In the middle of October, I went to a wonderful conference, Sirens. It is a place to gather and discuss the roles of Women in speculative fiction literature – writers, publishers, marketing, readers, characters. This was my second year and I loved being removed from my normal life for a few days, meeting new people and reuniting with the friends of the prior year. And especially talking about all things to do with books and writing.
One of the topics we discussed in a panel led by the amazing Kate Larking and Hallie Tibbetts were reviews. Both of these ladies had been very prolific in the reviewing world – Kate had done it professionally for a newspaper, and many of her reviews were picked up for syndication(and typically not attributed). Hallie had done it as part of blogging, much like I am doing now.
And both of them have drastically reduced the number of reviews they’ve left and deleted many of their old reviews.
Why? There were a few reasons, but the one they mentioned the most was the potential impact those reviews – especially the overly critical ones – could have on their future careers. They were intensely aware that they were part of a community, and that to maintain their professional relationships, they might also have to maintain their silences on their true opinions of their colleague’s work.
I don’t disagree with that stance, per-se. But I am also a member of a wonderful community, the NaNoWriMo Participants. A large percentage of that community are struggling writers – independent self-publishing authors or people who have gone the traditional publishing routes but are still trying to build their readership. And the pleas I hear from most is for reviews – honest reviews – of their books.
Books reviews – especially on sites such as Amazon, Goodreads and others – can have very positive outcomes for an author regardless of the content or star-ratings of that review. On Amazon, the more people who cared enough to come back and rate and review a book, the higher the book’s ranking in the search engines gets. NO MATTER WHAT THE REVIEW IS. And as a reader, how many times have you bought a book that had NO reviews, unless it was a brand new book from an author that you already knew and trusted? Even a mediocre review from a reader will help the author find new readers to leave more reviews. (IT’S THE CIRCLE OF LIIIIFFFEEEEEEEEEE *cough* … sorry….)
The other thing reviews can do is help an author grow in their craft. If enough people are saying that they couldn’t read past a certain event (or lack of event) in the book, or that they lost interest because of a specific thing, those are weaknesses in an author’s story-telling that can help that author grow. The last thing an author wants to do is BORE their readers, preceded only marginally on the list by failing to connect with their audience and being accused of committing atrocities against the English language.
Of course not all authors see it that way – a one star review with a scathing (and most damning, a non-specific) review hurts feelings, and it could hurt sales. Some authors have even retaliated with an obsessiveness bordering on criminality. Some reviewers ARE out to purposefully hurt an author’s sales, either to boost their own rankings in the genre, or because they find genuine pleasure in attacking someone anonymously.
I’m going to assume my precious readers are not among those groups of twatwaffles. I have faith that you are adults who can take honest criticism in stride – whether you agree with it or not – and that you are also adults who don’t destroy people’s careers and mental stability for shits-and-giggles.
Every Thursday I will post reviews of the books I have read. They will be a mixture of traditionally published books – usually from people I do not know – and independent books – usually from people I do know. I’m going to put up at the very top my acquaintance with the author, be it just from the other things they’ve written, or that I’ve had several IM conversations with them that have stretched until 2 A.M. in the morning.
Caveat: I am not a professional literary critic, so these are all going to be as well thought out but still ultimately subjective reviews from a long time reader and current writer. Feel free to take them with a grain of salt. Please. Tell me in the comments where I’m wrong, and I’ll be happy to discuss it with you. Just please don’t leave a flaming bag of dog crap on my doorstop.
I may review a few books I couldn’t finish – I will tell you that as well. I will NOT be reviewing books that I couldn’t get past the first chapter – that isn’t fair to the author or to readers that it just wasn’t my taste in books. I WILL review books that I made it more than half-way through before being forced to throw in the towel. I will tell you WHY I couldn’t keep going, so that you can decide if you would tough it out or if I was just being a massive pussy to begin with. Sometimes it’s probably me, and not them. Sometimes it is so, so, SO much them, but it that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a bad author or even that it’s a bad book. Just that there are reasons I couldn’t take any more.
There may be some promotional material attached if the book will be offered for free soon or if there will be a sale at some point in the near future. This will be my way of endorsing that you get your own opinion of the book. I am NOT compensated in any way for these reviews –this is not my job, it is a natural extension of both my love of reading and
informing people of my opinions writing. Most of the books here I paid for – if I got an ARC, was a beta reader before reading the final version, or grabbed it as a freebie, I will let you know that as well.
OK – enough fine print – on to the reviews!