Book Reviews Are Not for Authors

Let’s talk book reviews and open the Pandora’s Box of horrors. True or false. Authors shouldn’t read their book reviews. Well… I dare say that most people would answer that as being true. And there certainly is enough evidence to support why it should be true. But I’m climbing out on that proverbial limb over a pool of quicksand and will answer false. Yeah, y’all knew I was going to say that, huh?

Okay, so let’s dive into it and dissect this thing like a rotting piece of flesh loaded with microbacteria it can become. I see both sides of this issue. The purpose of a book review is for a reader who actually has read the book (and that’s an important point to make because some don’t) to leave an opinion to help other readers (who haven’t read the book) decide whether or not they want to read it. Ideally, that is how it supposed to work. Unfortunately, it does not always work that way.

I love when people review my books. It doesn’t matter if it’s a good, bad, or meh. I hope and want to get good reviews, but if I don’t, that’s okay. As a writer, I put myself out there, and that leaves my work open for criticism. I understand that my books may not be for everyone. It would be unrealistic for me to expect that all readers will fall in love with the characters I create. A reader may like one of my books but not another. Not everything is going to please everyone all of the time. The negative reviews, if they are constructive, I use to improve my next work. I listen to my readers. Here’s the truth of the matter. It is you, my readers, that allow me to do what I do. If I’m not giving you want, then I need to know that. I also need to know what I’m doing right and what I should do more. It is the constructive criticism from my editors, betas, critique partners, and readers that allow me to grow and improve. Literally, Ice Gladiators would not exist if I hadn’t received so much feedback from readers stating they wanted more sports romance.

That isn’t to say that negative reviews don’t sting. They can and often do. However, a writer shouldn’t lose perspective. I once received a negative review years ago from someone who obviously hadn’t read my book. Being a fairly new author, I didn’t know how to react. What bothered me about the review wasn’t that it was negative. It was because it was wrong. No, I don’t mean the reviewer’s opinion was wrong. Everyone is entitled to have an opinion. What was wrong what the reviewer wrote. She had characters confused and wrote things that sounded like it might happen from the blurb but never happened in the book. The timeline the review described was out of order and the plot summary completely incorrect. Frankly, it left me baffled and scratching my head. Now, had this been my only review or I had multiple reviews saying similar things, I would have thought that the story was not clear. But this review was an isolated incident. Even others who did not jive very well with the story did not list those types of discrepancies. My concern was if other readers read it, they would think my story was a hot ass mess.

So, how did I deal with it? I let it exist. What else was there for me to do? Make a big deal about it? Get into a cyber argument with someone I didn’t know over something I knew to be false? Stalk the person through social media and begin a bullying campaign until I got an apology? Contact the site and have it deleted? (I don’t know if that last was even possible.) No, my response was to treat myself to a double scoop of ice cream because I had other reviews, which meant some readers actually did read my story. Some readers did enjoy it. One reviewer called one of my characters an obscenity, and I got such a kick out of that. Why? Because that was how I had written the character, and I had managed to communicate that effectively through words. I accomplished my goal. That was a positive.

Another thing I see happening with reviews is that instead of a reader offering an opinion, he/she gives a summary … with SPOILERS. Oh, man, that blows when that happens. But it happens. This is one of the reasons that I rarely read reviews for other author’s books that I’m interested in reading. I don’t want to know that Jane is really Sally’s mom if that’s the twist. As an author, I do sometimes worry that this type of review may ruin the reading experience for some. However, I think many people reading the reviews will see a spoiler coming and stop reading. Some reviewers are kind enough to list a spoiler alert tag on the review.

Authors should remember that reading reviews is a choice. There is no law or declaration that mandates authors read their book reviews. And even if an author decides to read their reviews, they are not obligated to read all of their reviews. Some sites offer settings that allow authors to hide negative reviews from themselves while allowing the public to see them. It is important to remember that book reviews are about the book and not the author as a person. Authors who fail to make a separation from themselves and their stories will surely be disappointed. A few reviewers may make it personal, but most do not. Reviewers are people who enjoy reading books. They leave reviews because they have taken the time to read (hopefully) the author’s book and wishes to share his/her thoughts with others. What is written is about what was read and the effectiveness of the person writing the story. That being said, there are some reviewers who are trolls. Their purpose is to maliciously attack authors. Personally, I believe this is a very small percent of reviewers. However, if a reviewer does cross the line, an author does have an option to report that review to the site for violating the terms of service. This only should be done if the reviewer truly has crossed the line and become disparaging or threatening and not simply because the author dislikes what was said.

