Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Reviews: The good, bad & the ones that make us cry

A Secretary Frantically Jotting Notes Down - Royalty Free Clipart Picture
Every time I my inbox pops up with a review I get nervous. Will they love it, hate it, trash it or nominate me for Romance Writer Sainthood? It's always a crap shoot with reviews until the one finds you & she GETS you. She understands your writing style voice, characters & most important your sense of humor. I've been pretty lucky in the years that I've been writing. Bad reviews have come, but more great reviews have followed.
Where oh where am I going with this? Well, I'm thrilled you asked. Reviews they are either to be reviled or revelved in. The ones that really stick with me, the ones I wake up thinking about...yep the crappy ones. Why oh why is it so much easier to focus on the bad stuff than the good? Ten reviews will come in dealing with one book, nine of them praise me and ask to burn offerings in my name. The last says the book was okay, but she couldn't connect with the characters or the plot felt loose or she hated the heroines last name. You pick it I've received it.
I know there are several reviews here on our little slice of limbo and I'm not speaking about you guys! You're awesome (Yes, I'll have the check in the mail by Friday) Seriously reviewers are an important part of the romance industry. Yes, I do understand not every person will get my writing. I'm okay with really I am. Amazon, B&N, RT are several places I look to see what other people thought of a book before I buy it. If the majority of people give it a so-so rating I won't buy it. Then, because my sanity is about as stable as a teeter-totter, I waffle back and forth. Maybe these readers didn't get the author or maybe they were all having a bad day on the same day. You see where I'm going with this?
Yes, I'm taking my medications thanks for asking.
Writers are by nature loners and introverts, myself included. I'm the shy wallflower type very retiring and meek. Ahem...So when a review lands in my hands and it's less than stellar I've started allowing myself time to mentally whine, throw a pity party then picture ninety nine ways to kill off said review. Never piss off a writer, we can keep killing you for years! After my fab mental party I shove it out of my brain as much as possible and move on. Seriously there's no sense in keeping damaging words around to taint whatever book I'm working on now.
On the flip side good reviews from the awesome lady who got you. Oh honey, I could live off those for years. Example: Over at The Wild Rose Press I have a full length series going on. Paranormal dealing with Poseidon's sons. The first house I published my baby with crashed, tanked, disappeared faster than a cheesecake at Desiree Holt's house. Still I managed to dust myself off and sub it to TWRP. Amazing people over there, btw, love 'em. They get my book, make me an amazing cover and it gets rave reviews. The my personal world went to hell and back so I wasn't up to the writing challenge. Flash forward a year later the second book is done and my editor hated it! No, really she said "I hate it". So like any good writer I killed her off in several nasty and sexually questionable ways and moved on. Three years later I get an e-mail from someone I've never met, never heard of, but will now love until my dying day. HE, yep, he wrote this about my book

 Paranormal at it's Best!

I love anything to due with vampires, werewolves, witches or magic. But now I'm in love with 9 of the hottest demi-gods around. Allie Standifer introduces the Poseidon brother with a BANG! This is the first book of what I hope to be at least a nine book series. One for each brother. I laughed until I almost peed. Clio and Kryssin are so wrong for each other that they're perfect together.

I couldn't put this book down until I finished the last page. And then I wanted to start on the next one. Please, please, please Ms. Standifer, hurry up with the next book and could you make it Zale's? Thanks to the razor sharp dialog, hot characters, and melt your M&M's love scenes I'm going back to buy whatever else this hot new author had come out with. A new, but devotedly loyal reader. [by David]

Nothing else could have kicked my pouting fat buttocks into gear quicker than reading that e-mail. The same day I sent an e-mail to my publisher and asked her opinion. She told me "I'll send it to a beta reader, if she hates it too then you'll have to change it. If she loves is you're getting a new editor." Long story short beta reader loved it and offered to read anything else I write. 

The moral of this week's blog is reviews love 'em or hate 'em they all have something to offer. Now's the time to let me know if any of you even bother to read them, ignore them or purchase books solely on a reviewer's say so. I'd love to hear some feedback. 


