Sunday, May 2, 2010

Reviews: The Good the Bad and the Huh?

Take any book you've written that has gotten either a luke-warm or bad review (if you've had any) and compare it to reviews of the same book that were glowing. What's the difference? What was the one essential element the reviewer mentioned that didn't work for them? Was it one, or many? Was it something they just couldn't put their finger on?

I'm asking this question for a specific reason. Today I read a review of one of my novels where the reviewer said as a whole the book didn't work for her. Fine. Fair enough. Different strokes for different folks and all that jazz. Just to be fair the very same book was highly praised on another review site, so I'm running 50/50 on how it's been received. Not a big deal. However, when I got into the meat of the review, I didn't really find anyting specific that didn't work for the reviewer. It seemed the reviewer liked the individual elements, but not the book as a whole. Which had me saying, "Huh?" And it got me to thinking - and that's never a good thing.

Generally, I read my reviews as a learning tool. Especially those with very specific reasons they thought something fell flat, or wasn't fleshed out enough, ect. Of course taking this information with a grain of salt is imperative. I just like to keep it in the back of my mind for when I'm crafting another story. It makes me more mindful of certain aspects I might let fall to the wayside. Let's face it, writing is not for the faint of heart. You are juggling balls and spinning plates while trying to keep your story moving forward, your characters interesting and your plot side-stepping the dredded saggy middle. Sometimes I know I forget one aspect of the equation that might make the entire story read like a dissertation on quantaum mechanics. In other words, there is something important in there, it's just indecipherable.

But this isn't just about my reviews, or one's I've received on my books. If I want to try a new author (new to me anyhow) or read a series I've not any real idea about, I go to the reviews on My experience with that seems to be about the same as with my own reviews. Someone will like the book in question, and someone won't. How then do I find this helpful at all? Because I know what I like. If someone writing the review writes for instance that the heroine is bratty or selfish - I'll generally going to stay away from that book. On the other hand, if I'm reading a review of a sci-fi or epic fantasy and someone says the romance was unneeded, I know I'm probably going to like it. *big smile* Sometimes though the reviews are just rehashes of the blurb. That's not really helpful since it appears on the book page right above the reviews. In that case, I just take my chances if I really want to read the book - or I'll get it at the library.

I know some authors who don't even read their reviews, and others who wrap their world around them. I think I'm somewhere in the middle of the road. I read them, if they're good, I'm glad. It means someone "got me" and my odd view of the world and sense of humor. If they don't - aw, well, whatareya' gonna do?

So, tell me, what's your take on reviews? Do you listen to the good, throw out the bad and scratch your head at the huh? Or do you just strike it up to different tastes?



Lissa said...

I have received really good, 5-Star reviews on one book and received the equivalent of a 0-star review on the same book. The glowing reviews said 'man you really get it' the bad review said 'the author clearly doesn't get it'. And of course I received every other kind of rating on that book that there was to receive.

I take the good and the bad. I try to stay true to myself when I write any book and I will take into account what the bad reviews are saying. If there's something specific, I'll keep it in mind and try to make up for the lack and see if I can be more clear or whatever in other books. If it's just a general 'this wasn't for me' I'll feel bad, but we can't please everyone. And if we did, where would the fun be in that? Where would we have to grow from? Reader reviews vs review sites are interesting too. I prefer reader reviews, but there again, some you can please, some you can't. If one of my tried and true readers doesn't like one of my books, I'll take their comments to heart and really look into it and see where I could have done differently and if I can make up for it in another book, I will. I love to learn and learning from what isn't loved by all can only be a good thing.

Just my opinion though... Good topic!

Crista said...

Great post today, Kat. I had been blessed with good reviews until my latest release, which was ether loved (5/5) or "meh" (3/5 stars). When I read the "meh" reviews, they were helpful, usually saying they didn't think I did anything new in the genre or that they thought the story was too short and wanted more resolution. These comments are helpful, and I'll use them to try and make later stories in the series better.

Thankfully, I've never been "giggled". I'm dreading that day, if it ever comes.

Lisa Lane said...

My erotic sci-fi, LUST IN SPACE has received 5-star and 2-star reviews, and everything in between (and also won Book of the Week at Whipped Cream and was a Night Owl Review's Top Pick). I've had a similar experience with my erotic horror series. I try to take what I can from reviews, good and bad. While much of it does come down to personal taste, I think any review, as long as it is well written and it is clear the reviewer actually read the work, can be used productively. I try to learn from them, when at all possible.

Tierney O'Malley said...

Hi Kat,

I like reading my book reviews especially when you can see clearly that the reviewer spend her time reading it. A reviewer gave Three Christmas Kisses 3/5 review because the sex scenes were somewhat hot and not steamy enough for her taste. Sounds like a preference to me and I can't do anything about it. Overall, she enjoyed the book. But she made me think. If I'm writing erotic romance maybe I should think about the sex scenes.


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