Sunday, October 17, 2010

Writers Don't Get an Even Break

I'm re-printing a blog post here written by my husband, A J Matthews. It demonstrates the uphill climb (and constant slogging) we writers take as we try to make a living (or at least sell a few copies of our books).

A Disappointing Review...

Somewhere in the middle of the night my name must have changed. This from the book review of The Hetzenberg Chronicles, vol. 1, as printed in issue 23 of Battlegames magazine.

"...Mr Mitchell clearly had enormous fun writing this book and his enthusiasm for his characters is obvious, but alas, not contagious. The lack of either any wargames background or historical verisimilitude make it hard to think of anyone to whom I could honestly recommend this book." --John Preece

Hello? Excuse me? Mr. Mitchell? Who he?

A writing friend, an award-winning book reviewer for print and online publications, and who has been quoted in Publisher's Review on more than one occasion, upon reading this review states:

It appears that the editor of this publication doesn't proof his book reviewers' articles--as seen by the reviewer calling you by a different last name. What is more troubling, is it is obvious that the "reviewer" didn't read your book at all or at least not in its entirety. He seems to be copying details from the blurb on the back cover and possibly picked up something from your blog, but he doesn't authoratively discuss the plot, the characterizations or the over-all tone of the piece. (He does seem to have an ax to grind against "historical romance" or novels in general. Where did he come up with this idea your book is a romance anyhow? I'd classify it as "historical fiction" since Imaginations are a "fictional" concept as you explained it to me.) I find this "review" very sloppy journalism, and paints all of us who write professional book reviews as incompetents. I mean, how can you trust this person's opinion (and by extension, the magazine's) on anything if they can't 1) bother to proofread articles for inaccuracies before publication, and 2) they don't insist on their "reviewers" reading the entire book before reviewing it. Very disappointing on the whole.

So what would you do in my place? As the quote above says, it's very disappointing. I had hoped to receive an honest review from someone who would see this as a novel and not a dedicated wargames publication full of rules, background data etc. How do you feel if you've read the review -- do you think this reviewer has 1) read the book 2) has an axe to grind against novels in general and romance in particular (and why did he assume the book is an historical romance? Anyone who has read the book would know it isn't). 3) I can understand publisher Henry Hyde had some personal troubles to deal with recently, but why did Battlegames magazine let this pass un-copyedited?

I am rather hurt by this, and don't know if I should pursue the matters outlined above with Battlegames or not. At the moment I'm working on the next volume of The Hetzenberg Chronicles - The Heat of Battle - but such a "review" from a respected magazine doesn't make it easy to continue. Any help or advice you fans of the Hetzenberg Chronicles can give will be appreciated.

Thanks for reading and for your support,

A J Matthews - not Mitchell!

If you feel inspired, give A J a comment at his "Hetzenberg Chronicles" blog and let him know that all is not lost. Thanks.

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