Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Industry question: this book is a train wreck, I'm a reviewer and novelist. HELP.

Not too long ago I was sent an ARC by an author’s publisher  (I know the author through social media) with the intent of reviewing on my blog and on Amazon. My blog gets a reasonable amount of traffic so I am finding more and more smaller publishers are reaching out to me – great.

But as I read the novel I was astounded at the number of:
1. Misused/incorrect colloquial terms
2. spelling/grammatical errors
3. geographic/historical mistakes
4. locations/places either spelled wrong or the date (of a specific actual event) being incorrect
5. out-and-out wrong general details
6. storyline with several gaping chasms of plot holes

At one point I contacted the author and pointed out my concerns (before I got to the below) & was shot down saying ‘The editor approved it.”

There were a few other things:
7. a very clear slut-shaming agenda which had me screaming.
8. Less than five ‘token’ non-Anglo characters (one line each) who were so cliché that it hurt to read.
9. A very strong possibility that this author plagiarised another's work

All of this made it difficult for me to want to review the novel, as frankly, it deserved less than 1-star. Given the incestuousness of this industry, if I gave this novel 1-star, I feared it might come back to bite me in the butt. I had visions of blacklisting. Perhaps I’m being over dramatic, but I felt that my objections and reasons for giving the novel 1-star would be a slap in the face for both the author and the publisher.

So I sat on it, unable to make up my mind what to do.

Then I started seeing 5-star review updates come through for said novel. I was floored. I decided to take a look at these reviews, I mean, what had I missed?

It took me all of 30 seconds to realise that all but two reviewers were close personal friends of the author and/or also signed with the one-and-same publisher. So I dismissed these reviews due to the conflict of interest.

Instead I focused on the two names that were not familiar. It took me a while, about 30 minutes, to do some tracking but soon I was convinced that one of the ‘reviewers’ was in fact the author, having made a fake account. I am 95% sure this is the case and as I am not 100% I don’t feel I can do anything about it. The other review, which was almost word-for-word the same as a previous review, was also very suspicious.

In other words, none of the reviews (as far as I can tell) are *real, yet this novel, this poorly written, slut-shaming, practically unedited, non-fact checking novel is getting *reviews and from that, genuine sales.

So here is my dilemma.

Do I do nothing or  do I write a review (I can only write an honest one).

I know I can’t make mention of (what I believe are) the fake reviewers, but if I do write a review, and give it what it deserves, 1-star or less, then I need to list (and give examples) as to the reasons why.

That in itself is not the issue. My issue is the possible negative fall-out to me, and is the truth worth the risk? Do I risk the wrath of not only many authors but a publisher, and potentially risk other publishers, authors and some agents thinking I am difficult to deal with all to publish a review, unpaid review, that is truthful?

I know this is quite a war & peace epic of an email, however, I am also sure you have come across this before. What should I do? What would you do? What have other’s done who may have been in the same position?

As the dividing line between reader/reviewer/writer becomes less distinct with every passing day and increasingly voracious demand for content online,  this is a problem a lot of people are facing.

You are reviewing an ARC which is an Advance Reader Copy and often times NOT the final version of the book. Often there is a disclaimer on the cover that says so. "Don't quote without checking the final copy."

That's because ARCs are often printed before the copyediting is finished.

I'm hoping this is the case here.

Your mistake was getting in touch with the author, not the publisher who sent it to you.  The author is clearly unskilled in the ways of reviewers relationships, and perhaps has no idea that copy editors exist to save him from looking like an idiot.

So let's assume that 1-5 will be fixed in the final book.

That still leaves you with a book you don't like. You have good specific reasons for not liking it (6,7 and 8).

If that were the entirety of the case, you could elect to write a fair review and probably be ok. I've mentioned before that I am not unbiased about reviews of my client's books, but if you have specific reasons, I can live with it.  "He's a toad" isn't going to cut it.

But then we come to #9.  You suspect plagiarism.

That moves this out of the realm of review and into investigative reporting.

I think you have an obligation to reply to the publisher that you believe this work is not wholly that of the author, and list why you think so. And you decline to review it FOR THAT REASON.

You don't publish a review saying so.
You will certainly not publish anything about who else reviewed the book.

If the publisher knows and doesn't care, it's no longer your problem.
If the publisher did NOT know, you've fulfilled your obligation by letting them know about your reservations.

Sock puppet reviewers are an ongoing nuisance, but you are not the Review Police.  Your job is not to make sure other reviewers are above board. Your job is to review books. That's IT. Of course, you cannot review a book that is plagiarized, so you tell the publisher and that's the end of your involvement.

You'd be hard pressed to get on any sort of black list doing this.  Black lists are generally reserved for people who are consistently difficult to work with or vitriolic in their interactions.

Your email strikes me as rational and reasonable so I think you're safe.

Plagiarism is a growing problem, and publishers are the least able to identify it.  Readers are the key to discovering this.  Every major plagiarism case I can think of in the last five years came to light by way of readers.

And this author sounds like someone you'd do well to have little to do with on social media.

And if you are an author, and a potential reviewer writes to you about problems in the book, here's what you say: "Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I appreciate your close and careful read."

If the reviewer is clearly deranged (ie hates kittens/loves kale) you can ignore it.  If the reviewer has a point, you now know your publisher doesn't employ a copy editor (who should have caught all those items) and that means YOU employ one instead.


Lisa Bodenheim said...

Am I first? Where is everyone?

Lisa Bodenheim said...

I am just so appreciative of Janet's professionalism this morning. I always am but as I read this Opie's lengthy email and his/her dilemma, it felt like a messy and confusing morass from which there was no extrication.

And I had assumed big publishers still had copy editors who review books before publishing them. After all, it is the publisher's name on the book too so it reflects on their professionalism.

So this is a good question to ask on the road to publication. Do I ask my agent (when I got one) or my publisher (when one is found)? Yes, ever the optimist here.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Bother....need a bit more tea.

The question is: Does this publisher have a copy editor?

Kitty said...

This is why some writers do not give blurbs or reviews.

KM Bowman said...

Be honest in your review. Give it one star. This kind of integrity will lend you a positive reputation, so long as your review is even-handed and not shrill. (Was there anything in the least positive to say about the book?)

And then, when you do give a 5-star review, people will remember that you had the nerve to be honest about a book you didn't like, and you won't be dismissed in the way you have just dismissed the other reviews. I think that kind of integrity will ultimately work to your benefit.

Sarah Bewley said...

I have on two occasions simply said I cannot review the book. If I'm pushed for a reason, I say I personally didn't care for it and feel as though I cannot be objective in providing a review. So far this has worked for me.

Donnaeve said...

The OP didn't mention the publisher. I'm thinking small press, if no copy editor. Or, like QOTKU says, ARC = not final copy, hence copy editing to the rescue! One can hope.

This situation could be quite the kerfuffle for a reviewer. I like how QOTKU quickly dissected the matter and got right to the important bits. Specifically what to do and more importantly what NOT to do. Now, I'm curious, do reviewers HAVE to review books, hence the OP's concerns about how to manage all that's wrong with this one? Is it mandatory if they put themselves out there as a reviewer they are bound by some sort of industry rules they have to give a review?

Back to the comment thread from yesterday for a sec - @Marc P - I wrote the scaffold story(maybe you knew that) Anyway, after reading your analysis from last night, I would concur (see how I did that?) about a story evoking some sort of understanding and hence, an emotional change, or maybe even an AHA! moment = a twisty surprise at the end. IDK. On the other hand I believe it remains subjective too. Like some others said, there are a LOT of these I don't get. Actually, there was a brilliant entry in the last FF contest I didn't get until QOTKU chose it as the winner. Then I re-read it and it was absolutely breathtaking.

