Reviews: The Good, the Bad, the Really Ugly, and Prevention.

Reviews are very powerful things that readers have at their disposal, but most don’t know how to review a book. So I thought I might try to provide some insight on the subject, and with luck make it more reader and author friendly. Webster’s Dictionary defines review as to write a critical examination of.

 To start, a review is not a book report. There is no need to tell the whole story or to give away the ending. If everyone knows the ending, why would they want to read the book? We call them spoilers. Don’t spoil the story for everyone. There’s also no reason to write a complete synopsis of the book.

Four and Five Star Reviews:

If you love the book, don’t be afraid to say it. Was that hero so sexy that you wanted to curl up in his arms and stay there forever? If the answer is yes, then write that in your review. If you couldn’t stop reading until you reached the end and then cried because the book had ended, put that in the review. If you laughed out loud, and everyone on the subway stared at you. Stick it in the review. People want to know those things!

Two and Three Star Reviews:

But what if you read something, and it so-so? Remember your mom telling you that if you couldn’t say something nice, don’t say it? I think the vast majority of readers fall into that category, and they don’t bother reviewing the book. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong to say something if you are so inclined. Seriously, if you bought the book and you just didn’t like the hero because you don’t like macho cops and he was a real alpha, pain-in-the-bum, swaggering, know-it-all detective, yes, you may say it. It’s called freedom of speech, and you are entitled to an opinion. Just remember that there are plenty of readers who love those guys. But before you tear into that book with all your claws because you didn’t like the hero, was the book well written? Did the writing flow smoothly carrying you to the next page or chapter? Be nice about it if you are going to condemn the book and don’t give away the plot!

I’ve actually seen three star reviews that were quite nice. The whole world will not like every book that has ever been written. As authors we accept that fact.

One and Two Star Reviews:

As fiction writers we dread them. Want to know why? They are usually useless and say things sometimes totally unrelated to the story or they could have been written about any story. “This was so bad I couldn’t finish it. It sucked from page one to the very end.” Sorry, but that didn’t tell anyone anything about the book. It’s not constructive criticism and for all we know the reviewer could have been talking about a completely different book.

If the hero forced the school bus off the road and over the cliff during a high-speed chase, and it was never mentioned again, it’s call a plot hole. Yes, they are bad. Stick a few of those in a novel and I’d probably be thinking one star review. But would I write one? Never say never, but I can’t imagine that I ever would.

I read a time-travel book many years ago, and the heroine was backed into a corner with a swordsman ready to remove her head, but suddenly a gate opened up and she fell back into today. (I’m rolling my eyes and groaning.) The whole book was filled with these just-in-the nick-of-time gates. It’s why I don’t read paranormal, etc. Did it make that a bad book? No. It just wasn’t my cup of tea. So why did I read it? Well, I bought it to support the author who I knew.

Did I review it? Yes. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I was honest. I said it was well written and not a genre that I usually read. As a reader I had to buy into the whole fantasy of dropping in and out of time which didn’t feel right to me, but the historic details were very accurate, had been carefully researched, and then woven into the story. If someone liked time travel with lots of action and adventure…Just because I didn’t like it doesn’t mean it was a bad book. Just because I didn’t like it, didn’t make it a terrible book!

The other thing that often crops up in a review is reference to comma and spelling errors. Yes, I have a spelling error in one of my books. My heroine wound up with books instead of boots on her feet. It is the only spelling error in that book. In the original copy that sent to be formatted, it is correct. Did something happen during conversion? I’ll never know, but I did recently read a book where the hero stroked her cheek with his thump. Huh? Thumb? Could the b have become a p during the conversion? It’s very possible.

And as for comma errors, they are in every book! Plus there is more than one style for grammar. MLA says one thing, NYT says another, and Chicago Manual has a different take. Add to it, most readers don’t know if they are reading an author from New Zealand or Australia, and they don’t use the same punctuation as we do in America. It seems as if they strip punctuation out of their books. The general and accepted rule of thumb is quite simple. Does the sentence make sense? If the grammar is so poor, no one wants to read it, because it is difficult to read. But most books are carefully edited. Yet, mistakes slip through anyway.

