me, and I may be responsible for another review of one of your books in the future. What's the point?
- Not a good move - ad hominem attack. Some authors can't resist starting to make nasty remarks and name calling if they don't like a review I wrote. I'm sorry, I can't like every book. I didn't like yours. This is really self-defeating. Not only will this somewhat discourage me from saying nice things about you, if the insults are bad enough I will inform your publisher that you are a loose cannon and they won't be particularly happy. This isn't good for your career.