Normally, my posts tend to be focus on an aspect of what I’m writing about. Whether it is technology that my characters use, how I organize my work, or even just asking people their opinions on these topics. However, for this post I thought I would try something a little different. I have been thinking about a topic that has been discussed on many social media sites. I have avoided giving my opinion for a few reasons that really are not that important. But after a conversation with someone I know I started thinking.
Earlier this week I was speaking to someone who I know casually; one of those friends of friends situations. I know her a little, but not really to the point where we spend much time talking one on one. She had heard that I had published a book, and started asking me questions.
Her questions were neither rude nor prying, but some of her questions did make me think. One of the questions that she asked was about why I did not tell more people I write. I am an introvert by nature. One of the things that I more than just about anything is having to talk about myself. So, often I can meet and get to know someone over several months, and I won’t bring that topic up. As you can imagine that makes me particularly bad at marketing myself.
She told me she checked out my page on Amazon out of curiosity. The other question that she asked that really made me think was about customer reviews. She asked me if it bothered me that I did not have many reviews, and then how I felt about bad reviews.
Reviews in the indie writing scene is a touchy subject. Between is a touchy subject. Between Amazon removing reviews if it appears you might possibly know the author and a few cases I’ve seen online where authors get confrontational with those who have left 1 star reviews, I have been a bit leery of sharing my opinion.
First, I’ll just get this out of the way: I am horrible at remembering to leave reviews. I am making an effort to go back and leave reviews I have read in the past. I always mean well – I always intend to leave a review once I have finished reading a book. But something happens and I usually forget. I do feel that reviews are important, but not necessarily in the way that most people might assume.
As a reader, 3 views mean very little. Too often I have read 1 & 2 star reviews panning a book I am thinking about reading. Once I get the book home and read it, I end up loving it; on the other side, I have purchased books with 5 star reviews and have not enjoyed a single page. Only rarely do I trust the reviews of another, and those reviews are usually done by people with whom I have a similar taste in genres.
Reviews are best when used as a tool for writers to hone their craft. A writer can learn more from a bad review than they can from a review that showers them with praise. When a review tells you that’s your three page description of your main character’s dress is excessive, or that your writing style appears to be flip to random pages in your thesaurus and choose whatever words you land on, it might be beneficial to pay attention.
My reviewing style, when I can remember to leave a review, it’s actually quite simple. My explanation is based on Amazon’s 5 star rating system:
***** A 5-star rating is pretty simple. I enjoyed the book immensely, I was able to lose myself in the story, and I found no noticeable plot holes or grammatical errors.
**** A 4-star rating means that I enjoyed the story. There may have been one or two places where the plot did not grip me, but it did not hamper my enjoyment of the story. Again, with few or no plot holes or grammatical errors.
*** A 3-star rating means that I did enjoy the story; however, there may have been a few places where the story lost me. This would either be due to plot holes, magical rescues where there should not be one, or characters acting out of character. To earn a 3-star review there should still be few grammatical errors.
** A 2-star rating means that for several reasons my enjoyment of the story was hampered. I would have been taken out of the story by poorly written characters, a plot that is poorly written, and excessive plot holes and grammatical errors.
* I am Not sure if I would ever actually leave a 1-star review in today’s rather volatile marketplace. After having seen a couple of writers confront those that have left bad reviews, I just don’t feel comfortable anymore. But in theory, to receive a one star review, it would have to be a first draft that had been published. No editing, no proofreading. It would have to appear that the author had simply hit publish as soon as they finished writing the last word.
I do feel that how I rate the books that I read is fair. As a writer I want to encourage others to continue to follow their passion. You don’t have to be the next Hemingway or Shakespeare to impress me. It does not even have to be a genre that I normally enjoy. If it is a romance novel that is well written and can catch my attention and keep it throughout – then you will get a 4 or 5-star review.
For all readers: When you leave a review, do you have a system for how you rate it?