Then I understood even more why SHE's an agent, and a brilliant one at that.

InkStainedWench said...

That's because ARCs are often printed before the copyediting is finished.

Oh, my. I would have an awful time reviewing an unedited ARC. I'd be snorting and twitching and grabbing red pencils.

nightsmusic said...

I've had the opportunity a few times to read ARCs and though I have found copy problems, facts such as historical dates and such are usually not a problem. It's the grammar, spelling, poor formatting that I've seen prevail on the copies I've read. But really, is it the copy editor's job to check all dates, events, etc? I really do want to know. When I'm writing, my research is done before the story is finished. I've checked my dates and facts (often losing myself for hours down rabbit holes of other Interesting Facts) but that is all done before I submit. I didn't realize there was someone else out there who does that if the book is picked up.

I would, as QotKU said, decline on the grounds that I'm uncomfortable reviewing because of the possible plagiarism issue and not give any other reasons. That one is enough.

Colin Smith said...

An interesting dilemma. And as usual, Janet's advice is sage. Not the herb, mind you. Though perhaps it is that too. Parsely, rosemary, and thyme also. *starts humming Simon & Garfunkel*

Look, it's early for me, okay? Where was I? Oh yes. I definitely like the idea of reporting serious issues to the publisher. After all, you job is to review the book, not to try to publicly shame the author. Technical issues like bad spelling and grammar, and bigger problems like faulty history and possible plagiarism are things that should have been dealt with during editing, and might still be addressed in copy editing. The final edition of the book may clean all these up (though one would think that by the time the ARC comes out, a lot of these have been addressed already?). If these are the kind of issues that prevent you from giving the book a good review, decline with a note to the publisher stating your reasons (too many typos, possible plagiarism, etc.). If the ARC is fairly clean but you just don't like the story and/or the characters, then it's your call. Some people have a policy of not posting bad reviews, in which case you would just decline to review it. If you're going to post a negative review, do it with grace and balance.

I know I've not really said anything Janet hasn't already said, but now I can start my day.

Are you going to Scarborough fair...?

Sam Hawke said...

Nightsmusic - yes, the copyeditor checks those things, though obviously everyone involved appreciates you doing a thorough job on your own MS before submitting it!

This is a good blog post from Julie Crisp (until recently the commissioning editor at Tor UK) describing the the different kinds of editing. On copyediting she says: "the greatest concentration for a copyeditor is grammar and consistency. They are a fresh pair of eyes on a script that will already have been reworked by author and editor previously. They look for grammatical issues, are the timings all correct, are the facts correct, is there a women in there having a 19 month pregnancy? They'll also comment on whether they think there are issues with the plot in places. And this is not because the editor will have missed something or done a bad job - it's just another fresh perspective. Again, they'll recommend cuts where necessary. They'll also mark-up type hierarchies, text inserts, instructions for the typesetter and count pages, chapters and sub-headings."

Anonymous said...

I received an ARC from a small press publisher. It had some major problems. I emailed the publisher, listing the problems. I received a nice thank-you email and, three weeks later, a copy of the newly-edited final version, which was MUCH better.

I read a lot of books. I don't review everything, even if the book was given to me free, for a review. If I can't give it at least three stars, it's not worth my time writing a review.

My two cents. (And my first comment here!)

Colin Smith said...

Audrey: Welcome!!! And what an awesome first comment. Seriously--it's great to know publishers really do accept that kind of feedback and act on it. :)

Speaking of comments, the article Janet linked to was from February, and there were only 28 comments. Twenty-eight! On a Monday?! We had, what, 100 or more yesterday? What were we doing? Sleeping? Did everyone take an internet break for President's Day? My, how times have changed... :)

french sojourn said...


I like the idea of grabbing the red ink. Then returning the ARC with most of the notes written on it, without posting a review. But thats just putting off the inevitable.

My daughter broke up with her first boyfriend, a french lad, after 18 months. He wrote a four page break-up letter, saying the language barrier was the problem, and dropped it off in our mailbox.
She corrected all his spelling and French grammar, and mailed it back to him. I guess it was cathartic for her.

Good luck with handling this little Pandora's box.

Colin Smith said...

Hank: Her French was too good for him? ;)

Actually, Hank's story underscores an interesting point about language which is SO off-topic you'd need a TARDIS to get there... but I'm me so I'll touch on it. In school and in grammar books, we learn the systematized version of the language. The version where nouns and verbs are put in logical boxes, and all the rules are spelled out and applied regularly in exercises. The language as used in real life is actually the REAL language, with all its warts and scruffy hair and mis-matched socks [sound like the guy your daughter was dating, Hank? ;)]. Grammars simply try to clean the language up to make it easier to learn. And this is true of ancient languages as much as modern ones.

OK, back to the topic... [vworp... vworp... vworp...]

Donnaeve said...

Funny, Hank. I like your daughter's way of handing that! Touche!

@Colin. 110 comments yesterday? You get 15% credit. You were definitely riding a finalist high, or maybe a Carkoon kale high. :)

"That's because ARCs are often printed before the copyediting is finished." That I didn't know. I thought they were as close to being like the final product as possible, i.e. most issues fixed.

S.P. Bowers said...

I've seen books with dates/freeway systems/dietary information wrong, while it may not have impacted the plot, I did find it annoying. Is it the copy editors job to catch those things? Shouldn't the author be responsible? We all miss things and make mistakes, but if as many things are wrong as the OP says then it looks as if the author didn't even care. At what point does the publisher say 'enough' and hold the author responsible? Or do they?

Colin Smith said...

Donna: I was just high on Life! Though I prefer Coco Pops... ;) As excited as I was (and still am) to make the finals again, I was just into the conversation.

Some folks want to credit me with how many comments Janet's blog generates, but you all sell yourselves short. You're a fascinating and funny bunch of people, and it's great fun talking to you all. If you want to know why we're commenting five times more now than we were in Feb, it's Y'ALL'S fault! ;)

Theresa said...

When I review a book, I can ignore all of the typos, etc. that may appear in an ARC. I go on faith that the next set of eyes at the press will catch those before publication. The big issue, as Janet pointed out, is the suspected plagiarism. That would make me send the book back, unreviewed.

Kregger said...

God, please save us from the sock puppets.
I'm always impressed with how contributors on this board get along.
It isn't so on other boards.
I have watched flame wars and train wrecks ensue when Punch and Judy go after an honest 1* review. And heaven help us when their minions pile on.
It's a fun distraction, but keeps some of us from doing our job as writers.
I have also felt the Op's hesitation and fear of becoming a target for stating a candid and honest opinion.

Donnaeve said...

"Some folks want to credit me with how many comments Janet's blog generates..."

I haven't read that anywhere here that I can recall, then again when the comment train starts to really chug and it's the end of the day, I've skipped reading some. (did I just admit that?)

Definitely agree about the crew out here. A lot of witty/funny/smart folks.

But, what is it about sugary cereal and men? Hubby likes Cap'N Crunch. Blech.

Dena Pawling said...

This is only tangentially on topic.

Isn't Amazon going out of its way to delete reviews by “biased” persons, meaning friends of the author? And based on some of the blog posts I've recently read, sometimes this goes way overboard and reviews are deleted just because someone is “suspected” of being a friend of the author.

Not sure if goodreads has a similar philosophy.

Because of social media, can Amazon [and others] claim I KNOW an author, simply because I've signed up to receive their newsletter? Do I KNOW authors because I post comments on this blog and so does the author? What about if I sent an email to the author and received a reply? Tweeted to the author once? Posted on their FB page? What if I have a real-life friend with the name Stephen King and I wrote that once in a blog post?

