Something happened recently that along with upsetting me – got me thinking about book reviews.
A reader, not one of mine actually, accused me of writing my own reviews.
She was convinced I had written not just one review but five – giving myself something like four 5-star and three 4-star reviews.It was so ridiculous I didn’t even know how to respond.
I usually don’t respond, but this was so silly.
I wanted to say to her: why wouldn’t I have given myself seven 5-star reviews if I was going to write my own reviews? What’s with the three 4-star ones?
While I can laugh about it now, it upset me even though she apologized when she realized she was wrong. No one likes to be accused of something they didn’t do.
But it brings up an interesting issue: REVIEWS.
My very first review was on my first book, Odd Man Out. I got 4 ½ stars from RT Magazine – and when my editor told me, I thought that was out of 10! I’d never seen an RT Magazine because they hadn’t gotten to Montana yet.
Since then I love getting a good review. It encourages me, making me believe I might have done something right. But the crazy thing is that often a book that sells the best, didn’t get a great review.
So the bottom line is that reviews often have no effect on whether or not a book sells well. Or whether or not it is a good book because ultimately
it was only one person’s opinion.
HOWEVER: if you get a bunch of reviews, it does seem to help sales on sites like Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Apparently we all want to read a book that a lot of other people have read even if some of the reviewers hated it. (Check out the reviews of Fifty Shades of Grey if you don’t believe me. Of the more than 15,000 reviews almost half are bad ones.)
We all love good reviews and greatly appreciate the kind words of our readers. I’ve had some make me blush. Anyone reading them would think my mother had written them. She didn’t, I swear.
A lot of writers tell me they never read their reviews because a bad review can throw them into a tailspin for weeks. I read all my reviews, especially the less than glowing ones, because a little positive criticism never hurt anyone.
I remember one review that said something like: This writer has a secret baby in all her books!
I thought, “That can’t be true.”
But guess what, apparently I like secret babies of all ages.
So, yes, I read all my reviews. As a writer, I spend so much time locked up in a room with my characters, that I appreciate getting feedback from readers.
THE JUST PLAIN INSULTING:
Then there are the ignorant reviews.
I remember one where the reader made fun of me saying I must incapable of remembering my characters because I had to put a list of them at the beginning of my book. Uh, all Harlequin Intrigues have a list of the characters at the beginning of each book.
It is REALLY hard not to comment on those kinds of reviews.
I always feel bad for reviewers who write hateful reviews. I suspect those people aren’t very happy. I’ve noticed that if you check their other reviews, they often have the same things in common: 1-star and a lot of anger.
As writers we are at the mercy of reviewers. They can write anything they want about us and our books. Smart writers don’t respond to the hateful ones.
I am always flattered when a reader takes the time to write a review about my book. Part of the joy of being a writer is having a reader enjoy my books.
But while reviews probably help sell books, I like to believe that a good book will sell itself. That readers who love the book will pass it on to a friend. And that reviews don’t matter all that much.
THE INTERESTING THING ABOUT REVIEWS:
I don’t think we trust reviews anyway. If they are too nice, we think the author got her relatives and friends to write them. And if they are mean-spirited reviews? Jealous aspiring writers.
The only way to judge a book ultimately is to read it yourself. As writers we know we can’t please everyone. But it sure is nice when we please most of them. It’s even better when they read our book and write a nice review.