I’d like to start this blog post by saying a huge thank you to everybody who has read one of my books and then taken the time to write a review and post it online. Reviews are important as they get books noticed and encourage more people to give them a try (or not!).
I’ve had quite a lot of reviews for my books over the last few months, both on Amazon and Goodreads and, until I was published, I’d never really appreciated the importance of them. I’d always looked at reviews when buying a book but I’d never bothered to trawl through twenty or thirty. Even now I tend to scan through a few four- and five-star ones and check the one-star reviews as well, just for balance. Most of the books that I’m interested in tend to have many more positive reviews than negative but I give the negative ones a quick look just in case.
However, my reaction to reviews as a writer is different from my reaction as a reader. I was following a conversation on Facebook recently, initiated by a writer who had received a two-star review which complained about the number of gay characters and especially the ‘scenes of intimacy’ between said characters. The review concluded with the hope that the author somehow ‘resolves his apparent difficulties’. Why would somebody feel the need to make a personal comment about the author?
I’ve had a few negative reviews and, at first, I found them quite upsetting. Not because somebody didn’t like my book – different people like different things – but because they felt the need to be so unpleasant. I’m all for constructive and informative criticism but what’s the point of just saying a book is ‘awful’ or ‘boring’?
There are also people who feel that a book warrants a negative review if they didn’t receive it. Surely this is a criticism of the delivery service and not the book or the author. But they all still count towards the book’s overall rating. Some books receive one-star reviews which are followed with comments such as ‘Gripping!’ or ‘A fantastic read!’ These must be especially frustrating for authors as they are from people who clearly don’t understand the rating system.
A lot of people say just ignore the bad reviews, and I think that’s perfectly valid advice. If you’re going to write something that other people are able to purchase and read then you have to expect that some people won’t like what you’ve written and will want to express their dislike. So what about a one-star review from somebody who hasn’t even read the book but feels qualified to comment? How should I deal with that?
It starts ‘This is by no means an original idea. Let me be honest, I haven't actually read this novel, only the reviews, but feel I have to comment.’ Why comment on a book you admit to not having read? It then goes on to compare ‘Forgotten’ with ‘The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana’ by Umberto Eco which ‘deals with an almost identical theme’. How can you review a book that you haven’t read, compare it to another book and comment on its lack of originality based only on the brief synopses provided by the reviews that other people have written? And, more importantly, why would you bother? Further investigation of the anonymous reviewer shows that he or she ‘reads’ a lot of psychological thrillers and then gives them one or two stars for lack of originality. Again, why bother? If you don’t like this kind of book try a different genre.