How do you “get” a book?

 They don’t get it.

I’ve heard this phrase a lot lately in regards to reviews – both mine and others. Somehow it’s become the de jour way of dismissing an entire review/er. If the book gets a good review, somehow the reviewer "got it" and "understood it" but if the review is negative, the review/er didn’t get the author, didn’t get the book, just flat out didn’t get it.

 

Since when is it the review/er’s responsibility to "get" the author or their book? I’m getting slightly annoyed at the dismissal of reviews (mine and others) as I didn’t "get the book." Well, I did. I understood the plot, the characters, the theme, the sex, the porn or not, the POV and I didn’t like it. And I explain thoroughly and at great length just why I didn’t like it. And really, what is there to get? This is not philosophy or a treatise on social discourse with layers upon meanings. That’s not to say there is not quality fiction but really, what is there not to get? If the characters are wooden, there are no hidden depths that were missed. If the plot is weak there is no hidden meaning that wasn’t explored.

Just as I would never presume to dismiss an author’s work with a simple "it’s crap" statement, I would expect the same from my review or any other that has a lot of thought and effort put into the writing. However, it’s not just the dismissal of my reviews that bothers me but the overall use of the phrase as a justification for authors to accept or reject reviews.

I expect an author to disagree with a negative review of their work. Of course they would – I’d hope they wouldn’t publish a book thinking it’s bad and agreeing with a review like that. It’s another issue to look back on a much older piece and think that, but to stay on topic! I don’t think reviewers mind when an author or even other readers/reviewers disagree with a negative or positive review. Everyone will have a different reaction to a book.

Maybe that annoying plot device didn’t annoy someone else, maybe the head hoping was ignorable for one person whereas a pet peeve for another. All of these preferences and details add up to difference in satisfaction and reading. However, none of these differences mean readers either got it or didn’t get it. Sure complex and complicated themes, characters and settings may be used but that still doesn’t mean the concept has blown over a great many heads.

If someone didn’t get the book, perhaps the author didn’t convey their point as they liked. If someone got your book, perhaps they just liked the writing. If you use such a term to dismiss a review, you’ve now dismissed any reviews – both positive and negative.

And what’s more interesting – is that the authors I’ve found guilty of this the most tend to call their fiction entertainment or romance fantasy. Generalization sure, but still somewhat true. So really, what is it again I just don’t "get"?

 

Perhaps this author can explain in more detail regarding an email I received from their editor.

Dear Kassa,

I have received a rather serious and disturbing email from author Acer Adamson regarding your reviews which were posted this weekend for his short stories "Only Words" and "Any Excuse." Your lack of assigning 5-star reviews to these stories was an obvious sign that, in the author’s words, "the reviewer just didn’t GET it."  I am sorry to inform you that due to these accusations we must immediately ask that you remove the reviews from the site and pass the stories to another reviewer, one who will recognize the obvious brilliance of the author and these stories and afford them the rating they deserve.

Sincerely,

***** ***** (also known as [info]emily83176)

And of course my reply.

 

Dear Ms. *****, 

Thank you for the email. It’s unfortunate the author had that reaction but no doubt I am a small minded, hypocritical reviewer that only wants one kind of romance. Clearly the inclusion of a cross-dresser goes against the very tenor of m/m romance and while I may not "get" the author’s brilliance, can you really blame me? The guy wore makeup, where is the macho guy on guy action that is a prerequisite for this genre? Where is the crying when discovering he’s really a homosexual? Where is the explicit and graphic sex to include anatomically impossible sexual positions with non stop ejaculation? While I clearly can be accused of my ignorance, it *is* only fair the author defend his radical use of characters and lack of sex scenes. There wasn’t even any hint of man-whoring. How can I be expected to understand this book when it lacks the basics of m/m romance. 

As requested I shall refrain from reviewing future books unless it contains a character that says the following phrase "hi! i’m gay and i like cock up my ass". I feel this definitive phrasing would indicate his acceptance of the genre and a prerequisite for a 5 star review. 

Sincerely, 
Kassa
Reviewer who doesn’t "get" it and hopes those who do have some strong antibiotics to help with that. 

*Btw – the above were tongue in cheek but if it had been any other person emailing me, I’d have believed the email.

 


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35 thoughts on “How do you “get” a book?

  1. *snort* It’s the author’s job to convey their ideas to the readers. If someone doesn’t get it, is not the reader’s fault, but the author’s, who needs to do a better at writing their stories.
    Emmy, who has no problem calling crap what it is
    srsly tho…those emails were funny.

