A reviewer’s responsibility

The clichéd phrase that ‘writers live a tortured life’ rings true for a lot of us who toil tediously for years over manuscripts that we one day hope will be turned into a published book. The love of writing is what drives many of us. Like any passion, for me, writing is a part of me almost a calling to put thoughts down on paper – a form of meditation. The final climax of having the honour of seeing your words in print is a bonus not necessarily the ultimate goal because, for a variety of reasons, there is no guarantee that my words will end up in print. I might get to the end of my story and feel that it’s not worthy for public consumption, or a publisher might make that decision for me. Though Epublishing has somewhat taken the control out of publishers’ hands.

I was recently privy to a prominent Australian writer’s reaction to a critical review of their book. The critique was not a good one, despite many other wonderful critiques. In my humble opinion it was also not a fair one as I thought the book in question was brilliant, in the two days in took me to read it. You’ll note that I am not naming the author or the title of the book because I want to protect their privacy, but the author’s reaction surprised me somewhat. It made me realise that it doesn’t matter how seasoned an author you are, your words will always be ‘precious’. Our books are our babies, and like our children we don’t take kindly to people unfairly criticising them.

The reviewer made incorrect comments about factual elements of the book in turn bringing the credibility of the critique in question. The issue with a reviewer not doing their job properly is that their critique can sway public perception of the book and in turn impact sales. Given the number of years it takes a writer to complete a project and in turn the small advance a writer will, in most cases, get for their book then surely a reviewer has an obligation to ensure they do their job properly?

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