Sunday, February 4, 2007

Don't judge a book by its cover!

Okay, so I spent almost my entire Sunday devoted to judging a writing contest. I had five partial manuscripts 25 pages each. It's funny how, right at the beginning before even reading the first page, I had already selected what my favourites where going to be. Just based on the titles! I know... It's terrible! I'm ashamed!

So many people tell me that when they buy a book they open it and read the first page or pages, if they like it they buy it. Umm, not so much me. I get caught up with the title first, the cover second, (I know that's terrible but I can't help myself) and the back blurb third. I don't even crack the book open.

Two of the partials sounded so intriguing just by the title that I couldn't wait to start them... I was so disappointed I can't even begin to tell you. Maybe it's because I set my expectations high, I don't know, but seriously I was bummed.

Then there was an MS that had a religious title and I thought - Ugh! I really am not going to like this one. But what I thought it was going to be was totally not what it turned out to be. Does that make sense?

Then there were my last two MS', one had a holiday title - another yuck factor for me. The other had a Western title - I'm not so great with Westerns. So these two, were the one's that at the beginning I thought I would absolutely not be able to get into or relate to. Oh my God, was I ever wrong. I wanted these to go on forever... when will I know how they end?

Even though this was my first time judging an unpubbed author category, I was definitely not disappointed. The one difference that I really like is that unpubbed authors actually want feedback. It's sad to say, but to this day, I have never had one published author ask for their score sheets back from a contest. *sigh*

When you get published - if you submit an entry of an already published book - do you still not want feedback? Wouldn't you want to learn something from past mistakes? Or is it just something that you would all together just slip under the rug? What's done is done?


Christine said...

I know I would want to know! That way I can see what the readers think and maybe I can change my strategy for future books. But maybe it's just me.

Wylie Kinson said...

I agree with Christine! I would certainly want to know what I was doing right, and wrong.
There have been a few times I've picked up a book by a 'NY TIMES BEST SELLING AUTHOR' blah blah blah and have been tremendously disappointed. Do you think authors who've many successful books out there get lazy? Do they loose touch with their readers?? Or so their agents/editors just nod their heads at anything knowing a fat paycheque will come along with THE AUTHOR's famous name?
No matter how successful I become (fingers crossed writing this), I hope my friends/editors/critique partners remain honest and tell me when I've written crap.
I NEVER want to tremendously disappoint my readers!!

Vicky said...

I totally know what you both mean, how many times have I picked up a book and thought... really... Is this the same quality as the last one, or worse yet... the last one was bad this one even worse. I don't get it myself... but there you have it. I judge the Kiss of Death 'The Daphne Du Maurier' Contest. For pubbed and unpubbed mystery/suspense authors the contest is a big deal... Every year I get to judge pubbed... why you ask yourself? Because I live in Canada! :) Isn't that funny? For the first time it's an advantage because they say it's just not worth it for them to send out the unpubbed MS all the way over here, so I get pubbed ones. Every year. *giggling* I love it!

Anyways to this day, every pubbed author I have received doesn't want to know how they did, only if they win. *shrug* Whatever.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Sorry about deleting that previous comment -- it had a horrid typo. 8-)

Anyway, I agree with y'all: to my mind, feedback is always useful, and it's the stagnating -- or stagnated -- writer, at whatever level of accomplishment, who no longer welcomes it.

Amy Ruttan said...

I want to know what I am doing right and wrong. Hence, the reason I let my books get critiqued, so I can so see where I am at fault and where I am kicking butt.

Like Wylie, I have been so disappointed sometimes with NY Times bestsellers, but then the obscure little book with the freaky title just rocks my world.

So, tell me what you liked and what you didn't and what you think I should work on etc., and if the person gets offended and upset, then they are in the wrong business.

Kate Pearce said...

I've judged quite a few unpubbed contests and been judged in a few myself! I think criticism should be given in a constructive and helpful way. There is no reason for anyone to re-write someone's work, assume they know all the facts and that the person is wrong (sometimes they aren't)
I always try and find something good to say before I focus on one or two things that are the next rung of the ladder that person needs to move on up.
As a published author, I have mixed feelings on reviews-I like all the good ones and hate the bad ones :), especially if the reviewer gives away the plot or gets the story so wrong that it's obvious that she hadn't read the book.
All authors can learn, whatever stage of their career they are at. One of the problems for published authors is the speed at which they are expected to write their books in order to fulfill publishers deadlines-sometimes there is little time for inhouse editing and things can slip by.