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Cathy C
12-25-2006, 05:05 PM
On an RWA loop I belong to, an interesting question was raised by an author who also happens to own/manage a review site. The answers were so varied that I thought it deserved a broader response range than just romance novels. The question is two-fold, from your POV as an author, versus when you're a reader. Here's the initial question:



As an author, if you read these reviews and they are negative regarding your book, what is your reaction? Do you blacklist that review site? Do you not advertise on that site even if they have a huge readership?


One person's response included that they would NEVER give a bad review of a book, no matter how much they disliked it. They simply wouldn't review it. Of course, this belies three sub-questions:

1) How do you feel as an author about less than favorable reviews?

2) Would you rather have the book ignored by the site rather than have them post a bad review?

3) How do you feel as a reader about the review site if there are advertisements about a book they say isn't worth the money? Do you trust the review site more/less?

Here's the answer I gave:


This is a really good question. I do collect reviews and post them all on my site with proper identification. Since we write pretty edgy books, I'm always prepared for a reviewer to not "get" the book, or actively dislike it. But as a writer, my goal is to promote EMOTION. I'm much more concerned when I don't get any reaction at all, because then I've failed in my goal. To me, a negative review means I struck a cord, even if that cord is that they hate my hero/ine (Mrs. Giggles once gave us a good review except that she wanted to throw our heroine face first into a wood chipper! LOL!)

I really dislike contacting a site, providing an ARC and then never having anything show up--good or bad. Even worse is when the reviewer very obviously didn't READ the book. One review had the wrong person becoming a werewolf, and rather than read the book--or even the back cover, for crying out loud--the reviewer made up a whole plot to fit that mistaken concept! YIKES! That's frustrating and a waste of my money. So, I guess I'm on the side of putting up the review, even if it's less than complimentary.

Now, onto the second part. Would I pay for advertising on a site that dissed the book? Hmm... I guess I have to say no. But then again, it seems like a cop-out for the site to be INTERESTED in advertising dollars from a book they don't like. I would think it would make not authors, but READERS, less likely to visit the site when there are blaring advertisements for a book they say not to waste your money on. It would be like Consumer Reports taking an ad for a product they give a single star to. I've never seen that happen. It goes to integrity in business, IMO.

Still, it's not a question I've considered before. I'll be interested to see other takes on it. :)


Since a lot of reader interest in a book is driven by good/bad reviews, what's your take on this? Is it a case of "any publicity is good publicity" or doesn't that apply to books?

I think it's an interesting thing to talk about. :)

MMcC
12-25-2006, 10:41 PM
When Romance News Magazine (http://www.romancenews.org) was launched we seriously discussed a "positive-only" policy, but let's be honest, this would completely invalidate the value of the other reviews.

This is the policy we created, and so far it has worked pretty well:

1. None of the staff can submit their own work for review.
2. Any friend or casual colleague of a staffer can't be reviewed by her.
3. ALL books reviewed must be read by AT LEAST two reviewers.
4. Any seriously harsh review submitted is discussed, and the second reader chimes in. If there is a huge disparity between the very negative review and the second reader's thoughts (usually others on staff have also read the book, but not always), we have a meeting about it. The reviewer may be asked if she feels comfortable softening OR pulling the review.

The only time it has been an issue has been when I (as co-owner and editor in chief) have pulled reviews on ebooks that I thought were very negative AND served no overall purpose. In all three of those cases the books were not going to be best sellers, came from small markets, and I knew the authors personally. The last bit was the problem-- and I was, if you must know, morally wrong to do it.

I did it anyway rather than hurt a writer. The negative review would have done very little to stem sales (since they were obviously not going to be marketed heavily). I felt the price of the negative press was too heavy.

But as a cautionary tale-- I did lose my ebook reviewer. This wasn't the only reason, but I know it played a big role.

veinglory
12-26-2006, 12:47 AM
1) How do you feel as an author about less than favorable reviews?

That's life. As long as it is a fair criticism its makes me pause and think. I remember and try to improve. I have had mixed to mainly negative reviews that I am quite grateful for. They focussed my attention on problems that came from rushing the resolution, or sticking top one POV for a story that really needed two. I've also has unreasonable complaints about the book's genre or the attitudes of characters. Most reviews are not negative but mixed, they give a realistic overview of what the reviewer thought.

2) Would you rather have the book ignored by the site rather than have them post a bad review?

Of course not. If I want an ad, I'll buy an ad. When I submit to a review site they can judge the book good bad or indifferent so long as they give a clear basis and analysis for the judgment not just random snark.

3) How do you feel as a reader about the review site if there are advertisements about a book they say isn't worth the money? Do you trust the review site more/less?

Ads are ads--totally different issue. I have also bought books reviwers trashed if the review was well written and gave context. So I could tell what they disliked and knew I would actually love that same quality.

I am really, really, really sick of the lovefest between some book review sites and the publishers and authors. They seem to have forgotten that reviews are not for publishers and writers, they are for readers. And readers only heed them if they are good quality and *honest*. Readers can make their own judgement based on a review, they aren't drones who buy in strict proportion tot he number of stars awarded.

I am in fact in the process of adding a review site review feature to the erotic romance epublisher website. The reviews will be done by non-writing readers of the genre.

Publishers and writers pushing for fluffy postive reviews undermine the whole function and purpose of reviews. What turns me off a site is everythign getting rated 3/5 and above--and books I know were barely literate and full of plotholes receiving bountiful, gushing praise. Oh, and reviews that have spoilers, are badly written with typos, or are rushed and generic with no real info. I am really thinking many of these site are read mainly by authors and serve mainly as a way for a group of people to get free books.

I also think reveiw sites should report visitor figures and publishers should track where their buyers click in from as much as is possible (this is easily done for epublishers who sell from their own site). Then review copies should go to sites that help generate traffic and sales. I predict these would not be the most positive reviews, but the most thougtful ones.

I stick to a few places I trust like dearauthor and JERR

[/rant]

PeeDee
12-28-2006, 05:00 AM
I think authors get way too worried about book reviews. Seriously. relax. It's like quizzing everyone who walks by you about your hairstyle and what they think.

I swear by what Bugs Bunny said. If you haven't got anything nice to say, don't say anything. That may just be me.

jchines
12-28-2006, 05:36 AM
1) How do you feel as an author about less than favorable reviews?

I'd much rather get positive reviews, but there's not a single book out there that will please everyone. And negative reviews also give more credibility to the reviewer's positive reviews. A reviewer or site that only gives positive reviews seems a bit pointless to me...

2) Would you rather have the book ignored by the site rather than have them post a bad review?

Bad reviews can also sell books. I've chatted with folks whose taste is completely opposite that of certain reviewers -- if the reviewer likes a book, they hate it. If the reviewer pans it, they run out and buy the book, and generally they love it. It's still publicity...

There's also a difference between a few isolated bad reviews and consistently bad reviews.

3) How do you feel as a reader about the review site if there are advertisements about a book they say isn't worth the money? Do you trust the review site more/less?

Kind of like Absolute Write sometimes gets Google ads for scam agencies? I don't really think it matters. Anyone can buy an ad.

johnzakour
12-28-2006, 08:01 AM
Reviews are like rejections, see if you can learn anything from them, then forget them.

(Still being human, I've got to admit positive ones really do make me feel better.)