Monday, June 16, 2014

On Review

"Some of my favorite critiques of my work come from reviewers on Amazon dot com." - Mark Twain

I know, I've posted about this before, but it keeps coming up like deviled eggs that were left in the fridge for a day too long.

The topic: reviewing authors' work somewhere others can/will read it (like Amazon or Goodreads)

The short discussion: pretend like it's Nike and just do it.

The longer version: if you read something and enjoy it, the best thing you can do to thank that author is to take the time to write a review on sites such as Amazon or Goodreads.  I know, I haven't reviewed every single work I've read, either, but I've reviewed many of them.  I keep telling myself that I'm going to go back and do the deed for those I read way back in the past, but I think I'm kidding myself. Still, I make a point, these days, of reviewing what I finish reading.  With me, it's the Golden Rule. 

With me asking it of my readers, it's more a case of begging for the delectable help.

The biggest thing that kept me from reviewing works in the early days was, purely and simply, a myth propagated by reverse psychology.  Specifically, I always figured that I wouldn't want to receive anything but a 5 star rating (out of 5 stars), and if I were to give a review, I wouldn't want that author to think I was dissing them, and so I didn't wish to assign anything less than that.  Most works, frankly, don't deserve 5 out of 5 stars in a critical review, and so therefore I was stuck not reviewing most works.

It's a myth, I tell you.

Specifically, it's a myth that authors don't want to receive anything less than 5 stars.  Okay, some really don't, and I get that.  Many of us, though, react quite favorably to a well-written review of our work, 5 stars or no.  That's because many of us have read other works before, and we recognize that not everybody likes everything about every work--and further, we recognize that that's okay. 

Example:  I very recently found a fairly new review (um, yes, I used to check my reviews every single day, but though that's a perfectly normal habit for a new author, it's unhealthy as crap) on my prequel novella, Undercover Truths - Undercover Lies.  I whooped and hollered in joy at reading it.  Please look below to see why:

"The only reason for a four versus five stars is that I have this pet peeve about female characters that appear strong and independent but immediately fawn when an alpha male looks in their direction. Anyways, The first novella set the stage for the subsequent series. I liked how it set out the relationships of the key characters and provided some back story. The second novella is post technology and provides the transition of how Stacy became a God. I haven't read the series but am now intrigued to see how it all unfolds. The writing is clear... It moves the story along. The plot is clear... It doesn't keep the reader wondering. This author's work will certainly be on my list of future reads."

Now, lookit.  "OMFG it's only 4 stars instead of 5!  What a rotten review; this will ruin my ability to sell this book and make me stop authoring to go live in a van down by the river eating government cheese!" is what I'd've imagined would run through my head years ago.  You know what experience has taught me, though?  That's completely not what ran through my head when I read the review. 

I mean, 4 stars out of 5 is pretty good, for one thing.  But you see what else is in this review?  It details what the reader liked (clear writing, clear plot) and what she didn't like (my abuse of the main female character).  That kind of information is priceless for an author!  For a reader, too, incidentally--as a reader selecting books, these are precisely the kind of reviews I like to read.  But as an author, I want to send this reviewer a personalized thank-you note. 

It's awesome. 

Now, this reader didn't like the way I abused Stacy.  That's okay, really.  It's better than okay.  Fact is, what she's complaining about is precisely how I wanted it to be.  See the beauty?  The critical comment on this review means that I succeeded.  Yes, some people don't like that.  I get that it's her--and others'--pet peeve.  But in order to tell the story of how Stacy came to be the antagonist in--well, I won't ruin the plot--my books, that's how she needed to be.

So please, again, write reviews.  It's the kindest, bestest gift you can give an author, really, whether or not you put all five stars on it.


PS--no, Mark Twain didn't write the quote above.  I'm just seeing if you're paying attention.

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