    • I don’t mind calling crap books for what they are. The majority of books are going to be average at best, which everyone forgets in a huge rush of “omg it’s my brilliance”.
      But yea, if I don’t “get” their book, I think it’s on them and not me.

  2. LOL at the tongue-in-cheek emails. Had the author and editor been any other I might have been sucked into believing it momentarily, but no way would that pair seriously react that way. πŸ˜‰
    I’ve noticed the ‘get it’ comment floating around some, too. Yeah, you like it or you don’t, and you, of all people certainly make it clear in your reviews that it is not a lack of ‘getting it’ that lowers the grade.

    • Yea I thought the first email was hilarious and freaked them out a bit – turn about fair play and all :D.
      I just loathe the whole “someone got my book!” or “someone didn’t get it”. When talking about metaphors, ok your reader may not get it (though that’s still on you the author). When talking about erotic romance? Really? I’m not slamming the quality, but I don’t think I didn’t get it.

    • Had the author and editor been any other I might have been sucked into believing it momentarily, but no way would that pair seriously react that way. πŸ˜‰

      What are you saying?!? We have a reputation??? Bwa ha ha ha ha…
      It wouldn’t have worked with any other reviewer, and in this case it resulted in utter brilliance in the form of her reply. Love it!!

  3. LOL those emails had me going for a minute there. πŸ™‚
    It’s not a reader’s fault when they don’t like a book. As you say, it is merely an opinion. It stings to be the author of a book that someone didn’t like, but them’s the breaks.

    • Be sure to credit Emily and Jaye who wanted to mess with me. Such friends!
      You’re right. It’s an opinion and while it may bother me that my opinion is dismissed, I’m sure it bothers the author that my opinion is negative. You see, I get that. I just wonder if they realize by dismissing my opinion with that response, they’ve also dismissed the positive reviews.

      • I just wonder if they realize by dismissing my opinion with that response, they’ve also dismissed the positive reviews.
        Not to mention dismissing the actual constructive criticism that many, such as you, include in their reviews. An author would be wise to pay attention to that, even if it does sting a bit (or even a lot). A reviewer that takes the time to go into detail about what did and didn’t work for them is doing the writer a big favor, and it’s unfortunate when it’s dismissed out of hand.

        • I’m just as guilty sometimes of dismissing a review I disagree with so I understand the knee-jerk reaction especially coming from the author of the work but as you said, hopefully they could take from it what is constructive.

        • Old problem: writer =/= his work.
          Reviewers tend to know it (even though I’ve read some very nasty speculation about the /person/ of the writer, rather than the /persona/) – but for authors, it’s absolutely vital. If somebody says my prose it’s crap, it’s my prose that’s crap, and not me as a human being.

  4. I couldn’t agree more with everything you say here. I have been told in the past that an author is so excited when I “get” a story. That’s cool…but I don’t know that it’s me “getting” it but that I enjoyed the story for whatever reasons. I don’t expect every other reader to agree with me but I also don’t think that means they just don’t “get” it. Being a reviewer is a dangerous business as we both know.
    It was fun writing the original email to you but your response? Made of solid gold!! It still has me ROFLMFAO. *mwah*

    • Well thanks for playing along Emily :D. You were a good sport in letting me use the emails which were meant to amuse.
      Funny how I now get to qualify that as a person of my own independence, this was all my idea? Cuz yea.. it was funny and I wanted to post the humor that went along with my commentary.

  5. I would say that it’s possible for a reader to miss the point of a story — generally because they weren’t really part of the intended target audience or it just didn’t work for them — but more often it’s that the author didn’t do his or her job in conveying that point. If a reader doesn’t “get it”, then the author has failed, not the reader.

    • Hi! Thank you for the comment and yes it *is* possible to miss the point of the story. There have been a few stories I was utterly confused about the plot and action and admitted, I had no idea what was going on. There I’m more than willing to cede I missed the point (clearly) or I was the wrong audience.
      I think it’s a phrase used too much as a way to selectively appreciate reviews rather than simply saying I disagree with that negative review. It’s comforting to know some authors agree.

  6. I’m guilty of saying that but not in regards to a neg review. But then, in my defense, it was for a complicated story so it was more knee jerk than anything else.
    Moving past that, yeah, I’m with Dianne. Sometimes you do get a reviewer who perhaps didn’t get the point. Maybe its sci-fi and they’re more contemporary but the blurb intrigued them. Yet the story didn’t grab them like it would have (possibly) grabbed someone more inclined to sci-fi.
    It happens.
    But frankly, if you don’t “get it”, then I’m the one responsible because clearly, I didn’t do my job right.

