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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Reviews: The good, the bad, and the ones that make you crawl into a corner and hide!

Please welcome guest blogger Stacey Kennedy

Today I’ve decided to finally step away from my hiding spot and talk about reviews. I will totally admit that the subject unnerves me. I know we’ve all seen those battles online that happen when a reviewer and an author get into an argument, and then it explodes all over the web.

It’s pretty obvious when you receive a negative review the best thing to do is simply ignore it. But I can sympathize with the author. Sometimes reviews feel so personal, so it’s hard not to be offended.

On the other side, I can understand the reviewers’ position, too. I don’t like every book either, so it’s all personal preference. Anyone is allowed to voice their opinion. And sometimes when I read a review I can tell it’s just a giant venting session where someone was so bothered by a book they just have to get out how they felt.

And that’s exactly why I do NOT read negative reviews. It was a hard lesson, but I eventually learned it. Do I still look at reviews? Of course! It’s wonderful to read about someone who loved your story. But I always look at the stars first. I never read a three star review or lower. Ever!

Now I know three star reviews aren’t necessarily bad, but for it not to be a four star it means there is something going to be in that written review that is negative. Not always, of course. Sometimes three star reviews are fantastic, but I’d rather not chance it.

When I was first published I read every single review. I found it very hard to distance myself and not let it affect me. So, yeah, I just avoid reading anything under three stars to keep myself confident and moving along in my writing.

Now up until a few weeks ago, I felt like I understood what was best for me when dealing with reviews. But recently I read something that totally threw me for a loop. It came to my attention that some reviewers don’t like to be thanked for a review. And to say I was shocked is really putting it lightly.

Maybe I had it drilled into my head as a child, but I was always told to have good manners. And it shocks me silly that somehow saying thank you is a bad thing. For me, I can’t imagine not telling someone I appreciate that they took the time to read my book, good or bad review. It just goes against everything I believe in. But what’s an author to do? By thanking them, am I actually doing something wrong?

Leaving names out, some weeks ago, I read a post of a reviewer who touched on this and said that she thought it was rude that authors didn’t thank her. And it just confirmed how confused everyone is over the issue. It honestly seems like no-one can do anything right. Where authors are afraid to say thank you for backlash, some reviewers can’t understand why they’re not being appreciated, while others are perfectly happy to be left alone.

When did reviews get so complicated?

I can honestly admit that the whole reviewing process confuses me. I’m worried to visit a blog in fear I’m going to step on someone’s toes. I’m now apprehensive to thank someone because I have no clue if they’ll frown upon it. But by not thanking them, are they going to think I’m rude for not acknowledging they took the time to read my book? Confusing, right?!

I recently saw another author say that she emails the reviewer directly or responds on Twitter, and since then I have used this method to thank reviewers. But I’d love to hear your opinions on reviews and how you deal with them.

Stacey Kennedy’s novels are lighthearted fantasy with heart-squeezing, thigh-clenching romance, and they even give you a good chuckle every now and again. But within the stories you’ll also find fast-paced action, life-threatening moments and a big bad villain who needs to be destroyed. Her urban fantasy/paranormal and erotic romance series have hit Amazon Kindle and All Romance eBooks bestseller lists.

Frostbite Book Two

Tess Jennings, now a member of the Memphis Police Department, is on her first cold case. The suspected suicide of Lizbeth Knapp ten years ago isn’t a theory her family accepts—they believe she was murdered.

But the case is only one of Tess’s worries. Ghosts are talking, and word of her abilities rapidly spreads. A dark ghost is terrifying the spirits of Memphis, and she must force the entity to cross over.

Tess doesn’t have to do this alone. Not only does she have her ghost-lover, Kipp McGowen, but the department has brought in a medium. Dane Wolfe might answer all her questions, but he also brings a world of trouble. Will Tess finally have all she’s ever wanted, or will everything she’s vowed to protect be ripped away?


Ashlyn Chase said...

I'm so happy you addressed this topic, Stacy. A lot of us are feeling the same way you are.

It used to be a little worrisome to see that my book had been reviewed. I'd hold my breath and open the email. Usually I'd let out that breath in a sigh of relief as soon as I saw the 4 or 4.5 or 5 stars. The words were encouraging and affirming. I knew why I was writing. (It certainly wasn't for the money.) But if someone enjoyed the time they spent reading my book, it was worth having written it.

Now that anyone with fingers can be a "reviewer," reviews are much less kind. I don't read them anymore either. What upsets a lot of us is when there's not a bad word said in the 3 star review...so why only 3? Why didn't it deserve a 4?

People have recently argued with me that 3 is a good rating. I've been around long enough to feel insulted by a 3. Remember the old days when the ratings made sense? 5 was an A, 4 was a B, 3 a C, and so on.

Now...this is what I think happened. Someone whose job is outside the publishing industry decided that because their boss said, "I never give 5's. That means you're perfect and you have nothing to shoot for. I only give 3's unless you do an outstanding job, and then I'll give a 4." That's the person who screwed up the rating system. Now, they think 5 is an A+. 4 is an A. 3 is a B...and then what? Ahem. It doesn't work.

Chances are the relatively new reviewer doesn't even realize 3 is a "meh." But to authors (especially those who've been writing for 8 to 10 years) it is just that, and it stings. OUCH!

Unless you go out into the world to meet your fans, without even the tiny bit of encouragement we get from a 4 star review, there's nothing to keep us going.

