Recently, I’ve been seeing a lot of posts on author friend websites that start like this: “Just got a 2 star rating on my latest book. The reader really hated it. I’m out on a ledge! Send help!”
Well, maybe not that dramatic, but you get my meaning. The writer is upset because someone read and didn’t like their book and told “the world” through Amazon, or Goodreads, or whatever other venue they spew on. As a writer, I know how much this hurts. I wonder, do the readers know what this does to us?
Do they realize that reviews are the equivalent of performance job reviews for us? And that just because a book didn’t resonate with them for whatever reason, it doesn’t mean it won’t with some other ( or thousands of!!!) reader(s)?
Do readers understand that places that sell our books like Amazon and Barnes and Noble, publish any and all reviews, not just the good ones? And that marketing plans, promotional updates, even placement decisions can and are made based on those reviews.
I had a person ( I use the term loosely) give me a 1 rating on a book that had nothing but 5 stars, stating I wrote the wrong story. I should have written the story of the subplot people as my main story. I wanted to respond to her review by stating, “No, bitch. I wrote the story I wanted to. If you thought it should be written differently, then you write that story, but don’t be bad mouthing me because you didn’t agree with what I wrote. How would you feel if I went to where you work and told everyone what a lousy worker you are? ” Now, of course, I didn’t do that. But I wanted to. I really did.
The whole review and rating system is cockeyed to me anyway. Most people who review it don’t even really understand the system. Think of it like you’re back in school. An A was 90-100, B 80-90, C 70-80, d 65-70 and anything below that an F. I’ve had reviewers write they loved the book but then gave it a 3. So, you loved it but it was only worth 70 points? And what does that 70 equate to, anyway? You can’t purchase 70 % of a book. Or 70 pages. Or pay 70% of the listed price.
See? The system is screwy.
I review new books for Netgalley. If I can’t rate a book as a 4 or 5, I don’t review it. It’s not because I’m basically a nice person ( because I’m not! Not even close.) It’s more that I know there was something about the book that didn’t resonate with me as a reader, but will, I’m sure, with someone else. I don’t think it’s my job, or place, to write a scathing review ( or a nasty one, or a snarky one). My books aren’t perfect and they don’t sit well with every reader, either. I put myself in the writer’s place when I’m reviewing and I know what a bad review does to my soul. I won’t intentionally hurt anyone’s feelings that way. The flip side is I’ve simply adored many books that other people rated 1,2, or 3’s and then wrote bad reviews of.
I recently replied to an author who was lamenting the poor rating she got on a book from a reviewer and was second-guessing her own writing ability. I wrote, “Opinions are like a**Holes: everybody has one, and reviews are basically opinions.” I meant it. One bad review does not end a career. It hurts the soul, deflates the ego, and causes tears, but ultimately, it’s just another opinion.
The kicker? as writers, we need reviews for marketing, promoting, and to get the word out about our books. Even some of the biggest bestsellers in history had some horrible reviews, though. And they still sold.
So. Reviews. A necessary evil for writers. My advice for bad ones? Develop a thick skin and laugh it off, because, ultimately, you published a book and the chances the reviewer did are practically nil, so you’re already ahead of the pack!