Monday Miscellany

And the Nominees Are . . .

Last week saw the announcements of nominations for two big sets of literary prizes.

Mystery Writers of America has announced the nominees for the 2012 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction and nonfiction in the following categories: best novel, best first novel by an American author, best paperback original, best fact crime, best critical/biographical, best short story, best juvenile, best young adult, and the Simon & Schuster Mary Higgins Clark Award.

Winners will be announced at a banquet in New York on April 26.

The National Book Critics Circle announced the finalists for its book awards for the publishing year 2011 in the following categories: fiction, nonfiction, autobiography, biography, criticism, and poetry.

Winners will be announced on March 8 in New York.

Goodreads in the News

Goodreads, a social networking site for readers and authors, has gotten a lot of press recently. Full disclosure: I use Goodreads, as you can see from the sidebar, although I have no personal stake in it. I enjoy seeing what other people are reading, and it’s a good place to keep track of my own books read. But while I like to see how my friends react to certain books, I very seldom read reviews by people I don’t know.

So I was intrigued recently when I saw a reference on Twitter to Anne Riley’s blog entry Breaking Up with Goodreads. It turns out that Riley is an author. She offers these reasons for deleting her Goodreads account:

The first two reasons are simple: childish behavior on the parts of both authors and reviewers (I’m sure you’ve all seen the Goodreads drama that has unfolded on two separate occasions within the past month, so I’ll refrain from posting links) and ineffectiveness as a marketing tool for myself as a writer.

But this is what really sealed the deal for me: Goodreads always made me feel pressured to leave favorable reviews–no matter how I actually felt about the book.

Riley explains in detail how uncomfortable she felt whenever fellow authors asked her to review their books: To avoid damaging her relationship with an author, she felt pressured to leave a favorable review, no matter what she actually thought of the book. Then those favorable reviews often caused Riley’s friends to ask her how she could have recommended such a bad book.

Once I read Riley’s explanation, I could certainly understand her situation. And it’s a situation that I, as just a reader, had not thought of. But while I was glad to see the case from an author’s perspective, I’m going to continue to use Goodreads myself, as I always have. I’m not an author, and I’m therefore just not in the same situation as Riley, although I can understand why she dumped Goodreads.

In other news, a flame war erupted on Goodreads between readers, authors, and agents, as Julie Bertagna explains in the U. K. Guardian‘s book blog entry YA novel readers clash with publishing establishment:

A literary punch-up that had been brewing for a while finally erupted between a bunch of readers, authors and agents on Goodreads – the vast online site where millions of members discuss the world’s books. In the same week that award-winning children’s writer Anthony McGowan caused a stir with his “scorching” Guardian review of Blood Red Road by Costa winner Moira Young, the Goodreads flame war flared across Twitter, sparked by writers and agents who seemed to be stamping on negative reviews.

It all started with a “snarky” (or “honest”, depending on who’s side you’re on) review of a much-hyped YA novel, Tempest by Julie Cross, just published in the UK by Macmillan Children’s Books (read an extract here). A sarcastic response and put-downs of reader views on the Goodreads site by Cross’s author friends, and comments by her agent, caused outrage. While Cross responded gracefully, other YA authors and agents took the fight to Twitter in a spectacularly misjudged bout of reader-bashing. . . .

This kind of thing has been going on as long as the internet has been around. And before that, we had verbal sparring in print about written literary criticism.

As any writer will tell you, along with learning the craft an author must develop a thick skin. Bertagna puts it well in her conclusion:

The hardest thing a writer has to learn is that once you publish a book, it’s no longer truly yours – even though it’s got your name on the front and it lives inside you. It belongs to the readers now. All you can do is steel yourself as you push it out into the world, stay gracious, and get busy with the next one.



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