Reviews, Reviewers and Reviewing

I would be the first to admit that we need reviewers and reviews. We need them to help broaden our profile, to draw attention to ourselves and our writing, to create interest in our work and, let’s face it, to ultimately help us sell our wares.

It goes without saying that I would certainly not advise rubbing any prospective reviewer up the wrong way, and let’s face it, these days, that doesn’t leave many people we can safely rub up the wrong way, does it?

From the, supposedly, top ranking book reviewers — in the US that would perhaps include the New York Times’ Janet Maslin and Dwight Garner, to name just two; and on the other side of the pond, possibly The Guardian’s Olivia Laing and Michael Hogan come to mind — to the blogger reviewers, who are gaining in popularity and credibility (thank goodness), and some of them, like our own Cathy Speight and Big Al, and the likes of Linda Parkinson-Hardman, are becoming an integral part of the Indie Revolution. Goodreads is another foundation that is important and becoming integral to the Indie cause. Then of course there are the indispensable ‘reader reviews’.

It’s been said before and this is hardly likely to be the last time: ‘if something is said on the internet it is there forever’. So, whether it is a lengthy, critical review delivered by an experienced, respected reviewer, or a fervent, wordy review delivered by a talented, passionate blogger reviewer, or a short, reader review posted on Amazon or one of the other distributors’ websites, it’s forever.

We understand that reviews, no matter what their source, are subjective and therefore only opinion; however, we also know that opinion has sway. So, if something is said, especially if we think (sometimes we know for sure) it’s not true, can we involve ourselves in pursuing redress? I think not. To get involved in such pettiness gives the object of the dispute more credibility and, what’s more, lowers the standing of everyone involved.

Just recently, I received a reader review, beginning quite positively but finishing with, ‘However, I’ll have to deduct one star because of some spelling mistakes and typos.’

“I’m sorry, Miss, I promise to pay attention in class in future!”

The comment surprised and… yes, of course… annoyed me. Prompted by the remark, however, a recheck of the book followed; whereupon, finding no spelling mistakes, I did discover one typo and (everywhere except Kindle) a number of those ‘conversion to EPUB’ glitches: changing the em dashes into a box with a diagonal cross in it. So, a positive result. Although I’m still a little confused about the reason for the comment; unless she regarded the indigenous, Tasmanian names as spelling mistakes?

The subject of reviews, reviewing and reviewers is something that comes up time and again, in many forums of course but what I’m mainly concerned here with is, in the IU articles. The reason for this is quite obviously because reviews are important; especially at this stage in our individual, evolution as authors. Negative reviews not only hurt our delicate sensibilities, but also our wallets; combined, this can also affect our capacity to move forward.

At this stage of our careers as writers, however, we have little option but to seek public approval, which means chasing, and being grateful for any reviews we can acquire; therefore, hanging our fragile egos out for all in sundry to have their way with.

I’m thinking that perhaps those most coveted reviews may not be so important once we acquire the readership base of say:

• J K Rowling

• Dan Brown

• Terry Pratchett

• John Grisham

• Danielle Steel

• Enid Blyton

• Bill Bryson

• Jamie Oliver

• Bernard Cornwell

• Stephen King

This list of names, by the way, are ten of some of the highest grossing authors of the last ten years; and while there are certain authors among them that are quite brilliant, with a couple actually featuring on my list of favourite authors, one or two of them are… well… less than brilliant, shall we say.

From memory, I think several from the above list have featured in Ed’s ‘one star’ rating list. So take heart, fellow Indies; welcome the good reviews, from wherever they may come, and look for the positive aspects in the not so good reviews (sometimes difficult, I know from personal experience), or ignore them altogether.

I actually do some reviews for Goodreads, which I also put on my blog; however not many, I just don’t have the time. When I do write a review, I never try to explain fully what a book is about (the blurb and the publicists can do that), I just describe it in general terms (I never do spoilers) and try to put into words what kind of feeling it generated in me, the overall affect it had on me.

