An author’s rules for reviewers

You can find plenty of opinions, both good and bad, on book reviewers. Likewise, there’s lots of ideas out there about what a review should or shouldn’t do. This past week SF author David Louis Edelman gave his thoughts on what authors want from reviewers. Here’s the list with some of his comments:

  1. Opinion. “Have one. Better yet: have several.”
  2. Honesty. “All I want is your honest opinion, whether it’s favorable to me or not.”
  3. Insight. “Whether you loved it or hated it is not always the point; I want to know that you thought about it.”
  4. Elaboration. “I can handle the fact that you found the book far-fetched. But I want to know how and where.”
  5. Disclosure.
  6. No anonymity. “There’s a reason Slashdot’s default label for commenters who don’t leave their names is ‘Anonymous Coward.'”
  7. Originality.
  8. Accuracy.
  9. No pandering. “[P]lease, don’t say pithy things just for the sake of trying to get on the book jacket or the website.”
  10. No spoilers. “It’s not for my sake that you should avoid spoilers; it’s for the sake of my (potential) readers.”

I think this goes beyond what authors may want and reflects what those who read reviews want and should expect. While I believe I attempt to do what Edelman suggests, these are undoubtedly ideas any reviewer would do well to consider.

Criticism starts – it has to start – with a real passion for reading.

Harold Bloom, The Paris Review, Spring 1991

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