Thursday, November 16, 2017

Honk If You Loved It! . . . And Even If You Didn't


As I interact with more authors, whether personally or through Instagram, Facebook, or Goodreads threads, I've noticed a conversational theme which crops up over and over. Reviews: good, bad, ugly, or worse—nonexistent. The push for reviews on Goodreads has become so desperate for certain authors that my last post was all about why I don’t want to be asked by yet another stranger if I’ll read and review their book.


Most authors depend on reviews to promote their books to others. Some use them as feedback in order to learn what they might be doing wrong so they know how to improve their writing. Some really strong-willed authors claim to never read reviews, no matter what, because it's not going to change anything they do in the future.


I have issues with those who claim to "never" read reviews, so I'm just going to be honest: I don't believe you. I think you secretly read them and pretend you don't care.


Although most, if not all, authors write for the pleasure of it and the satisfaction involved with the whole creative process, I can not believe there are more than a handful of them—think Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and those who get bajillions of reviews that don’t affect their sales one whit—who truly don't give a rip about whether someone likes and appreciates their efforts or not. If you don't care, then why are you publishing your books at all? Why not write them and put them in a special place in your home where nobody will find them until you're dead and gone? Like the basement freezer (in the middle of a block of ice, of course); sealed in a ziploc bag & buried the backyard; in your septic tank; in a wall safe behind your mother-in-law's picture. There you go: four perfectly safe, hidden-maybe-forever places where your special art can remain concealed, untainted by the eyes of others. Don't thank me for the ideas; just use them. But only if you really, really don't care.


The other 99.8% of those who write creatively do so because they want to share their ideas with the rest of the world. I'm so glad they do, because I need more creativity and imagination in my life. They give me color and nuance in a way I can't come up with on my own. They make me think of things in a totally different way. They make me smile, and they make me cry. And sometimes they make me crazy.


These are the authors who may not live for reviews, but they do thrive on them. One author on a Goodreads thread mentioned that he'd rather have more reviews of all levels than only a few that are all five-star. To leave a book review tells the author you've not only read their book but have taken the time to let them know you appreciated it . . . or didn't. Either way, it tells them you've paid attention somewhere along the way.


I leave reviews for specific reasons. Obviously, if I've enjoyed a book, I want to let the author know. I'm pretty sure most people enjoy being complimented when it's sincere. I'm not a flatterer. If I like you, I'll tell you. If I don't, I'll avoid you but will still be polite if I can't avoid you. I can be tactful if I need to be . . . and uncomfortably blunt, also, as long as I remember to be kind while doing so.


I've left some pretty scathing reviews on Amazon. I've been accused (by someone claiming to not be the author, of course) of being a cheapskate and expecting superb literature for under three dollars. I've been chastised by disgruntled friends of authors for "never" giving good reviews. I've been told to "get a life" by the same not-author who called me cheap. None of those things is true. I just firmly believe in warning book purchasers if a novel is a piece of garbage. It has nothing to do with my personal taste in books, but whether a book is well written, makes sense, and is the best work the author can do.


A newer author will never realize what he or she is in need of learning if readers don't leave reviews. They shouldn’t rely on readers as writing coaches, but if they’ve missed something along the way to publishing, a reader will let them know. In this era of e-books, sales don't always mean your book is loved by one and all. Someone could download it for free or cheapie-cheap and delete it without finishing, because it was very little investment in their resources. Some sites won't allow an author to promote on them unless a minimum number of reviews are logged on either Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, or other places. A good author, whether new or not, needs the encouragement to keep writing.


Read it. Review it. The authors worth their salt will appreciate it. They really do want to know what you think.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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26 comments:

  1. I learned from reviews of my first book. Not just writing but elements and craft of the story.
    I do read reviews of books before I buy them. Sometimes you need to know why someone gave a book three stars - that person's complaint might not bother you.
    And I promise I'll never ask you to read any of my books...

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    1. Ha! I would read your books any day. As it stands, there's only one of yours so far I haven't read. And besides, you're not a total stranger, so you're disqualified from my "don't ask me" scorn, lol.

      I always read the bad reviews to see if they're just crankiness, taste preference, or genuine issues that would keep me from purchasing. Readers should know what they're spending their money on, and not every book has a "look inside" feature.

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  2. I like to know in detail what someone thinks of my work, whether they like all of a story, part of it, or none of it. (Of course, people rarely respond quite like that.)