I've thought about quitting. One of my fans has vowed to kick my ass if I do, and since she has MS I don't want to make her do that. So I guess I'm stuck in this sadistic game.

If you're an author...run! Get a job in retail, real estate, or something easy!

If you're a reviewer, think about the weight your word carries. Be kind. Be careful. Authors have long memories for an ouch. We'll forget the dozens of good reviews, but that bad one will never leave us.

Rosalie Lario said...

I'm with you on this one. I don't read any reviews that are less than 4 stars, because honestly it bothers me too much. As for thanking reviewers, I generally send them a private email or Twitter thanks, unless they have indicated that they like to be thanked on the blog. In that case, I'll leave a quick comment. I haven't received any indicator as of yet that someone didn't approve of my method of thanking. I would hope that a thanks is a thanks. :-)

Talina Perkins said...

I really have to step in here and join in on the conversation. I am first a writer then a reviewer and I have to agree with the majority of everything being said here today.

Stacey, you know me. I keep my reviews professional and to the point about the books I review. I do not believe in being negative and always end my reviews with something I loved about the book and the author. I'm not a reviewer to bash my fellow authors. I became a reviewer to learn the craft. Furthermore, it's rude and downright belittling to let my personal feelings about a story cloud the facts. It's sad to say that most reviewers do not agree with me on this point. It's also sad that I am thrown into the "their group" when authors find out I'm a reviewer. Hazards of association, I guess. As for thanking me for a review, I love hearing how helpful or uplifting my review might be for an author. though I write reviews for readers, I take pride in knowing an author can read my review and walk away with a smile or at least knowing their work is appreciated and loved.

Ashlyn, you better not stop writing! You're such a talented author and I would hate to find out that you allowed some reviewer with poor communication skills to stop you from fulfilling your dream.

Since I review for Night Owl Reviews I have to stick the the rating scale offered by them. However I much prefer the first scale you mentioned, Ashlyn. It seems more fair and...right.

In closing, Stacey, you hit it on the head. Reviews are subject to ones' opinion in most cases. To add salt to the wound many have poor grammar skills yet they bash the author for any mistakes they make. There are just to many out there with no understanding of what reviewing is about and that is why publishers are cracking down on who is allowed to review their books. It took me a long time to prove myself with HQN before they'd allow me to request books for review. On the flip side, I think we all know that anyone that can buy a book can write a review.

The blogsphere has become too saturated with book reviewers and readers and authors alike are turning away.

I've had this conversation with many authors and the one thing that is agreed upon is the need to have a select few reviewers you, as an author, trust to provide a professional review and the rest you do not send out to. It's a small way to take back control of the matter.


Mary Ricksen said...

I'm probably the only one who thinks this way, but...
In my opinion I think a reviewer can give a story a one! Yup! I said it. But if you feel it deserves that, I expect this from the reviewer. Give me constructive criticism. Don't tell me you wouldn't read a book I wrote ever again. Don't say It stunk. It was horrible. Tell me I was too passive. Tell me what was wrong with it. A reviewer who just writes mean comments, missed their coffee this morning? I don't care if you hated it! Just kindly as if you were talking to someone you cared about why it was so bad.
I hate a poor review as much as the next guy. But I will accept what you have to say gracefully if you are not attacking my story. Critique it, if you're gonna say mean things, how can I trust that you are not just plain mean. I got a bad review one time where I got the best feedback ever, and the ones that just say I stink, those I ignore.
I learn something new every day.

Stacey said...

Ashlyn - "Unless you go out into the world to meet your fans, without even the tiny bit of encouragement we get from a 4 star review, there's nothing to keep us going." I loved this! It's exactly how I felt when I read bad reviews, which was why I stopped. I couldn't let go of what was said, and that just made me question everything and doubt myself. Not good. Sticking to positive reviews gives me that awesome encouragement to keep going!

Rosalie - I'm relieved to know that I'm not the only one who can't read bad reviews without wanting to rock in a corner. LOL! And I'm totally on board with not thanking on blogs, but through email and Twitter. I suppose it just surprised me since I had no idea how wrong it was to do that. Honestly, I was blindsided when I heard this. And I, too, thought a thank you was simply a thank you.

Talina - Thanks for your input as a reviewer. Your reviews are always professional and I highly respect you for it!

Mary - Actually, I agree with you 100%. I think a reviewer is totally entitled to give a one star review. That said, I can't read it. In fact, I read no low star reviews even for other authors. The negativity puts me in a mood! I think it'd be a wonderful thing if more reviewers followed your line of thinking. Then maybe we could learn off reviews and accept the criticism, instead of just feeling insulted and run over.

I suppose in the end it is too bad that there are probably some fantastic three star reviews I'll never read. Or even some one stars that could teach me something. But those "personal" reviews that are so harsh and even a bit soul crushing are why I can't go near anything under a four star. My skin is just way too thin to handle it.

Tricia Skinner said...

I enjoyed reading your post and the comments. I'm a new writer who is currently working on my first manuscript. I've read a lot of book reviews to gain an idea of which novels in my genre interest I should pick up. This is a good way for me to learn from professional authors.

The trend I dislike most is a review on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. The reviewing runs the gamut and I've honestly shuddered at some for the open hostility toward the author, not the book.

I believe a review should be as unbiased as possible, even if it's adoring the book. Tell me what worked well, what made your ties curl, what made your heart race. If a reviewer disliked something, apply the same format: tell me exactly why.

One day, I may have my work reviewed. If that happens, I hope the person who does it is decent enough to be professional.