How Many Stars?

I’ve been told that it’s general wisdom for an author to not read their reviews on Amazon (or wherever the general population can leave an opinion.) I don’t know how many authors actually do or don’t, but I’ll admit I’ve seen a fair bit of griping about the occasional bad apple review spoiling a set.

And even if the author *does* read them, it’s considered good manners to not say anything directly to the reviewers. After all, everyone is entitled to their opinions, even if they’re lousy. (Although it can be pretty irritating to see people reviewing things that they haven’t actually read or seen yet – basing their entire “experience” on what they imagine the book to be. And there are always armchair jockeys that review everything from music to art with absolutely no idea of what it is they’re talking about.)

For an author to try to enter the murky waters of reviews is really nothing more than an invitation to a feeding frenzy of bad press. For example – what am I going to gain by trying to start a conversation with someone who has clearly made up their mind?  It happens sometimes, and the end result usually isn’t very pretty.

Anyway, this post was sort of sparked when I went to Amazon the other night to actually look up the reviews for one of my friend’s books. Call it morbid curiosity, I guess. I’ll admit that I didn’t care for her book at all. Not that the writing was bad or anything – it just didn’t resonate with me. And I *really* wanted to like it. I tried several times, but never got more than a few chapters in. This is rare for me, but maybe it’s just because I’m so distracted right now that it takes a lot to hold my attention. If I can put it down and walk away, that’s probably indicative that I won’t be finishing it any time soon.

And I would never tell her this. Her book is doing very well. There’s a sequel coming out and the majority of her reviews were quite good. I’m ecstatic for her success and I hope she writes ten more. They just aren’t my cup of tea.

So I got to wondering about next year and if I’m going to have the guts to look at my own reviews, once they’re out there. I mean, I understand not wanting to see them. I’ve had my share of blows to the ego with contest scores – but the big difference there is that I’m the only one who got to see them..Once in the world, the resulting opinions are also out there for everyone to see.  But hiding my head in the sand doesn’t make reviews, good or bad, go away. In theory, one could argue that if an author’s ego is so fragile that a few shitty reviews completely devastates them then they probably shouldn’t be writing for publication in the first place.

On the other hand, I imagine it’s got to sting like a bitch. Can’t say I’m looking forward to it…but as long as there are good ones to balance everything out, I’ll be happy.

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4 Responses to How Many Stars?

  1. Scopique says:

    I NEVER go back and read responses unless I'm asking a question. If I'm offering an opinion on something on another website (especially on sites where trolls spawn like weeds…yes that's redundant), I make a point to fire and forget. I don't want to go back and read the crappy responses people make to MY post, because I know I'll want to rebutt their comment…

    And arguing on the Internet is like the Special Olympics.

    But you'll do it. The fact that you're thinking about it NOW means it will only be amplified by the time you're hitting shelves. The difference to remember is that (oh shit, it looks like your hamster died…he's laying down with his eyes closed…nevermind. He's moving again) low scores in these contests and whatnot are given by other authors (I assume). On Amazon, you're getting unsolicited opinion who use AMAZON to register their reviews. Think about where they lie on the scale of 1 to Important…

  2. Danica says:

    I never reviewed books. If I liked them, I liked them and bought more by the same author. If I didn't like them, I traded them or didn't bother finishing them. Now that I'm trying to branch into the industry, I see how important reviews are to writers. We want that positive reinforcement from those who read our work. We want them to say "ZOMG this was the best book ever!". Unfortunately, I think a lot of readers are like I was, not interested in reviewing.

    So the point of all this rambling, is that even if you get some bad reviews, realize that there's probably a whole host of people out there who LOVE your story, they just haven't posted it on-line for all the world to see. That's just a little something to think about 🙂

  3. Simon says:

    I'd look. I'm narcissistic like that. I'd curse the negative reviewers in my head, but no one wins in online arguments. The best you can hope for in a flame war is coming out looking like less of a dumbass than the other person (but you still both look like dumbasses).

    Who was that fella who made a Youtube vid of all his negative reviews, read by friends and relatives? I forget, but that was awesome. Way to turn it around, man!

  4. mynfel says:

    Yeah. That hamster can be pretty wily. 

    And you're right. Contests are usually judged by people who are at least trying to get pubbed – but they're not always a good line to measure by. Realistically speaking, they're going to be harder on the book since they're internally measuring themselves up against it, I think.

    In the end, it's the readers that are going to buy the thing. Hopefully.

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