Monday, January 30, 2012

Books: Review vs. Recommend

Alright, I'm struggling with something, and one way I work through struggles is writing through them. So here goes.

Opinions abound about writers reviewing books, but I'm not going to discuss those because that's not what this struggle is about. As a regular participator in Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays (MMGM), I don't review books. I recommend and promote middle grade books (but not for money or by request) by sharing ones I love. To me, that is a HUGE difference. A book reviewer may pull apart a book, point out its shortcomings, or tear into style. I do not do those things.

But, here's my conundrum. What I do on Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays may be understood or perceived by others as reviewing books, and sometimes reviewing books has negative connotations. And I don't want to be known as a middle grade book reviewer because I see the dangers--and there are many--in reviewing books of published authors when I have a dream of one day having my own middle grade books out in the world.

But I don't review middle grade books. I promote them. I share about them. I spread word about them. I recommend them. Because I love them. But the perception of what I do is a whole different matter.

So, I'm kinda scratching my head over MMGMs right now and could use some input. I know many of you who read my blog are writers (and many of you are MMGMers too) and some of you aren't. Whether you write or not, MMGM or not, what do you think about the whole thing?

21 comments:

  1. I don't see you as a reviewer as much as a 'recommender'. If you find something good, you share the news with others. If you find a great restaurant, you tell others how good it is. Most of my experiences- movies, books, music, restaurants, -are because someone else shared how much they enjoyed them. And I appreciate the information. :o)

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  2. People will think what they want to think and draw conclusions they want to draw. I see you as a "recommender", but in the end you do what feels right for you.
    I do books reviews on occasion, but they are nothing professional. Just me making a positive noise about a book I enjoyed. Sometimes I also make noise about a book I want to read.
    The reason why I joined MMGM was because I noticed how exited every member gets about the book they are featuring and that's it.

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  3. Like the above commenters, I view you more as a "recommender" than a "reviewer." I think that this perception would be harder to have if this blog only contained review-esque posts, but it doesn't--you also talk about writing (be it your own or the craft in general)--so while there may be some people who'll think of you as a reviewer, I'm sure many others can make the distinction that you're not. :)

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  4. The whole purpose of MMGM was to recommend or "spotlight" good middle grade literature. I see ALL of us as promoters of good MG books. Reviews can go either way, really, but MMGM is all about being positive and sharing books we enjoy. :-)

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  5. I so appreciate the understanding. It's hard sometimes because you don't know how others view what you do or how they are taking what you write. I LOVE MG! And when I found the MMGM group of bloggers, my MG love finally had a place to live. And then I started getting 'cold feet' as I thought about how I'm perceived.

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  6. I think if you recommend a book, as we do on MMGM, then it is not a review. A review can either recommend or not.

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  7. I would just do what you love, and that goes for anyone who either wants to recommend or review books. At this stage in my writing life, I know not all reviewers or recommenders are going to love the sort of books I write, and that's fine, because there's no book every single person loves. There are many books out there I like, but don't love.

    And it's a good thing you are into middle grade books-so much less drama than the YA world! :)

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  8. I guess I never really thought about it before. I probably shouldn't use the word "review" on my site either, since they only books I talk about are ones that I like, which would make me a "recommender" too. I liked what Shannon said - that we're all promoters of MG and want to share the love!

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  9. I understand your struggle with this. When I first started blogging (back in 2009) I did it because I wanted to share my favorite books (mostly MG, but a lot of YA too) with the book blogging community, not just my customers at the bookstore. And I'm also an unpublished writer, so I certainly don't want to point out negative things about books. I decided back then to emphasize the positive. I've always called my posts "recommendations" -- I even have a tab at the top.

    And sharing the MG love is what prompted Shannon Messenger to start MMGM in the first place.

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  10. Echoing what Shannon, in particular, said. For me, MMGM is about celebrating MG and books we've read and loved and would recommend to others. Much different than reviewing, so anyone taking part in it, for me, is not a reviewer (in this instance) but part of the celebration.

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  11. Thank you, each of you. And like Dee said, I want to do what I love, which for me is celebrating MG.

