Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Spoilers & Other Crimes

On one of the forums for authors that I participate in there has been a discussion of late on reviews left for our books that contain “spoilers” - information that gives away a plot point or in some way spoils the plot or character development of a book. Every author gets them, every author hates them, and every author has no idea what to do about them. Some reviewers are conscientious and make not of the fact that the review contains spoilers, which is good. But most do not. I have come to believe that there are some readers who might not be aware of what they are doing but I also think there are people who get some perverse satisfaction out of it.

Naomi Blackburn, the author of A Book and A Review Blog, has a series running on Terri Giuliani Long's A Life in Words blog about how to write reviews and she devoted one column to writing spoilers. She describes what spoilers are and how to tell if you are including a spoiler in your review. She also says, Reviewing books is a privilege not to be taken lightly. Readers depend on reviewers not to destroy the read for them, but to help them decide if a book is for them. I think this is important and something that those of us who write reviews need to consider. I am a writer, of course, but I'm also an avid reader and I've written 170 reviews on Amazon alone. I take my reviews seriously and I refuse to review books upon request. I have a good reason for that – when I read I read for pleasure or for information. This means I am very deliberate in my choice of books and when someone asks me to read their book, I do not have the freedom to choose it which tends to make it seem like a chore to me. If it seems like a chore, I won't enjoy it as much, and if I don't really enjoy it I won't write a good review. But that's my issue.

Writers are always begging asking for reviews from readers because reviews, especially good reviews, are crucial to out ability to promote our books. Many of the big review and/or promotional sites will not even consider a book until it has a certain number of positive reviews – sometimes they want 10 but sometimes as many as 20, all 4-stars and above. Consequently, authors are put in the position of asking our readers to “leave a review if you like it.” We always hope you will like it.

Heaven knows I've received my share of negative reviews and nobody likes getting them but we all know it is part of the deal when we put our babies out there to be read. Sometimes the negative reviews are substantive and, while that stings, we learn from them if we are smart. Sometimes the reviews reveal the reader's misunderstanding of what they purchased. I've had a number of complaints on my novelettes and short stories because the reader didn't realize it was that short even though all my books have the word count right at the beginning of the Product Description. Sometimes the reviewer gives it a 1-star review even while admitting it is out of their genre – they bought a book of love stories and hate them because they hate love stories. Go figure. These are just crosses a writer has to bear.

My favorite 1-star review for one of my books said that the story was “creepy, really, really creepy.” It was for a psychological horror story.

But the reviews with spoilers are hard to take. Especially because sites like Amazon usually will not remove them. I've only given one review that included a spoiler and I clearly marked that it was a spoiler. The only reason I did it was because the author, toward the end of the story, had the main character do something that was not only out of character for him but was also such a flagrant case of stereotyping, and so obvious that I was really ticked off. I had spent over 500 pages with these people and I felt betrayed by the author at the end. I'll never do that again but I'm not really sorry about what I said.

So, I urge you to read Naomi's posts and heed her advice. And, if you've read anything of mine and liked it, a review is always appreciated.

Thanks for reading.

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