Sunday, May 6, 2012

Reviewing Reviews

Go ahead.  Shred me.  I learned a long time ago that if I could write a book that pleased everyone, I’d be a very wealthy woman.  Since that’s impossibility, I’ve learned to take the bad with the good.
Reviews are subjective.  And how much weight I give them really depends on the source.  I take Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus very seriously.  Why?  Because so does my publisher.  As long as there is a pull quote, I’m a happy girl.

But the last 15 years have brought a definite change to the reviewing landscape.  First are the reviews on Amazon and  They aren’t reviews so much as they are opinions.  I don’t give them much thought since anyone with a screen name and a password can leave a comment.  I find they often leave negative feedback.  I assume this is because they have nothing better to do with their time.  I’ve been reading for eons and I’ve never once trashed a book or an author.  And I’ve read some stuff I didn’t care for.  Why?  Because I’m not an authority.  I’m not a journalist trained to write an objective piece about a work of fiction or non-fiction.  I will go in and praise a book.  But that’s all I’m bringing to the table.  My opinion.

The latest monster to rear its ugly head is Goodreads.  My editor told me they pay no attention to Goodreads because the reviews are so out there.  So I don’t pay attention.  But people forward me comments made all the time.  Currently there’s a woman who started on Goodreads and has now done a copy and paste of her harsh review on all the other sites.  I guess it makes her feel important.  Or something.  I can’t comment on the operation of another person’s mind.
Then the other avenue is review sites.  There are a billion of them.  Okay, so maybe that was an exaggeration, but it seems as if a new crop goes live every month. Again for me, this is a question of credibility.  If it’s Fresh Fiction, I pay attention.  If it’s Aunt Sue’s Book Reviews (I made that name up), not so much.  And it has nothing to do with a good versus bad review.  I just prefer to have my work analyzed by someone who has some publishing background.

I’ve gotten good reviews and some really bad ones.  One thing I’ve learned is they don’t usually have any impact on sales.  They are primarily used for pull quotes for an inside page.  But you won’t see pull quotes from Goodreads or Amazon or any of the other sign in to rant sites.  Unless you’re self-publishing, then that’s all you’ve got to work with.  You’ll see Fresh Fiction, newspaper reviews, Kirkus & PW reviews, magazine reviews and peer quotes.  I guess that’s why I don’t put a lot of stock in online content.

With a few exceptions.  I just had a person post a 1 star review on B&N.  Had nothing to do with the book.  She was pissed that her copy didn’t arrive on time.  It isn’t like I hand deliver the books, so why not slap customer service and not me?  I had a person post the identity of the villain in my book once.  It took a few emails but I did get Amazon to pull the review.  I didn’t care that she hated the book.  I did care that she gave away a substantial piece of the plot.  I even asked Amazon to pull the single line and not her whole review.  After all, the person has a right to share an opinion.  I’ve gotten great reviews, on sales sites and review sites.  Nice ego strokes but alas, nothing more.

So how do I feel about reviews?  I’m completely neutral.  Other than PW, Kirkus, Fresh Fiction and any newspaper reviews, I pay no attention.  On the whole, I get more positive reviews than negative ones, but I always get at least one stupid one per book.  The delivery person is my current WTF reviewer.  On my last book the person happened to say Fat Chance was terrible and had no chance of surviving as a series.  Guess she missed the two books before that and the two books after Fat Chance.  Oh, and she made a point of telling people I was no match for Janet Evanovich and she had no idea why Janet had given me a quote.  Another WTF moment.  Hard to get worked up over ill-informed people who get to hide behind the anonymity provided by the Internet.

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