When I was growing up my father used to say, “You can please some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but you’re never going to please all of the people all of the time, so stop worrying about it and please yourself.” I have found that little pearl to be wise advice because let’s face it, everyone has an opinion.
Reviews are part of every author’s life whether they like it or not. It doesn’t matter if the review comes from family, friends, a critique partner or the intended audience of readers and reviewers. For most of us, those reviews represent a love-hate relationship. On the one hand, it’s nice to know what you are doing right and that there are people out there who love your work. On the other, who enjoys hearing how much someone disliked something that took months to write?
I always find it interesting how different people deal with the negative feedback. Some authors just laugh off a bad review while others take every word to heart and carry those negative feelings around for years. I have even heard horror stories of authors abandoning their writing altogether after being discouraged by a callous critique.
With that said, I’m going to show you why harboring those negative feelings over one person’s opinion may not be the best course of action. As you’ll see from the following reviews what one person loves, another hates.
Anita Clenney—”Awaken the Highland Warrior”
“After 20%, the amount of leaps in logic and lack of world building have me at a loss…”
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“…the world that Clenney has created is fascinating and has great potential for many books. I enjoyed the fact that the author paid attention to every detail, she gave you enough information to keep you puzzled in one chapter but held the answer until further into the book. I just couldn’t put the book down… I can’t wait for the next book!”
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“I am glad I only paid 99 cents, but am disgusted at my wasted hours spent hoping it would get better. It never did. It had a great premise. If it was edited to 1/2 the pages and their attraction was more believable, I may have enjoyed it. Instead I am just angry about my invested time.”
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“The storyline that ran through-out this book was fantastic. I really liked the whole Warriors vs. Demons. The story had so many twists and turns, it constantly keeps you guessing. Just when you think you know what’s going to happen and who the bad guy’s are… something else happens and completely throws you off the scent. It was beyond genius!”
“Basically, the main word I’d use to describe Enchanted is bizarre. Even before I ultimately decided it wasn’t going to get any better and I couldn’t care less about the characters, I thought that this was a very bizarre story… Fairytales are supposed to revolve around circumstances that are unnatural, for lack of a better word. But I’ve never read a story as flippant and (it appears to me), careless as Enchanted…”
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“…Sunday’s grand adventure and magical story of love and redemption ensnared me with all it’s glory. Alethea Kontis made me remember why I used to beg my dad to read me fairy tales at bedtime. She reminded me why I still wish upon a star and believe in true love. This enchanted story about a girl named Sunday will make you dream of your own fairytale and yearn for the next installment of this bespelled series!!”
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“Rare are the books I find so painful that reviewing them becomes a chore; writing a review means thinking about them when I would rather leave them forgotten. Despite hopes that it would not turn out as such, Enchanted is one of those books.”
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“Alethea Kontis’ “Enchanted” is a mixture of all the endearing fantasies we enjoyed as children… I must applaud on the author’s effortless delivery that comes out undeniably appealing. This is the kind of book deserving of your attention and holds it inescapably.”
Nora Roberts–“The Next Always: Book One of the Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy”
“…I’ve never contemplated not finishing a book of hers until now. I love how she usually finds an area of interest to focus on in books… I’ve learned so much about ballet, fire jumping, flowers, wedding planning and so much more. However, the detail that she goes into with this book is just ridiculous. I’m about a third of the way through and it feels like I’ve spent about 5 minutes with the characters and hours reading about fence pickets, color schemes and copper tubs. I’m so disappointed…”
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“I enjoyed the relaxed pace, the cozy and lovely setting and the lovely characters… Boonsboro is a great place to set the book and thanks to all the little details Nora Roberts added to the story I was able to imagine the town and it’s buildings very easily… The love story was very sweet and I loved the way it progressed.”
This shows how subjective reviews really are. They are one person’s opinion and are colored by that person’s life experiences, reading preferences, preconceived ideas and the reader’s frame of mind when they were reading your story. What one reader loves, another may hate. And that’s okay, because everyone is entitled to his or her opinion.
If you are a writer then you have to accept that you will have both good and bad reviews. No matter who you are or how great your writing is, even the fabulous Nora Roberts, there will be some people that won’t enjoy your work. But before you decide to stop writing forever because of someone’s callous remark, or before you decide that everyone who does not love your book is an idiot, I will offer some cautionary advice: If you are being told the same thing over and over again by different people, then you may want to consider that there is validity to that criticism. And if someone tells you something that you don’t want to hear, it is always better to respond with an, “I’m sorry that you did not enjoy my book, but thank you for taking the time to read it,” rather than attacking that person’s opinion. You can always tell them they’ve been taken over by demented brain weasels in your mind. 🙂
Just remember, reviews do not define the writer but, taken with a grain of salt, they can help us improve our craft. Please tell me how reviews, both good and bad, have influenced your own writing.
18 thoughts on “How Important Is A Review?”
Dana,this is one of my favorite posts to date in the pond! I think because it is so completely unbiased and professional, even though you are highlighting a topic that could fan the flames of even the most fair-minded person–having their ‘baby’ criticized. Wonderful job! I’ll just add that I’ve now entered the same MS into the same contest two years in a row. Last year, it earned 4’s and 5’s. This year, mostly 2’s. But it’s totally okay. I used what I could of the feedback and then moved on. Cheers!
Awww… Thanks Carlene.
