Balm to a Writer’s Bruised Psyche

Not only do I not understand this new publish-anything world, I don’t understand this everyone-is-a-reviewer world.

It used to be that professional reviewers (I am including reviewers employed by newspapers and magazines in this category) pretty much decided what were considered worthwhile books, and readers either paid attention to those recommendations and bought the books or ignored the recommendations and bought whatever they felt like. Today, anyone is a reviewer, whether s/he is qualified or not. All it takes is an opinion. The thing is, readers who see those reviews don’t take them as an opinion. They give them the same credence they gave the professional reviewers.

To be honest, I don’t know if it’s better to have a certain literary elite passing judgment on the books or if it’s better to have casual readers doing it. Either way, people are “grading” books based on nothing more than a whim. And those whims can destroy a writer’s career, or at least keep people from buying her books.

Light Bringer is my magnum opus, the result of twenty years of research into myths, both ancient and modern. I created an entirely new worldview based on these myths, one that could very well be true if the Sumerian cosmology and today’s conspiracy theories are true. According to the editors and agents who rejected the manuscript, it was unsellable. It had too many science fiction elements to be commercial and not enough science fiction elements to be science fiction. Because of this, I purposely did not send Light Bringer out for review. People generally hate books they can not categorize, and at best, Light Bringer has a narrow niche. Still, a few readers have given the book glowing reviews, so when a reviewer contacted me recently asking for a copy of the book to review, I sent it to her.

I don’t know why she wanted to review Light Bringer.  As it turns out, she’s a romance reviewer, and Light Bringer is not a romance and was never promoted as such. Even worse, she hadn’t a clue what the book was about. To be fair, she is used to paranormal romances she can quickly skim through, but I don’t want to be fair to her since she wasn’t fair to me. She wrote a terrible review and posted it on the review site. Why? What’s the point of posting a terrible review of a book you don’t understand? It’s not as if I asked her to review the book. She asked me. Adding to the insult, the review doesn’t even make sense. If it didn’t have the name of my book on it, I would never have recognized it as my story.

On the other hand, some people do understand Light Bringer and they honor the book with their poetic descriptions.

Sheila Deeth wrote:

Pat Bertram’s novel soars in her descriptions of mystery and scenery. The song of the rainbow flows through the characters, binding them together, while the silence of the great unknown drives them and pulls them apart.

The unknown, when finally revealed, is satisfyingly strange, though, unlike many of the characters, I maintain a healthy respect for the integrity of scientists and science. Romantic subplots are simultaneously lyrical and down-to-earth; dialog is natural and sometimes laugh-out-loud fun; secrets of history and astronomy are intriguing; and the whole is a fascinating read — a touch of old-fashioned sci-fi, blended with modern magic and corporate greed, shaken, stirred and conspired against, then woven into beautiful words.

Aaron Paul Lazar wrote:

I’m already a fan of Pat Bertram’s books. I’ve read them all and loved them deeply. But LIGHT BRINGER was something completely new and surprising… surprising in its freshness, originality, its genre bending brilliance. Part thriller, part fantasy, part sci fi, part mystery…its plots were large and complex, encompassing themes that plague us every day; offering social and world commentary blended with weather trend observations (where ARE all those tornadoes and tsunamis coming from??) I do believe Bertram has defined a new genre, and it is a pure delight. Fresh. Original. Riveting. The characters are real and engaging. I particularly enjoyed the bit of romance between Luke and Jane — yes, another subplot. I couldn’t put it down and extend my highest compliments to Ms. Bertram for her supremely smooth writing — there are no hiccups in this book. Very highly recommended.

Ah, balm to a writer’s bruised psyche.

4 Responses to “Balm to a Writer’s Bruised Psyche”

  1. Sherri Myers Says:

    I totally understand what you’re saying. I am a reviewer myself, not a ‘professional’, but not merely a reader writing my opinion on a whim either. I’ve reviewed hundreds of books from anything from romances to Bibles to children’s picture books to dictionaries, etc. I always try to be as fair as possible and try to find something positive to say about the book. This is an author’s hard work in my hands after all. And I MUST remember I am only one person with my own personal opinion. I have taken to task a few ‘reviewers’ who have trashed authors books on Amazon and other places and one “prolific” reviewer who shall remain nameless but many authors will know, many times can’t even get the names correct in her reviews which annoys me immensely. She has many errors in her reviews, sometimes making me wonder if I missed something as I was reading. Anyway, my advice to you is to put this behind you best you can, write her off as not worthy of your time or thoughts, and take to heart all the people who wrote good reviews and who ‘got it’ about your book. Hugs for the horrible review, and high fives for the great reviews!

  2. joylene Says:

    Recently a writer on a list I belong to bought a copy of Dead Witness then posted her review to the list rather than to the stores. Much to my surprise she went on and on about what she thought was over the top reactions from a simple housewife. She said she liked the story regardless of these issues she found incredulous, but then she repeated again what she felt was overreaction. I read her comments and wondered why she didn’t just post the review instead of announcing to the entire list what she found wrong with an otherwise good read. In defence, I suppose she thought she was helping by apologizing for finding some of my protagonist’s actions irresponsible — but, she again repeated that she really enjoyed the book. If anyone else was as confused as I was, and were shaking their head, maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe they’ll check it out to see what she was trying so painfully to say. Or they’ll chalk it up to another badly written novel.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Maybe readers give reviews as cursory a glance as reviewers give our books. Either way, it’s just another thing we have no control over. Funny thing, I got an email from here with the link to the review, and I got the impression she expected me to thank her. What a strange thing this book world is.

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