Sunday, March 01, 2015

The Review Rollercoaster--It Might Make You Dizzy

A new book release is a rollercoaster of a time that never gets old—and, so far, hasn’t gotten easier.
            Deep inside, beneath the thin veneer of self-confidence and fairy-dust sprinkles of excitement, is the fear: What if it’s not good enough? What if everyone hates it? What if this is the book where everyone finally figures out that I suck at writing?
            Yep, it happens with Every. Single. Book.
            I always say I won’t read the reviews, and it’s true that after a couple of weeks, I do stop reading them. But those weeks before the release and immediately after? I can’t help myself.
            And so it is that I have hesitantly begun scouring for early reviews of my April 21 release, PIRATE’S ALLEY.
            OMG, Publisher’s Weekly says it’s disjointed and hard to follow.
            But wait, OMG, RT Book Reviews says it has the perfect elements of urban fantasy and, even at book four, is clear enough for a new reader to get lost in it.
            Oh no, OMG, someone gave it two stars on Goodreads. Oh, wait, that “review” was filed before I’d even finished writing the book. How exactly does that work?
            And there you have it. The good, bad, and ugly of book reviews. 
            To post a “review” on Goodreads, one is not required to have actually read the book. Some readers use the rating system as a way to prioritize their reading lists.
            Some reviewers don’t understand the system. Here’s my favorite one-star review from Amazon on another of my books: “Great read—couldn’t put it down.”
            Some reviewers don’t understand the genre. A two-star review of one of my romantic suspense titles: “This is awful; it scared me, and it kept me awake all night thinking about it. The bad guy is just horrible.” To which I mentally high-fived myself. I mean, it’s romantic SUSPENSE, right?
            My all-time favorite review: “I can’t believe a woman would use such language in her writing.” He'd really be shocked if he knew my advanced age and conservative upbringing.
            So here’s the point that I eventually remember: I’m neither as horrible or as sprinkled with unicorn glitter as anyone thinks. I’m glad people are reading the books. If I’m fortunate, more will love them than hate them. If I’m really fortunate, they’ll look for other books I’ve written. Otherwise, well, I do have a pension to look forward to.
            This is the irony of a writer’s life. Most of us are introverts (extremely so in my case), yet we do work that goes in front of (we hope) thousands of people we don’t know, who will judge it, often publicly, sometimes harshly.
            Which is their right. Because once the book is out and we’ve sullenly donned our marketing hats and scared ourselves silly trying to be publicity-hounds, our job with that particular book is done. Then we turn to the next one and, before long, we’re again taking sneaky peeks at early reviews that will send us hiding in a corner one moment and dancing with glee the next.

            But it’s a fun ride. Right?


Peggy Webb said...

GREAT post! You nailed it!

Suzanne Johnson said...

Thanks, Peggy! It IS a rollercoaster!

Aidee Ladnier said...

So true. I've always heard that some reviews say more about the reviewer than the book.

Carla Swafford said...

My oldest, who is all reader and not a writer, loves Goodreads.

Yes, I've brought her up better than that, but she's the scale I based most of my thoughts about readers. She's aware that some of the reviews are bias or plain vicious - those she ignore. Instead she checks out the good and bad and makes her own assumption.

Of course, I don't think all readers feel as my daughter, but I like to think my fans are smart and kind as she is.

Suzanne Johnson said...

@Aidee. Some definitely do...and yes, there are review sites whose names I won't mention but who I pray never discovers any of my books. :-)

@Carla--I think a lot of purely readers use GR and now that I've accepted that I have no control over it, I don't go there very often because the readers take ownership of it and don't want writers butting in. And I'm okay with that. I think most readers can read a rant and recognize it for what it is. Well, I hope so anyway!

Cari Hislop said...

Ah reviews... I try to avoid reading them (or even looking at the stars) and unless a reader has written to me I would never comment to a reader (though I can understand why some writers do).

I have started using Good Reads (mainly as a reader - not that I've figured out how to add friends - minor details) and I like being able to share my reviews and then see what other people thought. Of course reviews are completely subjective because there are so many different types of readers. Not everyone wants the same thing from a story. People who live and die for plot will HATE my stories. Not that my stories don't have a plot, but my plots are very basic, but with complex character development which drives the story (because that's what I enjoy reading). I love great dialogue, but for some people they couldn't care less as long as things keep happening in rapid fire action. I think at the end of the day there needs to be another rating level...the stars just don't quite cut it. I've given different books five stars, but some of those books are miles above the other five star books. I don't know what needs to happen, but another layer of review would be helpful.

Congratulations on your new book coming out! I hope we get another post so we don't forget to check it out. :)

Jillian said...

superb post. All true

Suzanne Johnson said...

@Cari--I do have my blog feed post on Goodreads on my author page, and as a reader I think it's a great resourse. I never, ever, ever respond to reviews and really don't read them after the first couple of weeks.