Darke Palace Rant...

***  RANT!!! ***
Topic 9/15/2004:
Buffy Books and Amazon.com Reviews

Okay, I'm ticked. I have kept my mouth shut for a very LOOOOONG time, but I've had it. Here's the deal:

At least a couple of times a week I get emails from folks telling me how much they liked a certain Buffy book. (I actually got an email about a different book, That's Not My Name, from Nigeria last week.) In fact, on 9/7/04 I received one that started out like this: "I just wanted to take the time to tell you I absolutely enjoyed reading your Dark Willow novels." It was an wonderful and uplifting email, and I was happy to answer it.

Then today, in checking Amazon.com to see if they had an Elektra bookcover up yet, I made the mistake of checking the Dark Willow pages.

I can't even begin to share how furious I am after reading these reviews. What hurts is that so many of these reviews are banged out by teenagers and people who can't even take the time to spell properly, much less post a thoughtful, insightful review. Does that sound harsh? Well, it's meant to. While I love getting nice emails, why is it that the people who send me such emails never go and post reviews on Amazon? Instead, I sit here, powerless to defend myself because Amazon.com, in its all-encompassing WISDOM, has pulled off the feature that allows the author to make comments about his or her books. If you're wondering what's so wrong about the reviews, consider these:

The most recent complaint? The reader doesn't like the plot and the way the series ended. Well, guess what? This is the Buffy UNIVERSE. Joss Whedon created it, and Fox controls it, even now, after the end of the series. The idea to curve the alternate universe back and pick up again where it does at the end of Broken Sunrise wasn't mine. It was dictated by my editor two years ago, and I had no choice but to comply.

Spelling errors-- this is a familiar one. I hate typos in books, too. In the old days, your humble Buffy author sent the proofread and spellchecked manuscript via email. A bit later, I got an email with rewrites, which I incorporated into the original manuscript and resent via email. A bit later still, I received an Airborne package with galleys, those actual PAPER PAGES that I could sit down and proofread again, i.e., making sure that between the copyeditor and the proofreader on the publisher's end, nothing had gotten moved, mixed or mucked up.

Well, guess what?

Those days ended about three years ago.

Why? They were destroyed by publisher deadlines and the push-push-push to get the manuscript into book form. The last set of galleys I received was over the Christmas holiday of 2001... at the SAME TIME I received EIGHT PAGES OF REWRITES FOR THE SAME BOOK via email. Where was I at the time? On Christmas vacation in Los Angeles, with my fiance and meeting my two stepchildren-to-be for the very first time. I was given so short a time to rewrite and proofread-- itself a useless effort since the rewrites had to be done on the computer version of the manuscript-- that I had to forego proofing the galleys. Oh, I could have proofread them... had I been willing to close my eyes while the inexperienced assistant editor did the rewrites in my place! For my own peace of mind and quality control, I chose to do the rewrites. The book was Tempted Champions, and if you check my Bibliography, you'll see it was in print and published only three months later, in March 2002. As far as I was told (via a biting email by someone), there was only one typo in that book.

Like I said, with the push-push-push to get the books in print and selling as quickly as possible, the days of receiving Buffy book galleys stopped in '01. That means no galleys for any one of the Willow books. The manuscripts were proofread and spellchecked before I sent them to Pocket, but after that I had NO CONTROL over them. The copyeditor marked and the typesetters changed and the editors edited some more after that, and I saw NONE of it. Because of employee turnover at the publisher, I had FIVE DIFFERENT EDITORS on this trilogy, all of whom had a hand in either asking for or simply making changes that each of them thought better than the one before.

So I'm complaining about what, a few typos comments and people grumpy about the Wicked Willow ending?

If that's what you think, then check this out. The below is from a review of one of the Tales of the Slayer anthologies. My story, "Dark of the Moon," was the first one in the book:

"I absolutly hated the first story...I'm not sure if I could accuratly describe why I think it's just about personal preference (Yvonne Navarro who wrote this story also wrote "White Doe" which was I think in the second book, and which I also didn't enjoy)."

Rah-rah for personal preference, but how does that provide anything helpful to anyone else? To top it off, I didn't write "White Doe" and I wasn't even in the second Tales book. (I tried to post a comment about that in a review of my own and Amazon deleted it.) Directly below that review is the following, written by someone else:

"Dark of the Moon, 1229 A.D.: I am still trying to find out where this is set. But I think it is about a Native Amereican slayer, judging by the names. Which I think is rediculous because wasn't the slayer council in England?"

The FIRST PARAGRAPH of the story identifies the location as Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. And if this person is upset about the location not being in England, why is it okay to have stories set elsewhere in the world? No where in Dark of the Moon is it claimed or implied that this is a First Slayer story. There are plenty of stories out there set much earlier in history, but the reviewer apparently couldn't comprehend that this was the thirteenth century, not all that far back in Slayerdom. It's pretty clear from the remainder of the review that this person really just wanted a story set in India.

Really, how many of the people who slam my Buffy books could write one themselves... and do it in a six to twelve week time period? The reality of writing a media tie-in isn't nearly as pretty and glamorous as the fantasy. There are nasty deadlines (and believe me, the publisher doesn't give a whit about what's going on in the writer's life when they declare a drop dead date for getting the book to press), disagreements with the licensor (Fox) and the publisher (editor or editorS), and seeing how #*&@#$* OBVIOUS it is that the people who write them didn't pay attention to what they were reading-- moreso on the ones who crank out a nasty review full of misspellings, sometimes when they didn't even finish the book! Yes, that has happened. "I've only just started this book and I already know I don't like it."

To all the people who think they can do better and are so generous with their criticism, I say go for it. Write your Buffy book and send it to Pocket and see how far you get, with your misspellings and lousy punctuation, and all the twisted, nonsensical sentences that violate every possible rule of grammar. Or try it the way it's really done: Get your idea, pitch it, get the pitch approved, outline the book from start to finish, get THAT approved, and if you do, write it in the average eight week time period that is expected of a Buffy author, and then get THAT approved, too... all the while knowing that Fox could turn around on a whim (i.e., a different person in the media approval department) and change anything and everything they previously approved. Would they? Sure-- that's exactly what they did to me on Paleo.

Go ahead and try it. I dare you.

Make no mistake: I appreciate the Buffy fans, I really do. But I have my doubts that it's true fans who use Amazon.com as a way to thoughtlessly, carelessly and often anonymously slam the hard work of writers... ANY writers. The true fans know the ins and outs of Buffyverse and know that situations, dialogue and endings can't always be changed by the authors, no matter how much they want it. They've emailed with the authors and read the interviews and visited the websites, and they know about the deadlines and the real, hard stuff that's involved in getting these books on the shelves. They appreciate the effort and can forgive a few superficial things for the sake of a decent story. If they have questions, they're honest enough to ask. They don't go up on Amazon and message boards and criticize or whine about the way they would have done things, if only.

Yeah. If only.

-- Von--

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Copyright © Yvonne Navarro. Don't be naughty-- no reprinting, "borrowing", or use in any form whatsoever without prior written permission of the starving author/artist. We mean it. We know lots of lawyers. And we ain't afraid to use them.