Tuesday, March 4, 2008

A Reviewer's Life

For years I have been a film critic. I see three movies a week and I write my opinion for several newspapers, websites, and then I appear on TV once a week and spout off there too. I say what I think and let the chips fall where they might. After all it is only my opinion which is no better or no worse than anyone else's. Occasionally it gets awkward as when I recently interviewed Will Ferrell just after I had seen his bomb "Semi Pro." All through that interview I was praying he would not ask me what I thought.

Still for the most part I can do my movie reviews with no thought as to what the actors think. Brad, Angelina and I do not do lunch. It has been a while since Julia called, and I really just don't get George Clooney. So there is nothing personal to be worried about when I rave or rant about a movie.

But I also do book reviews and those can be a problem. The problem is I know a lot of authors and consider some authors to be really good friends of mine. In many cases I review their efforts and in some cases I like what they have done and in others I do not. Believe it or not I say what I think. If I didn't what good would the review be. It would just be a false pretense of a review.

Can that be awkward, absolutely. There was a book I reviewed several months ago. It was a book I had looked forward to reading because I knew the other works of this woman. I liked everything I had read and the information about the new book made it sound interesting.

As I was reading it I thought uh-oh, I am in trouble. I absolutely did not like it and when I wrote my review I said so. Again it is just my opinion and nothing more. My comments were not going to make or break this lady's career. It has been awkward when I have seen this person since then. We never mention the review but talk about other things.

Another problem is I like to review my friends' books. I am a firm believer in publicity being the root of success in the publishing world. Now you have to have a good product but after that you have to get the word out about your book. Reviews and publicity are crucial so I like to get my friends' titles out there whenever possible.

I have been to a lot of Festivals, writing courses, other assemblies of authors and fans and have gotten to know a lot of writers. And most of the writers I have gotten to know, I have liked. From my reviews I have started correspondence with many national writers. We e-mail back and forth and act like friends. From this I have begun to anticipate the next Jeffery Deaver novel, or the newest from John Lescroart, Jodi Picoult, Harlan Coben, etc. I have to make an actual concentrated effort to pick up books by new authors.

Finally there is the problem of the self-published author. My newspapers do not want a review of a self-published book and neither does my TV station. I am sorry it is like that but it is. I get copies of self-published books every week and I hate to set them aside, but it is the way things are.

I love to read. I love good writing. I love seeing talent shine. If I ever review one of your books please remember I am only being honest - and it is only one man's opinion.

Jackie K Cooper is the author of THE BOOKBINDER. His next book, THE SUNRISE REMEMBERS, will be published by Mercer University Press in September 2008.

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