    • More porn please *noddles*… and you’re right. There are a number of cases where someone just doesn’t get it. Emily and I were talking about a book today even when she explained the plot and i thought “i totally dont get that”. So it no doubt happens. I was talking about the more broad strokes of perhaps exactly that – knee jerk reactions.
      Thanks for stopping by! πŸ˜€
      btw- go write more pls..

  7. Hi, Kassa! How funny and what good points you made! I love this:
    “Reviewer who doesn’t ‘get’ it and hopes those who do have some strong antibiotics to help with that.”
    Sometimes a story (especially an overly literary one or one involving the supernatural) will have too subtle an ending for me and I’ll be left thinking, “Okay, what EXACTLY happened here?” I’m never ashamed to come right out and ask that because I don’t think it’s me being stupid. I think it’s the author not fully communicating.
    He or she has brought the information forward but not far enough. I think this happens a LOT because the author (and maybe also his beta-readers if they’ve read the piece a lot) is so involved with the fiction piece that he can no longer distinguish what information is still locked up in his mind and what has actually made it out onto the page for us readers to access.

    • *noddles* Definitely.. wait til you read my review of Jason Edding Dark Robe 2 book. I had no clue what went on and said.. I still dont know where he was coming from. He’s within his rights to say “kassa had no clue, she didn’t get it”. Sure.. I didn’t. But I still wonder why it was so confusing 😦

      • Wow, an author being confusing can result from anything from incompetence to elitism. It’s not a good thing! I’m looking forward to your review to see what’s up with this particular book.

  8. “hi! i’m gay and i like cock up my ass”.
    ROFL
    *makes mental note to start new book that opens with that line*
    You guys are a riot. *grins*
    As to the rest… I have to say that for me? If I present something in an overly obfuscated manner and someone doesn’t “get” it? Yeah. My problem. And likely because of exactly what said (or my interpretation thereof).
    As the writer of a story, I KNOW the intricacies to whatever the plot may be. I know exactly why the characters do what they do, even when it might seem strange or unlikely on the surface. It is MY responsibility to make sure the story itself makes those things clear, and it’s entirely possible that what’s in my head won’t make it to the page.
    It’s also possible that it might get edited out, or portions might, but again, that’s on ME. Regardless of the reason, I’m the final hurdle between words on a page and a published story.
    Do I TRY to put out stories that readers will “get”? Well, of course I do.
    Am I infallible? *snorts* I wish.
    And frankly, any review that tells me what someone didn’t like (or didn’t “get”) about one of my stories is a learning experience.
    I can’t deny having “WTF?” moments right at first, but usually on reflection I find things the review/er said that I have to agree with.
    Seems to me that “he/she didn’t get it” is really just a sweeping statement to deny that someone didn’t LIKE a story for whatever reason… and an attempt to wash one’s hands of any responsibility for that.
    Yes, there are instances in which a particular reviewer just doesn’t care for the genre or tone, but even those can provide useful information.
    Honestly, I think people take reviews far too seriously. Not that reviews are irrelevant, but if the majority of reviews and reviewers “don’t get it”, I’m likely to go back and try to figure out where *I* fell short in expressing the world in my head… and how I can remedy the problem for the next book.
    My two cents, for what it’s worth.
    ~Tis

    • You totally crack me up! Thank you so much for this comment –
      Honestly, I think people take reviews far too seriously.
      No doubt this is true. I’m sure I take myself too seriously, although I attempt not to. It’s just an opinion on a book. Good, bad, or indifferent. Agree or disagree but yanno at least someone took the time to buy your book and read it. Even the fabulous and god like Steven King says never to acknowledge reviews good or bad that way you never slight anyone but ignore them all equally. Best advice ever!
      BTW – an extra star in rating to anyone who uses that line : D

      • Just to clarify… I didn’t mean the reviewers take the reviews they write too seriously. I expect and appreciate that. *grins* I think it’s more that authors tend to get too emotionally caught up in reviews, taking things too much to heart.
        I don’t expect everyone to like my books. It’d be nice, but it’s not ever likely to happen. If a reviewer happens to not care for something I’ve written, I read to find out why, file the info in my brain, and go on about my business. πŸ˜›
        Unlike (yes, god-like) SK, I do acknowledge reviews, both good and bad. Someone took the time to read my story and then devoted energy and thought (hopefully) to expressing their opinion. I consider that to be a huge favor to me personally. Even if they didn’t LIKE the story. LOL
        Seriously, I really AM gonna use that line. Someday. *grins* It’ll be our little secret where it came from. πŸ˜›
        ~Tis

        • Well I think reviewer’s take themselves too seriously but that’s another issue and a contentious one at that. In the end, it’s an opinion and it’s for other readers not authors. I keep telling myself that today. I lost sight of that! hehe.
          Go ahead and use it πŸ™‚

  9. The message transmitted is the message received, isn’t that how it goes?
    Most reviewers, I find, are very honest about not “getting” a book, if they don’t. I’ve seen a lot of “I’m giving it this rating personally, but if you like such-and-such, you would probably enjoy it more”, which to me seems like very thoughtful, unbiased reviewing.
    I may be wrong, but I bet the authors who complain about reviewers not “getting a book” are the same ones who beg readers to send them fan letters (this is a personal peeve of mine.) I’m pretty sure they aren’t looking for honesty, from their reviewers or their fans.

