Friday, November 21, 2008

D'oh! Booking Through Thursday arrives a day late

Driving home from orchestra rehearsal tonight, I had no idea what I was going to blog about tonight. None. I've thrown all my "get out of jail free cards." My book is slow going, and I already wrote about how it was slow going. There's not a whole lot else going on right now. No house fires or robberies or anything like last year. Then I realized something. Yesterday was Thursday, and I didn't do BTT! So here goes:

I receive a lot of review books, but I have never once told lies about the book just because I got a free copy of it. However, some authors seem to feel that if they send you a copy of their book for free, you should give it a positive review.

Do you think reviewers are obligated to put up a good review of a book, even if they don’t like it? Have we come to a point where reviewers *need* to put up disclaimers to (hopefully) save themselves from being harassed by unhappy authors who get negative reviews?

Well, I've never been lucky enough to be in this position. LibraryThing has never picked me (this month it's my fault, I forgot to ask for books). And my blog has not garnered so much attention that publishers are beating down my door begging for opinions on their latest offerings. But just intuitively, I would say that the answer to this question is a resounding "NO!"

A couple of years ago, I attended a museum conference that featured a presentation by one of the leading museum evaluators in the state. She titled her presentation "Does This Make Me Look Fat?" and explained that sometimes museum evaluation (of exhibits, programs, etc.) can be frustrating because her clients weren't coming at it with an open mind. Just like when someone asks that question, there's a response they're looking for from the evaluator. Maybe they just want to hear how wonderful they are, or maybe they're trying to win an argument with someone else in the institution ("See, I told you two hours was too long for the toddler program! She agrees with me!")

That's the problem with sending out review copies: they will get reviewed. Not every blogger will love every book. It's still ultimately just one opinion, no matter how educated and respected that opinion is. A lot of people really liked Jennifer Weiner's new book. And I'm sure plenty of people hated the Motley Crue autobiography. Knowing that won't change my mind about either book, though. So I don't think reviewers should feel obligated to give a positive review. I also think reviewers should own their opinions if authors complain to them about being reviewed badly.

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