On reviews

If you read romance boards or blogs, you’ll know that at the moment the romance community is aflutter due to an incident involving a negative amazon review and an author’s reaction to it. This incident raised two main questions:

a) How serious should you take an amazon review?

b) Does an author have the (moral) right to get a review taken off or pushed off her amazon page?

Several issues that came up during this debate reminded me a lot of my own rather naive view of reviews, in particular amazon reviews, about a year ago. I mean, I wasn’t even aware that people really read these reviews (I normally don’t read reviews)! So imagine my surprise when I found out that these reviews can be made into a really big issue – and my sheer horror when I realized that everybody can post a review of my book or even trash it. And all I can do about it is –

– nothing. (Or almost nothing.)

Wow, that’s … Could I please have my manuscript back?

Reviews are scary. Amazon reviews are even scarier because there are indeed people out there who enjoy trashing books in general or trashing books by a particular author/publisher. (This, however, was apparently not the case in the aforementioned incident.) Plain trashing is easy to spot: the reviews are very short and read something like: “THIS BOOK IS FEMINIST CRAP.”/ “This iS the wost book I evver read. I didn’t even mak it past page 15.” In the worst possible case, the review includes a personal attack on the author. (“The only books author XY should be allowed to write are picture books!”) Now, IMO, it’s perfectly all right if an author asks amazon to remove such “reviews” and to ask friends to click the “not helpful” button.

So much about reviews. But even scarier still are discussions on message boards and blogs. With THE LILY BRAND, I was really lucky that most people seemed to like the book. However, there were some negative comments, too. In one case even on a board where I am a regular poster, and in a way that very much looked like a personal attack to me (if you post about seven comments in three months, and at least three of these comments are about how horrid TLB is – well, what else would you call it than a personal attack?). Now what do you do in these cases?

Again, nothing.

And believe me, it’s not a nice feeling. I’m usually a person who isn’t afraid to stand up for herself, but in this case I’m supposed to accept the slaps gracefully and even with a smile. Duh. (Okay, in one case I probably didn’t react quite so gracefully … ah, well … *shrug*) All in all, it makes you feel rather helpless because you know you’ll be judged by your reaction. Therefore, very often you can’t react in what you yourself would regard an adequate manner.

BUT, as I said, I was very, very lucky with TLB. In fact I’ve found some wonderful in-depth discussions of the novel on one or two boards, got lots of lovely e-mails and even a present (!!!)from enthusiastic readers, and was spontaneously hugged by a bookseller in Reno because she had enjoyed my book so much. :O)

So all in all, I really can’t complain.

Still, the prospect of reviews and readers’ discussions can be rather scary.

6 thoughts on “On reviews

  1. Kate

    I think that’s why I don’t write for public consumption! Sure, it would be cool to have a book in print, but the thought of all that unconstructive criticism and the potentially negative reviews terrifies me.

    You’re a much braver woman than me.

  2. Sandy

    Well, as I said, I was extremely lucky and got mostly really wonderful reviews. AND enthusiastic e-mails from readers. AND discovered great discussions of TLB on various message boards. That more than makes up for the two or three bad things that happened.

    Still, I know that when the reviews for the next book are due (given that there *will* be a next book!), I’ll nearly die from nervousness all over again. *g*

  3. Dorie

    I hate most of all the Amazon reviews for books/movies/music because they let anyone post any crap they want and none of it helps to make a decision whether to get the product or not. Of course, you can tell when people are just there to bash it and have nothing useful to impart. I wish that Amazon would not let those reviews be posted, unless it was well thought out and articulate.

    I’m not sure if I agree that only authors should review books, mainly because I have done a lot of reviews, lol. And I think that regular people should be able to give their opinion on whether they liked it or not, because that is the people that will buy the books.

    I know I’m not an expert or anything, but I have never bashed a book, even if I dislike it, I would do my best not to bash it, but state the reasons why it might have bothered me.

    Yet I know that it must be the worst thing to write a book and get bad reviews for it, because you worked so hard on it and it is a piece of you.

    Sorry for the long post.

  4. Sandy

    Dorie, no, I definitely wouldn’t agree with that statement that only authors should be allowed to review books. After all, books aren’t intended for authors, they’re intended for readers! 🙂

  5. Sandy

    PS: I should have mentioned, though, that writers read differently than people who don’t write. Basically, they’re able to catch more of the technical flaws. That’s why I think crit groups/partners (or at least editorial feedback) are important for an author.

    However, getting feedback from readers is always very nice, too. :O) *waving towards Dorie*

  6. cokadi

    Hi Sandy and everyone. I am not a writer (though I’ve tried sometime..) but I can understand the idea that only writers should write reviews. It is similar to Kandinskys opinion that only artists should write about visual art.

    As a reader I don’t give much on amazon reader reviews for fiction, only if they are very well written ;-).

    But there are other kinds of books, like for example art instruction books, were it can be very helpful to read in which way others could use the book and what is really shown and written inside.

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