Dana, these are hilarious! I’m as amused by the effusive praise as I am by the narrow-minded drag-downs. It just goes to how you, you really really can’t please all the people all the time. Thanks for the reminder!
Great post! You’re absolutely right! Some writers allow bad reviews to sway them too much. Top, bestselling authors get bad reviews so… anyone can. Like you said, no writer is going to be able to please all the people all the time. 🙂
Good reviews, bad reviews, at least people are reading. I’ve picked up books on Amazon where there were only a couple of reviews. That made me pause more than any negative comments. Really, I don’t mind negative comments if there is some logic to them. The ones that crack me up are the ones where it is hard to track what the reviewer is trying to say.
Susan, Vonda and Diana,
No matter what you do in life some people are going to love you for it, and others are going to criticize you.
You’re right Susan, it is hilarious to sit back and take a more objective look at what people are saying in their reviews. Some of it is so ridiculously over the top, either positive or negative, how could you not laugh? And it doesn’t matter how successful you are Vonda, if you are around long enough, you will get bad reviews. It’s all in the luck of the draw like Diana pointed out. It depends on who is reading your work, who is actually writing reviews, and how it hits them at the time. Or in a contest who is judging. Good writing is good writing, but you can have the best book in the world and if the person reading it does not like that genre, or takes offense to a particular subject matter, it won’t matter how well it’s written… The person is still not going to like it.
Thanks for stopping by Derek. I know exactly what you are saying. I always look at reviews before buying a book, and it makes me stop and wonder when there are no reviews. Or only one or two. A complete lack of reviews makes me wonder if the book is horrible, or if no one has read it yet? And for the books that have reviews, even a lot of bad ones, I look for consistency to see if it is likely to be one person’s opinion or if there is an underlying theme as to why the reviewers do not like the book.
This post is so right on. I really thought I would be upset by negative reviews because I’m kind of thin skinned, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that they didn’t bother me.
Maybe it’s because, as you pointed out here, what one person hated someone else loved, or because I read a lot of reviews for other authors and saw so much disparity. It really is all about opinion. I don’t go chasing reviews, but eventually I read the ones that are easy to find, like Amazon or Goodreads. I can learn from them all. When I see sometime mentioned by two or three different people, I pay attention.
I was pretty lucky in that I didn’t get a lot of bad reviews, but the ones that were negative, I learned from. It’s like having a whole bunch of beta readers that paid for the book.
Thanks for stopping by Anita! You are so right about disparity. “It’s like having a whole bunch of beta readers that paid for the book.” I LOVE it! 🙂
I have allot to say here…but must keep it brief. First, I too have received varied reviews. I have it down to statistics, 80 percent are positive but then the other 20 percent or less are not. I kept that little percentage in my head….well, if I get at least 80 percent…then I’m doing what I should/need/desire to do. Therefore, the other percentage that is negative needs to find another book/hobby/boyfriend if their comment is intended to hurt/harrass/bully then there is a problem and I wouldn’t pin it on me. But I like to think I accept any and all comments/critiques that are intended to make my next work even better, so I welcome these 🙂 Thank-you for being a great writer and even greater individual. You are truly an inspiration!
Thanks for stopping by Jennifer! I love your pragmatic approach to evaluating your reviews. I agree that if 80% of the reviews are positive, then you are doing your job. 🙂
I think most writers value constructive feedback on their work. What I find frustrating are those snarky reviews where it is clear the person has a chip on their shoulder or the ones that just don’t make sense. Those leave me scratching my head and wondering if the reviewer actually read the same book I did?
I purposely used NY Times Best Selling authors for my examples above, and even Nora, a legend in the romance industry, had at least a couple of bad reviews for every title I looked up. It just goes to show that every author is going to have both good and bad reviews. But I challenge anyone out there to go to Goodreads or Amazon, or any other large reviewing site, and search reviews for any book by their favorite author. I promise you will find both positive and negative evaluations of the author’s work.
I remember the firs time I coordinated a contest category how amazed I was at how one judge would love something and another hate the same thing. That was a great lesson in keeping perspective when it came to reviews.
Love the side by side comparisons of reviews. It really hammers home the point about subjective. It’s important for aspiring authors to remember this too in regard to submission rejections. Yes, it’s in the standard rejection: “publishing is a subjective opinion and another agent/editor may find this to their taste” SO TRUE! Don’t give up!
Great post, Dana! It’s so interesting to see the good and bad reviews side-by-side. It really puts things in perspective!
Thanks for stopping by Lynne and P.H.! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. It was fun trying to frame this issue into something that can hopefully help put rejections and negative feedback into perspective.
What an interesting post. I’ve been completely wowed by authors that some of my friends didn’t really like. And I’m always amazed by that. I wonder how that could possibly be since our reading library is so similar, but I understand that each person has their own tastes and preferences. And sometimes it really does depend on what’s going on in the reader’s life at the time. There have been books I’ve read that I wanted to throw across the room, and then I see the 5-star reviews, and I wonder how the hell something like that EVER happened. Because–clearly–I’m the expert. LOL. I’m really only the expert with regards to my own personal tastes.
What a great way to look at this! And it really drives the point home to see the good and bad reviews stacked next to each other.
It’s the same with contests. I often get two conflicting critiques back. One loves my characters and the next hates them.
Thanks for stopping by Kimberly and Kerri! These things really can be subjective and I think it is important to keep that in mind rather than take every bad thing anyone ever says to you to heart.
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