    If you're reading something of mine in my presence, and say anything like "awww" "Oh, my God!" or laugh, etc. I'll be there saying "What? What?"

    I'm always intrigued by what part of my posts people comment on, when they comment at all. It's kind of like performing in a play; the audience rarely reacts to things when you expect them to.

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    1. There's nothing worse than a generalized review. Whether the reviewer says, "Great science fiction!" or "Don't waste your money on this crap," I want to know WHAT makes it great, or WHY I shouldn't waste my money.

      I try to always be specific, because what bothers me (editing issues, bad formatting, horrid storytelling) might not bother someone else—like the millions of people who still buy Danielle Steel books, even though the stories are the same with different character names. That's one of the things I love about editing digitally: I leave margin comments not only for editing things, but I make sure to mention if a particular section made me laugh, or if I thought something was cleverly done.

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  3. I think I'm glad that I seldom have time to write reviews.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Ha! Sometimes I think, nooooo, you really don't want me to read this and review it . . .

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  4. Thank you for just coming out and saying what we've all known from the beginning. I'm just a piddling little hobbyist-author who sells a book a month, give or take, and reviews don't affect that rate by a fraction of a percent, but I love my reviews, and analyze every one. Good reviews are wonderful, of course, but bad reviews... Reviews that point out plot holes and such are fine, they help me focus on problem areas, and solve them. Reviews that offer one-star because "you're a jerk" are not so helpful. I proudly highlight a one-star review I got because the book was late being delivered to the reviewer; if that's the worst you have to offer, I must be doing something right!

    Let me suggest a site to those who might find this interesting: Reviews you get on publishing sites are of works that are already published, and if there are shortcomings, it's too late to do anything about them. Members of http://writing.com post unpublished works of virtually any length, and the other 650,000+ members give critiques and pointers before those works go public. Memberships range from free to $100+ per year. You can visit and read without joining to see if it's something you'd find useful. And, I am not affiliated in any way. I'm just trying to pass along a good thing to those who might be interested.

    Read well, and write better!
    ~ JT

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    1. Although I don't think reviews should provide authors with writing advice per se, it is certainly helpful when a reader points out a plot hole, for example, that everyone in the pre-publishing stages somehow missed. The "you're a jerk" reviews are so petty and should speak for themselves when others are looking through the reviews for valid concerns or recommendations.

      I think one of my favorite author replies on an Amazon review was to a guy who seemed to make a sport out of trashing authors (or who was the worst book chooser in the world). He would take it beyond the book into personal insults about intelligence, looks, etc., and had trashed a particular author about his "expanding waistline," among other things. The author replied, "As the fat man who wrote this embarrassment, I ask, who gave my little book to a scholar? The scholar deserves his money back if he bought it thinking that my short "Gloucester's Sea Serpent" would be a comprehensive review of all literature on the sea serpent up to the present time." I laughed out loud when I read the first phrase. This guy knew his book was just fine, and was secure in himself enough to respond with snark and logic.

      I like your writing.com recommendation. I don't get there as often as I'd like, but they certainly seem to have a great sense of community, and I'm thankful you introduced me to the place some months ago. I still have to take the time to figure out how to navigate the site better so I can share posts from here and elsewhere, but I have to admit those people are involved and interactive.

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  5. I'm also sceptical of people who say they don't read reviews. With writing being such a personal thing, of course I care what people think... and a good review can give you both a warm glow and a push to keep going and do even better.

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    1. Heck, I love having blog comments, because it means someone's actually reading what I've written. I can't imagine writing an entire book and not checking to see what anyone thinks about it.

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  6. Hi Lynda! It's nice to meet you. C.Lee shared your post with me, and I'm glad she did. I find your words interesting, but more so I find them encouraging. Prior to being published myself, I reviewed for publishers as well as Indie authors. Despite doing so, I never understood the depth of importance reviews have on authors until this past year. They do help open doors to an author's book reach as well as growing in craft and technique. Most people, at least those I've talked with, don't know this. It's great to help get the word out. Thank you.

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    1. Hey! Thanks for the visit and the comment. I've always had the habit of reviewing what I've purchased, whether it's a book or a product from Etsy or Amazon, but until I started working with indie authors, I didn't realize how a lack of reviews affects whether buyers are willing to take a chance on a book. Personally, I'm a little more wary of purchasing a book if it only has a few reviews, and that's probably not fair to the author, but that's how it goes. All it takes is a few minutes to write up what you liked and didn't, and it may make a world of difference for someone's sales.

