Book Reviews – The Hard Truth
There are many different thoughts on book reviews. Some authors do not review a book at all, they feel that reviews are for readers like Trix are for kids. Some authors will review only a specific genre. Some authors will review, but only post a review if they give the book 3 or more stars.
I am an independent author, but I am also an avid reader. While I prefer paranormal romance with adventure, even the definitions of what book meets those requirements is difficult to pin down. Bottom line, I like what I like.
If I read a book and find a lot of problems with it, I contact the author directly and tell them in the hopes that I will help them. I don’t publish bad reviews anymore. When I was just a reader, I did on occasion. Now that I have some books of my own out there, I don’t feel right about giving anything less than a 4 or 5 star review, maybe a three on rare occasion. If I gave a bad review, I would run the risk of looking like I was running down other authors and I don’t want to do that.
Readers have a lot more leeway in giving less than stellar reviews. And that is as it should be. The reader is entitled to their opinion. If they don’t like the book, a review is their rightful opportunity to say they didn’t like it.
Stories, like other art forms are completely subjective. I have been fortunate enough to paint with a world famous painter. Some of his paintings are in the Rockefeller private collection. Yes – those Rockefellers. I’ve seen many of his paintings through the years. They are all excellent. Many take my breath away. But he painted one a few years ago and, it was magical for me. Why that one? It spoke to me. Was it technically any better than the others he’s painted? Not at all. But that one did something to my heart and soul. And he gave me a special deal and I bought that painting as an investment. That’s what I told my husband and you won’t tell him any different right? I look at it every day, and … every time I look at it, it transports me to a place I cannot even find words to explain and I know a lot of words. I love that painting.
Will everyone enjoy the stories I write? No. I’m not silly enough to think that I can write a book that everyone will love. So will I get bad reviews from readers? Of course! Will they upset me? Not very much, not really. I have felt bad for a couple of people that they wasted their time reading my book when they say they hated every minute of reading it, but… I have no control over that.
If a reader gives me a horrible review does it hurt my feelings? It really doesn’t. Many authors may feel differently. I write stories that I like. And I am writing for the people who will enjoy my stories. And some people do enjoy them. That is awesome. That makes me feel good and inspires me to keep on writing. The truth? I’m going to write my stories, no matter what.
To write a story and then put it out there for people to read is to expose a part of oneself. Some people like me. Most people like me. Some don’t. I know… I am just as shocked as you are about that. To like or not like a person is about as subjective as to like or not like a painting, or to fall in love with a painting, or a person.
Should readers write bad reviews? It is their right. When I publish a book, I expect some readers to say what they thought about the story. Some of those readers won’t like the story and they will say so. They have a right to their opinion. And more importantly, they have a right to express their opinion. Presumably, they paid for the story and they get to say whatever they think about it. Hopefully if they didn’t like it, they say why.
I read the reviews, the good ones and the bad ones and the in between ones. I take notice of any commonalities among the reviews. A review is as much for the author as it is for potential readers. If you don’t like something, please say what it was. Be specific. Else the review is not very helpful to others.
But if a reader hates my hero or my heroine, it’s their right to feel that way and they have a right to express their opinion.
The reason I decided to write my own paranormal romance stories is because I read some and I just did not care for how the hero acted. Or in a couple of them, I was upset that the heroine put up with what I thought was bad behavior. So I thought… well, I’ll write my own story and then I can make the hero and heroine act like I think they should.
How naïve I was. The characters begin to take on a life of their own and sometimes they do things that I don’t like. It’s my job to write the story the way it comes to me. Overall, I like my stories. I love my characters, but the characters need to grow. The stories I most enjoy are stories where the hero and heroine have to overcome obstacles, grow up, perhaps they have to change their opinions of something, or develop new opinions.
I don’t want to read about a person who goes through life with no issues. Many readers want to escape from their everyday lives when they read. It’s certainly the reason I read. A little adventure, a little romance, a few obstacles to overcome so they can grow and mature into people who deserve a happy ending. I know that is not how life works. That’s the reason these are stories. I make them up. It’s fiction.
The review itself is something no one can agree on. Should it be just the reader’s opinion? Or should the review be a list of criteria that we think the author either met or failed to meet. The truth is, many readers just give their opinion. They are not professionals, they are readers. They give their opinions because that is what they have to offer and their opinions are valuable. Yes, even the reviews that are not glowing express what the reader felt after reading the book and as such, it is valuable.
And whether the review is spectacular or really bad, that reader is entitled to express their thoughts about the story.
Of course, I love the great reviews, but I also appreciate the not so great. I got a one star review that was pretty awesome. The reader made some great points about my story, but ended by saying she didn’t like it. I still valued the review. She read and took the time to write down how she felt about the book and although I loved what she said about the book, I respect that she just did not like my story.
Authors, not everyone will enjoy your story. That is just a fact. Remember, we’re writing for the people who love our stories as much as we do.
My daddy had a saying, “You pays your money and you takes your chances.” I think it was an old Popeye quote that he adopted. Still, it applies to many things in life.
This storytelling and reading is a lot like that.
So with reviews that run the gamut from glowing to hate, how do I feel? As an author, I appreciate what every reader thought and the time they took to write the review.
Contrary to what many authors think, I don’t think bad reviews hurt a book or really even prevent people from buying the book.
Controversy draws attention and interest. I think the not so good reviews have probably helped my book sales.
My daughter is also an avid reader and shops on line a lot. When she looks at any product, be it a book or something else, she looks at the lowest reviews. She said there is no need to read the 5 star reviews, those folks loved the product. By reading the 1 star reviews, she can determine if the product is bad, or if some people just enjoy writing bad reviews.
Unfortunately, some folks just seem to enjoy writing bad reviews of things. Do not ask me why. I am not a psychologist, I’m just an author. I do not understand, but I accept that many people just express an unhappy opinion on most things. My daughter decides whether or not to purchase a product based on the low reviews. If the reviews express a legitimate concern, she avoids the product. If the reviews only express the reviewers general unhappiness with the world, she buys the product.
I haven’t gone to this extreme, but if I look at a book and it has a lot of 4 and 5 star reviews, I read some of the one star reviews. More often than not, the one star reviews intrigue me. They draw my interest and I usually buy the book just to make my own determination.
What is the old show business saying? All attention is good attention.
So authors, do not sorrow over your low reviews, they may be helping you more than you know.
You hit the nail on the head, Lalo. Reviews can be painful but can also help us see ways to improve our writing. And good reviews can send us over the moon. 🙂
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Lyn, I know what you mean. Sometimes I read my reviews just to feel good. Then I think… I shouldn’t pay so much attention to my own press. lol
great article Lalo
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Thanks Ch’kara, I know some authors won’t agree with it, but that’s my stance at this stage of my career. 🙂
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