Prevention:

The best thing any reader can do is read the blurb. Then read that sample! The blurb usually will give you the gist of the story. If you don’t like those swaggering macho cops, then why did you buy the book? If the book is filled with a million spelling and comma errors, and it drives you nuts, you’ll see it in those sample pages. So don’t buy the book!

I’ve read some wonderful fiction and non-fiction that were excellent, but the spelling errors and grammar mistakes were abundant. Yes, it was annoying, but the books were great.  In fact, one book was removed from the market, re-edited, and re-released. The story hasn’t changed one iota, it just reads smoother without the mistakes. It was a great story even before it was re-edited.

Reviews are always welcomed especially the nice ones. If you feel compelled to write a three to one star review, think hard before you write it. Are you matching the review to the correct book? Is your only complaint the fact that you didn’t like it? And if it was a poorly written book, filled with errors that made it difficult to read, and plot holes big enough for the school bus to fall through, be specific so that others who read the review can decide if your poison is their meat. Choose your words carefully.

I’ve never read a bad four or five star review. I’ve read plenty of three star reviews, which usually tells me the reader just didn’t grasp the story. But most, not all, two and one star reviews are so poorly written that it shows the ignorance of the reviewer. Don’t make that mistake.

Yes, there are plenty of books that don’t deserve to be books. They are poorly written, not properly vetted (lacking in content and edits), and yet they are there. But there are some terrific reads with minor flaws, and they don’t deserve to be trashed because a reader found what he or she feels is a comma error or sixteen of them within an 80K word book.

I can point to a known author with a big NY publisher and her book went out with an error. That book had been through at least eight different editors, and no one spotted the error until a fan pointed it out six months after it had been published. The rider had been throne from his horse. No author wants those mistakes, but they happen. I’m also willing to bet that the vast majority of you are going back to reread that sentence to see what was wrong. Fortunately, our brain inserts the right word as we read. Unfortunately, the editors’ brains inserted the correct word, and the mistake was never seen. There is no such thing as a perfectly written book.

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  I released my newest sweet western romance, A Love Song in Wyoming, this weekend. It’s live on Amazon and Smashwords, but it won’t show up elsewhere until later this month. It’s the third novella set in Creeds Crossing, Wyoming. A Snowy Christmas in Wyoming and A Cowboy’s Kiss in Wyoming are on the Amazon’s best western romance list. So I’ll make a deal with you. If you love it, please tell the world and write a review, and if you hate it tell me!

Angie has a problem. Country music star, Johnny Rockthorne bought the property next to her family’s ranch. She loves his attention and it makes her heart sing, but she doesn’t want to be a rich boy’s toy. Then her first love shows up and claims he’s returned for her. Both men promise her a better life. One can give her everything she’s ever wanted, and the other can give her anything she wants.

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16 Responses to Reviews: The Good, the Bad, the Really Ugly, and Prevention.

  1. leighmorgan1 says:

    I’m with you, E. I read reviews on Amazon. Most are helpful, some are just mean-spirited, which is not particularly helpful for a reader. Reviews don’t stop me from reading a book I want to read from an author I enjoy, but they can make a difference in whether I wait for the paperback (if it’s trad. pub.) or get it from the library. Most e-books I can read a sample of, which is awesome, and if I like it, I’m buying regardless of negative reviews. Sometimes the best stories are the ones I’ve gone into expecting little and end up loving lots. Thanks for the post! Happy Monday.

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    • E. Ayers says:

      I hope all readers understand reviews. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and reviewing is a way to express it. But people need to learn to look at reviews critically and as you implied make up their own mind.

      A friend had a reviewer call her book “porn”. Excuse me, but what part of the blurb did she miss? It was clearly evident that the story was about a dominatrix, although that might be an eye-opener for some folks, but it doesn’t come near erotic or even porn. Another friend had her book reviewed and the person said there was too much sex in it. HUH? Three sweet kisses,and no sex in the entire book!
      E

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      • jdfaver says:

        As the writer of the “porn” book, I’m laughing. I actually sent it to a very widely read erotica author before I released it and she patted me on the head and said, “There,there, deary. It’s not erotica.” It is a murder-mystery/romance with two very damaged characters. But the heroine is a dominatrix…Think Lady Heather on CSI. Funny thing is that I have sold more copies since the “porn” review. I hope readers aren’t disappointed.
        *hugs*
        ~J.D.

