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Reviews, My Take On Them

November 29, 2010

There is a review on Dear Author for a particularly bad book that has spawned a lot of conversation. Not about the book, but about reviewers. In fact, one person continues to comment that reviewers should have some sort of code of ethics, and that one shouldn’t feel cheated if they read a book they’re disappointed in. There’s also a couple comments about what authors should and shouldn’t do in response to a review.

I’ll be honest. We’ve had a couple of reviews where I’ve wanted to say something. Either about how it was reviewed, how the reviewer misunderstood something, or how the review didn’t quite hit what I wanted it to. I complained to my husband and to my co-author, but never in my wildest dreams did I think to complain to the reviewer. I mean, why would I?

Here’s how I see it. I write a book. I publish a book. That is the end of my involvement with the book. I cannot–and will not–go around arguing with how people respond to that book. Once I put the book out in the world, it is no longer mine. People will take what they will, interpret how they will, and come to their own conclusions about it. Readers never see the fullness of the author’s intent because the readers are not the author, and readers don’t want to be told how they should read the book. If the author is good, I believe an average reader will take away 90% of the books intent without outside involvement of the author.

A reviewer is a reader. A reviewer is just a reader who posts their opinion about a book where people can see it. Yes, sometimes those opinions sting because it’s your book, and you don’t want people to think poorly of something you poured a lot of time and effort into. But, it’s their opinion, and you can’t argue opinion. I learned that through endless debates over the years. You can argue facts, but not opinions, and to do so only gets you labeled as an author behaving badly. That label can seriously impact an author’s sales and reputation, so it behooves an author to behave like a professional.

My opinion? I thank all my reviewers for their time, no matter the review left. They took the time to read the book and post about it somewhere public, and they deserve a thank you. I may complain privately to those closest to me about the review, but then it’s over and I realize I’m being unreasonable. I asked for that opinion by putting the book out there, and I’m actually glad someone read it. I 100% believe both positive and negative reviews help sales. People are not morons. They can take what they want from a handful of reviews, read the excerpt, and come to their own conclusions about buying or not buying a book.

On occasion, I will write reviews for books I read. I don’t expect the authors to like what I write or love what I write. I don’t write the reviews for them, but for other readers. That’s the reviewer’s audience, and I think authors who behave badly and get into snits about negative reviews need to take a step back, re-evaluate what they’ve written, and understand that reviewers are not their critique partners and owe the author nothing through a review.

I already know there’s a little bit of an issue with Rachmaninoff due to some reader comments, though I can’t be certain if it’s the book or that readers are becoming used to novella-length works that move faster. All I do know is, just like with The Keeper, I wrote the best story I could and I am proud of it. 🙂 That’s all I need. I think that’s all any author should need, but I understand that authors also want a large audience, plenty of money, and great reviews. Deep down, I want that, too, but I also know that’s a huge pipe dream as this is art we’re talking about, and art is notorious for its fickle audience, its slim income, and its scathing reviews. 😉

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