Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Bad reviews - What do you think of them?

Face it, if you're an author, you've most likely had some less than stellar reviews. If you're a book reviewer, you've probably given some less than stellar reviews. As we keep telling each other and ourselves, book reviews are subjective. Thus, we shouldn't worry about a bad review...or two. Like it or not, less than stellar reviews can teach us valuable things when we keep an open mind. If reviews honestly critique the story, they can point out things that can help the author write the next story. They've helped me. This is not to say a reviewer should ever attack a book or an author - there's a huge difference. If you have a personal beef with an author keep it to yourself or at least keep it private between the two of you. Here's an example I pulled off Amazon of a less than helpful review, "I was gullible enough to follow an Amazon recommendation on this one; it turned out to be on of my biggest mistakes. I wish I could give less than a star. Its ridicules that these books get printed while books which are so much better barely make it to e form. Just save your money, effort and time. Just stay away." While this hurts, it also doesn't help. I'd really like to know WHY the reader doesn't like the stories, both as a reader and an author. Perhaps the reader doesn't like erotic romance. Perhaps he doesn't like menages. Perhaps he has a beef about e-books. Perhaps he really doesn't like the writing - but of all three authors involved (this was about an anthology comprised of three authors)? Here's an example of a reviewer that still doesn't like one of my books, but gives me helpful insightful into "why". I took this to heart when writing subsequent stories and I owe this reviewer my thanks (even if it hurts a little). ""Pirate's Booty" was my least favorite. The love scenes were hot, but the story felt forced to me and I think I just had a really cheesy porn movie playing in my head (complete with the chick in animal skin bikini) as I was reading parts of it. But maybe if that is your fantasy the story would work for you, it did not for me." (from the anthology "And Lady Makes Three" published by Ellora's Cave at www.ellorascave.com) Funny thing is, this book is my biggest seller out of all 40+ of my published books. Maybe it's because of my anthology partners' contributions. Anyway, it did give me a tip or two so I've toned down my subsequent stories and I've been getting better reviews. (However, not better sales, so I have to wonder what that's all about...) Just to prove that reviews are subjective, here's a good review of the same story "Pirate's Booty" in the "And Lady Makes Three" anthology. "Pirate's Booty by Ashley Ladd is like a treasure cookie; plain golden temptation on the outside and warm gooey decadence on the inside. At first, I was all prepared for another "rich, useless girl falls for bum" type story and was pleasantly surprised to learn otherwise. Melena is a self-sufficient dynamo of a heroine. Keir and Zarod struggle to accept learning new things about themselves as we learn what wonderful hero material they both really are. All in all, this is a satisfyingly decadent jaunt. Ms. Ladd has created a heroine any woman would be proud to identify with and heroes that turn out to be exactly what they should be. Her way with building sexual tension does not hurt a bit either. " So, which review should I believe? I'd say both of the second two. They're both valid opinions. They both state their reasons "why". The first, doesn't give us a clue. As a reader, do you go by reviews in your book buying decisions? Have you ever bought a book because a review was good...or bad? Honestly, when a book receives a really poor review, I'm more curious than ever to see why and to see if I agree with it. I've read where some authors are tempted to write a really bad review of their book and post it under a different name for promo purposes. I wouldn't do that. I don't hope for a bad review. However, with millions of readers (at least we hope), there are bound to be a million different opinions, good and bad. As I've learned working in customer service, there's no pleasing all of the people all of the time no matter how hard you try. It's impossible. You can only do your best, please yourself, and polish a book for obvious mistakes and then set it free like we do our human children. You'll also want to see what Amarinda Jones, Anika Hamilton, Anny Cook, Barbara Huffert, Brynn Paulin, Bronwyn Green, Dakota Rebel, Kelly Kirch, Molly Daniels, Sandra Cox, and Cindy Spencer Pape are up to, so make sure to visit them also. :)


Anika Hamilton said...

I don't read reviews, whether for the books I am about to buy or the movies I'm about to watch. I realize that people have different tastes (and you're right reviews are subjective), so I read what I want and I watch what I want and decide for myself.

Phoenix said...

Katie had a bad review. Got a D. But the reviewer recapped a story I didn't write so I can't take it too bad. It sounded like she hadn't read the book. Ultimately everyone has an opinion. What can you do but let it go?

Daisy Dexter Dobbs said...

Great thoughtful post, Ashley. It certainly is a fascinating topic, isn’t it? I’ve also written one about reviews that I’ll be posting in the future.

The older and more experienced I become, the less negative reviews bother me. Actually, reviews, good or bad, rarely impact the sales of my books. Of course, they still sting and have me grabbing for the nearest chocolate bar to soothe my poor little wounded psyche.

I just keep reminding myself that every review is subjective. I understand that not every reader/reviewer will love what I write, especially when it comes to my erotic romantic comedy books. Humor is so subjective. What makes my husband laugh leaves me scratching my head in wonder and vice versa. I also understand that not every reader/reviewer appreciates humor combined with hot, steamy scenarios.

I feel thrilled and fortunate to have a base of readers who “get” my work and keep coming back for more. At the same time, I greatly appreciate negative reviews when they’re well-written, constructive criticism because it’s good to see specifically what some readers find unappealing. I can’t imagine a time when I’ll be ready to stop trying to improve my writing, so those less than stellar reviews become educational tools.

Thanks for stopping by my blog, Ashley, and for your kind words. :-) My daughter's flight has been rescheduled to depart from Mississippi instead of New Orleans and she’ll arrive home late tonight. Her dad and I will be SO happy when she’s home safe and sound. The girl is definitely going to need a vacation after this vacation! LOL

Unknown said...

Reviews are reviews - good, bad, indifferent. It's opinion you can take or leave or learn something from. I have had bad reviews and good reviews but I'm still here

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