Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Reviews: Good and Bad

Sorcia says: Instead of reading reviews,
you should play with your dog.
In general, authors seem to agree that you shouldn’t read reviews of your book but that it’s almost impossible to resist doing so. Let’s face it. We want to read the good reviews. We don’t want to read the bad ones (or even have them exist at all, frankly).

Some authors say that maybe there is something to be learned from bad reviews – that the feedback will help you become a better writer. But liking or not liking a book is so subjective, it’s rarely the case that a negative review will give you something useful and substantial to work on. Author Victoria Scott recently wrote a blog post in which she bravely and honestly displayed positive and negative reviews of her books side-by-side to show just how contradictory they are. What do you do when VOYA praises the development of your characters and School Library Journal calls them “cartoonish?”

And don’t get me started on the star rating system! I have seen 4-star reviews that are mostly a laundry list of complaints and 2-star reviews which are extremely complimentary. What’s up with that?

So, should an author read them or not?

Personally, I have a screener – my husband – who reads reviews as they appear and forwards me links to the ones I might like to read. Additionally, if the reviewer tags me on Twitter, I assume she/he wants me to read the review, and so I do. (And I’ll follow up with a comment or thank you.) I also scan the “Friend” portion of my Goodreads page so that I don’t overlook when a friend writes a review, so I can thank them.

Other than that, I try not to look. (Sometimes, in a moment of weakness, I peek. This may end in delight or getting crushed, and if it’s the latter, I swear off peeking for a good long time.)

The one iron-clad rule that an author must NEVER break is this: Do not respond to bad reviews. No matter how unfair, nasty, or completely inaccurate they are.  NEVER. Not even when the reviewer sees fit to Tweet it, and re-Tweet it, and dredge it up out of archives to Tweet it again every three months. Grit your teeth and look away.

Then go re-read one of the good ones!

By the way, I've got a hardback giveaway going on over at Susan Kaye Quinn's blog (along with an interview). Stop by to enter!

13 comments:

  1. Awesome your husband screens the reviews for you. And you've got the right attitude on reviews.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Dianne .. having a supportive husband is hugely helpful .. and great he screens the reviews for you .. some will like, some won't .. we're only worried about the 'will likes' ..

    Good luck with all sales et al and then getting no 3 back approved .. cheers Hilary

    ReplyDelete
  3. Good advice. L. Diane Wolf wrote an excellent bit on How To Review over at her blog Spunk On a Stick. It showed what sort of content each star review should have so that you do it correctly. Why? Because you are 100% right. Some people write highly complimentary reviews and then only give it one or two stars (makes no sense) and others write slashing reviews and give the book four stars (makes no sense).

    I am glad you have the Hubs to ferret out the reviews you do/don't want to see. We all need someone like that in our corner!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm so glad you addressed this, and I hope one day to have this problem. I love your idea of having a "screen" and will remember that. This industry is so subjective, from agents and editors to readers, it's good to have some kind of armor to deflect negative comments. I wonder if the people writing scathing reviews have ever tried to write a book themselves? Good luck as TED rolls out!

    ReplyDelete
  5. It sounds like you have a good system :) And I like the idea of having a screener!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I think if you want feedback, you should use beta readers and critique partners. Reviews are just opinions, important for people to judge what to read, not so important for writers. I guess they must be nice ego boosts, though :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. I swear, there should be some kind of license people need to get before they're allowed to review. Or some kind of test that measures intelligence before they're even allowed to buy the book. ("Sorry, you're too dumb to read this book. Go find the comic-book section.") At least that would eliminate some of the nastier and stupider reviews I've read of friends' books (and one or two of mine). As there's nothing like that, we just have to develop thick skin. :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. I've read most of my reviews...the goods ones at least. I know there are some negative ones, but they never showed up on GRs (or Amazon). I do try to avoid reading them. I don't purposefully go through GRs looking for them. I just kind of stumble across them.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Good advice not to respond to bad reviews! Although it's hard not to get upset by them.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi Dianne!
    I found you thanks to Robin's wonderful post about you over at Your Daily Dose. Nice to meet you.

    I've read the same, that authors should not read their reviews. I like that you let your husband screen them for you. Sounds like a wise plan to me!

    Cheers,
    Jen

    ReplyDelete
  11. That's smart thinking to have your husband filter through them for you. :) I don't think I'd read them. I'm visiting today from Robin's place. :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. Great advice! And even better than you have such a dependable review scanner ;)
    But I can imagine it's hard not to peek and just a few harsh words can really hurt (even if we know not to take them to heart necessarily).
    Guess that allegator skin we pull out for querying/submissions has to grow thicker and thicker and thicker. . .

    ReplyDelete
  13. I agree the stars sometimes make no sense at all. I've gotten nothing but 5 stars so far for my book and to be quite honest, I don't think it deserved them. I reserve 5 stars for books I absolutely loved loved loved, not books I really liked or liked a lot.

    I did give The Eighth Day 5 stars because it totally fell into the love love love category :)

    ReplyDelete