I really enjoy watching American Idol. Oh the drama! Oh the bad singing! Oh the snark! And oh the star moments.
American Idol has three true judges. (and this season a fourth sort of one)
There are three judges....but it seems that there's only one judges opinion who really matters.
Randy is a bit of an unpredictable judge. While never outright harsh, he's not afraid to say a performance didn't really do anything for him. He will let a singer know if their vocals are off. But he usually doesn't say anything that can be interpreted as hurtful.
Then we have, Paula Abdul...
Paula is by far the softest judge. She always finds something positive to say, though it may not always be coherent. "You look amazing," she'll say...and that's it. The singer may have forgotten the words. Maybe they went stunningly off key. But Paula can't crush them..."I'm so proud of all you've done." We think of Paula as the nice judge..supportive to the young singers.
But then we have Simon Cowell...
Simon often seems harsh, cruel, and unkind. "Sounded like karaoke" is one of his nicer assessments. "That was a complete mess," or "Are you drunk?" The audience boos. But you know what? Secretly, the majority of Americans agree with Simon's judgements.
And it's obvious when you watch the show, that there is one judge whose opinion matters. Simon. The contestants nod and smile through Randy's enthusiastic judge, and Paula's babbling. But they hold their breath and wait for the one they know matters. Why? Because Simon doesn't like everyone. When he says it's good...you really believe that he thinks that it's good.
So...how about you?
There's been a lot of talk about the professionalism of blogger reviews. I have a lot of opinions on this subject that aren't popular.
But I think I'm a Paula/Randy mix. I do try to find balance in my reviews. I do look for the positive things I can say. (what a gorgeous cover) This is very consistent with my non-confrontational personality and my desire for harmony. It's my personality.
Do I have influence? I honestly don't know. I know people have said they added books to their wish list after reading my reviews, but I don't know if anyone thinks..."oh my gosh Amy loved that book, I will, too!" Or if authors think, "I got a positive review on My Friend Amy, that's a score!"
Why? Because I'm a Randy/Paula mix. What I'm trying to say is...that's my role and my personality. But I'd venture to say, for the love of books, for the passion of the written word and its survival, we NEED some Simon Cowells. We need a mix of voices and reviewers. And if publishers are smart, they will realize this.
We are on very shaky ground when we accept review copies and allow publishers to dictate any part of how that review will be written. Do they have to send us review copies? No, of course not! But if there are publishers who tell reviewers how reviews should be written in any way, I want to know who they are because I won't trust any reviews for their books. It's really that simple.
You may think I'm going off the deep end. I believe in book blogs, and I believe in book bloggers. I believe that we have a chance right now to be a voice of integrity in the book reviewing world. But if we say, "it's okay for a publisher to set guidelines on what can be said in a review (yes even in exchange for a review copy)" than we are selling a little part of our souls and trading in a bit of our integrity.
We need Randys, Paulas, Simons, and yeah, okay, even Karas. If books are to have a chance and book blogs are to have any influence, I really think we need to stand together on this. If this becomes something publishers can't live with, fine. But right now we are navigating these waters and learning how to do all of this and we could be wiped out the second it becomes obvious our reviews are anything less than our own reviews.
"What about the rude reviews?" Well obviously, a publisher can check out a blog and see if the tone of the blogger is agreeable to them. But more than the publishers, let's trust our readers. Readers will be drawn to the reviews that work for them. Book blog readers are highly intelligent and can think for themselves. Trustworthy reviewers will get more traffic. They will help drive sales. And publishers will risk their snarky reviews for the possibility of a positive one. It's how book reviewing has always worked.
As always, I welcome your thoughts. If you are a reader with no blog, I am very interested in how you feel about bloggers altering even just their tone for publishers. If you are a book reviewer yourself, I am interested in which judge you think you are!