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  7. I must admit that if a book is less than 3-stars, then I'm reluctant to leave a review.
    Maybe that's not fair on my part, but it IS a sensitive issue and there ARE some authors who don't want you to burst their bubble.

    That being said, I WILL continue with my reading and reviewing...

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    1. I'm pretty firm about reviewing bad books, but I try to start off gently, and usually I do feel terrible about doing it at all. But if a book is bad, I don't want others to waste their time and money.

      That said, I completely understand that many authors are not willing to take the risk of ticking someone off by leaving a less-than-favorable review. I know a solid handful who won't even interact on Goodreads because of the way others lie in wait to twist someone's words and pounce upon them. It would be a shame for a genuinely deserved 2- or 3-star review to result in backlash simply because the reviewer happened to be an author as well.

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    2. I hope I am in that solid handful. Wait was that a comment about my weight...

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  8. You're so right. And I'm really glad you wrote such a great post about this topic!

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    1. Thanks! And thanks for sharing it as well. I've chosen some really great books recently, and want to make sure others find out about them. The best books should never be kept a secret.

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  9. Reviews are a must, for good as well as bad books and more so for poorly written books. I am also for honest reviews. Have picked some books which had some great reviews but were so terrible!!

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    1. I recently made time to read and review a book I had won in a Goodreads giveaway a couple years ago. It was terrible, filled with editing errors, plot inconsistencies, bad science and more. And yet only a few people mentioned these things and the rest of the reviews were glowing five stars. I gave it every chance, thinking maybe the book had been updated since I had won it. I downloaded the digital version, and it was also horrible, though about half the editing errors had been corrected. The plot was still a mess and so were all the other major errors others had mentioned. I figured either the author had an awful lot of friends, or her readers just couldn't tell the difference. It was a pretty obviously bad book, and the other reviewers who had left a negative review were as puzzled as I was. One person even left five stars although they mentioned numerous bad things in the book. It was ridiculous. If I had read the reviews first, I wouldn't have even wasted my time reading it. It's one of the only books I have physically thrown in the garbage.

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  10. I'll be interested in what the reviewers have to say too -- that is once I actually publish a book. If I can listen to my critique partners' comments, I can take negative reviews too. It's the only way to get better as a writer.

    I'm not comfortable with giving bad reviews, so if I can't give a book at least four stars, I just won't leave one. I know that doesn't help the author, but I'm a wuss.

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    1. First of all, thanks for the visit and the comment, Ken! Glad to see you here. As far as leaving a less-than-stellar review, I don't think you're a wuss at all. I think it's more difficult for authors to leave any type of review, whether on Goodreads or Amazon. There are too many badly behaving authors who have ruined good, honest feedback by stalking that person across the internet, panning their books without actually reading them, and worse in some cases.

      As an editor, I am basically anonymous when leaving book reviews, and I'm very specific about why I give a particular rating, whether good or bad. I learned early on (on Goodreads) not to comment on any books I've edited—which is a shame, because there are some I'd love to review—because I dared to ask why a person would bother to read a book and leave a one-star review that talked about the book "not being in a genre I like in the first place." The reviewer slammed me for questioning her rating because she saw I'd edited the book and "helped create it." I tried to point out that I hadn't created anything but simply fixed typos and grammar. I had nothing to gain or lose by anyone's reviews and was genuinely curious as to why anyone would buy a book they knew they wouldn't like and then blame the author when . . . surprise! . . . they didn't like it.

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    2. I have never understood that either, but see it frequently.

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  11. I find reviews helpful as long as they make sense. I still have one from years back that I read periodically to see if it makes anymore sense. It doesn't. Here is a quote. "No battle land, air, or space made any real sense. It all was simple shoot em up and I'll (author) tell you the result." If the author doesn't tell you the result, how are you going to know? Magic maybe? Anyway I don't leave reviews except for big name authors to avoid being cyberstalked for being honest.

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    1. That's one heck of a review! It doesn't make sense to me either, if that makes you feel any better.

      Isn't it a shame that so many authors avoid leaving feedback because of backlash? Extra sad because authors can probably give some of the most constructive, helpful feedback instead of the "this is dumb" type.

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  12. Hi Lynda. Fantastic post. I've shared! :)

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I love comments, and will always answer them, partly because I like having the last word and partly because I just like getting to know the people who read my blog. (Note: if the post is more than a couple weeks old, your comment will automatically go into the "needs approval" folder, but I will still publish it and reply!)