Thursday, February 22, 2007
I got into an interesting discussion with an editor at Juno Books. She is a sincerely nice lady who has been in the publishing industry for a long time and knows a heck of a lot more about the business than I do. We got into a discussion about Harriet Klausner. For those of you not familiar with Harriet, she's the #1 reviewer on Amazon. Not that she's the best reviewer, but she's the most prolific. She has something like 13,000+ reviews on the site, posting as many as 90+ a day. If you have ever read a review by Klausner, then you probably already suspect that she doesn't read most of the books she "reviews." Generally, the reviews only summarize the back cover and she loves everything she reads; giving everything 4 or 5 stars (usually 5). She has also been known to give inaccurate information on books or give away major plot details. To add insult to injury (IMO) the reviews are poorly written. For the most part I could get over this. But now Klausner has made something of a name for herself. She's gotten a write up in Time where she was referred to as an "extraordinary talent." (gag) And now her name can be seen on the cover of various books (mostly minor authors) with her recommendations for the book. Am I the only one who thinks this is wrong on some level? The Juno editor tells me that I am over reacting. And she's probably right. But I have seen books on the shelf with Klausner's recommendation on it and I refuse to buy them on principle. But then I was told that I shouldn't judge the book by Klausner's name on it because author not only has no control over what the cover looks like, but also over the names the publisher uses to recommend the book. And furthermore, many blurbs we see on the books are written by "house authors" who are under certain obligations to provide such recommendations and it isn't that unusual for them to give the book their approval without actually reading it. Really? How disappointing. I told this person over at Juno books that I thought this was like reviewing a movie after only seeing the trailers. But then, I got to thinking. How many times have you seen movie previews where they flash recommendations by people you've never heard of saying some ridiculous movie is "brilliant" or "extraordinary?" I see it all the time. If I remember correctly there was a bit of an uproar awhile back over people being paid to give recommendations for movies; though I don't know if that changed the way things are done. But jeeez, isn't this all a bit disheartening? I don't do that many book reviews on my site (though I would do more if I got more ARC's hint- hint-) but I do try to be honest about whether I like a book or not. There is this kind of uncomfortable territory when you are given a free book though. I know the publisher wants the publicity for the book and it's kind of awkward to thank them by trashing the book. I have probably been over kind in the past, though I do try to be honest about what I do and don't like about a book. I know that over time I would probably be less inclined to gush about everything and offer honest reviews about what I read. So it offends me that someone like Klausner can make a career out of being a fraud. The editor at Juno said she didn't see the harm in it and that it was good for the authors to have the positive reviews. But I guess I haven't quite reached the point where I am that jaded. I still think a reviewer should read the darn thing, and give an honest opinion.