From a struggling author to all reviewers, please remember one thing: writers are people too.
I say this because lately I’ve seen more and more authors who are stuck in ruts with reviewers. It pains me to think that we, as a breed of human, are at the complete mercy of those select few who take the time to share their thoughts and opinions on our work. It’s a gamble, and one most of us aren’t entirely comfortable making. As an author, the prospect of handing my work over to someone at no cost to give an honest opinion that could damage my reputation scares me.
It’s not the honesty that scares me. It’s the opinion.
As a reader, I tend to take reviews with a grain of salt. Nine times out of ten, I’m not going to read reviews if a book catches my attention. But that tenth time… If I’m on the fence about a particular title, I’ll turn to the reviews. And I don’t look for the glowing 5-star ones or the trash-talking 1-star ones (we’ll discuss those later). I look for the middle of the road reviews that give constructive criticism.
Are there plot holes?
Is the dialogue readable?
Is the premise believable?
What about the grammar?
If I find twenty mid- to low-end reviews because of grammatical issues and unresolved plot points, there’s a good chance I’m not going to buy the book because those are things that I don’t want to deal with when reading.
I look for the same things when I’m reading reviews of my own work. I want to see the things readers found that I missed. In searching out these reviews, I have tools to improve. So this book wasn’t that good because of these points… I won’t do that next time.
Don’t get me wrong – as an author I love seeing the happy 5-star reviews pop up! It gives me warm fuzzies to know that someone enjoyed my work and is willing to tell the world all about it. After all, I’ve put a lot of time and effort into these stories, so knowing they’re appreciated makes me want to keep writing.
What I don’t like seeing, though, is a trash-talking, mean spirited review. I don’t like reading them as either an author or a reader, because there is absolutely nothing helpful about being hateful. I’ve seen my share of nastiness, believe me. Tearing someone down just to do it is unfair.
Thus, my plea to all reviewers:
This applies to every reviewer, unless of course your name is Statler or Waldorf.
First and foremost – don’t review a book you haven’t read. Chances are you’re going to do three things: (1) upset the author, (2) annoy the readers, and (3) make yourself look quite foolish. My Mama taught me not to open my mouth if I didn’t know what I was talking about. She also taught me to keep my mouth shut if I couldn’t be nice (which is kind of the lesson of this post).
Before you write that nasty review or tell a hard-working author that s/he doesn’t ever need to write again, stop and think about how you would feel if you were on the receiving end of your nasty comments. You’re not talking about a robot here. You’re talking about a person. It’s okay to admit that you don’t like a book – I have my share of dislikes too – but you’re not just insulting a book. You’re tarnishing the reputation of a person who has worked very hard to put those pages in your hands. You’re not telling people something they need to hear. You’re just being mean.
If you want to give a low rating to a book then feel free to do so, but please tell us why. “This is crap and I didn’t like it” isn’t fair, either. “I didn’t like it” will suffice because while you might think my work is crap, there are other people out there who will enjoy it.
Your reviews are going to carry a bit more clout if you explain your situation instead of spewing nastiness. Your reviews help us learn.
Not every reader is as objective about reviews as I am because not every reader is also a writer. Given the plethora of reading choices, many people now choose their reading material solely on Amazon reviews. They’re looking for praise as well as pitfalls, opinions as well as critiques. They want to know what they’re getting into before they buy the book.
Be honest, but don’t be cruel. Don’t rip me to shreds because you’re having a bad day. Because you know what?
I’m the author here.
Piss me off, and you’re probably going to end up having bad things done to you in my next book.
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