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On Reviews

6 Jul 2010
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Reviews are funny things.

When most authors get good reviews, they squee and share their joy with everyone in their physical and virtual vicinity. They praise the reviewers as being everything from nice to insightful to just-the-bestest-person evah and how every word of the review is spot on. Me, I don’t squee. I’m just not a squee type of person. In fact, I have disagreed with a few favorable reviews and wondered if the reviewers mistook someone else’s book for mine. (But I’m told I’m wired a little differently than most people.)

On the flip side, when some authors receive negative reviews, it’s like someone called their babies ugly. They claim the reviewers are dense and mean and flat-out wrong–and, dear God, why does someone who hates the written word so much continue to read? There are plenty of incidences on the web of authors behaving badly because of negative reviews, from getting those reviews removed to stalking the reviewers. Most authors are smart enough to not get to that point. I know of authors who have friends read their reviews for them and warn them of any that might hurt their delicate sensibilities. I know of authors who avoid certain “mean girl” review sites. However, I also know of authors who do plenty of other things that are best left unsaid.

Personally, I don’t view my books as my babies because…well, they’re not. They’re a bunch of words I strung together. If someone doesn’t like my books, I don’t curl up into a ball cry because (1) I have thick skin and (2) nobody can pick apart my books like I can. If the reviews are constructive, they might even be of some use to me. (Big might.) Most of the time, good or meh, I shrug off reviews and get on with my day.

(Of course, I haven’t had someone rip one of books to shreds and claim she would negative stars if she could. However, it would be interesting if that happened because I hear sales sometimes spike because of horrific reviews.)

Reviews are subjective. I have reviewers love aspects about my books that someone else hates. One reviewer loved the minor mystery thread in Parker’s Price while another wanted it taken out. In the same title, most loved the alpha hero but one reviewer wanted him toned down. One reviewer was baffled by the ending of Rules of Engagement while another gushed about it. One reviewer was put off by the violence in Fall Dead while others called it thrilling. One reviewer thought A Naughty Noelle was too explicit while others loved it and wanted more.

Not everyone is going to love the same thing–and that’s good. I love sashimi but one of my co-workers says the thought of putting raw fish in her mouth makes her shudder. Imagine how boring the world would be if everyone ate the same thing, wore the same clothes, watched the same movies, read the same books. Imagine if everyone worked at the same job. Imagine a world made up of entirely computer geeks. That might be okay for me, but everyone else would be curling into the fetal position and whimpering before the end of the first day.

As a reader, I do sometimes use reviews to add to my TBR. Not as often as I used to because I have been burned many times by “universally” loved books. Moreover, some of my favorite authors and books get slammed for the very same writing styles, themes, and tropes I enjoy reading.

Do you read reviews? Do you rely on them? Do you dismiss books with negative reviews?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Aletta Leannan permalink
    24 Feb 2011 5:17 AM

    This is a very thoughtful post.

    I’ve delivered a couple of negative reviews in the past (mostly on Amazon). I take it from the “0 out of 1 people think this review is helpful” that it wasn’t appreciated in one case. On the other hand, some of my most positive reviews have been “thumbed down”, so to speak. It truly is subjective, and obviously not everything is seen as helpful by everyone. That’s perfectly fine.

    I read reviews to help me determine whether or not I want to read a book, but ultimately take any review with a grain of salt. There are plenty of people who absolutely loathe my favorite genres, and just as many (possibly) who love them. If, however, the grand majority of reviews on a book are negative, I tend to skip it.

    I can’t believe some authors go so far as to stalk those who negatively review their work. Is taking the higher road and letting it slide too much for some people to do or something?

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