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  2. Thank you for your helpful advice about writing reviews, especially the “Prevention” section. If the book isn’t your genre, then how can you reliably judge it? Yes, spelling, grammatical, and formatting errors drive me nuts, but if the plot is good and the characters interesting, I can usually find something positive to say. I guess I’m from the “if you can’t say something nice …” school of thought.

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    • E. Ayers says:

      I really have a problem reading paranormal stories. I just don’t make that leap of faith. I can promise, I’ll never open my back door and wind up in another place unless I die in the doorway. But it doesn’t make the writing bad, just because it’s not my thing.

      I read a book the other day and it had about three spelling errors in it. I remember that one of the errors was a no and it should have been not. Yes, they caught my attention, but they didn’t stop me from enjoying the great story. OTOH, I’ve read plenty of books put out by some of the biggest publishers that were riddled with spelling and grammar errors. I’m not sure why, but I think we all expect the big houses to put out perfect books.

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  3. Tori Scott says:

    Great post, E. I shared it on Facebook and Twitter.

    Like

  4. Joan Reeves says:

    Excellent post, E. Tweeted of course.

    Like

  5. E. Ayers says:

    Thanks, Tori and Joan. I love the Authors of Main Street.

    Like

  6. RoseAnderson says:

    Terrific post E. Great perspective. I think there are two side to online reviews — the honest assessment and the anonymous hit and run. On this side of the fence, just for my own education one day, I looked up three of my favorite authors on Amazon. These authors are highly regarded, well-known, well-published writers. And you know what? They have their fair share of snarky reviews! It was a real eye-opener for me. It only goes to show that not every book is a good fit with every reader. It sure changed my perspective.
    Rose

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  7. E. Ayers says:

    Thanks for coming, Rose. Yes, everyone gets three star and lower reviews. I saw a one star review where the reviewer asked how could this book have gotten so many 5 star reviews. I had to laugh because that book appealed to those 5 star reviewers. We’ll never please everyone. But nasty, snarky reviews are usually useless.

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  8. jdfaver says:

    This was an excellent post, E. I do leave reviews, but generally all of my reviews are 4 and 5 star reviews. This is because, I don’t waste my time reading something I don’t like. If it’s flat and boring I delete it. There are too many great books calling to me from the TBR pile, both real and virtual. And yes, since I write romantic suspense and thrillers, I hate it when even a good review has “spoilers”. Thanks for spelling it all out.
    *hugs*
    ~J.D.

    Like

    • E. Ayers says:

      Thanks for stopping, JD. Part of the fun of reading suspense is the whodunit ,and even if we know whodunit (thriller), we don’t want to know all the details of what happened. Hate spoilers!

      Like

  9. Great post, E. I usually don’t read reviews. I buy by the blurb. If the blurb “catches” me, that’s it. I buy. I agree with you when you say that a reviewer should give 1 or 2 stars only if they truly think the book wasn’t well written. Heroes and heroines are subjective, and there’s bound to be a typo or two in any book.

    Jane

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  10. This is an excellent post, and filled with so much information. I read reviews, too, before getting a book, and it’s always easy to tell that someone gave a one star review because they didn’t like what the book was about. Like you say, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad book, it just means that, that person didn’t like it. It irks me when I see that. The information and guidelines you’ve supplied here are the best. I thank you for it. And like E. Ayers say, read the blurb so you know what you’re getting into.

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    • E. Ayers says:

      Thank you, Mary. And thank you for stopping by the Authors of Main Street. Authors and readers need to understand the difference between a critical review and what what amounts to bashing. As authors, we know that not everyone will fall in love with every book we write.

      One and two star reviews can be alerts for a potential reader. An occasional comma cop will blast a book for a few mistakes. But if there’s a heavy pattern of such comments, then make certain you read the sample. Giving stars in a review isn’t on a scale of one to five how much did you like the book, but often that’s what reviews do.

      Like

  11. Reblogged this on A Walk With Words and commented:
    Great information on writing reviews for Readers and Writers.

    Like

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