And what if I really AM a friend of the author? [Yes, I know it's hard to believe, but most authors do have friends.] What if we're in the same RWA or other group? Does that automatically mean I wouldn't write an honest review?

Maybe Amazon et al should just flag reviews as “possibly written by a friend of the author” but leave the review posted?

I don't know the answer, if there even is one, but I would hate to spend a bunch of my time writing a review, only to have it arbitrarily deleted because Amazon or goodreads decided by some algorithm or other that I was suddenly a “friend” of the author. I haven't posted many reviews on Amazon for just this reason.

Colin Smith said...

Donna: I've seen it said. Thankfully not often, so you might have missed that one.

I love cereal, period. Even (perhaps especially) the healthy stuff. And I like to put fresh fruit and yoghurt (US: yogurt) on it. However, Coco Pops is my guilty pleasure. Unadorned--just with milk. And if you want me to totally gross you out, I like to eat it after it has been sitting in the refrigerator for a few hours. The milk soaks into to the Coco Pops and gives it a kind of pudding-y consistency. Mmmmmm! Everyone else in my family think this is the most disgusting thing they've ever heard of. I think it's quite refreshing on a hot day.

Back to the kale... :)

Colin Smith said...

Dena: What if you post the review to your blog and link to that review in Amazon or Goodreads? The worse they can do is remove your link; at least your review will still be on your blog. And that's assuming they bother to visit the link.

nightsmusic said...

@Dena Pawling - I've seen reviews removed but only after some kind of outcry over them. I've not seen them removed by Amazon just because Amazon found a problem with them. I've seen some really bad reviews that should have been removed but no one was angry or upset enough over them to object and so, they remain...

Adib Khorram said...

I have a policy for myself that I have to review every book I read. I am far from a brilliant reviewer, but doing so has helped me learn to talk about books, especially when it comes to what I like and don't like. I've read seventy-one books this year, and as I've taken a hard look at which ones I've loved, which ones I thought I would love and then didn't, and which ones I've loathed, I've been able to clarify my own tastes.

That being said, I get maybe fifteen hits on average to any of my reviews, and if one assumes that at least half of those are robots, then even less people are reading them. So maybe my own take on the review thing is not that helpful.

Incidentally, I've only read two ARCs, and as has been said earlier, both only had typo problems in them. Then again, both were from imprints of Simon & Schuster, not smaller presses.

Audrey: Welcome!

french sojourn said...

kregger; I agree. This is a very nice group of people. I sometimes make the mistake on other sites and read the comments, and just cringe. I love this environment dearly, it is the one place I check 4-5 times a day. I really respect everyone that comments, on subject or otherwise. I feel the honesty here is unlike any site I've ever enjoyed.

(redacted inappropriate comment meant as funny (redacted by hank))


Unknown said...

I "read" part of a book a few months back and declined to review it for the author. Major spelling errors, character name changes a paragraph apart, there were so many errors, I couldn't read past chapter 3.

The plagiarism issue. Plagiarism is a serious issue, and would keep me from reviewing as well. I'd report it to the publisher with specific examples.

(Not that this author did the following.) That said, I do know of a vocal author, who while working on her first novel, threatened to sue someone for plagiarism for using a name she thought she made up for a character. Except, that name was the name of a well known 200 year old university. Don't think the author would have won. Actually, I know she wouldn't.

So yes, it should be brought up to the publisher to verify that it isn't a common genre turn of phrase.

Unknown said...

i am disconcerted to discover that i live among a horde of deranged people who love kale! (of course, i hate the stuff, which makes me a normal person. hah.)

i'm wondering if the pub was hoping you would act as an unpaid copy editor for it? pubs seem to be looking for ways to do away with editors these days, like they already have with slush pile readers. that would concern me even more than plagiarism.

nightsmusic said...

@Roslyn, no, not everyone is deranged here. I don't like it either except in place of spinach in dip, but that's only at one restaurant in my area and it's also very garlicky so it's wonderful stuff. Other than that, blech!

Colin Smith said...

Roslyn: Are you suggesting I'm not normal?!!?: 8-\ You don't have to answer that. :)

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I read comments on many sites. Where I participate in comments, though, is far more limited. I get different things out of the different exercises.

I've read ARC copies of books which seemed just fine, but then, I also sometimes open the file of a short story I've read, edited, run spell check on, and submitted multiple times and find an error. Sigh.

Janet's advice seems the best course of action (do you ever get tired of hearing those lovely words, Janet? ^^); the rest of the book's flaws matter not, if you think it's been plagiarized, don't review it, just communicate with the publisher as stated and move along.

Craig F said...

Colin: no one has yet accused you of being normal. I doubt anyone on this commenting on this blog is normal.We have a desire to get better and that is not the norm.

Points on topic:

I don't think I have found a single book that did not have at least a few glaring mistakes. In this day and age there is no excuse for getting roads, landmarks or dates wrong. If you don't look those things up on the internet you should not call yourself a writer.

I have questions on plagiarism. I have tipped my hat to many sci-fi writers while building that world. I do not claim the names and ideas as my own though.

I am very happy to see that there is some one diligent enough to read a crap book because a social media "friend" asked. I go to the library weekly and check out around five books. I do that because I expect to not be able to read two of them. They are not necessarily crap books but a lot are.

The problem today is that what we as informed writers consider shit may hit the sweet spot. The public does wants to escape and reads things that are simple to read. They don't often notice grammatical mistakes.

It is okay to critique and author at the CP stage. When they get a contract it is the problem of someone else. Maybe they will fail to gain readership and create a hole one of us can fit into.

DeadSpiderEye said...

I wanna know who that writer is, who isn't, "...consistently difficult to work with or vitriolic," cos I'm getting a snap of me shaking that person's hand, at a suitably auspicious landmark, on the day I win the lottery. Something bothers me about that list of identified problems with the material submitted for review, how do you get to identify all these factual errors and wouldn't the person concerned with grammar, phrase item six, you know: correctly? I'm not really sure what slut shaming is, I get the feeling it's social trend, identified and simplified under a convenient label, which is something that, someone who takes reviewing seriously, shouldn't let slip into their published reviews.

Good reviewers are thin on the ground and it's great that this person is getting some attention from the publishing trade but such attention brings with its own perils. When your reviews actually mean something beyond the warblings of the burgeoning crowd of idiots venting their personal frustrations (oops that would include me), you're gonna be faced with concrete consequences. Those consequences can be positive or negative: and yes those consequences apply the reviewer too. Maintaining integrity in such circumstances, is more difficult than it might at first seem, everyone starts off with such intention but usually find their conviction eroded under the kind of pressures eluded to here. Janet's advice, seems detailed, well considered and cuts through the knot of the dilemma incisively.

Anonymous said...

Thinking about it, Janet's advice seems the obvious route - but not the first I would have gone with.

If it weren't for the plagiarism, I would have suggested just talking about the ideas in the story the OP didn't like. Especially since, as Janet said, an ARC is not a final copy.

Because of the plagiarism, I would find the title and author of the novel the OP believes it was plagiarized from (or titles and authors, if more than one book), then do as Janet says and tell the publisher. I would tell the publisher, even if I couldn't find the title/author of the plagiarized work, but the claim will be taken more seriously if I have something concrete to back it up. If a publisher knows a book is plagiarized and publishes it anyway, I'm sure they can be held just as culpable as the author in a court trial.

I once critiqued a novel by someone that was word-for-word a copy of a popular movie from a previous decade, but set in space. I called them on it, even linking to the movie script online. Their answer? "Well yeah. That's the whole idea. It's that movie set in space." Umm... that doesn't mean it's not plagiarism, although if done right, it could be a parody. But from what I read, it wasn't done right. I don't even know the author's name anymore, but if I ever come across him in another on-line forum, I doubt I'll ever critique anything more of his. I'd feel dirty.