I don’t review every book I read; going by some self imposed general rules (first: do no harm) I give credit where credit is due, any criticism has to be constructive, and if I can’t say something good about a book I won’t say anything at all. I’d rather not write the review.

Author: T.D. McKinnon

Scottish author T.D.McKinnon ‘Survived the Battleground of Childhood’ in the coal mining communities of Scotland and England before joining the British Parachute Regiment at fifteen where he remained for five years. He has trained in the martial arts for most of his life and had five Karate schools in Scotland before immigrating to Australia. He writes across several genres and has completed five books that are all available as eBooks. He lives in Tasmania, Australia with his wife. Learn more about T.D.McKinnon at his website and Amazon author page.

12 thoughts on “Reviews, Reviewers and Reviewing”

  1. Yeah, it’s not always easy to take the good from the not-so-good reviews, but doing so can help improve our craft. That said, in your example, when the criticism wasn’t really valid, then you just have to roll with the punches instead. Great post!

  2. I agree, T. D. But the saying that once it’s on the internet it’s there forever seems no longer to be the case, given the deletions of so many legitimate reviews by Amazon. The worm is causing no small level of anxiety.

  3. I had my only reviews on one of my books on Kindle. It was not good but I looked at their comments to see if I could make it better dropping out or rewriting some of the negatives they were hung up on. That is a nice thing about ebooks, you can rewrite them and maybe remove some of the negatives in it. I didn’t let the negative review get to me because some of it was my style of writing that story but I keep on writing! Let them say what they wish! Have a good day!

  4. Reviews are merely opnions, as you say, and everyone has the right to one. I certainly would not like to be panned, and neither would I say anything destructive about another’s writing. I do read all of the reviews for my book, because I can learn from them. But it is a scary thing, to put one’s “baby” out there for all the world to see. Your post helps me remember that there is a lot of positive support out there in the writing world–thank you!

  5. You may not believe this but it is true, this morning I wrote a list of books I have read and haven’t got round to writing a review for. I plan to write at least one review per day until I have finished the list. I’m not very good at writing them but I would like the authors to know how much I enjoyed them. Actually a couple of my reviews have “helped” other readers (according to amazon)! So how cool that this post coincides with my list! 😉

    1. I have several reviews I need to write, too. 🙂
      I don’t have a lot of reviews of my book on Amazon. The ones that are there were unsolicited. Since there are so few I was happy Amazon didn’t remove any.
      Great post, T.D.!

  6. I also don’t review everything I read either. If I can’t give something 3 stars I just mark it as read on Shelfari and Goodreads. I also keep in mind the difference between a review and a critique. The review is for a reader, the critique is for the writer.
    I’m always amazed at the number of adults who behave like 2 year-olds when faced with a bit of criticism. It’s not about being right, it’s about exposure. I generally don’t read reviews of my books any longer, although at the beginning I would. Sometimes the negative comments were about things I intended, and other time it was a surprise. I would ask myself if I needed to improve and then use the information accordingly.

    Thanks for the post

  7. Great post, TD, and I’m not just saying that because you said nice things. 🙂

    Before I started my blog I was aware of many non-US authors getting dinged in reviews due to what were perceived as typos when the real issue was using a different variant of English than the author was accustomed to seeing. I decided when I started the blog to do my part to educate US readers by making mention of this. My thinking was, if forewarned, this would make the reader less inclined to get hung up on those variants and, if they’re so inflexible as to not be able to deal with it, warn them off, which seemed like a win-win. From time to time this raised the hackles from some across the pond and eventually inspired a post that largely talked about this situation. At the risk of getting slapped down by the Evil Mastermind for self promotion, I’ll link it here rather than write a post masquerading as a comment, which I’m often inclined to do.

    http://booksandpals.blogspot.com/2012/02/fyi-little-about-yanks-brits-and-sex.html

  8. Good post, TD! A successful author once told me to ignore bad reviews. While I’m not quite there yet, I try not to take them personally and skim them for anything that might help me improve, ignoring the rest. I’ve only commented on one bad review b/c it pissed me off when they said something I’d written couldn’t happen, and I’d run the book by an expert in the field. I take my research seriously. I doubt the reviewer ever saw my response, but it made me feel better :-).

    Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, and I’m well aware not everyone’s going to like what I write. Personally, I won’t leave a review if I can’t give it at least 3 stars. I believe if you can’t say something constructive, don’t say anything at all…

  9. I thought for one second there I was going to manage answering on the individual buttons; unfortunately, not so! It just shot to the bottom of the page when I posted it. So I’ll just answer the way I usually do.

    Yvonne, yes, so I hear, regarding Amazon and reviews, has anyone had any feed-back from that yet: how, why et cetera? It just seems like a very strange state of affairs; does anyone know if it has happened with any of the work produced by the big six; or is that now the big four and the extra big one? Thanks for dropping by, Yvonne.

    Yes, Jo, I couldn’t agree more, very annoying is putting it mildly, if you’re anything like me that is. There should be a system in place where you can report it and they can be taken to task. ‘Come the revolution Brothers and Sisters, against the wall they all go!’ Thanks very much for dropping by, Jo.

    ‘You can’t please all of the people all of the time, Agmoye. The first review I had on one of my books, the reviewer tore it to shreds; so I know what you mean. I almost pulled it out of circulation, I certainly stopped putting any energy into its promotion; until, some months later, a writer I have a lot of respect for posted his review of that self same book. The difference in the two reviews was like, ‘did they read the same book?’ It was something out of Ed’s last article: chalk and cheese. Thanks verily for stopping by, Agmoye.

    If my article helps in any way, KR, I am humbled. My take on IU is, that’s a major part of why IU exists, I’m just grateful to play a small part in it. Power to you, Indies! Thank you for dropping by, KR.

    If we truly leave ourselves open to the universal consciousness, with pure intent, what we need will arrive when we need it, Avcarden. Power to you, Avcarden, I’m sure the reviews you post will be received gratefully; and thanks for dropping by.

    Most of my reviews, such as they are, have been unsolicited, Lois. I’ve tried soliciting for reviews and I’m in several queues but it takes so much time and effort. I did reach the front of one of them a month or so ago and it was well worth waiting for, but god… some of those queues are long. And what is it with Amazon removing reviews? And what is their criteria, does anybody know? Thanks for dropping by, Lois.

    I’m with you there, PA, both in your attitude about posting negative reviews and in the response from some authors in regards to a little criticism; as indicated already, it is demeaning for everyone concerned. Although, I’m not sure I agree with your hypothesis about reviewing in regards to critique. Perhaps if an author submits their work for publication or to an agent to seek publication, then a critical review might be for the author; however, if a critical review is posted (as in publically) then it is most definitely for the reader (although perhaps at the author’s expense).

    Hi there, Big Al; your points are highly relevant and your article, by the way, is right on the mark. Maybe one day (let’s face it, they were naysaying eBooks for a long time) there will evolve, by common consent, a universal hybrid English written language that everyone will agree upon. After all, now that we live in a village (global village, isn’t that what they’re calling it?) surely we can live in (at least as far as written language is concerned) harmony? No?… Oh well, maybe not. Thanks for dropping by, Big Al.

    Exactly, DV, and I’m glad that so many of us are in accord. Actually, in the negative review I mentioned in my response to Agmoye, I had a similar reaction and in that instance I was the possessor of the expert knowledge: I was writing about something I have personal expertise ‘and experience’ in, and that particular reviewer described how, if it had been a paper copy and not on his eReader, he would have thrown it across the room in disbelief. By the way, when I was writing this article the very phrase I used, before changing it to, ‘If I can’t say something good about it I won’t say anything at all,’ was ‘If I can’t say something constructive about it I won’t say anything at all,’ however, I changed it because, ‘if I can’t say anything good about it’ (constructive or not), as an author myself I can’t, in all conscience, be the deliverer of so much negativity. Another reason, apart from time constraints I guess, that I don’t do many reviews. Thank you so much for stopping by, DV.

    Thank you, everyone, for taking the time to visit. I love you all.

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