I know we have the reputation for being the meanest girls on the mean girl block and I assume that is because we write F and DNF reviews. Not to mention D reviews. But the fact is that the majority of our book reviews are positive. 65% of them have B- grades or above. The break down is as follows:
Total Reviews 1911
- A Reviews: 217 (11%)
- B Reviews: 1032 (54%)
- C Reviews: 449 (23%)
- D Reviews: 147 (8%)
- F Reviews: 28 (1%)
- DNF Reviews: 38 (2%)
Internally, we talked about the lack of the negative review and concluded that because we pick and choose what we want to read, we are self selecting books that we are predisposed to enjoy. We rarely force ourselves to finish a bad book. One thing that is different about Dear Author than professional publications is that no one is assigned a book to review. Everyone gets notice about a book and then people decide what to read / review. This means that a number of books never get reviewed because we never finish them or we never get to a place in the book where we feel we could fairly write a DNF review.
The books are self selected to be ones we hope we will enjoy and are readily discarded if the book doesn’t seem worth our time. Contributing heavily to this problem is the cornucopia of books that we have at our disposal. With plenty of books at our disposal, it is easily to move on from a book that isn’t meeting our expectations.
I don’t feel like Dear Author is much different from many other book bloggers. The fact is that I think people prefer to read and talk about books that they enjoy. Sure, a negative review can be fun, both to read and write, but a blogger can’t subsist on F books alone. A diet of bad books will drive a reader to give up on the genre. But the majority of books out there aren’t good or bad, but just average. Or “meh”. And writing a “meh” review is probably harder than anything. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why a book didn’t work for you and sometimes, in struggling to articulate yourself, the complaints about a book start sounding like nitpicks when they are just examples of your overall malaise with a book. For some books, the most that you can say is that it didn’t work for you. Didn’t like the hero. Didn’t like the heroine. Didn’t like the plot. That’s not terribly helpful to anyone.
And what about all those books started? As I stated previously, most of us give many, many, many books a try but can’t get past the first page, let alone the first chapter. I’ve DNF’ed more books than I’ve read by a ratio of probably 10 to 1, and that might even be a conservative estimate. And I’m not DNF’ing because all the writing is bad. No, it’s more because I find the book boring or the setting too gimmicky or the characters unlikeable.
After some contemplation, I wondered if I, at least, am doing a disservice to readers. Shouldn’t we be reading more books that are unfamiliar to us (Jayne is great about this) and powering through books that don’t appeal? I know I’m more apt to try a shorter book, like a category, from a new to me author than I am a full length book because when you don’t like a book, it seems longer than War and Peace and every page is a slog up hill through mud up to your shins (or the sliding sands in Maui, if, for example, you were climbing up the sliding sands instead of going down like you are supposed to and your husband tells you that you have to finish even though you just want to lay down in the flora and allow the soft sand to sweep over your tired body until it softly surrounds you and you no longer have to put one endless foot in front of the other to get out of the damn crater).
But, of course, the benefit is great. Because when you get to the parking lot, you forget all about the aches and pains and near death and thoughts of hari kari by sandstorm because you have accomplished the unimaginable. (yes, to me, hiking the Haleakala trail was unimaginable). Or in the case of books, it’s discovering a new author that we think the readers of DA will also like.
The upshot of trying out and finishing new to me books is that there will likely be more negative reviews but at least we’ll live up to the mean girl appellation. So my main 2011 goal is to finish more books that I start. Or at least get to past the first 100 pages. I’m not sure how long I can maintain this resolution before I lay down in amongst the waste of paper and pray for its pulpy folds to smother me.