I honestly don't know what to think of starred reviews anymore. There are so many fake 5-star reviews (as the OP mentioned), and so many faulty 1-star reviews ('I didn't like that the story was set in my least favourite place in the world'), that it's hard to believe it really matters. And then I hear of an author of a small press being let go after getting a 1-star review. But whether that was because of the review or because the publisher shifted its focus away from that category (which it did), I don't know.

The OP said this is a small publisher. They may or may not have a copyeditor who will go through and fix the problems, though I'm sure most would. This is also an ARC which, as Janet said, may mean it hasn't finished going through edits yet. And yes, sometimes an editor's job includes fact checking.

Donna: I know a few book reviewers who get so inundated with books to review that they have to turn down many of them. Especially reviewers who will review self-published books. Every self-published person who hears of them will ask for a review, and the reviewers cannot possibly read that many books, let alone review them in a timely manner. Of course, one such reviewer I know also posts some of the scathing responses she gets (sans identifiable bits) when she says she can't or won't read a novel. While most publishers will at least act professional about such things, not all self-publishers will.

Colin: Remember me to one who'll be there...

Audrey: Welcome!

April: You're right. She wouldn't have won. Names can't be copyrighted.

Colin and Craig: At Cascade Writer's Workshop, Claire Eddy,editor at Tor, told the writers present: "You're all crazy. And that's a good thing." (might be paraphrased a bit, as my memory is suspect - it was a busy weekend.) Which is what I've been saying all along.

DSE: 'Slut shaming' is shaming women because they have sex. Many rape victims are 'slut shamed' to basically say 'they deserved it'. If a reviewer were reading this book and felt strongly about what they were reading, of course it would be put it into a review, just as obvious racism would be. That's something that many readers would like to know ahead of time, before wasting their money on a book they were going to throw in the fire after a couple chapters.

Karen McCoy said...

What Janet said. Thanks, Colin: *parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme...*

It's possible to give an honest review without vitriol, I think. I used to review for Library Journal, and there were definitely some books I didn't like. I framed my paragraphs in the same way I do critiques--start with the good (there's always good, even if it's hard to find), put the objective criticism in the middle, and end on a good note.

But possible plagiarism is a definite red flag.

Anonymous said...

Boy does this post speak to my heart. Though I have somewhere around 200 Civil War non-fiction books for research, I just ordered another twelve. They are mostly letters and journals.

I've always been interested in the CW, but I started seriously researching due to a novel about the personal life of a famous cattle baron and his wife, which is a mesmerizing story and romance. A very dramatic part of their story takes place during the CW.

With the new WIP, I am determined to make it as accurate as possible. Phrases, dates, historical events, dress, food, clothing, while keeping it seamless. I want readers to be transported to the time, not looking at the story as a dispassionate museum display.

Nothing irks me worse than to read a historical rife with inaccuracies or author agenda based on modern interpretation. I just finished a beautifully written CW novel that was so agenda driven I will never buy another by that author. Save the pc discussions for your facebook page.

"7. Less than five ‘token’ non-Anglo characters (one line each) who were so cliché that it hurt to read."

This irks me a bit. Do we now have a quota we now have to fill as writers? One culture in FR, the culture that is targeted for genocide might be described at Celtic with odd ice blue eyes with sapphire flecks. The the other culture is more of a Hispanic look, but I don't dwell on this, I do the eyes, because the one culture thinks they are evil eyes, but aside from that they are just people.

I don't want people counting how many diverse characters I have and letting me know if I passed the test. If my characters and story are so shallow that's all the reader is thinking about I have not done my job as a writer or we have reached a very strange place in time.

I have some very large, probably heavy set women in the book who are valued and loved as women and warriors. I have one woman who is wounded and now has a leg much shorter than the other. She goes on to find a new and fulfilling life away from battle.

I didn't write these characters to fill some netherous quota to meet an agenda.

Re writing the reviews. I write under my maiden name due to the horrific backlash I got from one self pubbed author who was asking for comments on a section she had written about her naked virgin escaping on a raging black stallion no one could tame. She called down her many minions for months and my blog was flooded with crap. When things died down she'd make another post about how I trashed her writing and sic her minions on me again.

I didn't trash her writing. I pointed out if the raging black stallion was untameable, it would matter if the beautiful virgin was naked or not. She wasn't going to be able to ride him bareback through the rain, with obvious physical results, over cobblestone streets to get away.

In the case of this person, I would politely decline. If I can leave a good and honest review for a book I've read, I will. I don't leave negative reviews. There are plenty of people who will do that for me.

I'd do as Janet suggested and contact the editor.

Colin Smith said...

Julie: Maybe it was all symbolic...

nightsmusic said...


A raging black stallion no one could tame? I've ridden a couple of those (Yes! Horses! Get your mind out of the gutter ;) ) and fully clothed with reins, riding any horse that is not tame is riding a strapped horse in the rodeo. I would have called the author out on that too. Even more disturbing though is the fact that her minions were just as clueless as she! Wonder how the book ever sold over all...

nightsmusic said...

GAH! and fully clothed. With reins...

My inner editor is eating lunch. What can I say?

french sojourn said...

Holy Lady Godiva chocolates!

Colin Smith said...

I'm going with the symbolism here. Naked virgin = debut author putting herself out there, exposed, vulnerable. Untamed black stallion = the publishing world, wild and unfettered, offering her a chance of freedom to escape the dull drudgery of her life, but with great risk. The rain = those nasty critics and nay-sayers who just want to shower her with hate and try to cause the stallion (publishing industry) to buck her and leave her in the cold. But she's going to ride that stallion because she BELIEEEEVES in herself, and she's not going to be hurt by any of that acid rain because though she's naked, her skin is thick and will protect her...

See? It all makes sense really... ;)

french sojourn said...

Close but no cigar;
In the 1950 political landscape, the red menace was challenging the Nuclear family's religious rights. The NYSE endorsement of the capital influx of Chinese bonds made it highly unlikely there would be a capital index allowing certain investment environments as junk bonds came home to roost. Essentially that represents the untamed black horse.

Now the rest gets tricky and murkier.

REJourneys said...

I never read Amazon reviews for books. When I do (because I have) I become jaded. Then I don't appreciate the story as I should.

People, in those reviews, pick out things that others may not have ever noticed (you know, since we all bring something unique to a story). Then they complain about that one aspect, making it truly seem like a huge part of the story. It may be, it may not be.

That being said, I do read longer reviews on blogs (on occasion). I appreciate when people can articulate why they believe something deserved a low rating. Even if I completely disagree with what they say, I still value a good discourse. However, I don't like when people insult the author. That's one of the things they teach you in conflict resolution, "learn to separate the person from the conflict." It could be a terribly written book, but that doesn't mean the author is "trash."

A lot of people these days say terrible things because they are protected by the veil of the internet (which they aren't. We all see their ridiculous amount of selfies and their name plastered everywhere).

Now the issue of plagiarism is frightening. Like the QOTKU said, I'm paraphrasing, "back away from the review." That's not the kind of mess you or anyone wants.

Julie said...

Going to try to be as net-free as possible today once I get a few housekeeping things done.

One of them is getting info here when I find something relevant.

First, when I get my notes from the weekend in shape, I'll make them available to anyone who wants them - my email is in the "list of blog readers..." tab that Colin & Janet so kindly put together in the top right corner of the blog page. If you happen to want it now, it's julia.hoover1@gmail.com. I'm happy to send you what I have.

Second, if you are on Twitter, use #WDC15 - many of the weekend presenters are starting to put links to slides/notes, etc., up as tweets.

