Giving Reviews

Reviews are important.

Amazon bases its rankings on the number of reviews a book (or item) receives, and many readers determine if they’ll purchase a book or not by the reviews. Publishers urge their writers to get reviews, and writers will ask everyone (and anyone) who purchases their books to post a review.

But what do we really want?

  • I love the 5* reviews. It’s wonderful to read that someone loved the characters and/or the story.
  • I wonder, when I receive a 4* review; what did I do wrong? Why didn’t that reader think the book worthy of 5*s.
  • I cringe at a 3* review. I read what the reviewer says, wonder what it was about my writing or the story that didn’t click with the reader, and worry about making the same mistake in my next book.
  • A real downer is a 2* review, but a 1* review is almost irrelevant (especially if other reviews have been 4* and 5*.) Irrelevant, but still thought about.

I know how I feel about reviews, so, for me, giving a review of a book is more than just assigning a ranking and saying a few words about the story. At least that’s true if the book I’m reviewing doesn’t already have hundreds or thousands of reviews posted. In those cases, if I didn’t like the book and give it a low ranking, it’s not going to have any effect on sales or the writer’s ego.

If I know the writer personally

When I’m asked by a writer I know personally to review a book and I love the story, giving a review is no problem. The problem arrives when I find I can’t give the story a rave review or even an almost rave review. How does one handle that?

I didn’t handle it very well last month. I read and reviewed a book that didn’t mesh with my reading tastes. The style was different. The second half of the book didn’t seem as well written as the first half. Some events seemed clichéd. I gave the review a 3*.

The writer wasn’t happy, and I can certainly understand her position, but I still don’t feel I can give the book a higher rating. I also don’t want to hurt her sales, so I pulled the review.

So, here I am. I know my writer friends want and need reviews, but I’m afraid to give them. Even if I/we decide that I’ll only post 5* and 4* reviews, am I going to upset that writer by not posting a review? (Basically telling her/him I didn’t feel the book rated a 4* or 5*.) And if I keep putting the writer off by saying I haven’t gotten around to reading the book, well, after a while that seems like a flimsy excuse.

It’s a dilemma.

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4 Responses to Giving Reviews

  1. cj petterson says:

    Unless pushed to the edge, I do not write a review for friends’ books. If I don’t like it, it’ll cost me a friendship. If I like it but don’t give it as many stars as I gave someone else, it’ll cost me a friend.

  2. Diana Stout says:

    All writers love the 5-star reviews, just as all students love gettings A grades.

    I never cringe at a 3-star review because I’m reminded that the C grade is average. It’s okay. It’s not great, but it’s not horrible either. It’s okay. Maybe it wasn’t their favorite genre, or they didn’t like the setting or character for some reason that has nothing to do with my writing but their own experience instead.

    I have had producers and editors tell me that they loved my writing but that they didn’t find that particular script or book suitable for their needs. That means it was a 3 in their book. But, they wanted to see anything and everything else I had written, so there was the promise of finding that 5.

    I’ve learned that it’s okay to have a smattering of scores other than all 5s because the reviews reflect the breadth of readership and our differences in what we like.

    Just as we each have favorite books of an author, we also have books from that same author we don’t like. It’s true of our readers.

    My take on the scores:
    5 – It’s wonderful. It’s amazing. I’m telling all my friends.
    4 – I really liked it a lot
    3 – I liked it, it was okay.
    2 – It was okay, but I had issues with something: errors, plot holes, or shallow characters, something…
    1 – I didn’t like it. It had major issues.

    Geez, I’ve written my own blog here. Great blog, Maris. It certainly got me to respond, to think about it!

    • Maris Soule says:

      Thanks for commenting, Diana. I like your take on each of the ratings, especially 3* and 2*. Yes, those are ratings I would give to books that I found lacking for some reason, either it was just okay or I had issues with something. But, of course, the author isn’t going to like a 2 or 3. cj is right, sometimes it’s better not to even agree to give a review.