Monday, January 24, 2011

What kind of reader are you?

With the Oscar nominees being announced this week, I thought it would be interesting to talk about how you "judge" a book.

I'm in the middle of judging my allotted RITA books for the year and, as usual, have been really enjoying myself. For those of you unfamiliar with the RITA, it's the annual contest for published authors sponsored by the RWA. It is generally regarded as the most prestigious romance contest for published authors, i.e. the Oscars for romance books. The judging is by other published authors. You can judge any category as long as it's not one you are entered in. I always choose Regency, Romantic Suspense and Contemporary categories (you have to choose three), and end up with mostly historicals, which is great.

Around this time the loops are always full with RITA related posts--you can't discuss which books you are reading--and something someone made a comment on the loops stuck in my subconscious and popped up when I was reading last night. I can't remember her exact words, but it was basically along the lines of how critically she judged the books. I have a number of writer friends who regularly talk about how hard they are to impress. When they read, it's like they're a high school english teacher with a red pen in hand, LOL.

It reminded me of a review I came across recently. Believe me, I try to avoid Amazon reviews, but sometimes it's inevitable that I see something. Last week, I had the pleasure of seeing one of those wonderful one star reviews. Goes with the territory, I know, but it doesn't stop the sick to the stomach feeling (as usually happens when I see something like that), until I hit the "other reviews" link. I don't remember the exact numbers, but this particular reviewer had about fifteen reviews. Of those THIRTEEN were one star reviews. The "best" review she'd given: a three star. Wow. That's one tough cookie.

By comparison, I think I'm pretty easy to satisfy as a reader. I've been charting the books I've read for the past 5 years or so--strictly for my memory only--assigning a letter grade to each one. I have probably only a handful of D's and F's, a few DNF's, maybe 20-25% C's, and the rest B's and A's. I start out with the expectation that I'm going to enjoy the book (otherwise I wouldn't have picked it up) and usually those expectations are met. My test is one of enjoyment--if I enjoyed it, that's enough--even if there are "problems" I notice as a writer, it doesn't effect my judgment as a reader. For example, I can forgive a silly suspense plot if I LOVE the romance.

So what about you . . . what kind of reader are you? Do you read with a red pen in hand or are you the kind of teacher we all wanted in school: an "easy grader"? :)