Third, I think Chuck will be doing the same more formally in an email soon, with just about everything. If I can, I'll make whatever possible available.

OK. Back to it.

PS - diverse opinions re: FB existence (generally in favor) and naming (contradictory opinions here) noted. We'll see if/when Herself chimes in.

PPS, Dear Janet in person, in anticipation of not being able to post on Fri or Sat either this or next weekend, I wanted to ask special permission to post something on 8/17. It's a date of personal significance to me, and I'd like to explain why in a couple of paragraphs or so. But I won't do that without an okay either, because it clearly won't be related to the likely "The Winners Are" post of that Monday, and I don't want anyone to think I'm just being obnoxiously self-centered. It's just that... well... y'all are friends, now, and it really is important to me, and it's a good story. It's a near-death experience story, actually, and as I'm alive and well, and, coincidentally, my son is as well (teaser), it all turned out okay.

So I wanted to give some time for thoughts and yay/nays.


Lisa Bodenheim said...

Thank you for the lunchtime laughter, Colin! And the earworm this morning. I like Simon and Garfunkel.

And Hank, what an inspiring daughter.

Back to work.

Ardenwolfe said...

You'd be surprised how often this mess happens. But, honestly, I would just decline reviewing the work. If you feel the work is sub-par, declining to review will say as much without saying as much.

Besides, readers deserve honesty from reviews. Not fluffing from our peers who we hope will one day do the same for us.

That's beyond dishonest, and quite frankly . . . disgusting. Good books don't need fluffing. They sell themselves with word-of-mouth and honest reviews. It's the bad ones that make readers rethink the process.

It's kind of like sending a query letter reference to your agent when you haven't even read the book. Or worse. Know it trash.

Nothing like slashing your and their throat at the same time. So don't do it.

Unknown said...

I gave this issue a lot of thought and decided I wouldn't review anything on Goodreads that I found deserving of 1 or 2 stars. The main reason is that I wouldn't bother to finish such a book because there are so many 3-5 star books to read so why bother? But also, I respect that a writer of a 1-2 star book ACTUALLY WROTE A BOOK. I commend him or her. It's an amazing accomplishment. And maybe other people adored the book but I found it boring. One of my favorite book quotes is "In literature as in love we are astonished by what is chosen by others." Very true. So I just say nothing and delete the books from my shelves.

Now that isn't to say that in my 3 and 4 star reviews I don't mention things I thought didn't work or a too easy ending or a character whose actions I didn't believe or times the author didn't convince me.

In OP's situation I wouldn't review the book and would mention suspected plagiarism or glaring mistakes to the publisher. My husband was actually offended by the use of the word "Chinaman" in a contemporary novel (not historical where such a word might have a place in the context of the time period). He wrote to the publisher and they changed it in the next edition.

Erica Eliza said...

Wow, I'm a lot pickier than this OP.
My half brother's uncle (aka a guy I'm not related to) self published a book. He heard I had a book blog and had my brother put it under our Christmas tree with a note that said "Hope I make the blog, (brother's name)'s Uncle Ed". He used his initials as his pen name. The main character's name was Eddie.
It never made the blog. It's still on my bookshelf, anyone want a signed copy?

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

OMG 48 comments in. No time.
Plagiarism is the one word which jumped off the page and poked me in the eye. Before and after unedited words, not so much, but "plagiarism", a very nasty one indeed. I would steer clear my friend.
If you know it's plagiarized and say nothing, it's almost as if you are an accomplice. How can you let it pass?
Knowing and assuming are two different things though. I'd do exactly what the fin says, email the publisher then back off the project.

Anonymous said...

This is such sensible advice. Well done. And yeah, an ARC is going to be full of typos and other minor errors. You can't fairly mention that in a review if you aren't reading the final version.

I love it that a reviewer (ok, and also writer) would ask an agent for advice on how to handle this.

However, I do think a writer who is also a reviewer (in the pure sense of posting reviews regardless of whether they're positive or negative) is waking a perilously thin line. I'm NOT saying a writer shouldn't do that, and I have a lot of respect for anyone who is willing to write reviews of books they didn't enjoy. But, like it or not, it is a line. And in crossing back and forth across it, a writer needs to be aware of the possible repercussions of expressing blunt opinions, and grow a very thick skin.

Dena said: "Maybe Amazon et al should just flag reviews as “possibly written by a friend of the author” but leave the review posted?" <---- this is fucking brilliant. Someone tell Amazon.

I've stopped posting reviews on AMZ as well, because I've heard of several instances of reviews taken down because of supposed/assumed friendships. I only take the time and make the effort to write a review if a book is amazingly good. But I "know" a lot of writers. The ones I like and am on friendly terms with tend to be smart and witty and ARE terrific writers. It's very frustrating not to be able to express that appreciation in an honest review of their work on AMZ without fear of it being erased. Who has time for that? Seems like a simple disclaimer would work well as an alternative. And then let the review speak for itself.

Julie said...

Re: WD Conference - I uploaded two pics (more, actually, but the others are pics of Bri, Christina, and me) about the Con onto my Pinterest board. But these two are
What Pitch Slams Look Like (https://www.pinterest.com/pin/291115563391758701/)


Audience for Keynote Speaker Jacqueline Woodson, (https://www.pinterest.com/pin/291115563391758711/) if you're interested.

With the Pitch Slam, there were 50 agents circled around the room, seated at tables up against the walls; we were lined up behind them about 5 deep. The bell went off after 3 minutes and authors were supposed to get up and leave. That never happened after the first couple of bells.

The Keynote Speaker, Jackie Woodson, was FABULOUS. Funny, touching without being heartbreaking, made several very good points about writing (again, I'll get to those eventually), and made me want to read her stuff. When I can. But I'm addicted to writing, so... when do I read? :/ Anyway, I'm there, like Hermione, in the second row, left side, pink sweater, laptop bright, bushy hair, towards the center. The only thing lacking is my hand in the air.

Okey doke, back to it!

Terri Lynn Coop said...

I get quite a few ARCs through different sources. I enjoy them. I like the notes about marketing and such on the inside covers.

I always contact the publisher on stuff that is really bad. I assume that the proofer will catch the typos, but if it is technically wrong, I always drop the email.

The worst one, I had to be brutally honest with the publisher. It was a thriller, so I damn well expect it to stand with the likes of Tom Clancy and Larry Bond in getting the language, terminology, and technology right. This was a major house, not a small press.

It was written by a woman and since there are so few serious women writers in the tech thriller area, it is doubly important to get it right.

This has been several years ago and I still remember the two worst howlers (there were many more):

1. Helicopters do not have propellers. They have rotors.

2. Nothing is made of cement. The material is concrete.

We are talking front of the book stuff here. To be frank, what it made it sound like is that the book was written and edited, by girls. Yeah, guys make mistake, but in a thriller written by a woman with a woman as MC, having her say "The propellers hadn't even stopped when Mary jumped out of the helicopter . . . " makes me want to *facepalm*

I checked it when it hit the shelves. Neither error had been corrected.

My review was not kind, but they chose to ignore the issues.


Donnaeve said...

Ha, see? When I said to Colin earlier I didn't read all comments that included yesterday's and today's.

Case in point - FB for people on this blog? Ummm, I'm on FB, kinda/sorta. I.e. I have so many spots to "visit" I sometimes go days without even launching it, and then I might to a quick flurry of "something," and then out I go, not to return for days again. I doubt I'd really look to participate there, since this blog is the best for sharing/communicating. More private too. Not a FB free for all, so to speak. Plus, it's AD FREE.

So. If it's a voting thingy, I vote meh. :)

Karen McCoy said...

I'd also like to echo Audrey's comment--most book bloggers I've talked to have a minimum three stars for posting. If it's below three stars, they don't review it.

