6.06.2006

Get the rope

Dear Ms Snark

First off, 3 yapps for Killer Yap!

What do you make of repected book reviewers who take your back cover copy and modify a few words and make it their own review? Doesn't that fall under the realm of plagiarism? A book review house did just that with my book. Not just that, there was a quote from another author at the back of my book and they generously used words and thoughts from that at the beginning of the review. Should I confront them or would that offend them to the point that they might give me bad reviews for future works? For me, their review is useless although their name means something in the industry.



What do you think reviews are for? Are they to make you feel good? (think carefully before you answer). Are they to validate your work? Are they to bring attention to your book?

If you start calling reviewers and telling them they've plagiarized the back cover text in a review you're going to look like a nitwit. They won't give you bad reviews in the future...it will be MUCH MUCH worse. The ENTIRE purpose of back cover text and blurbs is to get people to notice and read the book. The fact that a book review used that text is making who ever wrote it jump for joy (unless of course YOU wrote it in which case Miss Snark says, get out the rope, we're calling for the lady with the alligator purse+).

And what the hell is a book review house anyway? Michiko Kakutani's cottage?

There's a reason "there is no such thing as bad publicity" is a cliche. It is because it is true.

Miss Snark has sold her share of books that fell into the great maw of unreviewed silence. Count your blessings...you can do so while we jump rope.

If you don't like the reviews you're getting you can always try what a couple folks have done: write several and include them in the press packet as samples.

+
Miss Lucy had a baby
And she named him Tiny Tim.
She put him in the bathtub
To see if he could swim.
He drank up all the water.
He ate up all the soap.
He tried to eat the bathtub
But it wouldn't go down his throat.
Miss Lucy called the doctor,
Miss Lucy called the nurse.
Miss Lucy called the lady with the alligator purse.

28 comments:

S. W. Vaughn said...

Oh my Lord -- Miss Lucy Had a Baby! Haven't thought of that song since grade school.

Thanks a heap, Miss Snark. Now it'll be stuck in my head all day.

And I'll even continue the classic little ditty:

"Mumps!" said the doctor,
"Measles!" said the nurse,
"Rubbish!" said the lady with the alligator purse...

At least, that's how we sung it. :-)

Oh yeah, and reviews: they work better than ads. Don't knock 'em, question-asker. The more places your name pops up, the better!

Lauren said...

I'd be interested in knowing what a book review house is too.

That said, I am a book reviewer. It's true, unfortunately, that some reviewers do little more than read the press packet, the back cover and the flap copy before writing. All of us who review for my site read the books in full. We think about them. Then we begin writing.

That said, it is important to remember who the review is for--and that it is NOT the author, the publicist or the publisher. It is for the reader. It is to inform the reader of why a particular book does or does not work, why it is worth a read or is not.

My final shot of advice is this: Never, never, never contact the reviewer to complain--about anything. James D. Macdonald refers to that as ABM, the author's big mistake. And it is. What you might do is send a handwritten thank you note even if all you can say in it (through gritted teeth) is "Thank you for reviewing my book." The reviewer will probably faint, but she won't forget you--in a good way.

Elektra said...

Miss Snarky had a poodle
She named him Killer Yapp
She sic-ed him on the nitwits
To see if they would snap
He nipped at all their ankles
He barked at all their cats
He eyed up all their belfries
But he couldn't see past the bats
Miss Snarky called the authors
Miss Snarky called the vet
Miss Snarky called the Clue Gun Man to see what she could get

Anonymous said...

Is there something wrong with writing the flap copy and/or back cover text for one's own book? I don't think so.

I've done it for my non-fiction books, after seeing the efforts of the publisher's flap editor were less than stellar. Every publisher has always welcomed my contribution, realizing I was in the best position to comment on the contents of the book as compared to their 25 year old flap guy who knew nothing about the book beyond what he had been given in a synopsis.

Anonymous said...

When my husband was doing marketing he was always thrilled with product reviewers who cut and pasted from the press package. Sure, he was promoting electronics, but the principal is the same: if a reviewer actually reads the book, she is more likely to point out the parts she doesn't like.

Anonymous said...

Elektra! That is so cool I wanna go outside and jump rope right now! (If only the ice didn't pop out of my Tom Collins while I jumped.)

girl on top said...

Since it is almost impossible to get Cliff's Notes (even in galley form) for a work of fiction before it is published, it is just one of the unfortunate realities of the business that we have to rely on the back cover text for our reviews sometimes.

Bookview said...

I have a (very small, very new) children's book review site, and already I've been getting review copies in the mail. Sweet! They all go to a needy school library in the end, but I make sure I read them first and then write a review according to what I've read. The accompanying materials are helpful to have, because sometimes it's nice to point to the features that the publisher wants to point out.

But if an author got hold of me and said, "Look, about that review... I'd like you to change this, this, and this..." that review would come down tout de suite. If I can't give a positive review, I may not review at all, but asking for editorial changes is a bit much. Putting up a nice review is already a favor to the author. When an author asks for more, that's being just way too precious.

