For #authors, #reviews are life-giving blood. This is especially true for #Indie authors. #Book reviews can encourage readers to take a chance on an unknown writer or send them running to the nearest New York Time’s “bestseller” faster than butter melts on a hot biscuit. We may not always like or agree with the content, but a writer without reviews is a writer who is not selling.
We’ve all witnessed authors who make complete arses out of themselves after receiving a negative review. They are as sweet as pie until a reader complains and then turn bitter and tasteless. Some even go as far as commenting on reviews, arguing with the reader because they put a book out for the entire world to read and – DEAR GOD – someone didn’t like it and left an opinion!!! How dare they?!
And yes, there are some readers who are vindictive and leave bad reviews simply because they can – most of which have nothing to do with the content of the book because they didn’t bother reading it. Unfortunately, authors (and I use that term loosely) are guilty of this, too.
Of course, we can’t forget about the “confused” reader. You know the one. He/She downloads a book with the title, Poetry in Motion, realizes after the first few pages that it is a book of (you guessed it) POETRY. They leave a one-star review stating they didn’t know this was a book with poems, and then return it for a full refund because Amazon is generous like that. “Confused” readers often buy books in genres they normally hate to read because, other than breathing and bitching (pardon my French), they have nothing better to do.
It’s true that reviews tend bring out the worst in people – authors and readers alike. A while back, I read a post on Facebook which led to a discovery many authors may not consider regarding reviews…or lack of them where their books are concerned.
“Bob” is a well-known Indie author in my Facebook community. He is generous to a fault – always going the extra mile to help other writers when he can. He reads many Indie books, leaving glowing reviews in his wake, even when the books don’t necessarily deserve them. He spends much of his time sharing and promoting others and is popular among his peers.
Bob posted that he needed more reviews for his books and reached out to the Indie community for help. Seeing as he was kind enough to read and review one of my books, I thought it only fair that I return the favor. I downloaded one of his novels and copped a squat in my favorite recliner to read.
I managed 25% on my kindle before giving up and deleting it. Bob didn’t have many reviews and, after forcing myself to turn page after page, desperately searching for something (anything!) positive to keep me reading and coming up empty, I had a pretty good idea why.
Poor Bob’s story was about as gripping as an insurance seminar. There was minimal dialogue between characters. No description at all. It was, in a nutshell, paragraph after paragraph of Bob TELLING the readers what he wanted them to know. It read like stereo instructions: First she did this. Then, she did this. Next, she did this… No “showing” – even a simple facial expression was hard to come by. I could have spent my time counting the number of ice cubes in my freezer and been more productive.
I felt guilty. I wanted so badly to repay Bob’s kindness but never review books I can’t finish. A week later, a fellow author I admire and respect commented that he was reading the same book. I sent him a message and asked that he let me know his thoughts. Perhaps I missed something. Maybe I was too quick to judge Bob’s work.
The author replied to me the same night…with the same opinion. He, too, was unable to finish the story.
Bob felt that his fellow authors were being selfish with their time. He spent countless hours reading and reviewing their books and yet, they were too busy to do the same for him. I believe the reason Bob lacks reviews is because his peers – the ones who care for him and appreciate all he does for so many others – don’t want to hurt his feelings.
Some authors don’t mind leaving honest reviews for books written by those they know on a personal level, even if they aren’t five-star. I’ve done so myself. Still, nine times out of ten, a reviewer worth their salt can find at least one positive aspect to comment on. Unfortunately, the only part of Bob’s book that didn’t make me cringe or yawn repeatedly was the cover art.
Other authors refuse to review any books where they can’t leave a positive review, especially if the writer is someone they know. They also believe everyone else should adopt this way of thinking. I don’t necessarily agree with that. I believe every reader, regardless of their profession, is entitled to leave an honest review. If an author can’t take the heat, they shouldn’t publish their work.
Still, most of the reviews Bob does have for his book are POSITIVE. This tells me that:
A. Some readers liked the book and I need an eye exam.
B. Many of the reviewers know Bob personally and threw honesty out the window for the sake of friendship.
But I digress. My reason for bringing up Bob is to remind authors not to jump to conclusions. Sometimes, people aren’t being lazy or selfish when they don’t leave a review – they’re being kind.
I also want to tell my peers that it’s okay to have an opinion on the books you read. It isn’t a sin to leave a lukewarm or negative review as long as it is constructive. Padding a review or leaving a glowing recommendation for a book you really don’t think deserves it only serves to mislead the writer and make YOU look like an idiot – especially when others take your advice and spend money on the book only to discover that it sucks. If you are afraid of reprisals, then you shouldn’t review at all. How can we gain respect as writers if we leave five-star reviews for books riddled with editing issues and other mishaps?
Because of actions such as this (and much worse), I no longer support an entire publishing company and their group on Facebook that I used to be on good terms with. After reading a few of their books (all of which have numerous positive reviews from other authors signed with the company), only to discover that many of them are poorly edited and in need of major work, I decided to distance myself from them. Every book is padded with positive reviews by authors signed with the company to help boost sales on release day. I’m fairly sure many of the authors don’t even bother to read the books beforehand. This is dishonest and really leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
So, this is my hodge-podge take on reviews. If you review a book, be honest, constructive, and tactful with your words. Don’t attack the author. What worked for you? What could use improvement? Was the book well-edited (remember, no book will be perfect but there should not be so many mistakes that they disrupt the reading of the story). Be the type of reviewer that makes writers come to you with requests to read their books.
Stay classy, my friends.