Theresa said...

I haven't posted a review on Amazon in ages, mostly because I find its system difficult to navigate. I review my leisure-reading books on Goodreads and have recently stopped assigning stars because they seem to mean different things to different people. I simply point out what I liked about the book, and sometimes point out things that, for me, didn't work.

Anonymous said...


I'm going with the symbolism here. Naked virgin = d--

Except she had published other bodice rippers. Dastardly Duke rips the clothes from Voluptuous Virgin and she escapes only to be caught again. (insert evil laugh) Repeat two or three times until Knight in Shining Armor rescues her or she falls in love with Dastardly Duke who has a change of heart and decides he really loves Voluptuous Virgin and won't rape her again.

Apparently there's a following for this stuff. Well, I know one fantasy author whose female MC regularly winds up in fights naked while all the men are fully armored and she manages to defeat a dozen skilled warriors in just her thigh high boots with her mad swordsmanship. *rolls eyes*

Anonymous said...


A raging black stallion no one could tame? I've ridden a couple of those (Yes! Horses! Get your mind out of the gutter ;) ) and fully clothed with reins, riding any horse that is not tame is riding a strapped horse in the rodeo.--

Yes, and no. I used to break the horses on the ranch. I also rode the rough horses when I wrangled horses. Horses that were spoiled and had gotten in the habit of bucking or other dangerous little ticks.

That being said, I also rode bareback horses like you see in the rodeos.

Most bucking horses are very gentle. You can halter then and easily handle them. My son has five and they all come running to the fence to be petted except one when he drives. Short Round, his little mare, gets done with her petting and then bucks across the pen and turns to look at him, head up like, "Did I do good?"

The fifth one is gentle, but just really doesn't like to be fooled with much as many Dynago bred horses don't.

I didn't bother mentioning to the author true black horses are rare aside from a few breeds, such a Frisians. Raging black stallions are a thing, you know.

Julie said...

@Donnaeve - I hear you on the FB / multiple sites / ad free thing. And I'm completely open to other internet venues, it's simply that FB is the one I know best. If I could open one like this, I would.

But here I can't ask any of you, "What're you writing, how's it going, let's talk about it all and help one another out..." which is sort of what I was getting at. This simply isn't the place to do that. It isn't why we log on here, and I was looking for a way to do that, since we're all (or many, at least, I presume) writing and at least a little bit competent and interested in giving and receiving feedback in the interest of improving our own and the collective work - so that more of us can have AMY'S FANTASTIC OUTCOME, WOOT!

That's all.

I just don't want to bog down Janet's purpose here. Nobody would have to do anything elsewhere - but anyone looking for a critique circle consisting only of those of us we found HERE (as we know that we're a) respectful and b) competent, a very unusual pair of adjectives to find together in any writing circle) could then have such a group on hand to say, "Hey, I just finished my first word/line/paragraph/chapter/50K/draft/work" and have said respectful/competent writers both celebrate and critique if desired.


Just so that's clear. I'm not meaning to detract from this in any way; merely to add a component that might be valuable that simply doesn't belong here.


Colin Smith said...

Julie H: It sounds like you want to set up a forum, kind of like the group Julie W. is active with. That way you can control membership, and have separate threads for "General Discussion/Tips/Tricks", "Agent/Query Talk", "Julie H's Novel" "Diane's Medieval Epic", etc. If someone wanted to set that up and moderate it, I'm sure Janet wouldn't object--as long as SHE didn't have to set it up or moderate it. :)

The only down-side I see is that it could take away from the lively discussion here--not so much from content overlap, but TIME.

There's my 2c. And I just want Janet to understand that I am NOT suggesting that she be in ANY WAY involved in such a project. It's that kind of talk that landed me here on Carkoon in the first place. And that position at Carkoon High is still vacant... *gulp*...

Anonymous said...

Regarding privacy on Facebook:

Yes, it's possible. There are closed groups that you have to be approved of to join. And the moderators of these groups can kick out anyone who goes against the rules or otherwise irritates.

Unfortunately, the ads live on Facebook. I've been on both sides of the ads - the marketer and the marketee. Ads are how Facebook lives, and Facebook ads are the bane of the marketer's existance. It's one way to reach your audience, but it ain't an easy way. In case anyone here was thinking of marketing their book that way. Also? You're not allowed wording that takes up more than a certain percentage of the image, so a picture of your book (with title and author) might not be approved. Yes, Facebook has people who go through every single ad submitted, and approves or rejects them. They have very specific guidelines, but some of the people going through the ads will approve some that others will reject. It can be quite frustrating.

Anyway, that was a free lesson on Facebook ads. I have old warrior tales of trying to find something that Facebook will approve. When we have our conference (notice I said 'when') I will sit in the corner and regale you with old battle stories.

Julie said...

@BJ, agreed - I advertise on FB and find it useful for certain things.

@Colin & All - OK. Here's my logline.

Julie is an author who wants certain of her educated author friends to have a space to discuss and critique their work.


And if we digress, I DON'T CARE.

So. One forum, one thread, really wasn't meant to get complicated, yes tied to this blog in that I'm not going to open it to others or mention it elsewhere and the entry question might be something like "What's Carkoon?" or some such. Yes to some oblique reference to this blog or Query Shark. No to any direct reference to Janet or FPL.

That's it that's all.

Going to get daughter and get dinner.

Because the instant I hit home with, "YAY! NOW, LET'S GET TO WORK!"... I was met with, "Um. Yeah. About that, I have a conference this week. So I won't be home. Can you take care of everything this week?"


Thanks. For. The. Advance. Notice.


Julie said...

Oh. By "Direct reference" and "Oblique reference," I meant in the title. Not in the threads, when Janet will inevitably come up.

Colin Smith said...

@Julie H: "Not in the threads, when Janet will inevitably come up."


nightsmusic said...

@JMW, I agree most are extremely gentle when they aren't strapped. And they're not trying to buck the rider as much as the rider's weight when the strap tightens on their nethers. I grew up on the circuit, have ridden my fair share bareback(unstrapped)so no, I've been around those 'untamed raging stallions' and saw (never tried to ride one of those, I'm not stupid! Even my dad gave them a wider berth and he trick road and clowned for the bull riders) what they can do and the vision of the naked MC on a raging stallion, bareback and naked to boot with only the mane to hang on to? No, ain't gonna happen.

As to the FB comments, I don't often comment here, but I read most every comment and I do read every post. But I don't FB. I have an account. I hate the whole set up and avoid it if at all possible. I would be very sad if the community here migrated there. Just my $0.02.

John Frain said...

I feel like I walked into Cheers when I jump into this blog. If I had the foresight, I woulda signed up as Norm. After a long day of work, I'm at my desk cracking up.

Colin, Scarborough Fair isn't a true love of mine, but I'd attend a concert just for a live version of Bridge Over Troubled Water.

Hank, now that your daughter is free again, I'd like to ask her out if only to get a rejection. If I'd been the letter carrier delivering her letter, I would've told her ex that it was sent witness signature so I have to stand here and watch you read it. Carry on.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Hi Y'all,

I've been too thick with Côte de Provence to comment.

Last week I tried but auto correct on a French Iphone was a real bitch. T-shirt becomes Tahiti. So I read most all the comments and was envious of Christina and Julia Hoover who made it to meet Janet in person. And she even accepted gifts. I didn't know that Janet's presentation could have been viewed from around the globe. I didn't see that on the WD Con website. But I didn't have wifi last week.

Reviews. Eee gads. The last book I offered to review, I disliked so much I wrote the indie publisher and said I could not give a good review because of too many POV shifts in chapter 4. They publisher said, thanks we'd prefer no review than a bad one and not all books are for everyone.

