Today I want to talk about book reviews. This will be a two-part post. The first part will talk about writing book reviews, the second part will discuss receiving reviews. A friend and I were talking about book reviews recently and it got me thinking…
Most of us have done it. We’ve read a particularly good book and want to find a way to express our pleasure in having read such a wonderful tome. So we go to Amazon or to Goodreads and we open up a review page and begin typing away. That’s all fine and well, but I do have one big bone to pick about book reviews…why do so many people find it necessary to use their review space to summarize the book, even including spoilers, rather than to actually tell us what they thought or whether or not we should read said book? There’s nothing I hate more than to go to check the reviews on a book I’m considering and find out that most of them are the readers’ version of a synopsis for the novel. When I go to read a review, I want to know if the writing was good, if the characters are likable, if the plot is original and/or engaging…things like that. I do not want you to summarize the book from front to back for me. I can read that on the “about” section near the picture of the book. So I’ve made a concerted effort lately when I leave a review (usually on Amazon), I try to be specific about the merits of the book. Which leads to another issue.
Why do some people feel the need to tear a book apart, give it only one star, and bash it in the review? If you didn’t like the book…why did you finish it? Why tear the author to pieces just because you didn’t like/didn’t get the point or the author’s writing style? If you have some major issues with the book that you really think that other readers need to be warned about (for example, extreme violence, dirty language, etc.), then that’s okay. Give it 3 stars and warn the potential reader about such things. If you really just didn’t like the book at all, why do you feel the need to denigrate the author and bash them personally? I’ve seen this more times than I can count. So pointless.
So my suggestion is (and I’m no expert) that if you really love a book, or even just “kinda” liked it, by all means, leave a review that outlines what you found intriguing and/or what you didn’t care for. BUT if you really hated the book, don’t ruin it for others or attack the poor author, who put their blood, sweat, and tears into creating that novel, probably for a year or more. ESPECIALLY if you’re an author yourself. We should be supporting one another rather than tearing each other down. I would also suggest, if you really have a major problem with the novel and you just feel like you MUST vent about it, contact the author and tell them your concerns…in a civil and helpful way…we authors are always willing to listen to constructive criticism so that we can learn and grow with each book we write.
READING/RECEIVING REVIEWS FOR YOUR OWN WORK
This is a tricky one, and I can’t go into a whole lot of details, because my first novel doesn’t come out until July 2nd, so I haven’t been subjected to the scrutiny yet.
I’ll be honest…I’m absolutely nervous about the prospect of readers/reviewers reviewing my first novel. What if they hate it? What if they say I’m just an average, or even worse, bad writer? What if they hate my protagonist? What if they just don’t get the plot?
But this is part of the process. I have to be ready to hear criticism, even if it’s very hard to listen to or even hurts. That doesn’t mean, however, that I can suspend my humanity and read them with a heart of steel. If I get bad reviews, it’s going to hurt. But as I said above, as authors, we have to be ready to receive (hopefully) constructive criticism so we can learn and grow and do better with the next book.
If I could have my way, of course, I’d wish for only five-star reviews and positive comments. But that’s just not realistic. There will be four-star, three-star, or maybe worse, reviews. There will be some readers/reviewers who just don’t like my book, no matter how much everyone else may like it. Sometimes it’s because it’s not in their favorite genre (which I feel is a totally unfair reason to give a bad review), or sometimes it’s because they just didn’t connect with the book, for whatever reason.
Without having yet been subjected to the rawness of reading reviews on any of my books, all I can say now is that as authors, here’s what we need to do. If we get a good review (and not just a paid-for, fluff review), we should revel in the glory and be sure that we continue to do what is working for us as authors. However, if we do get bad reviews, as long as they are at least somewhat constructive and have at least a few valid points, we should keep in mind that opinions are like elbows…everyone has at least one. And everyone’s tastes are different. But if you receive a specific criticism on your narrative, character voice, descriptive language, etc., try to learn from what isn’t working and implement it in the next book.
To sum it up, book reviews can be a wonderful resource for both authors and readers, if only we can all keep to the Golden Rule: treat others the way you want to be treated. And like our mamas told us when we were little, if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.