As for using the back cover blurb -- well, that may have been what was in the press kit. It's lovely when a reviewer reads the book and makes original comments. But if the reviewer is busy, well, that's what the press kit is for.

Anonymous said...

Okay, sounds like he/she was a lazy reviewer, but Miss Snark is correct - the whole point in a review is to draw attention to your work. If it did that, just say THANKS. If you complain, the reviewer won't give you a bad review next time - there won't be a next time. He/she won't review you at all.

Ski said...

and lastly...

Miss Lucy kicked the doctor.
Miss Lucy kicked the nurse.
Miss Lucy paid the lady
With the alligator purse.

I have no idea who the lady with the alligator purse is... I'm the dimmest bulb in the box...aren't I...

Mark said...

We know who the reviewers are: Library Journal, Kirkus, not the new vanity wing, as opposed to Midwest Book Review and reviews in the Jackalope Juntion Daily Hop-a-long and the like.

Termagant 2 said...

(...continued)

Miss Snark called Georgie Clooney.
Miss Snark called Agent Kris.
She called Reviewer Central,
Asking, "Ever heard of this?"

George said, "Babe, I love ya
But I just don't have a clue.
Why don't you ask the author
If she really wants reviews?"

Kris said, "I'd tell the writer
To accept it all as praise
That she wrote back cover copy
That was worth reviewer's raves!"

Reviewer Central answered.
Said, "We believe in bribes.
Send dark chocolate in mass quantities,
To reach the readers' eyes."

Thus ends poetic license.
Though I may seem rather tart,
A simple, heartfelt "thank-you"
Touches this reviewer's heart.

T2

mazement said...

Wait, what kind of review are we talking about?

If it's like the review of "Animal Farm" on this page, then the author has a valid complaint:

http://www.theonion.com/content/node/37346

Eileen said...

I would rather the reviewer cut and paste from what is on the back and the quotes than have them come up with something orginal like "would rather feed my eyes to Killer Yapp than force them to look upon this mis-shapen collection of letters the author calls words." I'm just saying...

Manic Mom said...

I thought it went like this:

Out came the water,
Out came the soap,
Out came the bathtub
that wouldn't go out down his throat!

Anyone remember Miss Mary Mac, Mac, Mac all dressed in black, black, black...shiny buttons, yada yada...

Or Shimmy Shimmy Cocoa Pops shimmy shimmy pop?

I'm never gonna sleep tonight.

Elektra--EXCEPTIONAL ODE BTW!

docbrite said...

I generally agree that it is a bad idea to contact a reviewer with anything other than a thank-you note. However, what if the review contains serious misinformation about you and/or your book?

I've had this happen twice with two different novels. Reviewer A said I'd won an award I hadn't. Reviewer B misidentified my hometown (an important factor in my work) and the occupation of a major character in my novel. I wrote what I thought were polite letters correcting both of these reviews. Reviewer A's publication printed my letter without comment. Reviewer B wrote me a long, insulting, histrionic e-mail, but reviewed my next novel more favorably than the one he'd made mistakes about. Go figure.

Bonnie said...

Yup. The reason for so much "What Others Are Saying" in any book's publicity is because reviewers will sometimes use those blurbs as jumping off points. Why not let them? That's sometimes carefully-crafted RAVE-inspiring material and it's all there to help your books fly off the shelves. Let 'em have it!

When I read reviews of my books with quotes from the back cover or inside flap passed off as the reviewers' own, I hop up and shout, "Yippee! We got another review! That's sales, baby!"

Laura(southernxyl) said...

As not a writer, but a reader, I'd be irritated to find out that a book review consisted of nothing more than regurgitated press kit material. Especially if I'd bought and spent precious time reading a book based on the glowing review.

Cover blurbs, unless they are attributed to a reviewer or another author, are a different story, of course.

Anonymous said...

If it makes the questioner feel any better....About ten years ago, I reviewed books for the local newspaper book page. One day I was in the bookstore, glancing through the pages of a book I'd reviewed as terrible and a waste of time. I found a carefully snipped bit of my review, cut to look as if I'd loved the book.

I just laughed.

:) Anonymisty

Anonymous said...

Since it is almost impossible to get Cliff's Notes (even in galley form) for a work of fiction before it is published, it is just one of the unfortunate realities of the business that we have to rely on the back cover text for our reviews sometimes.


Share girl,

You're kidding, right? Assuming you've read the galley for the book, how hard is it to write an original summary of it? That's what a book reviewer is paid to do, even if the pay's lousy.

Another dead give-away that the reviewer hasn't read the whole book is the lines they quote: invariably they're from the first page!

Anonymous said...

I think any reviewer who reviews a book s/he hasn't read is a slime-bucket. Taking a shortcut in writing the review (by borrowing from the back cover for the summary part) is forgiveable, if lazy, but to not actually read the book?

Bernita said...

Oh dear, is this an exercise in wrenching defeat from the jaws of victory?
Reviews are good news. Period.
Say "thank you."

Anonymous said...

Okay, here's the dish:

YOU may be totally familiar with what's on your back cover...

