Most writers I know are obsessed with reviews; getting reviewers, reading reviews, sobbing in our coffee (and sometimes something stronger….) over reviews. Reviews should serve many purposes. They tell a writer what people like about his or her work, what he or she might improve on, and what others might think of the book. Promo sites use reviews as a basis to whether or not they will feature certain books. Readers make their reading choices based on reviews. As helpful as reviews SHOULD be to readers and writers alike, I have found they tend to be utter crap and here’s why.
There are very few people who read and review to begin with. Most people, whether they like a book or hate it, tend to forget about it the moment they close the last page after reading THE END. Very few people feel compelled to read about what others thought of the book or share their own thoughts. The ones who do tend to fall in one of four categories.
Honest Reviewers: These are a rare gem. The honest reviewers weigh the pros and cons of a particular work. They give insight into why they have given a book a certain amount of stars and why they liked or disliked the book. The honest reviewer takes everything into account…plot,character development, editing, cover, ending, etc. These reviewers are helpful to everyone involved. Yes, writing is completely subjective, but these people are avid readers who seem to have their finger on the pulse of the novel reading world and want to do their part.
Smoke Blowers: These are your mothers, friends,and fan girls (or boys…) of the writer. The writer can do no wrong. They give out five stars like Smarties in a piñata. This helps no one. Most other reviewers and readers can smell a Smoke Blower a mile away and take their recommendations with a grain of salt. Everything can’t be five stars, people, otherwise five stars actually becomes an average three stars. In a way, the Smoke Blowers hurt writers because when you get a dozen five stars, you don’t try to improve. Amazon is trying to ferret out the Smoke Blowers and remove their reviews if they think they might “know” the writer. That is utterly ridiculous. How do the sleuths at Amazon determine this? From who you connect with on Facebook and Twitter? Most writers connect with hundreds of readers they’ve never met this way. And as much as I think Smoke Blowers should tone it down, their five stars are a necessary evil to balance out the next group.
The Trolls: Trolls are the worst. They seriously are worse than barnacles under a boat. Trolls either troll the “free Ebook” section and write half-assed reviews on books they didn’t read or only read half of, or they are pains in the necks who are absolutely NEVER happy with any book. I actually found a person on Amazon who rated over 350 books and 95% of those books she gave one star. And wrote practically the same thing about how she hated slutty female characters…stop reading erotica then!!! Some trolls have an alleagence to a particular writer and purposely trash other books. Some trolls just have nothing better to do than try to ruin someone’s career. They should get a cat instead and step away from the internet. These are the people Amazon should be cracking down on. Trolls can hurt in more ways than they realize. One star reviews can seriously damage someone’s rep as a writer. Writing a book is hard (and self publishing is harder). Unless someone filled an entire book with the letter G, don’t be a…troll.
Confused Reviewers: These are the folks I’d like to help. Maybe a class or a rubric to rate books. They frustrate me to no end when I’m trying to pick out a book. I’ve read reviews like this: “I loved this book, plot was great,characters were fun, but I didn’t like the cover…two stars.” Um, what??? Haven’t you ever heard, “Don’t judge a book by its cover?” Or, “I couldn’t finish this book. It was too boring…five stars.” Helloooooo???? Backward rating? And “Heart wrenching tale that left me in tears. Seriously one of the best books I’ve read this year…three stars.” Huh??? Do you understand how ratings work???
I think people need a checklist and Amazon can tally a rating based on answers to questions…that would take the pressure off some people who honestly would like to write a review but don’t want to hurt the writer or don’t know how they should rate a book.
Writers put way too much stock in reviews. We need to stop stalking our Amazon and Goodreads pages. While it is buoys your spirit to read that someone liked (and even loved) your hard work, it can be soul crushing to read harsh criticism that serves no purpose other than to make you feel like crap. Sometimes you want to shout back at the reviewer…how can you say that? But you can’t. You need to put on your big girl (or boy) panties and deal with it. Writing is subjective and we writers need to let it go. (I’m just full of cliches this morning…I need to get out more). Writers, put down that review and go write some more.