Friday, March 4, 2016

Reviews Matter

Have you ever left a review for a book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or another e-book distributor? What was your goal in leaving that review? To give your opinion? To let other consumers know what’s good and what’s not? To give your favorite author a boost? All of these? Some other reason?

As an author, reviews matter. They often make the difference in an author’s books getting noticed by readers and by the silly algorithms distributors use to promote books. I don’t claim to know all the ins and outs of how Amazon – The Ebook Mecca decides who gets recommended and who doesn’t. All I do know is that reviews factor in to the discussion.

Now reviews can be a great friend to authors. Positive reviews let an author know what he/she is doing right, what readers like, and often help in deciding what to write next. Nothing makes me happier than to read a review in which a reader tells me my characters were real to them. That’s something I really strive for in my books, so to hear that I’ve achieved what I’ve set out to do can fuel me for months of lonely writing where self-doubts are always a-knocking.

Negative reviews can also be a friend to authors. Yes, that’s what I said. Reviews that offer constructive feedback in a non-confrontational way are always welcome in my eyes. If a reader tells me that they weren’t feeling the setting, I’ll double my efforts to make the setting more interesting in whatever book I am currently writing. If someone says they thought the ending was rushed, I’ll make sure to check the pace of the ending in my upcoming novel. I like to learn from my mistakes, grow, deliver what readers want. Criticism from which I can make improvements can only make my stories stronger.

Reviews that simply bash, however, are of no use. I often find that these are poorly written (dear Lord, somebody proofread before hitting the submit button), don’t make sense, and are not based on a full reading of my book. When a reader review starts with “I didn’t finish the book, but…” I wonder what prompted that reader to bother writing a review at all. If that reader didn’t finish the book, how can they comment on the story overall? Short answer – they can’t… and shouldn’t. It’s not fair to color the opinions of other readers when a complete picture of the story hasn’t been achieved.

I’ve gotten reviews in which the reader called the characters by the wrong names, talked about characters that didn’t exist, discussed plotlines that didn’t occur, and harped on details that had little to do with the love story, which is the main point of everything I write. So what’s their goal in writing a review? Why waste the time if you’re not going to be accurate?

I also laugh when I get a negative review that says the ending was “predictable.” Umm… my books are romances, peeps. That happily ever after is a guarantee or it’s not a romance. In fact that predictable happily ever after means I did it right. I’d be mad as heckfire if I read a romance and it wasn’t predictable at the end. I read them for the comfort of that predictability. I like knowing that I’m not going to be crying sad tears at the end, but only happy ones. If you don’t like this flavor of ending, pick up another genre. If I don’t like a book, I just don’t leave a review and chalk it up to that particular author just not being for me. No biggie.

Everyone is entitled to their opinions I suppose, but I can’t help but think that if you wouldn’t say something to someone’s face, you shouldn’t say it in a review either. It’s okay to be nice when you’re also being critical. It’s not okay to rip something apart just for the sake of ripping it apart. Remember, authors pour themselves into every story they write. It may just seem like words on a page, but to us, we’ve spent months, sometimes years bleeding—often fatally—all over those formerly blank sheets of white.

We’ve worked hard, and a few kind words go a long way to boosting our sensitive spirits. Lately, I've received quite a few nice reviews on my FREE book, More Than Pancakes, Book One in The Maple Leaf Series. Many of the reviews have absolutely made my day! To celebrate, I'm running a Reader Appreciation Giveaway for a $50 Amazon Gift Card. To enter, visit my website HERE and scroll down on the homepage. One winner will be chosen randomly by March 15, 2016.

Have you loved an author today by leaving a review? If not, go give it a whirl. You’ll make us smile. Trust me. 

Happy reading AND reviewing!

The Maple Leaf Series, Books One to Five, available now. Book One, More Than Pancakes, is always FREE.


Margo Hoornstra said...

You nailed it, Chris, with your take on reviews. I've received all of the above and then some in my career. Even got one ... I didn't read the book but feel qualified to review it. All you can do with those is shake your head and move on. Best of luck with your contest. Going over there now to check it out!