As Jenny C says there are so many other books worth reviewing. Others not worth reading. Still hats off for finishing.

I remember that post where Janet lost the Lee Child Jack Reacher ARC on the metro because someone snatched it from her.

Julie, that Black stallion and virgin story has a hell of a long shelf life. Janet makes a good point about who you pick for your social media friends. What a nutcase that writer is. Clearly a wild animal with no morals isn't going to care about human virtues. Wild animals don't have morals, they just exist. Dogs might have morals they refuse to pee on boats. They'll only pee on land. Maybe the need a kale patch to pee on.

Anonymous said...

Flamin' good advice, to the point and clear. This is why I started following this blog a couple years ago, even though I knew not all the advice would apply to me. Enough of it has applied to me to make it one of my first ports of call as to whether or not I should Do A Thing (the other being Patricia Wrede's blog, but that's more for the tech side of writing).

I don't as a general rule review what might loosely be called my contemporaries. If I read and enjoy any books by authors I follow/who follow me ec, I tell them, and I make sure I mention that I've read and enjoyed it on Twitter and such. I don't do reviews because I don't want to get into the mindset of "I reviewed this person favourably and they've given me a low rating... or people suggesting that it's a quid pro quo kinda thing.

As for the plaguarism thing- yikes! All I can say is, follow Janet's advice to the last. I wouldn't wanna touch that with a bargepole. Good luck, OP!

Julie, I can't help but think that any naked virgin would much rather run on foot than ride bareback, especially if it was an unbroken horse. But then, I abominate bodice rippers, and I think I'd rather ride naked and bareback than read one of them, so maybe I'm not the best judge :D
Also totally agree about the 'diverse character required total'. I'm always annoyed at the idea that the diversity police will be on our backs if we don't have x number of 'diverse' characters.
Besides which, I never see african american, asian, and aboriginal writers being told they need to be 'diverse'. Apparently only white people can be racist, and ONLY white people need to be diverse. If you're african american etc you can write exactly how you like and still be called diverse, no matter if all you write about is african americans.

Bah! It annoys me. (You can probably tell).

I'll get off me soapbox now :D

John Frain said...

I'm blaming Janet for this nasty habit, but Hank your picture of your daughter was worth a hundred words...

His eyes burned through me. “No thank you,” was all he said and lunged for the letter.

Sorry, sir. Sent witness signature. I have to see you reading it or I can’t deliver it. My sojourn to his front stoop would be short-lived.

He protested. I showed him the authorization.

“But I can’t read that. It’s in French!” Unwittingly, he’d spoken in multiple languages.

I wasn’t sure how Hank’s daughter had said it, but I figured my finger was universal enough for anyone to understand. I left him in the doorway.

[Author's note: I think I might try chewing my fingernails instead or some seemingly harmless habit like smoking.]

John Frain said...

If a virgin rides an untameable and raging black stallion, will she still be a virgin when that ride eventually ends?

Oh, the research I feel coming on...

Anonymous said...

LOL at John's story :D

And in regards to ARCs, I had a reviewer read one of mine recently, before the last sweep for mistakes, and she complained in her review of a few typos (to do her justice, she did state that there were VERY few, less than a handful, but still!). I thought everyone knew that ARCs will quite often still have a few typos.

I hate to think that a reader will look at that and think I'm just a lackadaisical writer :/

Julie said...

EGAD!!! The minute anything I initiate detracts from anything here, then I shut it down.


This was where we met.
This was where I learned so bloody much.
This was where I learned to value some things an awful lot and others not at all.

And I would never change that. :)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Well, I learned at least one thing today, ARCs aren't final. I thought they were the "done deal" so to speak, before the final run.
Shows me how much I still don't know.

Actually, as a writer there's so much I don't know, I don't even know how much I don't know.

Anonymous said...

Julia, FWIW, I never got the impression you were trying to move people away from here. Not sure where that idea came from. You just want to create a place where writers who are willing to do so could discuss their work with other writers they'd gotten to know and feel comfortable with. Sounded perfectly reasonable to me. Flash fiction aside, I doubt any of us want to put up samples or have discussions of our work in an agent's blog comments. Or anywhere in public, which was why I asked about privacy (thanks for answering that, BJ).

I wouldn't mind offering encouragement or advice (IF asked for) in a forum like that, but I've learned the hard way not to discuss what I'm currently writing. For me, it saps all the energy out of a thing and I end up not writing it. Live and learn. But I'm well aware that other writers thrive on that kind of in-progress feedback and think it's a great suggestion for those who want to participate. Very thoughtful of you to offer.

LynnRodz said...

Well, add me to the list of people who didn't know that ARCs are not the done deal. I received an ARC recently from an agent and there were a few minor errors that I was surprised about. Now I know.

OP, if you have a suspicion or proof of plagiarism, it's definitely something you need to address. Take Janet's advice, you can't go wrong.

Hank, (you probably already went to bed) I'm the night owl here in Paris. Anyway,I hope your daughter doesn't read this blog. She would be here, "Daaddd, how could you!"

Julie said...

My kids have spent the last three hours embroiling me in their "You are being annoyingly ANNOYING!" discussion... Or trying to. And boy, has this convo gone all over the map.

I get the vibe that I ought to drop this whole thing for a while, so... pretty much that's what I'm gonna do.

I also wanted to be able to ramble freely without annoying anyone, and as I'm clearly toeing that exact line, I'll revert to form.

Will post a bit more abt WD Con tomorrow.


Matt Adams said...

I know this is late, but I'm curious about Opie's "very strong possibility that this author has plagiarized another's work," because I have no idea how Opie would infer that. If they knew the other work, it wouldn't be a possibility, it would be a fact. So what leads Opie to think (and to want to accuse the author) of stealing someone else's words?

That point aside, I have a problem with someone posting a negative review because they didn't like the ideas in a book -- the comment's about slut-shaming and the lack of non-Anglo characters -- seem to be the main non copy-editing, non fact-checking-related issues Opie has. You think the story sucks, that's one thing. You think the premise is silly, that's another. You think the dialogue was wooden or the action inconsistent the author just can't write well, those are all fair game in my mind. And so is not liking a book for whatever reason you choose.

But to publicly trash a book because you don't think it's inclusive enough, or because you think it slut shames is a dangerous road because that's the way some stories need to play out. So I think Opie's right to stay away from it, because publicly dissing a book because you don't like its ideas opens you up for someone to do the same to you.

Joseph S. said...

I blinked several times after reading today’s blog entry. I’m a co-author of a 600 page plus book aimed at law students. The fifth edition meets the world tomorrow (yay).Today a law student from a school across the country emailed me an Errata sheet for the fourth edition. When I read Janet Reid’s entry today, I wondered how I responded to the student (short memory here).

I am pleased to report I was both sincere and diplomatic (this time). I started:

“Thank you for your observations. We are always trying to improve [the book]. Thank you also for using the book. Our goal is to help law students. Over the years I have been pleasantly surprised how many law students rely on it. I do feel a bit self-conscious when one every so often refers to it as the Bible, though.

“Your comments are late for the fifth edition. If Amazon.com is reliable, the fifth edition will be released to an unsuspecting world tomorrow, August 5.

“With some trepidation I compared your comments with what I have saved on my computer. You will be happy to know (or at least I was happy to discover) I made nearly all the corrections you suggested. . . . ”

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Heidi-come-lately really would like to participate in commenting about the time the blog entry is released, instead of 18 hours ex post facto. Alas.

1. I can't stand kale raw, but drench it in olive oil and salt and grill until crispy--love me some kale chips.

2. LOVE this advice! Especially the angle on plagarism. There's a difference between individual taste, lack of thorough editing and copyright infringement. Absolutely Opie should notify the publisher of this possible plagarism.

