Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Writer Wednesday: Reviews

With everything that's happened since Goodreads changed their review policy, I decided it was time to share my thoughts on reviews. As an author, I depend on reviews. They sell books. But something we have to keep in mind is that reviews are not meant for the author. They're meant for other readers. When someone reviews your book, that person isn't writing the review with you in mind. They are sharing their thoughts on your book, and they are entitled to their opinion. No one, let me repeat that, NO ONE will ever write a book that every person on the face of the earth loves. It's not going to happen. You'll get great reviews, luke warm reviews, and even awful reviews. It comes with the territory. If you can't handle it, don't read the reviews. I don't. (Not unless my publisher posts them for me, because then I know they're safe.)

So what if you do come across a bad review? Do NOT comment on it. Please. While I don't think it's ever necessary for a reviewer to attack an author, I do feel people have the right to dislike your book. I haven't read the Hunger Games because the premise isn't something I can stomach, but at the same time, I give kudos to Collins for writing such a successful series. Millions of people love it. I won't even pick up the books. That's my right, and it's nothing against the author. 

Now there have been some reviews on Goodreads that are downright nasty and do attack the author instead of focusing on the book. For that reason, I can see why Goodreads changed their policy. I don't think they are trying to stop people from giving their opinions. I think they are trying to end the war that's been going on on that site for a while now. But in the same token, even if I read a review that was so awful to me personally, as opposed to my book, I still wouldn't comment on it. There's no need to. It's not worth jeopardizing your reputation. 

So my advice is to stay away from reviews. They weren't meant for authors anyway. We've already read our books and formed our own opinions about them. Let others have theirs.

What are your thoughts on authors commenting on reviews of their own books?

66 comments:

  1. I wasn't aware Goodreads changed their policy. I'll look it up.

    I don't comment on good or bad reviews. If it's good, I don't want to appear to be stalking the reviewer--I've had authors comment on my reviews and it makes me feel like I have to always be positive when I read their books in the future. If it's bad, things can get out of control with comments, which I've seen.

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    1. Yes, I've seen it too and it makes me cringe.

      Yeah, the new guidelines were all the talk on Twitter last week. Reviewers aren't happy, but I think Goodreads is just trying to keep people to reviewing the books, not the authors. A lot of personal attacks were made both by reviewers and authors and that's just terrible. It's not what reviews should be about in my opinion. You can say you hate a book, but you don't have to lash out at the author. And authors shouldn't lash out at reviewers who don't like their books.

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  2. Well said. I get why authors can get upset about overly personal reviews. That said, there are some authors I choose not to read based on their non-writing activities. Goodreads is in a tough spot and I don't think there is a good answer for them. They want a sight readers can share their opinions without it turning into a bloodbath over every 1-star review. I'm with you that it's better to let your publisher/agent read the reviews for you and only pass along the good ones.

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    1. It's much safer for your ego. ;) I really don't spend much time at all on Goodreads because for a while it got nasty. People were attacking each other and I wanted no part of that. The way I feel is that even if someone read my book and hated it, I still appreciate the fact that they read it.

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  3. I think authors should definitely stay away from commenting on their reviews. Sure, if you want to go and take a look at what your readers are saying about your book, go for it. You might not like what some readers have to say about your work, but this comes with the territory of dissecting your reviews.
    You are absolutely right, Kelly. Not everyone is going to like our work. What one book is to this person might mean something completely different to another. We all have different tastes, thus, the outcomes of writing a review will not always be the same.

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    1. Exactly, Gina. Reading is subjective. That will never change.

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  4. Very well stated! If an author can't handle someone else's opinion on their work the need to steer clear of the reviews. Great post.

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    1. Definitely. Or you can filter the reviews on Goodreads to only show the 4 and 5 star reviews. ;)

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  5. Excellent post, Kelly. When I get to the point of actually being reviewed (that is to say: published) I will definitely follow this advice! :)

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  6. I think you have to take the bad with the good. Not everyone is going to like the book, but having said that, as long as people are not being downright nasty, a negative review is as good as a positive one. Imagine if every review was good. We would have nothing to use to guage our success. Just my opinion.