Leah St. James said...

Yep - agree 100 percent. Amazon is bad enough with the bashers, but Goodreads is worse, I think. I tried fighting Goodreads over a "reviewer" who had left something like 19,000 1-star reviews, and no positive reviews (zero). The user had no public profile and only a single letter as a user name. I argued with Goodreads that it wasn't logical and this person had to be a troll. Goodreads wrote back that the user hadn't violated any terms of service, and there is no requirement to actually read the book to review it. That's when I stopped going to Goodreads.

Thanks for letting us know about More Than Pancakes. I just picked up my copy. :-)

Christine DePetrillo said...

I almost never visit Goodreads - as an author OR a reader. It's like a seedy dive bar you're better off just driving by. No good comes from stopping there.

Unknown said...

When it comes to your books, I always leave you a review. I try to leave you a 100 gold star review but for some reason the other authors complained to Amazon so they stopped me from leaving them. I tried reasoning with them, even went as far as telling them I would buy them the book and they would have to read it. But the said no. So I gave up arguing with them and just said 5 stars would do for now. But when I take over the world, ur star review will go to 100 and everyone else's stays at 5.

OK seriously, you know me, and you know how I feel about your books. I know I haven't been on Facebook lstely, but things in my life are quite hectic. My dad is still very sick, stage 4 stomach cancer and been in and out of the hospital. And right now I can't even go see him cuz I have pneumonia. I am suppose to go stay at his house on the 12th to go to a sisters day he won, but.. me being sick, I might not be able to. :(
Any ways.. after I am done with the series I am on, this book and a novella, then I am going to start reading ur old books again. Like my favorite one. Then maybe a new one if I missed any..
It was great finally meeting my favorite #1 author. Can't wait to see you again..
Keep on writing, cuz I will keep on reading. :) <3

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

I've gotten some nasty, cutting reviews. Some I've learned from. Others were just plain mean. One said she couldn't even finish the first chapter because I wrote on the third grade level. Having worked fulltime at night so I could attend college fulltime during the day (sleeping part-time, wherever when I was in my late 40's and still making the Dean's List, I took offense. But what can a writer do? Nothing. And these reviewers on Goodreads know that. On the other hand, I've gotten many lovely ones that made me smile all day. Your post was right on!

Rolynn Anderson said...

Christine, you speak for all of us regarding reviews. Recently I attended a conference with some big-name writers in attendance (all with big publishers and multiple awards). To a person they said they do not read reviews whether they are good or bad, because reviews divert their attention from writing their next book...they don't want to write books influenced by the reviewers. I thought that was interesting...and it made me feel better somehow. If I write the books of my heart...then that advice makes sense. Now let's see if I can take it :-)

Jannine Gallant said...

I'll admit I'm a review stalker. But then I'm a ranking stalker, too. Hmm, maybe I simply have stalker tendencies... LOL When I get a bad review, I check to see what that reviewer's average rating is. When it's low, I shrug and move on. If it's just me they hate, I check to see if they have anything pertinent to say about why. But I honestly don't let it bother me a lot. I know I produce quality books, but not everyone will like my style. With the "not enough sex" or the "too much bad language" comments when my characters don't say anything worse than sh*t, I just roll my eyes. You definitely can't please everyone!

Alicia Dean said...

Very well said. I agree on all levels. I do not take offense to negative reviews at all, if they are not purposely nasty and insulting and if they show the reader has read the book. I have also been a victim of the reviews that sound like the reviewer read a completely different book, or is smoking some mighty potent drugs. :) Very cool about your gift card giveaway, that's so nice of you!

Brenda Whiteside said...

Reviews are essential. I'm usually at a loss how to get more for my own books. I leave reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads and even for friends I try to be honest. If I really hate a book, I don't get past the first couple of chapters so no review. My reading time is so limited I can't be bothered to finish a book I'm not enjoying. So...I don't leave bad reviews.

Christine DePetrillo said...

Good point, Brenda. I don't leave bad reviews either. If I didn't like it, that was my personal choice not to like it and I just move on.