3. As for the occasional mistake in a book (and we're talking, like, one or two), I try to put it about to readers that authors consider it good luck to have one mistake in a book, similar to how actors never name the Scottish Play aloud, or an Amish quilter deliberately put in one mistake into every quilt she makes. (Granted, her reason is a token statement about how perfection belongs only to God. Actors are just strange.)

Someone points out a grammar/spelling/whatever mistake in your book? Tell them it's a good sign and it means the book will sell well. Or something. You're authors. Make something up.

4. Bought and failed to finish reading a book you really, really didn't like? Most books are returnable for refunds. I had a reader return a book of mine once. Until that happened, I didn't know you could do that.

5. Julie.M.Weathers: there are a few authors out there who feel the need to complete their diversity bingo cards in their books.

6. I don't review books often (most of the time I can't be bothered, and I have some concerns about professional conflict of interest), but if there's a book that's really good or really bad, I feel obliged. Yes, I've given books one star on Goodreads with a good explanation to back it up. I feel it a social duty to advise fellow readers of the truly good and the truly bad books out there. Most everything else is often a case of pure taste.

Anonymous said...

Okay. All this talk of virgins on wild horses in the rain...

The day before my first day of grade 12 (the last year of school for most Canadian kids), my sister, friend, and I rode our bicycles 15 miles up-hill to a nearby lake. Yes, 15 miles may not be a lot for a bike ride, but for us, it wasn't easy. We were hot and sweaty, wearing shorts, when we got to the lake.

We then went horseback riding. Just regular slow tourist riding, with saddles and everything. Remember: sweaty, shorts.

The only good thing about the ride home was it was all downhill and only took maybe an hour to get home.

The next day, our butts were so sore, we couldn't sit long at our desks. Thank goodness the first day was only a half day.

So, naked wet virgin on a horse? She's gonna have one sore butt before long.

Speaking of sore, I did a typically BJ thing today - I stepped on a slightly uneven piece of sidewalk, turned my ankle, and landed on hands and knees. Ouch. Luckily, I was wearing boots tightly laced up past my ankle, so I didn't actually sprain it (which is why I wear boots tightly laced up past my ankle on a hot summer day). Also luckily, I didn't go through my jeans. The only damages were my scraped hands and knees. Which I can forget about... until the dog decides to lick my knee...

Recaptcha made me choose cacti. Yes, it said, "Choose all images of cactus"... and it didn't give me a sample picture for me to click and click and click on until I realized it was a sample. They didn't even figure there were cacti in one picture of a garden, which is good because I didn't choose it.

french sojourn said...

John, nice flash fiction, I will share it with my daughter Caleigh. (Rhymes with Ballet.) LynnRodz, nah she's a tough young lady, she would shrug her shoulders and comment on my punctuation...the little dear.

I initially thought the facebook thingy would be cool, but upon reflection;
I think the beauty of this blog is the isolated feeling I get being here. I can exorcise myself from the overtly public space of facebook and focus on my guilty pleasure of writing. The commentors here I see as a literary step above my friends on facebook. (Don't take that the wrong way, I am fiercely loyal to my friends, it's just a time and place thing.) I know that sounds shitty, but what I mean is there is an environment here away from politics, social issues, and cat and dog photos. And we can concentrate on writing all the while dodging shark teeth. win-win.

just my 2 centiums worth.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

The reason why this space is so special is because of focus, most of the time we have one, writing. When we drift away it's because sometimes you need a little dip on your chips. Yeah, we're dips. Kale chips with lima bean dip may be yucky but the party is great.

DeadSpiderEye said...


Hi, thanks for the insight into that particular phrase, one of those words makes me jolt a bit so I won't repeat it if you don't mind. I had a clue what it might describe but your answer was helpful in clarifying associations, which I notice are quite broad. That kind of illustrates my point really, gathering diverse behaviour under a label, is a trend in ascendancy that should be avoided. Indeed prospective readers should be informed if an author has a peculiar attitude towards victims of sexual assault but it's not helpful to do that by confusing it with behaviour as common as denigrating promiscuous behaviour in women. Something that, which if I recall correctly, has rather unfortunately been a staple of our culture, since about ooh -- forever! I suppose you could argue that a certain continuity exists within the context of the label, you know, your probably right but if that's true and it's a point you want to draw attention to in the context of a review, you should explain it explicitly.

Patricia Harvey said...

I agreed to review a bestselling nonfiction book for an organization's newsletter, but can't seem to get through it for love or money. From the overall layout of the book down to paragraph and sentence structure, it's a bloody mess. The author, who already has a prior bestseller, sets up the conventions which he claims he will use in his lengthy introduction. But then it all goes to hell in a hand basket. His references are not included in the book, but on the book's website - or his own website, I'm not sure. But I found it quite annoying not to have them listed in the book. He claimed there would not have been room for them all. I think it was his choice to omit them from the book for the sake of other content that should have been omitted. Actually, I don't think he believes his readers are intelligent enough to care. Word-choice and grammatical errors slap the reader in the face on just about every page. His anecdotes are usually unrelated to the text,and his similes ludicrous hyperbole. To top it off, he's a macho jerk. I wouldn't call him a misogynist. But he pulls this "honey- don't-you-worry-your-pretty-little-head garbage throughout, disparaging female readers. On one hand, I want to finish this review because I will write an honest one. On the other, I only hope it gets published. Maybe it would be better to throw in the towel and let someone else take a shot at it.

Anonymous said...


I agree most are extremely gentle when they aren't strapped.--

I assume you're referring to flanks? Not worth debating, but they're still gentle when they're flanked. Anything, as you probably know, around the flank area makes them kick up. That's why when people are riding double the rear person always makes a conscious effort to keep their legs forward. Flanks are ticklish.

Anonymous said...

Julie H.

I've belonged to Compuserve Books and Writers Literary Forum for about 20 years. Before that it was AOL. I also belong to a private group that is very welcoming if someone wishes privacy.

B&W has spawned or been home to many successful writers, Diana Gabaldon, Marsha Skrypuch, Joanna Bourne, Vicki Pettersson, Helene Boudreau, Barbara Rogan, to name a few.

I enjoy the writing exercises, the chances to critique, and the never ending discussions on craft there as well as various rabbit holes. It's nice to discuss something and have talented and experienced writers offer up various thoughts and examples to demonstrate whatever is being discussed. It's like an ongoing writing class.

I enjoy the camaraderie here. I just don't have time for another place and feel it might draw away from what we have here to be honest.

Patricia Harvey said...

Adib - You wrote "That being said, I get maybe fifteen hits on average to any of my reviews, and if one assumes that at least half of those are robots, then even less people are reading them. So maybe my own take on the review thing is not that helpful."

Don't worry about the number of hits. I think writing to improve one's craft is writing for the right reason. I do the same. I blog on parenting issues, and every time I sit down at the computer, or push the "publish" button, I remind myself of that very thing.

Panda in Chief said...

West coast chiming in late as usual.
1. What Janet said.
2. Soggy cocoa puffs, Colin? Bleeeech!
3. FB, meh, but. I really like hanging out with you all.
4. Kale: isn't that some kind of vegetable? Definitely not a substitute for potato chips.

Anonymous said...

There are two #6's in the list, but the first one, plot holes, couldn't be covered at the copyediting stage without a lot of tapdancing and inconveniencing people. So it's probably going to be in the final work.

Tragically, flawed books get heaped with praise every day. But I think the traditional excuse for not reviewing an ARC is "Oh, goodness, I am so busy, I didn't get to it."

The plagiarism, though, is a whole separate issue.

Janet Reid said...

Thanks for pointing out the numbering error. Fixed.