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    1. Very true. You can learn from a bad review.

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  7. Chances are people who write personal attacks would welcome a reply from the author. They've thrown down their gauntlet and they're hoping the author will pick it up because they want the battle in a public forum. It gives them a chance to showcase their wit. It's best not to give them that opportunity.

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    1. I never looked at it that way, but you could very well be right.

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  8. I've partcipated in many discussions about this while anticipating the release of Hurricane Crimes next year, and every author I know has said not to comment back, not even to say "Thank you." And I agree. An author will only make themselves look bad, potentially lose reads, and start a war with people who don't like their book if they reply back to negative reviews. I've decided I won't even read my reviews, and I hope my curiosity doesn't get the better of me. (It probably will though.) haha

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    1. It is tough to keep away from them, but I think it's best.

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  9. Kelly, I think reviews mostly matter as in how they affect your average and the number. So someone with 100 3 star reviews is better off than someone who has only 10 reviews all of them 5 star. I'd never attack a reviewer because I agree it will ruin you, but when someone is rating your book 1 star because they usually read erotica and your book is clearly "clean romance" it is annoying. It hurts your average and potentially your income. I think anyone who knows me knows I'm very pro-reviewers. They do so much for the book industry (the good ones).

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    1. What bugs me is when people rate a book without reading it. They rate based on the cover or blurb. I don't think that's fair at all. Rating should only be allowed after the book is read. JMO

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    2. I agree. But there is no way to know if someone read the book or not. Except I once got a neg rating of a book that wasn't available. That was pretty clear.

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    3. Well, when they rate it before ARCs are even available, you know they didn't read it. ;) That's happened to me.

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  10. I try not to comment on reviews good or bad. I don't want to influence or pressure a reader in any way, especially when you send out review copies.

    I think it's a good approach to take, Kelly - keeping in mind that reviews are written for other readers and not necessarily the author. But it's hard not to take things personally. Bad reviews do sting.

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    1. Yes, they do sting, which is why I avoid them. ;)

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  11. Nice post and I agree 100%. Reviews can be fun, if not taken too seriously.

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    1. Yes. They are meant to express opinions, not attack anyone.

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  12. I think authors commenting on reviews of their own books is juvenile and amateur. Let it be.

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  13. I agree with you, Kelly. When an author jumps into defense mode, all credibility is lost. An author should demonstrate confidence in their product and allow readers to openly criticize those areas they feel other readers need to know about. It's not a personal judgement of the author. It's the objective critique of their work product.

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  14. Well said. Good advice for authors, too. That whole community needs to just turn it down a notch.

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  15. I agree with you. Sometimes I read a review. I also remind myself that everyone is entitled to his/her opinion. If they don't like it fine. If they do great. I'm not going to lose any sleep over a reviewer's opinion.

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  16. I'm so glad Goodreads (Amazon) is addressing the attack reviews (and the hostile environment it created). I'm not talking about the 1 star "I hate your book" reviews, but the ones were the author was threatened in some way. Those had to go. Just as authors should not attack any reviewer for disliking their book. The attacking atmosphere was going both ways. The new policy might seem a little overboard to some, but something had to be done. I never respond to reviews unless I'm personally thanking a reviewer who I asked for a review from. Reviews are for the readers and I usually try not to read my reviews whether it's a 1 star or a 5 star.

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    1. Yes, the attacking was definitely going both ways. I can't blame Goodreads for feeling they needed to step in.

      I'm like you. I try not to read them. Though I do read some of the good ones my publisher sends my way.

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  17. My published friends warned me before my book came out not to read reviews and to avoid GR in particular. I think I had a special bag of fear for that site...
    But they also told me that with a first book, the author invariably will succumb to reading them, at least initially, until we get used to our new exposed position.
    My friends turned out to be right on all counts, just as you are in this post. I'm amazed when I encounter experienced authors who feel they need to do battle with reviewers. No inclination to go there. But what I find really difficult is not to thank the super-positive reviewers, when I so want to...
    Yes- the reviews are for potential readers. Not for us.

