I put down the paper and stared blankly at the wall, the contents of what I just read still hovering in my mind, like a butterfly searching for a spot to drink nectar.
I had just read a book review by a reviewer, who seemed to derive sadistic pleasure by tearing into shreds, the contents of novel by a debut author.
For the next few minutes I stepped into the shoes of the author, trying to visualize and analyze, what he or she would be feeling, after reading the scathing review?
I wonder if a reviewer ever stops to ponder, what efforts an author puts in while writing a book. In addition to hours of endless writing, assembling of facts and figures, procrastinating about plots, characters, visualizing scenarios, and striving to create the perfect climax to enthrall a reader etc. are just a few of the tasks to be executed.
After all this is over, there is still the 'biting of nails' situation, when the manuscript is with a potential publisher. The period of waiting with bated breath, always fearing the prospect of rejection, are excruciating moments in the life of any author.
Therefore to be further subjected to a negative review, which can only be a shattering experience, is in my opinion, an avoidable situation for an author to seriously consider, especially debut authors.
I too fell into this trap and searched for reviewers when my first book was published, most of them offer paid reviews, which is equivalent to a situation where you 'pay to get punched in the nose'. Trust me, it’s a repugnant feeling.
Another observation is, that one of the basic qualities of being a good reviewer
is to possess an excellent command over the language, which ensures they can delve into their varied vocabulary, to select subtle words, precise sentences conveying in a softer tone, what would otherwise be harsh and displeasing. Sadly that is not the case, and reviewers with a limited vocabulary tend to present a crude and lopsided review, without any concern for the author. The mocker itself is an example of mockery. To make my point, here is an example of how to write a critical review:
'The author strives very hard to present his viewpoint on the subtleties of the plot, though at times his efforts are not entirely successful, but nevertheless the message is vividly conveyed. Probably a certain segment of readers may not be too amused, however there will always be readers who appreciate and identify with the author. In my personal opinion, for a debut novelist, it is a commendable attempt, and see very good future prospects for subsequent books'
A summary like shown above is not going to hurt anyone's sentiments, and will show the reviewer in good light, for his or her empathy for the author.
The purpose of penning my thoughts here is to shout out to reviewers, to go soft especially for debut authors, as a scathing review can cause irreparable damage to their psyche. A bit of self-analysis, prior to reviewing could be a good approach to produce a subtle review, conveying the message without hurting sentiments, which would indeed be an enlightening experience for all.
I already hear the whispers and snide retorts-If authors can’t accept constructive criticism then they should give up writing. True in a way, accepting criticism positively is something all authors have to accept, however harsh words isn’t constructive criticism.
Maybe such reviews could be digested by established authors, who would invariably care two hoots about the review, as they already have the cash registers ringing.