Ms Michelle said...

I am but a reader, but I know that is important... obviously. I'm glad I jumped onto the blogs today and read your's because most of the books that I read are gathered from sites like yours. It's sort of like buying stuff on ebay. I check out lots of blogs, hunt for the books that look appealing on several sites (goodreads, shelfari, fantastic fiction) check all the reviews I can find, good or bad and then make my own decision about a book. I LOVE reviews. It scares me that sometimes I haven't picked up a book because of my own personal opinion, then found some reviews from people I trust and gone back and bought that book and absolutely loved it. If there weren't reviews I could have missed out a new experience (this happened only a couple of weeks ago). I think the fact that you actually have the courage to put pen to paper and allow someone to critique it is amazing. Good and bad reviews can only make you stronger and better... And always ask for a second (or third) opinion. Ps love the blog and thank you.

Eileen said...

i normally don't read reviews from review sites but usually pick books from friend's referrals and what looks interesting to me by genre or by the author. And then there are a few blog sites that I love to read and even better when they introduce new books for me to read! When I have time I browse over new releases and read the synopsis to see if the blurb catches my interest or not. I do have to hand it to all authors that put their written word out there and it gets all kind of reviews. I don't handle criticism well so I can't imagine how you guys deal with it. You have a talent that I admire when you can create such wonderful stories for my enjoyment. Remember the good ones and try to ignore the bad ones.

Dragon Lady said...

I read the reviews, but then I go by my own likes or dislikes. I have bought books that the reviews GLOWED over. And I thought the book sucked. So, I read them, see if maybe, MAYBE, I might anyway, and decide from there. I have had stories I have loved that reviews panned. It's like movies....if that is NOT the persons genre to begin with, then they won't really like it.

So, yes, I read them, but then I decide after. If there are a predominant number of dislike reviews, then I pass, at least for now.

David Kentner -- KevaD said...

I read each and every review, all the way to the third or fourth one. =) I always wonder if the reviewer knows the author, for good or bad, and then go to the blurb and an excerpt (if available). Strange as it sounds, I just have this thing about believing I can make up my own mind.

If I like the book, I'll leave a positive review. If I didn't like the book, I don't leave a review simply because I don't want to influence someone else based on my inability to connect with a writer or story. Yeah, I realize the problem may well be me and not the author. I don't like mint ice cream either. Or snails.

Allie Standifer said...

Ahhh, you've made my day, gang! And proven that I'm not totally crazy, just slightly. Reviews are exactly that subjective. DA made a great point. Would you volunteer to judge an ice cream contest knowing you hated anything but vanilla? Excellent point!!

Regina Carlysle said...

Love this post because it's sooo true. A great review just makes a writer go all warm and fuzzy! Most of my reviews are real keepers but there have been some....oh my. On reviewer trashed a book of mine because the heroine dared to serve lasagne to the heroes. Shame on me. Got a nice one not long ago but it was obvious she hadn't read the book. It was a menage and that fact was never mentioned. Soooo freakin' weird.

Savannah Chase said...

Reviews are not what they use to be. As an author I still pay attention but with all the drama that has surrounded the whole review idea I don't look at them the way I use to...I want people to review my work and I take time to stop by and post reviews of the work I have read by other authors.

Anonymous said...

I both review and read books on a regular basis. I do base my purchases on reviews. Will I reject a book on one sole bad review? No. If the majority of the reviews on whatever site I'm purchasing are bad then its likely that I won't buy it. As a reviewer I do my best to be constructive in any criticism I offer the author. I've seen my share of reviews where they are just not professional. You, authors put yourself on the line and ask the opinion of a total stranger and I respect that.

JP said...

The thing that makes my heart glow is when a reader emails me to tell me how much they enjoyed the book - obviously I don't want anyone contacting me to say they thought it sucked!
Recently while scrolling through Amazon I noticed with dismay that two readers had allotted my novel Warrior Prince one and two stars respectively. 'That's why you don't read reviews' I told myself, with a tear in my eye.
Couple of days later I received an email from a young man who said he'd enjoyed Warrior Prince. He'd been reading it on the subway and was so engrossed he missed his stop.
So you take the good with the bad - the good is better of course - but the bad is still just someone's opinion - and hey, they can't all have good taste!