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    1. I know. I have thanked a few who have reached out to me and I've talked to, but for the most part I just let them be for other readers.

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  18. I've read a lot of negative reviews on GR, reviews that go to great lengths to make fun of the author and call them stupid. If anyone (NOT the author) disagrees, they insult that person, too. I've never seen authors get in on the fights, but I've heard about it. The point is that like a lot of places on the net (like YouTube and Yahoo) where people can comment anonymously, they become aggressive, nasty, and extremely offensive. On most sites I frequent, people who harass others or behave rudely are banned. GR is pretty late getting on the bandwagon.

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    1. I agree that Goodreads was late to jump on this sort of action. Can't help wondering if Amazon taking it over was the reason for the action to finally be taken. That's my guess.

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  19. I don't comment on reviews, but I do promote short excerpts of good ones. :)

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    1. Same here. I love to post excerpts of good ones.

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  22. Typos...

    I have mixed feelings on this. But what I can say is this-


    Now that I do review books on T.A.A., I feel it's important to be honest about what I don't like, but while I read broadly across the book spectrum, I only review books in areas specific to my niche, to keep my reviews in the realm of knowledgeable objectivity.

    I get what Kelly's saying, and she's far from the first to say it, but again, this for me is an area that's not as clear cut as it is for others.

    That said, I do think in general, some reviewers think being pithy to the max is the ONLY way to be honest, but I don't, and I refuse to go there. I can be the reviewer I want to be, honest but civil, and that's different than false flattery of authors, right?

    I believe you can respect the author without "Holding back the truth" when reviewing.

    That said, one way to counter the "Overly critical" trap is to reach out to authors outside the context of book reviews.

    As Kelly points out, most authors stay away from all reviews, bad or good, as an author myself I get why this is so, but as a reader (Regarding books I didn't write or "know" the author personally") I'm torn because I want authors I love to know I love their work, but many of them are of the "Rare few" who have little or no online presence, not even a basic web site.

    Something I did on T.A.A. recently was to write a virtual "Letter From the Editor" that expresses my love and respect for the author, WITHOUT actually reviewing the books in question-

    http://talkinganimaladdicts.com/lettersfromed3

    I will write reviews of those books, but those reviews are meant to help readers decide if they'll buy or at least read an excerpt of said book, but my "Letter From the Editor" tributes are safe for authors to read and feel good about.

    You won't be mentioned in those if I don't already read and love your books overall. Even if some weren't for me.

    This way, my reviews can be honest and critical when needed, but my fav authors know any nitpick I may have about particular book is NOT tarnishing the overall joy I get from reading their work, and readers of the blog will decide if they'll read (and BUY or library borrow) the book in question. Everyone wins and my honor code remains valid.

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    1. My favorite reviews are the honest ones. And I'm not talking about my own books. I mean reviews I read of other books. I appreciate honesty, but like you said, you can be honest and still be civil (or respectful as I like to say).

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  23. I'm not published yet, but I if I ever am published think it would probably be safer (for me) to stay away from the reviews completely. That being said, I'm not sure I would be able to! It must be difficult.

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    1. It is tough to keep away sometimes, but it can drive you crazy to read them.

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  24. I didn't know Goodreads changed their policy- I will have to check it out. If I write a review and an author comments I don't mind (I only review books I like and skip the negative reviews, so that is probably why I don't mind if they comment). I agree that authors don't need to comment if someone writes a bad review. There isn't a book out there that everyone likes! I know it can be hard to hear negative things about something we have written- but commenting back doesn't help our hurt feelings anyway. :)

    ~Jess

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    1. That's so true. Commenting back doesn't erase the sting of a bad review. It doesn't accomplish anything good at all. There's just no point in doing it.