    • Hi GS! It’s always lovely to have you stop by.
      That’s such a great comment about the review stating that and you’re right. Those are the reviewer’s thoughts but are aware enough to offer what could work for others.
      You’re probably right regarding those authors who do that. Just like I may not agree with everything written, I don’t have to agree with an author’s reaction to reviews.
      Dismissal or not, it’s for the readers right? hehe.. Just have to remind myself that.

  10. This may not pertain to you, Kassa, but my pair tells me it needs to be said. If you egomaniacs would tell us egomaniacs precisely why you’re being critical (examples, examples, examples), perhaps we’d get why you’re “not getting it” instead of not getting it ourselves. Got it?
    Translation: specificity is the key, as it is in all communication. And the reason it matters is precisely because reviews are for readers.
    Quite frankly, some reviewers should be drummed out of the IUOR (International Union of Online Reviewers). They’re the ones who lob criticism, often in nasty ways, without pointing out all those egregious shortfalls they’ve allegedly found in a book. It’s that kind of vague, generalized slamming that raises my hackles. If a reviewer is going to proclaim somebody’s work a piece of crap, and thus discourage readers from giving it a try, then that reviewer needs to show rather than simply tell. (Only the pope can do that, but I doubt he’s read any m/m erotic romance lately. Oh, wait… Nah, I’m not gonna say it.)

    • I can only say that I agree. I think specificity *is* key for why something didn’t work. Like I said, I’d never simply say “your book is trash.”
      If by examples you mean direct quotes I think it depends. I’ve had authors and readers alike sometimes say they like them and others hate them. I think being thorough is the best choice with examples from the text when needed. Either way, the whole “get it”, I dont think applies. Either you liked the book for x,y,z reason or you didn’t like it for x,y,z reason. Same with the review, either you didnt like the review (which I’d expect if it’s bad) or you liked it (if it’s good) lol. I dont think the review is all that complicated to get, just like most books.
      ooo not touching the catholic comment.. too easy! πŸ˜€

      • I haven’t been left befuddled by too many reviews. If the reviewer is fairly literate and takes care in explaining her/his position, I’m satisfied. (Might be a bit stung, but I’ve got no legitimate gripe.) That’s all I or any writer can expect — for a reviewer to do her “job” to the best of her ability. The effort does garner my respect.
        But once in a while, there are people who make blanket negative statements without supporting them. I believe that’s when an author’s ire is justified. No lines are quoted, no passages or chapters are cited, nothing is really explained.
        The reason it matters is that these opinions do sway many readers. And that means they’re tied to one degree or another to our livelihoods. So, if you’re going to dissuade people from buying a book, at least make sure you’re offering some damned solid reasons.
        Yeah, the pope comment was too easy; that’s why I backed off, too. πŸ˜‰

        • I think you bring up a good point that is often overlooked (and worthy of an entire blog post itself). This is someone’s work, their craft and their monetary gain. If you as a reader/reviewer think it was a waste of your money – you’re welcome to say so but taking into consideration differing opinions I do believe strongly in saying why. There are reviewers I read that I *never* agree with so I know when they rave about a book, I’ll likely hate it and vice versa. But it’s important to have a context to blanket statements and reasoning.
          I’m not a fan of snark. I’ve said it before and though it may be entertaining, just not sure as a review it’s all that informative. I’ve done a long blog post about it previously but included in that were the “short/emotional” reviews which good or bad don’t say much. “ZOMG I LOVED IT!” is just as bad as “OMG THIS IS TRASH!”. EIther way you’re left wondering. As an author, I’m sure the former is preferred : D

  11. Hell yeah on the “ZOMG I loved it!” πŸ™‚ Of course that’s gratifying to hear. But it isn’t particularly helpful to readers. Any emphasis on “hotness” leaves me cold, too. (I mean, sure, erotic romance writers want to construct sex scenes that raise steam from the page, but other things are far more important to well-crafted fiction.)
    So, for the reader’s sake, praise should be explained as well as “damnation.”

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