But the general public reading the reviewer's repeat of the stuff is NOT.

The general public, through the reviewer, gets to read about your deathless prose for the first time!

Should a reviewer say nice things about the book you might send a short thank you--NEVER tell them how to fix their review. Their deadline is past, the deed is done, and they are working on other things. They will only regard your mail with a WTF look, a headshake, and pass a copy around to their friends for a larf.

Your TITLE is mentioned and maybe they spelled your NAME right, and people who never knew you existed are now INFORMED.

Good grief--you GOT A REVIEW! Of however many other books came out that day YOURS got some notice!

Stop checking the dental history of that freebie equine and get back to work on the next book.

harridan said...

Heh heh heh.

As always, never burn your bridges.

I once reviewed a book and absolutely adored it. I wrote a rave review.

However, when it was sent to the author, the owner of the review site received an email from the author about errors I had made. The author included an edited version of my review.

Now, while I had made one slip on an informational bit that truly did need corrected--the rest of the changes involved items the author wanted focused on, rather than my own interpretation of the piece. She was a tad snooty about it too. (Well, more than a tad actually.)

Ummmm...HELLO! I'm the reader, and these are my opinions based on reading the work. I focused on the aspects that made me a truly happy camper.

Fast forward a number of months. Lo and behold I receive an email from the author who was so unhappy with my review. Seems she was taking a major butt-kicking by reviewers posting on Amazon.

Long story short...Could you please post the glowing review you did for me on Amazon to counter the bad stuff?

Of course I did (after a bit of gloating!) Why? Cuz I know better than to burn my bridges. (wink)

Anonymous said...

I, too, am a reviewer. I've only had one bad experience. I reviewed a book by a an author whose name is instantly recognizable in many circles. In my positive review, I drew a paralell between fictional events in the book and events of the present day.

When my review was published, I got the most astonishing, vitriolic email from said author. She told me all about how I was wrong, how I clearly hadn't read the book (I had, thank you) and that she'd make sure I was essentially black-balled from everything her publisher ever put out pretty much until the end of time. And possibly fired. Out of a cannon. Aimed at the sun. (I made up that last part, but I assert that the subtext was there.)

Silly me. In my shock, I replied politely and informed her that I had read the book, etc. Her response? She accused me of plagarizing someone else's review (that I'd never seen) and renewed her promise to have me banned from her publisher.

I forwarded both of her emails to her publicist, who professed what I assume was real shock and was very apologetic about the whole thing, assuring me that I would not be shut out (or shot or anything else, which was nice.)

The moral of the story? Not only was I *not* shut out of the publisher's work, I still get advance copies of every single book this author writes. And I never review a single one of them. Perhaps that's petty of me, but there it is.

Anonymous said...

I am the original poster.

Book review house might have been a hastily put together thing on my part. What I really meant is that this reputed reviewer has many reviewers working under her but she, the queen bee, was the one who wrote the review for my book. I know this since she proudly signed her name underneath it. I still think if paragraph by paragraph, the back cover blurb is copied, even the sequencing of paragraphs and thoughts within are the same, it's considered plagiarism. No, I am not going to complain but really, she even took a review from another author at the back of the book and made it sound like her own. If nothing else, I think that other author, if she finds out, would be seriously offended.

Reviewer said...

Dear Original Poster,
(I'm the 'anonymous' reviewer who had the run-in with the nutty author who now gets no reviews... and I can see how this 'anon' thing gets confusing!)

If this is the "queen bee" I'm thinking of... complaining to/about her would be an exercise in futility. If it's the woman I think it is, most everyone I know in publishing considers her a shill and disregards her reviews. The good news? She writes nothing but good reviews, so those who don't know her reputation (readers) will see the good review and that can/will drive sales. (That's not to say your book doesn't deserve a good review!)

If we're talking about the same person, yours is not the first book to be "reviewed" by slightly re-arranging the text from the back cover or the jacket flap. And it won't be the last, either. It's lazy and dishonest not the way it should be done. (And not the way I'd ever do it.) But it gets your name and your book out there, which, in the end, is the function of a review.

The other author, if she finds out, may be justifiably irritated about it. Does it rise to the level of plagarism? Dunno, I'm not a lawyer. It most likely wouldn't be worth going after her about it, cost-wise.

It's not your doing, as the other author know, since authors cannot control what even honest reviewers write. My advice... consider it an annoying lesson in how not everyone plays by the rules, and let it go.

Anonymous said...

I have a blast quoting my reviews, good and bad, on my website. And no, I don't snip the "I couldn't make myself finish this" reviews to extract something that looked favorable.

Interestingly, two of the three worst reviews disappeared from the reviewers' sites after I posted quotes.

Oh, Mary Mary Mack Mack Mack!
All dressed up in black black black!
Siller buttons in back back back!
She asked her mama, "Mama mama!
Gimme fifty cents cents cents
to see an el'phant el'phant el'phant
jump over the fence fence fence!"
He jumped so high yi yi
he reached the sky sky sky
and didn't come back -ack -ack
til the fourth a July! Lie! Lie!