Harlie Williams said...

Now see, I'm a reviewer for Night Owl and The Romance Studio and I have been fortunate that only one book that I have reviewed hasn't been a good one. In my review, I stated why and when I had the opportunity to get another book by the same author, I jumped at the chance for her to prove me wrong and she did.

I have reviewed books by Tess, Lily Harlem, Cari, and Allie from TWW and I have enjoyed all them and when I wrote my reviews, I got the "friend" out of the equation and wrote an honest review for the website.

I know that some reviewers are cruel and mean and think that they control a writer's destiny but I've never thought that way. I read for the pleasure of it and want to share my joy in a book with other people. This is why I review books and love it.

I'm truly sorry and I apologize for all the good reviewers out there and don't like a couple of bad eggs ruin the experience for you.

Jan Irving said...

It is important to remember why we love to write a certain story. I've had an editor not like something I did that everyone else who pre-read it for me loved. And I've had wonderful memorable letters, like one from a seventy year old man who enjoyed one of my books. I try to stick with writing what I love, then whatever is said about it later, I know that I did it because I loved writing it.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I've been a reviewer for a long time, having reviewed for Fallen Angel Reviews, RT BOOK Reviews Magazine and Joyfully Reviewed.

Authors and readers alike have shared with me that they read my reviews because they know I won't proclaim every book I've ever read as 'the best book EVER'. Neither will I add snark to my reviews to somehow make myself look hip or elite.

If I like a book I will share why and in detail. If I don't like a book, I'll say why it bothered or distracted. And I'll say it in such a way that is mostly neutral.

For instance, in one of my most recent 'bad' reviews, I shared that the story might have been a good one but there were so many typos that I couldn't see the story for the errors. Each and every paragraph had at least one misspelled word, erroneous punctuation, and even some characteristics of the hero that changed half way through the story (and it wasn't because he went to a salon and dyed his hair!). I know that it's not always the author's 'fault' for these errors, but it is important for the author to know. After all, it could come across as lazy and/or unprofessional for the book to be so sloppily thrown together and might be a detriment for the reader should he/she see another story on the (digital) book store's shelf and opt not to buy because of the experience he/she had from previous reading. Readers are smart! And they pay good money for these stories. They want to know what they're buying is of good quality, not something that doesn't even look edited.

Anyway, If I found part of the story line unbelievable or didn't like the character, I will say why without giving the plot away. I once wrote something like: "The Hero seemed more like a bully than a dom and I had a hard time warming up to him." I had one reader tell me they bought the book because of this point. She wrote, "I love strict, almost mean doms, so I'm off to buy the book!"

Many times I close my 'bad' reviews with something like, "This is the first story I've read by______. While I didn't like this particular story, it will in no way prevent me from reading his/her next project." or "Based on the blurb, I thought I was getting a story that _________. If you don't mind getting __________ instead, you may very well enjoy it!"

Another poster on here mentioned that if he didn't like it, he wouldn't post a review at all. As a writer, I admit that this would do me a disservice. I don't believe one should post something mean or snarky, simply to state what didn't work for you. If you didn't like the story, I want to know! It may be something I have to work on, ie: character depth, incorrect facts, sagging middle, etc. (One would think an editor would catch these errors but I've learned over the years as a freelance editor that some epubs do not edit their stories well.)

Even though it may just be that you didn't 'get' the story, I would want to know why it didn't work for you.

Thanks for the great post! You really got me thinking!

Allie Standifer said...

Thank you everyone for your insightful and thoughtful comments. I really enjoyed seeing the other side of the fence :) It made me understand a reviewers point of view more easily. Just remember if you ever get one of my LOVE me madly and I do great bribes! Seriously thanks to all of you who do read the books and give us your honest and unbiased opinions. You really do make my day!