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  12. Hey Barbara, I found your blog through your query letter on Matt's QQQ blog. :) Awesome work BTW :) I'm a new stalker and fellow writer striving to get my literary genius in a nice crisp paper-back. :) Look forward to your future posts :)

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  13. I'm certainly no authority, but I agree. Promoting is great. The trouble seems to come when a writer gives a bad review to another book. Then there is apparently a conflict of interest. I think promoting is fine. The whole thing feels a bit sticky, so I've kind of laid off myself, but I still promote by having interviews/guest posts/ and using the books as examples and that sort of thing.

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  14. I mmgm to learn about other mg books, to recommend books for my friends with kids, to stay current on a market I'm trying to break into, and to learn style from the MG authors I review. So I try to focus on the positive of the books and who the books are written for. As a parent, I like to know content if there is anything that might frighten or be inappropriate for my kids too.

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  15. Jade, glad you're here!

    Lisa, it is a sticky thing, and that's what I'm starting to feel even though I would NEVER be negative about someone's work.

    Brooke, staying current in the market is huge for too--as is learning and gleaning from those authors.

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  16. You guys are all so wise! I also joined MMGM because it just seemed what a mafioso would do--promote what he/she liked, while having a bit of fun in the process. No, they are not classic "reviews," as I don't point out failings and flaws--and if I don't enjoy a book, I don't feature it.

    As for how others perceive us, I think that changes as we progress on the journey. When you and I are published authors, Barbara, we'll probably be blogging about the different things that float a published author's boat. But I still intend to toot my horn for MG and build an MG-loving community. My 2c.

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  17. I think there's plenty of author-author promotion out there and most people are fine with that. I know I am. It should be pretty clear that you aren't a reviewer for those posts. I hope you're not getting any bad feedback about that. That would be a shame.

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  18. I think the MMGM posts are wonderful. They highlight and promote MG books and authors and that is wonderful. I feel like the difference between recommendation and review is that you have a choice over the books you are spotlighting and you are recommending them because you enjoyed them.
    Reviews can sometimes be more critical.
    There are bloggers who forget that the world of publishing is this big circle and that everything is connected. The book they gave a snarky negative review to might have been represented by the agent or agency they just sent their query to, the next day they will complain on their blog about rejection.
    Your blog and your MMGM posts are positive and professional. I think the connections you've made being involved in MMGM posts and through your blog are something that an agent or editor your look positively on plus you enjoy them so keep doing them.

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  19. Barbara, I do just what you do. I recommend or "shout out" books I like. Commenters often thank me for the "reviews," but I don't worry about it. What matters is what I'm really saying or not saying online. If I'm not criticizing, I can't suffer the fallout of having said this or that.

    I used to review, but I took last year's brouhaha about conflict of interest to heart and stopped. Really, I enjoy discussing pros and cons, what works and what doesn't, but I have to do that privately, not on my blog. I think people know the difference between promoting and reviewing, even if the language they sometimes use is imprecise.

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  20. It seems like it's already been said here, so I'm just nodding my head. I've always thought of MGM as recommending, supporting, promoting books we love. I am definitely not a reviewer on my blog, although I do post reviews on GoodReads, but I find that site to be a different kind of service. I go there specifically to read reviews.

    I also use MGM to discuss books and aspects of MG literature. I'm not always head-over-heals about all the books I mention, but use them to illustrate a point. And my opinion is only one anyway, right? Something I'm luke-warm about, might be top of the list for someone else.

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  21. It's funny, I've got what I consider a middle-grade book review blog (www.misterkreads.com), but now that I read your post, I'll have to think about whether I'm reviewing or recommending. I rate books based on how much I liked them, but if I really didn't like them I wouldn't have finished them in the first place. What's funny is when authors (usually self or locally-published) contact me with (usually digital) copies of their (usually weird) books, wanting me to read and write up their books. Thus far, I haven't made it through a single one of those books, but if I ever get one that's good enough, I will be honest in my review. I like your site, keep up the excellent writing!

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