Some thoughts about reviews which cross my mind. Well. Two, really.
Firstly, is that I’m quite pleased by the requests I’m receiving to review books. I’d like to thank those of you that have been in touch, and I am working away at these. I’ve received an interesting mix, covering sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. Shorter pieces, longer pieces, and a magazine – which will have a different theme in the review and interview.
Thank you all.
I am working through your work, and scribbling merrily away. Please bear in mind that sometimes life can get in the way, books are of different length, and sometimes I just like to doze on the train instead of read.
On a different tack, I wanted to mention authors responding to reviews. Having had a look through various other forums, blogs, etc, there seems to be a number of different reactions to negative reviews. I mention this because, at some point, I am going to have something negative to say about a book I review. I will try to support it, and balance it with positive feedback. But… well, you’ve seen some of the things I have to say. And I reserve the right to do this for several reasons:
1. I’m reviewing the book, therefore I need to be honest
2. It’s my blog, and I will put what I want up there
3. I’m the reader.
If, as a reader, I don’t enjoy something – I need to say that, and explain why. One of the main things a reviewer should be is a surrogate for other potential customers. Something along the lines of “Well, I read that book, just like TrueJDK, and I felt exactly the same way. So, if he’s saying this is a good book, I should be listening to him.”
It’s the same with all reviewers. If I know a reviewer has the same tastes as me, I’m going to pay attention to his/her recommendations. It’s not going to definitively sway me, but it is going to influence me.
Unless, of course, the review simply reads “This is shit”. In which case, I’ll write the reviewer off altogether.
The other side is how authors react to their reviews. (And yes, I have committed the sin of responding to some feedback in these pages. I know this. Thank you.)
From the various websites which abound, I have seen some quite appalling tales of author behaviour. My “favourites” recently have included:
- The author who received a 1-star review on Amazon, and promptly launched a reply review, including an incitement for all other reviewers loyal to her to post 5 star reviews.
- The author who threw a MASSIVE hissy fit on a forum board when his work was moved from a traditional publishing board to a smaller/self-publishing board. His rant became legendary.
- The author who used multiple new Amazon accounts to abuse the people who gave his books 1-star reviews (and obviously bump up his 5-star reviews), and then hassle them through the forum boards.
- The author who, still in Beta stages, launched a foul-mouthed tirade against those who had not read and provided comprehensive feedback (within two weeks) of his lengthy piece of work.
Add to these pieces of work (who I refuse to name and give any publicity to) those who do the usual mass spamming of forums, Twitter, etc.
Self-publishing has become largely about selling oneself as much as a book. Personality and character count for a hell of a lot. If I find that an author is being, for want of a better phrase, a complete dick, then I’m less likely to buy anything from them regardless of quality. I’m sure that at some point, I’ll attract the vindictive reviews, comments, etc, which come with the territory. By being ready for them, I believe they will have no effect on me.
I can’t please everybody. Either in my book/s, or on here. The world is filled with people of different tastes. Some people will get my book and enjoy it, some people won’t. That’s fine.
I believe every author should gracefully and professionally accept criticism and feedback, no matter how it’s phrased. Outright abuse should never be accepted, but should simply be ignored (no matter how satisfying it is to call an abusive little troll a tosser). Get to the bottom of the feedback, and work out exactly what the problem is, and take it on board.
Sometimes, that feedback may help you to be a better writer, or give you ideas for the future. In an earlier review, I looked at The Crystal Needle. Whilst I was disappointed by the book in its current state, I felt that it had the potential to be something wonderful, and voiced my opinion on how. The author, Daniel Peyton, may read my feedback and think “What a great idea!”. He may ignore it altogether. That’s absolutely his right as an author.
I would be more disappointed in him if he launched a vitriolic attack on me for not getting his book, or for writing something unpleasant. (He hasn’t done this, by the way.)
There are a number of frustrations which authors can boil over with. Writing a book is a time-consuming, dedicated process, and authors are fairly protective of their work. Editting is probably the most painful part of the process. And, at the end of it, there is something there – something personal, which they have laboured to create. Naturally, this can be quite a sensitive time for authors.
One author took to the forums to lament how he felt worthless and suicidal because nobody had bought the book he had laboured to write within the first week. This plaintive cry was, incidentally, his only form of advertising. Thankfully the (occasionally vicious, usually supportive) writers community was caring, supportive, and helpful in dealing with him. But I’m sure he’s not alone. My point – authors can be emotional, very emotional with their work. Sometimes those emotions can boil over in unhelpful ways.
Authors, you need to recognise and manage this.
On the flip side, I would like to mention the perfect example of an author accepting negative feedback – Scott J Robinson. Scott had written The Brightest Light, and I had reviewed it a little while ago. It was an unsolicited review, and I had never met or dealt with Scott before. In the review, I voiced my frustrations about how he had no reviews at all on Amazon or anywhere else, and how his work was first rate (I stand by this assessment).
And then, I followed up with a different kind of frustration – about the author’s note Scott had included at the end. I felt it was inappropriate, and was offended by it. I was a little vicious in how I reacted to this.
Scott found his way to my review through a Google search, I believe. He read what I had to say, and then he responded as a comment (which is still there, as is the original review). His comment was very thoughtful, considered, well-written, polite and professional. He addressed the concerns I’d voiced, explained, acknowledged that it was his role as an author to get his message across clearly to the reader, and went and changed the author’s note.
I was, and still am, impressed with how Scott handled himself and will hold his behaviour up as a perfect example of how an author should conduct himself.
I am even more pleased to be able to confirm that Scott will be gracing these pages as an interviewee this Wednesday.
In summing up, I wanted to use Scott as an example. A dedicated and skilled writer, who conducts himself affably and professionally in the face of harsh feedback. I felt strongly enough to champion his work before I spoke to him. Following my dealings with him, I would hold him up as a perfect example of an author who genuinely deserves to be doing better.