It is important that an author not allow a negative review to hinder his/her creative process. There are many stories about how famous authors, playwriters, and screenwriters have been rejected and heavily criticized in their early years. Can you imagine how the person who rejected Stephen King or J.K. Rowling feels now? They didn’t prevent a small dose of negativity prevent them from striving forward. There is the old adage: that which does not kill makes one stronger.

Authors should also remember that when they decide to publish a work, they are putting it out there for public consumption. They want people to read and talk about it. Well, reviewers do read and discuss what they read. There was never a guarantee when the work was being published that all that would be said about it was positive things.

So far, I’ve mostly been discussing negative reviews. Yet, something needs to be said for positive reviews. If one is not careful, positive reviews can be destructive. A few years ago, I was in a writing group, and a writer posted an excerpt and asked for feedback. The work was atrocious. Now, as a fellow writer, I do not say that lightly. This work was worse than some of my very first drafts. One of the biggest issues was the writer was writing to market in a language he was not fluent in speaking or writing. Okay, so, let me just let this elephant straight out of the closet. I am not saying that a writer cannot write in a language not native to him/her. What I’m saying is, that the writer has to learn the language. That writer cannot and should not expect readers to overlook poor writing. Writing is a job. It is a discipline. Anyone deciding to make it a career must make the effort to do the work. So, when the negative reviews/critiques started pouring in, some members thought the criticism was too harsh and bullish. I was going to offer an opinion but didn’t because I didn’t want to be accused of being an elitist snob. But the work was incomprehensible. Spelling was like solving a word jumble puzzle, and once you got that solved, the sentence structure was so screwed up it made no sense. There was no formatting and limited punctuation. One couldn’t even tell where thoughts began or ended because there also was no capitalization. Verb tenses were all over the place, which didn’t help since he was head-hopping. My suggestion would have been to write it in his native language and then hire a translator. But as I said, I kept my opinion to myself.

But wasn’t I supposed to be discussing positive reviews? I’m getting there. So, after several hours of back-and-forth, writers who legitimately were attempting to help, went radio silent. What was left was coddling reviews that were neither truthful or helpful. They stroke the writer’s ego and encouraged that his writing problems were not severe. Some went as far as encouraging him to self-publish without further editing because he would get better the more books he wrote. Like hell! Okay, I don’t generally flip out like that, but that really worked my nerves that someone would intentionally publish a subpar product. In my opinion, that reflects poorly on the entire writing community, especially self-published authors. Although I am not self-published, I can respect the journey indie authors have taken. For years, they were branded as “fakes,” “wannabes,” and “second-rate.” They have struggled to prove themselves and carve a place in the writing world. Some invest thousands of dollars to ensure that they create the best book possible. And here, someone basically snubs their nose at industry standards due to unwarranted and inflated feedback from reviewers.

Even if a work is good, positive reviews must be kept in perspective. Egos must remain in check. I read a magazine story about a famous author who felt she had become beyond criticism. When she received negative reviews from readers for one of her novels, she stated that the persons posting were either jealous or incompetent. The book was profitable because it sold on the power of her name. For her next novel, she decided she didn’t need professional critiquing either. She refused in-house editing. This book sold as well. However, if her book sales are analyzed, it’s obvious that her later works are considerably lower than that of her early works. She is losing readers. I can’t speak for her or read her mind, but it appears that she does not care about the loss of readers. She continues to have an enormous fanbase. That’s not the case for most writers.

So, that is my two-cents on book reviews. As previously mentioned, I do enjoy reading all the reviews. If you pick up a copy of Ice Gladiators, please consider leaving me one Amazon or Goodreads or both. Reviews are one of the best ways for readers to help authors get their books into the hands of readers. I thank and appreciate everyone who has ever left me a review.

 

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Enjoy sports romance and athletic bad boys? Check out my adult romance, Defending the Net. It is the second in my hockey series and guaranteed to melt the ice. It is sold at Kindle, Apple Store, Nook, Kobo, !ndigo, Angus & Robertson, and Mondadori Store. DTN is the second in my gay sports romance novel series and guaranteed to melt the ice. Order a copy now at www.books2read.com/defending. Crossing the line could cost the game.

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