> . . . not lay blame. Editorial Anonymous has a letter from a reader asking why reviewers don’t ever blame the publisher for “inept design and production decisions” that “ruin” a book. While the letter-writer seems to have a particular if unspoken agenda for his or her comment, I was rather more taken aback by some of the comments which expressed concern that an author might be “hurt” by critical comments about aspects of the book over which the author had no control–a bad cover illustration, say.
Reviewers really can’t work that way. If the type is too small, if the cover is ugly and/or inaccurate, if there are mispellings, we have to call it like we see it, literally. It can’t matter to us who made the mistake. This goes beyond design problems: I remember reading elaborate theories about J.K. Rowling’s excessive adverbiage, with people speculating that her editor was “afraid” or indifferent, or that “Jo” was too powerful or out of control. Who knows? Who cares?
What’s tricky about pointing out a design or typesetting problem is deciding when it’s enough of a problem to mention in a 300-word review. Do we point out that a YA novel has one misspelled word or typo? What about a picture book with a brief text? (I hasten to add that if we have any plans to mention a mistake in a review we always call the publisher, in case there is time to fix it, or we wait for a finished copy to see if they really intended to put that easy reader in 8-point type.) We always go on a case by case basis (a missed hte is one thing, Artic for Arctic in a book about the same is another) but never on the grounds of who is to blame.
And anybody who reviews withe idea of either sparing or flattering authors and/or publishers can’t really do the job properly. I know this is an old problem but these days I blame Facebook.