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Reviews, Again

January 21, 2012

Reviews. Such a touchy subject. It seems to go in cycles. There will be a lull in commentary on reviews, and then an explosion of unhappy authors, followed by a backlash from reviewers saying their piece, followed by another lull. These cyclical arguments are prevalent in every topic, but this one always sticks out to me, probably because I have such a specific view on reviewers.

I love reviewers/readers. Without them, I’d be out of a job. I respect that it takes a reviewer time to read and review my work, just as it does with a reader (though readers are out of time and money). I am not so arrogant or deluded to believe that a reviewer owes me a review, let alone a positive one, or that I have to right to pitch a fit if it’s negative.

However, I do believe that I—as the author—do have the right to respectfully respond. The key here, as it always has been, is respectfully. This idea that review space is sacred and that authors have no right to comment or engage their readers is crazy. Of course I do. If it’s a positive review, I want to thank the reviewer, maybe let them know that an unanswered question will be answered in a sequel, or just laugh with them over a funny section. On the other hand, if it’s negative, I (more often than not) still want to thank the reviewer for their time and apologize for the read not being quite their taste.

Then there are those negative reviews that just make me see red. 🙂 Those I avoid. I just avoid because I know I’ll simply get into an argument with the reviewer, and that’s just never good. Respect goes out the window, and that’s not the professional face I want to present. If it’s a factual error about the book, I’ll contact the reviewer privately. Quite frankly, opinions and taste can’t—and shouldn’t—be argued, and I don’t. I may let the reviewers comments stew for a few weeks or months, and then compose an authorial intent post about the book, but I never name names, and I never will. It’s more a platform for me to think and speak critically about my own writing on my blog, not to get back at a reviewer who simply didn’t understand my genius. 😉

It’s important to keep your cool. Readers remember badly behaved authors. I have a decent list of authors I don’t engage with or read because they’re incredibly unprofessional and utterly unrepentant about that unprofessionalism. A negative review is just one opinion. I keep in mind for every one negative review, there are probably five readers who truly enjoyed the book but didn’t comment. People bitch more than praise. Someone is more likely to leave a negative review for a product than a positive one. It’s the nature of the beast. Humans love to complain. I do it, too. Most of my reviews are for books I didn’t like, not books I loved. It’s so silly, but the truth.

In the end, reviews are for products people buy, not critical assessments of writing skill or talent. Reviews cover plot, theme, characterization, editing, formatting, cover art, and price of book. They’re about products, nothing more, and that bit of emotional distance can do an author a world of good when someone says that their book sucks. 🙂 Take a breath, remember everyone has an opinion, and go back to writing your next book. It’s always the next book that’s the most important, after all!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Carole-Ann permalink
    January 21, 2012 2:54 pm

    Love this!! and I’m behind you in every way!
    I only ever review on GR, and that’s mainly to remind me of the books I’ve read! And obviously, all the books I read are ones I’ve CHOSEN to.

    If one sucks (like one did recently) I’m utterly dumbfounded because I chose authors who I LIKE, and who’ve written super stories in the past; and it comes as such a shock to the system if it’s not up to their usual standard.

    I’m not happy with criticism, and I’m very careful in wording things; but constructive criticism never comes amiss, and it’s so disappointing if an author fails in some way.

    But I HAVE to remember that my opinion is just that – one of many. So, it never stops me buying/reading the next one! I live in hope all the time:) and seldom am I let down 🙂



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