An article about the bad reviews authors may receive...
All new writers, as well as many, if not most "old ones," desire to have their books reviewed in other publications so that their books become well known around the world. However, writers desire that the reviews be fair, concise, and reflect a true reading of the book.
A year or so ago I wrote a piece about a journal that requested a copy of two of my books having to do with the folklore of water. The reviews were written by a woman who has also written a few books but decided that the manner in which I footnoted my sources was reprehensible to her. She also decided to take issues with one of the books that, should she have actually read it, she would have known better.
This has occurred yet again. I submitted a copy of my book, "Creatures in the Mist" to "Rambles". This is an online journal which reviews many books from all genres—including folklore and mythology. I had always enjoyed the reviews as well as the other articles in Rambles and when the editor gave an affirmative to send the book in for review I advised him in the cover letter (written on April 26, 2007) that went with it that the copy was a review copy, which contained some printing errors. These errors were corrected prior to the book becoming available for distribution. However, the reviewer obviously decided that she didn’t really wish to read a book on the folklore of mythical creatures as she gave scant information about it in her December 8, 2007 review. While she graciously said that my “expertise and sincerity are obvious” she spent the majority of her time complaining about the printing errors which had been explained.
“I don't generally comment on a book's format, but unfortunately the printing of this book (not an advanced reader's copy but a commercial paperback) omitted all hyphens, leaving an open space at the end of a line where a word would generally be hyphenated. It may sound like a small matter, but if you check out any book in which margins are justified, you'll quickly see that the hyphen gets used frequently. The space is distracting and indeed is a flaw both the author and publisher, Algora (which advertises itself as an academic press), should have corrected before the manuscript went to press. Sadly, despite the no doubt fascinating content of this work, the printing error gives it a cheap appearance.”
Well I will give her the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps the editor did not forward the letter that accompanied the book where it was plainly stated that, in fact, the book was a first run review copy which contained printing errors. I suppose though that she had to write something to come up with her word quota so rather than write something that showed she had little interest or understanding in the material, she wrote about that which would fill space—the “cheap appearance” that was created by leaving hypens out of the text.
Over the years I have had several people request review copies of my books and I usually understand that most of the time the books will never be reviewed in print. What reviewers need to understand is that the author has put months of work into the book and has invested a substantial amount of money in the project as well completing research, obtaining photographs and buying reference materials. Also, the author and or the publisher invests a certain amount of money (sometimes substantial amounts) in providing free copies of these books to potential reviewers.
To have ones book belittled because of printing errors in a review copy or because the reviewer didn’t like the way footnotes were provided or, in one case, a gentleman in another country who complained that locals should have written the book rather than “foreigners on holiday” speaks more about the reviewer than it does about the book.
This said, I will add that I will no longer be providing review copies of my work. Should a legitimate reviewer truly wish to obtain one the best way to go is request one from the publisher or, heavens forbid, buy a copy.