You Love Their Book, You Love It Not. Just Don’t Make It Personal.

7363859_sREVIEWS: Doesn’t matter the genre, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction – An author loves getting reviews. They need reviews. Some marketing promotions require an author to have a certain number of reviews posted before they can even advertise with them. But, just as important as that, reviews offer feedback to the author. What he or she is doing right or wrong; what the readers like or don’t like about the story or your style in telling it; and, it gives a look at what the readers are zoning in on – the plot, how well you show the story rather than tell it, the dynamics between the main characters, too much dialogue, too little dialogue, too this or too that.

I’ve always been an avid reader but until I got into the marketing aspect of writing, as a reader I never realized the importance of leaving feedback. Amazon, Goodreads, the author’s website – they all offer a spot for you to let the author know exactly how you feel about their book. And, although authors are like everyone else – they don’t like to hear the negative, and they love hearing the positive – consider that the author in one aspect of his writing career is an employee, the reader their employer. I mean, really, readers do ultimately pay their salary, right? They might get the check from Amazon, or whatever other entity is marketing their books, but that entity collects it from the readers. Any professional author has had their book edited and proofread. After that it’s all up to the consumer, book blogger, or professional book reviewer to critique them. They value that feedback. But, as with any employee/employer relationship, the employee wants to know how they got it right or, well, know how they came up short.

What I find disturbing, though, are reviewers who criticize an author and make it personal. They stand out like a sore thumb. I read one recently (and this is verbatim) “Worst book I ever read.” That’s it. The whole review. 4303971_sThat’s akin to someone dining at a restaurant, eating their entire meal and then telling the chef the food sucked. Or, you see a review and it says I tried but I just couldn’t get into the book. No explanation. All a review like that does for me as a reader is to wonder if that person had a bad day or maybe was too distracted while trying to read to focus. Think about it. If YOU are at your job and your boss comes to you and says your performance is not good, aren’t you going to want to know what you’re doing wrong, specifically? Then the horror story no author wants to hear: Reviewers that have been paid by a competitor to write reviews, sight unseen; or, friend(s) of a competititor that have written a review with so many inaccuracies about the story you wonder what book they were reading – or just wrote outright lies. Why? I don’t get it. The wonderful thing about writing is, there can never be any competition. I could take any story idea from any book I’ve read and NEVER be able to tell the tale the same way as it was originally written. Every storyteller brings their own unique twist to a book so how could anyone think that by purposefully putting another author’s work down, it makes their own work appear better? These types of reviews, I consider personal. If you’re having a bad day, can’t focus, or your book isn’t selling as good as someone else’s – too bad. How would you like it if someone came to your work and messed with your career just because they could. Don’t be a bully – it’s not pretty and your face just might freeze that way if you keep looking like that.

So what can the author do when he has a malicious review? The only thing he or she can do – Garner as many honest reviews as they can. To borrow a cliché, let the Good battle the Evil.

Reviewers – and I’m talking about the true reviewers, professional reviewers, and book bloggers who do it for the love of reading – you are easy to spot and you are priceless. We Love You and Thank You! It’s not so much what star rating you give us but that you give an honest review, one having integrity and that provides insight to other readers and to the author. To these honest reviewers, I speak to you, you are held in high regard. You have every right to and should take pride in the service you provide when leaving a review. And, when you see a review left that is obviously spiteful and only made to discredit an author’s book, take it for what it is: an affront to the honesty and integrity of reviewers such as yourself. They do a disservice not only to us but to you as well.

Ultimately it all comes down to the Golden Rule: “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You.”  



Image credit: dragon_fang / 123RF Stock Photo

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6 Responses to You Love Their Book, You Love It Not. Just Don’t Make It Personal.

  1. As always, Gail, you go after a topic with intellect, reason, and most importantly objectivity. I wish I had a better temperament—you are right when you point out how easily spotted are certain types of reviewers and I wish I could be as calm about their motives. Your points come across not as slams against even the worst type of reviewer but rather collected, level-minded reasoning as to why authors need reviews (good and bad) but that reviews should contain more than just grandiose commentary (It stunk) but rather reasons, suggests, comparisons, or any general thoughts—if you think about, and you alluded to this, a review is the reader’s opportunity to stand up and be heard; it is a place where they themselves can help the literary community by adding helpful input to the situation).

    Thank you for once again taking on a heated topic and breaking it down into its essential elements so that we can all check emotion and personal motivation at the door and have intelligent, thoughtful (and helpful) discourse. Great points, great ideas, great blog.

  2. Excellent article. As writers, we rue the kinds of reviews you mention. As readers, we don’t give them credence.

  3. Great article. I write reviews for the books I read. I always try to be honest and fair and certainly never write with the intent to insult or hurt the author.
    I had one woman tell me she would write a review, but it would be negative. She said she’d tried reading my book while watching the Super Bowl. She couldn’t remember the heroine’s name. How fair would that review have been?

  4. You nailed it Gail. As a writer and a reviewer at Honest Indie Book Reviews, I say thank you for spelling out the problems with mean reviews.

  5. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. As a reviewer who prides herself in being totally honest and unscripted when giving a review, I thank you for your appreciation and for telling it as it should be for anyone giving a review on anything whether it’s a book or a product. Wonderful post. : )

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