Book Reviews: Constructive vs. Destructive

ratingsWe authors have a love/hate relationship with book reviews. For independent authors, reviews are even more critical to the success of our books – reviews help get the word out about our work. Reviews not only assist potential readers in deciding whether or not they’d like to read a book, but they also help a book rank higher on sites such as Amazon. Once a book racks up 25 reviews, Amazon begins including a book in their “readers who bought this also bought” and “you might also like” features. If an author is fortunate enough to earn 50+ reviews, Amazon might feature the book in spotlight positions.

As an independent author of lesbian fiction/romance novels, publishing a book is only half of the job – once a novel is published, I spend a great deal of my time marketing the book and trying my best to get readers to review. Case in point: I recently released two GlitterCoverbooks within a week – After the Glitter Fades, a story of a closeted lesbian Hollywood actress, dropped as a paperback and e-book on Amazon, and less than a week later, the Audible version of my novel How Still My Love followed. Working double duty (and at times feeling schizophrenic), I’ve been offering promo copies of the audiobook, hoping to boost sales, and I have sent out copies of “Glitter” to known review sites, as well as offered review copies on sites that offer promo copies in exchange for honest review.

For the most part, I’ve been fortunate, and the books have gotten stellar reviews. But as any author (and narrator) knows, every once in awhile one comes along that makes wonder about the reviewer’s motive. And this is where my issues lie. An honest review does not, and should not equate a cruel review. As a reader, my philosophy has always been if I love a book, I will write a review. If I don’t like a book, I say nothing publicly. I have given authors feedback on sites such as NetGalley if I felt I could offer some constructive criticism on a book. I’ve offered comments such as, “this word seems to be used a lot throughout” or “I found quite a few typos”. These are comments that help an author grow, and can be beneficial to future works.

Writing comments such as, “I read this book so you won’t have to”, “I hated this narrator”, and “this isn’t a book I particularly liked” don’t count as constructive criticism and honest feedback.

Reviews that are written with a poison pen, full of comments that have authors scratching our heads in disbelief, not only offer no benefit but seem fueled by petty jealousy or ulterior motives. I know one author who was hounded by the same reviewer every time she released a book – the reviewer made a point of writing the most hateful reviews on a public site with each new release by the author. In this case, it was obvious that the review was not sharing comments for altruistic reasons.

So, what’s an author or narrator to do? We can either wallow in self-pity when they come along (and they will), or we can ignore them and take them for what they are – one person’s opinion – and keep doing what we do.

Thoughts?

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