Reviews: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Just do it.

It’s a common thing you hear from writers at all levels: if you liked a book, leave a review. In fact, this picture by a fellow Harper Voyager author has gotten around quite a bit on Twitter and Facebook.
Leave a Review
But what if you didn’t love the book? Or, even worse, what if you didn’t like it at all, or hated it? Well, I’m not going to tell you how to write a review or what you should put in it. That’s something for you to decide. Personally, I tend to keep my negative reviews (and I’ve done a few) straightforward. I just say what I didn’t like: I couldn’t connect with the characters, the story line didn’t hook me, I had trouble following the plot, etc. But even if you didn’t like the book, you should still leave a review.

Let me repeat that. Yes, you should leave a review, even if it’s going to be a bad one.
Now obviously there are people who have no problem doing that. Yes, some reviews can get ugly, and that’s just part of the business. I wrote about that here when an author on Goodreads replied to a review. No, this blog post isn’t for those people. They’re leaving reviews and for that, I sincerely thank them. Yes, I just thanked people for leaving ugly reviews.

Here’s why. All reviews help sell books. Yes, you read that right. Studies show that books with only positive reviews don’t always sell as well as books with mixed reviews (though usually with a positive average). Negative reviews show potential readers that real people (not bots, or just the author’s friends and family) have read the book. No one, not even us starry-eyed authors, expects everyone to like our stories. Of course we’d love it if they did, but we know that isn’t going to happen. So if you’re worried about hurting our feelings, thanks, but don’t be. I promise we’ll be okay. We have other writers, friends, family, beer, and chocolate to give us solace. If you’re worried about hurting sales, again, don’t be. As I said, you’ll actually help. Not to mention that most authors I know try to approach negative reviews as a chance to learn. Obviously we’d go insane (or more insane) if we tried to adjust our writing for every bad review, but if there’s a criticism that readers keep bringing up, it helps to shine a light on something specific we can reflect on and possibly use to help us grow as artists. I say this speaking from personal experience. Like I said in my last post, here, it wasn’t until my first book came out that I saw the tropes and stereotypes I was using. You can’t improve without seeing both what you’re doing well and not so well, and I know I always want to be improving my craft.

Here’s something else you might not know. Amazon.com, and probably Barnes and Noble as well, use an algorithm to look at how many reviews a book has. When it reaches a certain number (there is considerable debate over what that number is, and Amazon isn’t sharing) it starts showing up on the recommended books section of users’ screens. This is a HUGE benefit to authors and can mean the difference between drowning in a veritable sea of books or standing out enough that someone sees it and buys it.

Yes, I realize all this could come back to haunt me. It’s entirely possible that people who were holding off on bad reviews will suddenly come out of the woodwork and my book ratings will plummet. That’s okay, I’ll deal with it. Like wise, it’s entirely possible there is now a Kickstarter campaign with the sole purpose of hiring someone to kill me. Please don’t contribute to it. But, please, review the books you read. You don’t need to leave long reviews, and they don’t have to be glowing. In fact, the only thing a review should be is honest. You owe that to yourself, to other readers, and even to the author. Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, wherever, just please, pretty please (with sugar on top) leave a review.

Pwease

Thoughts on Reviews, Giveaways, and My First On-Camera Interview

The Forgotten was released (in ebook) on Tuesday (to much fanfare and celebration, no doubt). Since then, a few reviews have been posted up:

Addicted to Heroines, which might be the coolest blog name I’ve come across.

Between Dreams and Reality, which is reviewed in English, but for those of you so inclined, you can read the review in French here.

The Qwillery has also posted a review, is hosting a giveaway for a book (you can choose either The Forgotten or The Stolen) and some swag. As if that wasn’t enough, The Qwillery has also posted an on-camera interview I did during New York ComicCon. It is my first such interview, and it was a lot of fun.

It might surprise some people that I link to and share reviews that aren’t full of praise or adulation, though none of the three above are bad. While it’s true I don’t see myself ever posting an outright negative review, I’m okay with reviews that say the book was good, if not great, so long as the review is honest, and I think it explains why the reviewer thought that way. It’s not an easy thing as a writer to let your child go off into the world, and harder still to find there are people who really don’t think it’s the single greatest thing ever. For the record, it is, they’re just wrong. However, I don’t get to say they’re wrong. I released the book, it belongs to the world now. I can disagree with a review, I can be genuinely sorry the reviewer didn’t enjoy it, but I can’t say they’re wrong. It’s their experience with the book, and it’s their own. I actually appreciate all reviews, truly, even the bad ones, though I obviously prefer the good ones.

Sure, I hope absolutely everyone reads and enjoys my books. But, since I’m not an idiot, I know that isn’t possible. So if someone reads my book (thanks for that first of all) and then also took the time to write a review, well it’s something I appreciate; I know how precious time can be. Even if they didn’t like the story, perhaps they’ll save someone of a like mind the time of reading it, and instead guide them to a book more to their liking. Don’t get me wrong, I want the book to sell, but why would I want someone to read it who isn’t going to enjoy it?

Reviews are a tough thing for writers, but the most important thing to remember is that the reviews aren’t for us, they’re for other readers. When a book is published, we’ve given it away to the world, and the world gets to do with it as it pleases. That’s cost of being a published author. That being said, sometimes there is something to be learned from a bad review, an area you can learn from and improve. It’s up to the writer to make the most out of every review, good or bad. If it’s just negative, well the person just didn’t like it, let it go (I know that’s much easier said than done sometimes) and move on.

All that being said: my books are truly the greatest ever, and everyone, everywhere should buy them, read them, and tell everyone they know how amazing the books are.

Attention: the preceding statement was said with tongue so firmly planted in cheek, it’s amazing the words could be understood.