Friday, February 13, 2009
Reviews - Useful or Not?
This week, I've seen lots of discussion about reviews and whether or not they really serve a useful purpose. Unfortunately, I've had two this week that contained very mixed messages. One gave me some glowing comments, but then critized stilted writing? I'm not even sure what that means, and since the book being reviewed has already passed through two critique groups and two full editings, I don't think I'll be too concerned. Although I do admit to pouting for a short time.
The second I received made no sense at all. This reviewers suggestion had to do, not with the book as written, but how she would prefer it to end. I thanked her for her time, but held back my first instinct to suggest she should perhaps write her own stories rather than trying to change mine. I'd like to say I've not affected by less than stellar reviews, but no one likes the agony of submitting a review request and then waiting, waiting, and waiting only to be disappointed. So I went back to the previous reviews that garners 4 clovers, 4 stars, and 5 hearts. Pooh on this poor confused person who didn't get my story. *lol*
Opinions vary so much from person to person. That's what makes the world such an interesting and difficult place. Someone pointed out on one of my loops how boring it would be if we only wrote the same genre, from the same point of view, following the same storyline. Even with all the 'fodder' to draw from, we are eventually going to see duplication of storys. In mainsteam, it's almost that way now. I gave up reading HQ medical romance because the stories were almost identical save the name and places. Predictable gets so boring after all while. I reviewed for that line and could almost use the same template, just fill in the blanks.
The publishers want only what is the top selling genre at the moment and focus their acceptance on that. They still want creativity and innovative ideas, but how creative can you get with werewolves and shapeshifters? *lol* One good friend received an agent rejection with a notation that although she liked her writing very much, it wasn't edgy enough. What exactly does that mean, and how edgy can you be when your writing a story set centuries ago? Whether it be rejections or reviews, say what you mean so we don't have to decrypt your message. And wouldn't it be nice to get an actual response from an agent that gave helpful guidance? Dream on, Ginger, dream on.
Back to the effectiveness of reviews... I know for a fact that anyone can be a reviewer; I was for three different sites. They advertise for them every day and the requirements are very lax. Have internet, breathing, and can read and type are pretty much it! In fairness...there are some that are trying to improve the standards. But, I've had a few reviews so poorly written, rather than link to the entire post, I paraphrased and corrected the spelling, grammar and punctuation marks. So, I guess I'm allowed to review reviewers here. *smile*
Reviewing is much like the internet publishing industry. We can't allow a few bad apples to represent them all. Unfortunately, they can impact an author's work. Reviewers take their own time, effort and energy to spend on reading our work. Their only pay is free books and seeing their names listed beneath their submissions. It's a demanding job with few benefits, and probably more gripes than glitz. I make it point to always thank my reviewers, and although I've never met them personally, there are a few out there I wish would review all my books. They seem to 'get' me and my stories, and understand that each novel is someone's baby. They don't bad mouth, they don't dissect, and they know how to sprinkle in constructive criticism with their glowing report.
The problem we face as authors, is how many people read and believe the bad reviews? Too many, I fear. The discussions also turned to Fictionwise, and the rating system there and how unfair it is to allow someone to rank your work without comment. These types of options open the door to sabotage... yes sabotage. I would never have guessed until I witnessed how reviews on Amazon can be manipulated.
Even before I became an author, I never relied on anyone's reviews to determine my preferences. I've seen so many movies that received bum reviews and came out of the theatre wondering if they watched the same thing as I did. And...I don't listen to other people bad mouth a restaurant. On any given day, I can burn a roast with the best of 'em, and I'm not going to lend a hand to dminishing their customers based on my one bad experience. If I really am dissatisfied, I write the corporate office. They can't fix what they don't know is broken. If someone tells me they hated a book, I'll read it because I want to know if it's truly a stinker. Half the time, I don't agree.
There are too many sheep in this world...sometimes following the leader off a cliff. Politics comes to mind, but I'm NOT going there today. I'm not, I'm not, I'm not. Ohhh...that's tough for me. *lolI guess what I'm trying to emphasize by this post, is don't let anyone make your decisions for you. Coke or Pepsi, 1% or 2% milk, it's all a matter of taste and opinion. Draw your own conclusions and don't be swayed by what someone else says. If you follow the leader, you just might miss out on a great movie, dinner.... or book. *grin*