Tag Archives: reviews

Reviewers vs writers

I’ve been thinking a bit about reviewers lately.  Mostly it’s because I’ve been sending out oodles of requests for people to review my book (Awfully Appetizing).  There’s a longstanding love/hate relationship between writers and reviewers.  It’s kind of a parallel between the love/hate relationship between writers and publishers.

By the nature of what we each do, we are dependent upon one another.  Obviously reviewers need writers so that they (the reviewer) has something to do, while reviewers are able to present a book to a group of people who, otherwise, might never have even heard of it.  One might assume that there was a symbiosis between the two, and in a way there is.  But there is also a rivalry.  The rivalry is, I think, based upon an imbalance of power.  For every reviewer out there, there seems to be a thousand authors.  Or perhaps its just that every author is trying to contact every reviewer.

Whatever the reason, the effect is the same: the reviewers are inundated with requests from desperate authors.  When, inevitably, the reviewers find themselves unable to read every single book, the result is a collection of annoyed authors who feel that they’ve somehow been stiffed.  Not all of us, some of us have been around long enough to know that it isn’t personal, but when nine hundred people didn’t make the cut, some of them are bound to be resentful.

It’s an interesting situation.  And, frankly, it highlights some of the problems with the way the writing world works.

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The Reviews Conundrum

I have long held that writers should not read reviews of their books.  What it comes down to is that reviews are not written for the author.  A review is simply a conversation between one person who has read a book, and someone else who is thinking about reading it.  As such, a review is not meant to contain information that is useful to the writer.  Where a good critique, which is intended for the writer, will note both positive and negative elements within a book, a review is essentially an argument for or against reading the work, and will mostly contain information designed to support the initial argument.

A critique, generally, will be specific in its points, identifying, not simply where the story fails to work, but why it fails to work, and what can be done to make it work.  A review doesn’t have these elements because there’s no reason for it to do so.  When an author reads a critique they will hopefully emerge on the other side with an idea of how to better themselves.  When an author reads a review, they will emerge on the other side either thinking more highly of themselves, or pissed off at the person who wrote it.

It is a no-win situation.

But authors, especially new authors and authors who have not achieved the level of success that they want, will inevitably read their reviews.  Because reviews are one of the best indicators of a books future success.  Did you just get twenty praise-filled reviews in a row?  Well, chances are those people are telling their friends.  Did you get a dozen one star reviews?  Good luck getting someone who stumbles across your amazon page to randomly purchase that.

So our eyes are locked on it.  We are fully invested in that next review.  that next comment.  that next X-star….

Every once in a while, one of my writer friends will post a story about a writer who replies to a bad review.  Inevitably, things go poorly.  No matter how bad a review is, how much we think that they just didn’t understand, writers have to learn to keep their thoughts to themselves.  The truth is, we’re listening in on somebody else’s conversation.  They aren’t talking to us, so bursting in and screaming at them is unacceptable.  After all, if they bought a copy of the book, then they’re entitled to share their opinion of it.

Sorry, just had all of this running through my mind while I wait for Awfully Appetizing to get its first review.  I have to remind myself that I may not like what they have to say.

Then again, maybe I will.

Either way, the truth is, I shouldn’t read it.

But I will anyway.