Wednesday, January 23, 2013

FAQ-How Do You Deal With Reviews?

Ah, reviews! Ugh! I almost hate discussing them at this point because they've become such a controversial subject. I was hoping the vitriol would die down after the last two years. I guess it was too much to hope that we'd learn from the epic writer meltdowns over bad reviews and reviewers behaving badly (plagiarizing other bloggers, baiting writers). This year is off to another bad start with a popular Goodreads reviewer plagiarizing multiple book bloggers and one book blogger coming under fire by a writer.

So I think it is only natural that I deal with another question I'm asked a lot:

How do you deal with reviews?

The fact of life is that we all have personal preferences for everything in our life. We like certain kinds of food, music, artwork, TV shows, movies, clothing, etc. Of course, we all have different preferences for books, too. Does this mean our personal preference is wrong? Of course not. It just means we're different people. How boring the world would be everything thought exactly the same.

Therefore, because people have very different tastes I'm going to end up with diverse range of reactions to my books. It's inevitable that what someone loves, someone else will hate.

Let me give you an example.

The following reviews are from for my novel PRETTY WHEN SHE KILLS, the sequel to PRETTY WHEN SHE DIES. They were posted on the same day.

So which review do I pay attention to?  

The 3 star review says he likes my main character (yay!), but he felt the plot was dull. The 5 star reviewer wasn't disappointed.  So was my book a total misfire, or a total triumph?

The one thing I do take note of is that the 3 star reviewer says the book didn't need vampires in it.  I recognize that I didn't have a big drinking blood scene in my book, but I felt it was clear that the vampires in the book were still working with the restrictions of their nature.  I will most likely be a lot more conscious of making sure that Amaliya's vampire nature is coming across clearly in the third book. My assumption was that once I established Amaliya as a vampire, I could concentrate on her character development and the story arc. Yet, vampire fans do like vampire action. So I do feel this was probably a legit point to be considered.

In the early days of my career, the first review would have had me floating on cloud nine.  The second review would have crashed me into the ground.  Not anymore. Good and bad reviews are a part of the writing experience.

But don't you get upset?

There are three things that upset me about reviews: 1) Wrong information about the plot is relayed in the review 2) The review gives away ALL the plot points and surprises without a spoiler warning 3) the blogger addresses the author in a confrontational way.

A few examples of what I'm talking about:

1. Someone reviewed THE TALE OF THE VAMPIRE BRIDE despite admitting to just skimming the book. They wrote that Lady Glynis falls for her tormentor/abuser, Vlad, because he lets her redecorate the parlor of their home. This was totally out of context. Glynis never falls for Vlad. She struggles to be free of him throughout the book and finds refuge from the abuse she is suffering by doing the sort of things she would have done as the human mistress of her household.  I don't believe that skimming a book and plucking out plot points and twisting them is fair to a writer.

2. A review for THE LAST BASTION OF THE LIVING not only gave away every plot twist, it gave away the ending with absolutely no spoiler warning. Someone who read the review even chastised the reviewer for not posting a spoiler warning. I don't mind spoilers for my books as long as there is a warning.

3. A reviewer once took to addressing me directly about AS THE WORLD DIES. The comments were quite condescending. I didn't write the book the way this reader wanted me, too, and they took me to task. I was basically accused of being both homophobic and racist in a roundabout way. Honestly, I just wished they had put the books down and not read them. My books were obviously not for them. I would have preferred a DNF to "FRATER, did you really think you could do that....blah blah blah." I felt like I was being baited into a throwdown. I felt personally attacked and it was not a good feeling.

So do you like it when people write reviews?

Except for the three instances above, I'm grateful for all reviews. It means the reader/blogger/reviewer took the time to read my book and share their thoughts. I appreciate that immensely. I'm also aware that what one reviewer may have hated about one of my books may be a selling point to someone else. Bad reviews can sell books, too.

What kind of reviews actually count in your eyes?

There are certain book reviewers that have tastes that lie along the lines of my books. Their audience also likes the sort of books I write. So when I get a review from those reviewers, I do a happy dance. Paul Goat Allen from Barnes & Nobles Explorations, Publishers Weekly, Giselle from Xpresso Reads, Ashley from The Bookish Brunette are just a few of the reviewers that I hope and pray love my books.

Of course, when a reviewer who doesn't usually like my type of book loves one of them and writes a glowing review, I'm thrilled, too, because it means I'm crossing over.

So do you pay a lot of attention to reviews?

I pay attention to reviews for the first few weeks after a book is released. After that, I lose interest. Usually the first batch of reviews give me a really good idea of how the book is going to be received by my target audience. 

But can't a bad review kill a book?

I doubt it.  Some of the books on the best seller lists have horrible reviews.  

But what about Indie Authors?

If you're an Indie Author, you tend to cling to reviews a little more desperately, but that doesn't help your mental health or your book sales. Promotion, interacting with your target audience, and writing your next book is going to be a helluvalot more productive in the long wrong than checking constantly for new reviews.  

Also, there could be a lot of reasons why an indie book isn't selling. Promotion, bad cover, bad synopsis, and lack of author name recognition.  Blaming the one bad review on isn't a good idea. Looking at how to get the word out about your book is a much better way to deal with low sales.

So reviews aren't the bane of your existence? 

To be a little crass and to quote my husband, "Opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one."  

So no. Reviews are not the bane of existence. My job is to write and that's what I do. Reviews are just  a part of the career I've chosen.


  1. I love this post and I can say that I agree including spoilers in a review for me as a reviewer I never do because spoilers bug me as a reader also I am guilty too of only reading certain reviewers' reviews if that makes sense. People I know I have similar taste too because my taste range in different genres. I think that both can take things too far. Reviewers can be mean but thats life and authors can be mean too its crossing the line when it comes into question for a reviewer or author. I recently was called a "professional reviewer" but what is that? I am just a mother, wife and friend that loves to read and wrote my thoughts on a book as the author is also a person with a life that wrote their dreams and thoughts down in a book, we aren't that different in retro spec so why can't we all just see the good and get along. LOL If that makes any sense the way I wrote it. Thanks for a great post!

    1. I think a little bit of courtesy and some respect from both writers and bloggers goes a long way. I'm not sure how it all devolved into this craziness, but it's so sad. :(

      I hope things are calmer on your end now. I felt so bad you went through all that!

    2. Rhiannon thank you so much things are fine the day it happened I was shaking and couldn't think straight but then I just thought I will keep this as a learning experience and move on not dwell on it. You are too kind on a better note I was thrilled to purchase your book at Barnes and Noble how awesome was that I look forward to reading and cannot wait for more things to go on in your dreams so I can read them!!! Zombies and Vamps but have you ever thought Vamp Mermaid? Like a Siren that hunts for blood? Thought that might be cool or mermaid by day blood thristy at night? Maybe mermaids have been overdone but I love them:)

    3. I love mermaids, too! A lot. I have an smidgen of an idea for a mermaid tale (ha,ha), but I have no idea if it will grow into an actual story.


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