(Today’s blog has been revised for nefarious security purposes.)
Today, I want to talk about authors and reviews. Particularly negative reviews, and what we are told—by editors, by publishers, by marketers, by common sense: Don’t respond. Don’t engage.
I’ve been very, very blessed to have met some of the most Ah-MAZE-ing bloggers and book reviewers in the last year or two, and most of my reviews have been positive. Most of those that have been critical have been fair, and I have absolutely no problem with that. After all, if a person takes the time to read my books he or she also has every right to like them or not like them, and to say so.
Some reviewers take pride, however, in being as snarky as possible. You know what, folks? Words are powerful. Words can hurt. Especially to a new author just starting on a career. I’ve developed a bit of a harder shell these days. Things that would upset me a year ago I can laugh at now, because some of them are just so bizarre. But since I can’t say the things to my current tormenter that I want, I’ll indulge myself in what I’d like to have said to some of my favorite one-star reviews.
–“Total junk. This author is no Stephanie Meyer.” (OMG, thank you.)
–“I don’t understand what all the hype is about this book, and I read it twice.” (Uh…masochistic much?)
–“This book was just too strange. It couldn’t really happen.” (Uh…fantasy?)
–“This author obviously does not know what romance or sexual tension is. It’s no paranormal romance. It should be marketed as urban fantasy.” (Uh…it IS urban fantasy.)
And my all-time favorite:
–“HOLY BATMAN THIS BOOK SUCKED! You see the girl’s facial expression on the book cover? It says…. hurry up and take this photo I need to take a dump! That girl’s facial expression summarizes my reading experience with this book. This is the book you read while waiting for someone to get out of the bathroom to take a dump. And I mean this with the most respect…” (Whew. So glad you held onto that respectful tone. And you might want to see a proctologist or a shrink about that dump-fixation.)
I always wondered why people loved those review websites (you know the ones I mean) who specialize in ripping authors and their books to shreds with clever put-downs and snarky humor.
But I had a bit of an epiphany yesterday as I was scrolling around websites looking for a new indoor grill. I found myself not reading the five-star reviews but instead reading the one-star reviews to see if whatever the people were complaining about was something that would bother me. Often, it wasn’t. Often, they were just bizarre.
And maybe that’s what readers do as well. They’re trolling on Goodreads or Amazon, see a book that looks interesting, and scroll down to the one-star reviews to see what people hated about it. If it’s because it’s too sexy, or reads like an urban fantasy, or makes some strange person want to take a dump—well, maybe that is a book they’d like.
I absolutely agree that “do not engage” is what authors have to do with reviews—we’ve had our say with our books, and the reviewers/readers get to have their say, whether we like the way they say it or not. And in the end, we have to trust the readers to make their own decisions and know that the thoughtful reviewers far outweigh the “hit and runs.” My job is to write books; a reviewer’s job, or hobby, or passion, is to review. So I do not respond, and do not engage.
Do you read the negative reviews with more care than the positive ones? What do you look for in a review that is helpful to you? Do you take the time to leave a review, especially on Amazon where it really makes a difference in how the author is promoted, for books you really love or really hate?
Let’s chat! One commenter from today’s Shop Talk will win a $10 gift card from Amazon or B-and-N.com, or an equivalent-cost book from Book Depository (which really needs to start selling gift cards).