Take a poll about reviewing books…

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Take a poll about reviewing books…

  1. Todd,
    I voted for an honest, thorough review (which is the pc answer), however I do have a caveat. It depends who is reviewing.

    If you are a genuine, passionate reader who has purchased the book or borrowed it, and read every page, then bless you. Say what is in your heart. Just –please– don’t give away the ending, and don’t try to destroy the author’s career.

    If you are a professional reviewer, and an author or publisher sent you a free review copy, be honest, but be professional, too. There must be something praiseworthy in this book or it wouldn’t be in print. Do say something quoteworthy (in a good way) to soften the harshness of a tough, honest, thorough review.

    If you are a colleague or a social networking friend, and I have NOT sent you an ARC, I am going to wonder why on earth you aren’t too busy with your successful career not only to plow through books you don’t enjoy but also to take further precious time to write a review.

    Todd, thank you for including the very important word “thorough”. I’m not a fan of reviews based on hearsay, the back cover and perhaps a skimmed read of the first 50 pages. I expect a reviewer to have read every scene and every chapter… otherwise the review is about the reviewer, not about the book.

    Also, I think you may find that most authors do not consider 3 Stars “positive”, which may skew your results.

    Rowena Cherry

  2. Hi, Todd and everyone,

    I voted “other” on the poll. This poll addresses a tough question. I’m assuming most of us on this blog are emerging authors working our fannies off to sell books in a terrible economy. (We don’t have Stephen King or Stephenie Meyer lurking, do we? We’re not New York Times bestselling authors with nothing better to do but tag books?)

    Given the emotional and financial investment we have in our books, subjecting them to nonprofessional reviewers with no caveats doesn’t make sense. Read Steve Weber’s excellent “Plug Your Book: Online Book Marketing for Authors.” On page 48, Steve shows how one negative review can hurt book sales permanently. ONE negative review.

    While we may be aware of what negative reviews can do to the sales of our books, another side exists. Do you know what giving poor reviews can do to YOUR RANKING AS A REVIEWER?

    I do. Several years ago, I purchased a book on Amazon, one of those, “If you liked X, you’ll like Y” things. I HATED Y. It was a terrible book that was beautifully produced and published by a major publisher. (Lord knows how the author got in. She was in and very popular.)

    I wrote a review of the thing, saying exactly what my editor, a full professor of English in a major university, would say about it. Also what my entire writing group and probably everyone in the universe enrolled in an MFA program in creative writing would say. My assessment was precise and absolutely correct. I forget the number of stars I gave it: one or two.

    I didn’t get what was happening for a while. My ranking as a reviewer began to drop. Fast. I still didn’t get it. My rating kept dropping. I finally looked at THE REVIEW. The author’s legions of fans didn’t agree with my assessment and had been marking my review “Not helpful.” (This was in the old days of Amazon reviews.)

    I rewrote the review slightly and changed the number of stars to four. Didn’t help. I finally pulled it entirely.

    My ranking as a reviewer dropped 100,000 because of that one frank evaluation. It took me years to get it back to where it had been.

    So, when we consider guidelines about reviews, we need to be aware of both what our words and the number of stars we give can to a book do to a fellow-author’s career AND what they can do to our ranking as reviewers.

    We don’t fully understand Amazon’s ranking systems, as I have found out more than once. When we start tinkering, we need to know that the consequences can be negative.

    I like what Rowena said in her post about professional reviewers and book copies sent by publishers and publicists. Professionals’ evaluations are not spurious.

    Many people on the popular book sites seem to compete to put up as many reviews as they can––you see people with thousands of books to their credit. The top Amazon reviewers may claim these as real reviews, but many on the other sites look like they’re vying for numbers, not quality.

    Given the investment I have in my work and career, I would prefer that people not post reviews of my books if they can’t honestly give me a 4 or 5 star review.

    When I review a book, if I can’t give it 4 or 5 stars, I don’t post the review. I may write something to the author if I can be constructive. That’s it.

    I don’t consider 3 stars a positive review.

  3. Sandy, you’re not “Reba” are you?

  4. No, I’m Sandy, not Reba. Who’s Reba?

  5. I would like to have ticked more than one answer. Although I ticked ‘an honest and thorough review,’ I would have liked to add, but if result was 1 or 2, then I would like to know before it was posted. I have never been ticked that low, and cannot imagine the awful sense of failure it would give me if I were the recipient. I would suggest that no review was better than a bad review.

    Carole

  6. This begs the question, what would you do about a 1 or 2 star review if contacted? What does this polling option presuppose?

    Many reviewer sites do contact the author before one of their staff’s reviews is posted, but this is not because they will
    a) pull the review
    b) change the star rating if begged to do so by the author
    c) rewrite the review

    I select the snip I’d like to use and request permission to use it, and I give the reviewer a courtesy proof-reading to make sure that basic and vital facts/spellings are correct, and that there are no spoilers. (Spoilers may be removed upon request).

    If forewarned of a negative review, what is a professional author going to do that she wouldn’t do with a positive review?

    a) bring extra attention to the review by asking all her friends to comment?
    b) attempt to get the review removed?
    c) question the reviewer’s taste and motivations in public?
    d) grit her teeth and thank the reviewer anyway.

    I’ve received plenty of 1 and 2 star reviews/ranking in my time. Some are fair, honest reviews. The same novels that weren’t to one person’s taste have also won awards (proper ones, not polls).

    Carole, “awful sense of failure” is not how one feels. No one can make another person feel a failure without their consent! I believe Eleanor Rooseveldt said something to that effect.

    Negative reviews do happen. Getting one isn’t fun. It does hurt. However, there is no way of pleasing everyone in the world, and some would argue that it’s better to write a book that inspires strong feelings (good and bad) than to write something “safe”.

    Rowena Cherry

  7. Unfortunately, with places like Amazon and Goodreads, a reader can give a review and just tick off one or two or three stars, just for the heck of it. I saw someone gave one book of mine that is a best seller, Haunted Richmond, Virginia one star, but wen I went to her page of Goodreads, I saw she gave every book one star. And where she lives, a couple books (including mine) no way to give it a rating that quick as not on Kindle and to get it in mail).
    There’s also some reviewers, even professional ones, that your book may not be to their taste. When I do a review, I tried to not think of a book that is not what I normally read, but what is good about it for readers that do read that kind of book.
    I agree with Rowena and Sandy, a reviewer shouldn’t post a review if they can’t give a good review or post better than three stars. If not their cup of tea, then give to another reviewer that the book is. A friend of mine just did that for my Haunted Richmond book–she’s a pro reviewer and loved the book, but I don’t think she still understood why it disheartened me to do that. Thank goodness, my readers are reading me and the good reviews outrank the bad ones.

  8. Sapphire/Pamela,

    I am going to resist the temptation to check… but if it’s the someone I think it is (of course there are also some gentlemen from countries where our books are unobtainable who give we wicked westerners minimal stars)… she has made herself a laughing stock.

    Dissing the competition may be a tactic for winning very minor competitions and polls, but eventually readers will realize how very unhelpful –to them– this behavior is.

    Given that this group is about authors helping readers to find books by genre and subject matter (genuine, honorable motives) and about authors helping each other, one would hope that a less than helpful person would not find her way into groups like ours.

    On the bright side, Sapphire, a lot of readers are skeptical of books that only attract 5-star reviews, and prefer to take a closer look at books with a range of star ratings.

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