The Bigger Picture

I might get into trouble again for postponing a punctuation tutorial again, so think of me when I’m eating my gruel with chopsticks or through a straw. The EM can get very cross, you know…

When I posted a review on Amazon not long ago, I wondered how many readers think about the ‘bigger picture’. There’s always a bigger picture.

Take the Olympics. I found myself getting a little exasperated during the Games by some people’s I’d rather watch paint dry than watch the Olympics attitude. Indeed, sport may not be everybody’s cuppa—there’s only a handful of sports I really enjoy watching on a regular basis, if I’m honest, but I’m always fascinated by just about every sport in the Olympics. There’s more behind these athletes than their one-minute performance: years of dedication that start from a tender age, commitment, pain, injury, then sometimes long recovery. Then there’s the support and sacrifices from their families: parents who get up at silly o’clock to drive their budding champions to the training centre two hours away, and who give their time, encouragement, not to mention financial sacrifices. All this for a moment to run/sail/cycle/swim/ride for one’s country. Isn’t that just awesome? These athletes become role models and teach youngsters how to compete, how to work in a team, perseverance, and it keeps them…well, off the streets potentially. It encourages others to get off the couch and away from twiddling buttons on their electronic gizmos. There’s a story behind each competitor that’s as fascinating as watching him/her achieve.  And as for the paralympians…well, don’t get me started.  I cry when each and every one of them cross the finish line.  Humbling and inspirational.

Now, I believe there’s a ‘bigger picture’ behind a book.

Posting my review of what I thought was an excellent book, I discovered nearly 60 reviews, most of them good. I don’t often read reviews after I’ve read a book, but I was intrigued (and surprised) by the one- and two-star reviews. I thought it was a very good book, how could it possibly get only one or two stars? I found myself wondering whether these readers had put their reviews on the wrong page. Of course, we all have different tastes, and one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but when I looked at these reviews more closely I thought they were a tad harsh and didn’t encompass that ‘outside the box’ thinking.

Every book that lands in my lap for review is to me an extraordinary achievement by another human being and one I could never accomplish. No, really. Please don’t give me that guff about there being a book in everyone; I assure you, in this old bag, there really, really isn’t. And I know it doesn’t come easily even to the most prolific writer; writing is a solitary profession and there are good and bad days. I know that there are supportive families behind the writer—ones who endure good moods, bad moods, erratic moods; there are children who have to be quiet because Mummy or Daddy is writing; garden football, teenagers’ lifts to parties that have had to have been redelegated or rescheduled because Mummy or Daddy is just at that crucial point in the story. Oh yes, that Olympic blood, sweat, and tears plague the author as well.

I find myself thinking about all this when I’m poised to write my review. The review I referred to earlier concerned a detective thriller. Amongst others, there were comments about certain issues that would never have happened in real life. Well, no, quite possibly that was true, but this is fiction. Isn’t that part of why we read? To escape from an ordinary real life? Isn’t that true of all entertainment, films, and drama shows? How many times have you said to yourself, yeah, like that really happens. But it’s drama, so we cut a little slack. Because it’s all good fun. Poetic licence is allowed.

Before smacking that one star on a book you didn’t like, it’s worth taking a moment to step back and reflect how that book got to be on your Kindle/ereader. It didn’t just happen. It may have taken years of hard work and dedication, first by the author and then a team of people doing their best to get a gold medal, both parties keen to continue to improve in their respective crafts.  A little encouragement is one of the things that helps this process along.

Author: Cathy Speight

Reviewer Cathy Speight is British and lives in England. The Kindle revived her passion for reading and after stumbling on a Facebook group of independent authors, she now does her best to encourage and assist indies as much as possible. Books by indie author form the majority of her collection. Cathy shares her views on the books she has read on her blog.

15 thoughts on “The Bigger Picture”

  1. Hi Cathy, great post! I am an indie author and just waiting to receive a review is a nail biting experience. I don’t expect 5 star reviews, I’d question them at this point in my career, however I have been fortunate for a couple 4’s and one 3. I’m still holding my breath for the rest. I agree with you about one man’s trash. I read other authors’ reviews from a variety of blogs. Most reviewers do pay attention to the entire picture. There are others that make me wonder if they even read the book. They make it apparent it isn’t their favorite genre and trash the book on that account. If reviewers will give us honest critique, we will all benefit. Meanwhile I will continue to hone my craft. Writing is a passion, a time consuming, frustrating, and wonderful experience. We are sharing part of our souls.

  2. While I don’t believe that anyone should give me a higher review solely based on the blood, sweat, and tears(or at least cramped fingers, anxiety,and social sacrifices) that go into my writing, I definitely agree with what you’re saying. There are times when reviewers throw out a 1 or 2 star based on the book “not being for them”, or just take their dislike and cast out a relentless, melodramatic bashing of the book.. I think in those cases they need to take a step back and look at who the book may be for and if it would be good for them, or if it truly is just poorly written. They should talk about what they didn’t like, of course, but also what parts actually do work. After the countless hours an author puts into their work, I think their works deserve that at least.

  3. That is one of the reasons that I will not post a review at all unless I can honestly give it at least a three. I know there are those that disagree with that slant, but, hey, that’s me.

  4. This is a great article, Cathy. A few people may forget that they are not just reviewing a “thing.” There is indeed a fellow human being behind the work. I cringe whenever I see “I’m glad it was free!” in a review. That strikes me as just plain rude. And I agree with Yvonne, I won’t post lower than a 3-star.

  5. A lovely post, Cathy, you are truly one of natures ‘ladies of literature’. Having been on the receiving end of one of those one star reviews, and it was one that has since received a four and a half average, I know exactly what you’re saying.

  6. Oops, that last comment was supposed to be in reply to Cathy’s point that there is something good in every book, you just have to look at it from different angles.

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