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Mar 29, 2011

Receiving Reviews and Not Being a Fckwit About It

I would like to thank everyone who bought The Unfinished Song: Taboo on its launch day. You helped make the debut successful, and I'm really grateful. It's really heartwarming to know that there were readers eagerly anticipating the second book in the series.

The second book has no reviews yet, and I was not kidding yesterday that I live in terror of receiving reviews on it (what if people don't like it?!). The only thing worse, of course, would be no reviews at all.

It's important to keep that in reviews at all is worse than the most terrible review in the world.

I think by now probably most of the writing community has seen the pathetic train wreck of an author going ballistic over a lackluster review. For me, it was like rubbernecking at an accident. Although I knew it was a bad idea to keep reading, I couldn't look away.

It pained me to read another book reviewer comment, "And this is is why I don't accept self-publish for review." Apparently she missed the case of the (ahem, traditionally) published author who tried to sue over a negative review. It's not being self-published that is the problem; it's being a fckwit.

Just sayin'.

I reached my own conclusion, which was that my policy of not commenting on reviewer blogs was probably for the best. Not that I would ever, ever start telling people left and right to "fck off." If I did comment on reviewer blogs that reviewed my books, it would be to thank them for the review, regardless of the content of the review. Michelle Davidson Argyle does this, and I've always thought she was so gracious and delightful about it, no matter the content of the review.

However, I read a discussion between a couple of book reviewers mentioning that they don't like the sense an author is looking over their shoulder when they write the review. Although they could obviously on speak for themselves, and other reviewers might feel differently, it kind of spooked me off commenting at all, even to express gratitude. What if it were too tempting to me to leave it at that, and I found myself wanting to answer the reviewers questions about this or that point? For instance, one very astute reviewer of The Unfinished Song: Initiate wanted to know why there were no domesticated dogs in the story, when dogs were domesticated far earlier than cats. I was tempted to jump into the comments section and say, "There are dogs in another tribe, one we haven't met yet." But is that really my place to jump in like that? I don't want to give the impression that he book cannot speak for itself. So I didn't say anything. I really liked that review, though. The reviewer made so many intelligent observations.

If I were a book reviewer, I wouldn't want the feeling the author was hanging over my shoulder either. Still, the internet cuts both ways. If a reviewer really did write a meanie-pants review, the author is going to find it and read it and weep soggy tears over it. Even if authors don't comment, we are just as capable of ego-googling as the next person. I actively search the internet for reviews of my books, so I can link back to them from the website. I am probably not the only author to do so.

I admit, I have considered not reading reviews at all. I can link to the site without reading them. I keep telling myself that's what I'll do and I came leaving anyway.

The problem is that I can't stick to that. Morbid curiosity compels me, but it's more than that. When else can one's get independent feedback about one's book? That's too good to pass up. The danger is that the review will mention some flaw in your writing that you can't dispute, casting you into the deepest bowels of depression. The benefit may be that a reviewer could show you an insight into the book that you were too close to see yours.


Unknown said...

OMG! That was a train-wreck! I couldn't stop reading! Does that make me a horrible person?

I think everyone has the fears that they'll get a bad review, but you can't please everyone all the time.

Good luck, and congrats on your book launch. Glad to hear it was a success. :)

TheSFReader said...

Hi Tara,
I began the read this morning so won't be able to review before some more time.

However, I must admit that even, if I'm an avid reader, I'm no great reviewer. One part of it is that I don't generally apply "quantifiable criterias" to my reading, so my review would come out as only a few words about a general impression, an other part of it comes from an uneasyness to express precisely emotions and feelings (as vague as they are) in a language that I don't master.
So, I may well review your book when I'm finished, but will most probably write only "platitudes", and overall feelings rather than a well formatted review.

Anyway, Thanks for the book !

PS : Did you send ARCs to potential reviewers ?

Burritoclock said...

I couldn't do it, I had to get the hell out of there! But then I could hardly ever watch an entire episode of Frasier with out getting red faced and wanting to hide in the corner of my room.

Michael McClung said...

Where's the 'like' button?

Yup, that was a train wreck of epic proportions. A train wreck with pirhanas and toxic waste and sharks with lasers on their heads. And Richard Simmons. And it was all self-inflicted.

Anonymous said...

To Darke Conteur:

Yes! That makes you a terrible person!

But don't worry. Being a terrible person is nothing to be ashamed of! Celebrate your terribility!

Ben Mann said...

Wow, what a great link... I can't seem to pull myself away from it!

Davin Malasarn said...

Tara Maya, this is a fantastic post. Thanks for writing it. If/when I get book reviews, I haven't quite decided how I will deal with them yet. I'm guessing, like you, I'll read everything I can find and not comment much.

Bonnie @ A Backwards Story said...

That situation is so sad. I think leaving comments on reviews of your book depends on you. There have been a couple of times when I mention a book coming out and get excited when the author leaves a comment. It's always fun! If I said something such as the dog comment, I would love to see your response. I love knowing more! If it's a situation where mud won't be slung about, I don't think it's a bad thing, though I definitely see the other side as well.

Gina @ My Precious said...

Hey Tara, I definitely will be reviewing the book for you. I bought it myself this time, since last time you were kind enough to gift me one.

I don't think you should worry too much about reviews. Just think of them as constructive criticism or professor assigning a grade on a paper. You'll always have some that are better than others.

Negative reviews help because they show you were you have room to improve. If all you had was glowing reviews you would never show any growth.

I don't mind at all if authors swing by my blog and comment. Good or bad, in favor or not. If I'm wrong about something I'd appreciate knowing about it as long as its not done in a mean and spiteful way.

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Tara, thanks for this post. I only comment on reviews I'm aware of that I was part of the person actually getting the book - whether it was an ARC review or they won the book or purchased the book and they told me about the review.

In this day and age with authors being so accessible, it's likely that many readers are aware that the author can and will easily find their review. That doesn't seem to stop a lot of them from saying mean things sometimes. It also might be a reason for some reviewers to say nicer things than they would have otherwise. Then we have the issue of writers who leave reviews - because now there's the big "you must leave nice words about everything" if you're published. Yeah, politics. Gotta love it.

With Monarch I'm not planning on reading any reviews except those from friends who tell me they'd like me to read their review or people who are part of my blog book tour since I'm actively a part of all of that. Any others that pop up I won't see unless my publisher points me in that direction.

I think it's a personal decision on whether or not we read and/or respond to those reviews, but I think a writer should NEVER be a fckwit about any of it. You totally nailed that. :)

Liviania said...

Hi! I feel bad that I've downloaded the first book for review, but haven't read it yet. (It's stored on my iPad, and hopefully I'll get to it on the long drive this Sunday and Monday.)

As for commenting on reviews of your book, feel free to do it, especially if it's on a blog where you've commented before or where you offered a review copy. In that case, the reviewer probably knows you're going to read the review. A thank you lets them know you aren't going to hold a grudge over a negative review (if it is negative).

Bonnie @ A Backwards Story said...

I think Michelle's answer is good as well. If you know someone is reviewing your book and have worked with them, commenting is okay :)