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  25. I review books on Amazon, along with movies, and I'll give a negative review when warranted, particularly in the mainstream side of things. I do work to keep it to the material itself- though in the case, for example, of a writer I dislike in the comics industry who's incapable of writing a character with their own voice; everyone sounds like him- I do get a bit snarky at times.

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    1. lol, William. You so just went there. But honestly, it's your opinion to voice. If you think his voice never changes from character to character, you have every right to say that.

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  26. I've always imagined that if I were ever to become a published author, I wouldn't comment on reviews. The times I've seen it, it just felt sorta unprofessional, even if it was a 'thanks for reviewing, I'm sorry it wasn't to your tastes' kind of thing. I mean, if it's a negative review, that's sort of already a given, right? =)

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    1. Very true. There really is no point to commenting on a negative review. It doesn't accomplish anything.

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  27. I think that's good advice, Kelly. It's hard, because no matter how many good reviews you get, it's the bad ones that stick with you.

    I don't think I'd ever comment when I'm published. It does seem unprofessional. Let people have their opinions. It's only an opinion, after all, not the end of the world.

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  28. Hi Kelly,

    Great take on reviews. Authors do have to pretend not to have noticed a bad review. I always advise that. Just pretend it's not there and for God's sake, do not do a public rant! I saw aome authors losing it on Amazon.

    Nas

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    1. Yes, a public rant is just going to make you look bad. No reason for it.

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  29. Sagely advice, Kelly. I've only thanked folks for their reviews, and have been fortunate enough (till now) not to come across any nasty remarks. Then again, I haven't read any author's rants on bad reviews, so I don't know how terrible it is. (Only one. I think she was upset that a reviewer gave her book a sole star, and that reviewer has been giving lots of other books only one star.) I can imagine how terribly it reflects on the author, though.

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    1. It really does reflect poorly on the author to comment back. It best to just leave reviews alone.

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  30. In some cases, I might ask for a clarification; in some very specific cases, I might thank the reviewer. Mostly, though, commenting on reviews serves no purpose.

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  31. I agree with you that we shouldn't comment on reviews about our books except maybe to say thank you. I have to admit, I've read all mine because I want to know what people think. I just can't help that curiosity in me! However, I have developed some thick skin since choosing this career so I try not to take bad reviews personally. But I am human. I've really only received one bad review and it did upset me. I didn't cry though, it just ruined a day or two for me. But then I realized that person probably has no idea how to write a picture book for children so it's just their opinion, not fact. And we have to remember that this world is filled with all kinds of different opinions about everything on earth so writing is no different. It would be so boring if everyone had the same opinion!

    Oh and I can't believe you won't touch the hunger games! You write zombie books for goodness sakes! LOL

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    1. I know, I know. But the premise of the Hunger Games is too much for me. I'm a mom and I can't stand to see kids fighting to the death like that. I'll take zombies over that any day. Again, that's just my personal preference. I have so much respect for Collins.

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    2. You aren't alone, Kelly, I also can't reach HG for the same reasons as you, and I'm not even a parent yet.

      Like you touched on in your reply, it's easier to "go there" when it's not so close to home from a thematic standpoint.

      That said, if your daughter wants to read HG when she's older, would you let her? Maybe it'd be possible if you read at the same time as her. It was easier for me to read "The Shifter" by knowing others were reading it with me.

      (Not violent in the ways HG is from those I know who've read it)

      I can't read certain other books and authors for similar reasons.

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    3. Taurean, yes, I'd let my daughter read it if she wanted to, but only when I thought she was old enough to handle it. I'd never stop her from reading something she wanted to as long as it was age appropriate.

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  32. Authors need to not comment on reviews of their books, period. But I am very glad Goodreads changed their policy. Real reviewers comment on the pros and cons of the book, not question the author's parentage or humanity. Those were not "reviews," and I'm relieved to know that Goodreads is going to do something about the bashing.

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    1. I agree, Marcia. Reviews should never be a personal attack. It's a review of the book. Period. You can share your opinion and still be civil. And authors who feel the need to defend attacks aren't going to look any better than the reviewers doing the attacking.

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