Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Good Reviews vs. Bad Reviews

One of the first pieces of advice every newbie writer gets clobbered over the head with is "Develop a tough skin and suck it up, cry baby." Which I heartily echo because I really can't imagine a more ego bruising occupation other than maybe a sumo wrestler. Think about it. How would you feel about yourself if you had to wrestle in a thong with all your fat jiggling in public?

Because of all the negativity a writer faces, I purposely choose to write book reviews that highlight the good in a novel. I'm also very discriminating about what covers I crack open, so that helps me avoid the need to write a this-book-stinks-and-the-author-should-take-up-knitting kind of review. But there are other reasons as well. . .

No matter how tough a writer is, they still have feelings. I don't want to be the one who stomps on them with spikey-cleated shoes, leaving little bloody holes in their soul.

My bad review might obliterate the sales of a particular book, sales that maybe that author needs for food and clothing or possibly personal hygiene products. Far be it from me to deprive a fellow writer of deodorant no matter how smelly the writing.

I might be shooting myself in the foot by writing a dismal review of another story. Why? Because that author is going to have some fans even if their prose happens to set my teeth on edge. Those fans will read my review and remember my name...as in "Dang! I'm never going to read that crabby writer's stuff because obviously she doesn't appreciate good writing."

I'd rather spread encouragement and happy-happy vibes than negativity. The world is bleak enough without me painting wide swaths of black color all around the literary neighborhood.

All that being said, I do point out when a book's plot falters or a character is predictable, so I don't exactly earn a Pollyanna badge either. Want to know what I'm reading and what I think about it? Check out my reviews on Goodreads. You might be surprised at my sometimes back-handed positive reviews.


Susan P said...

I love this. And totally agree. If I just can't stomach a book I don't leave a review at all. I have had books fall flat for me, but totally fulfill someone else. That has taught me that everyone has different tastes and therefor it's not up to me to badmouth a book. I try to find the positives in them to review, if I read the whole thing but it wasn't a favorite. Great post!! I really wish more and more people would review this way.
Also, if I see a book has one or two star reviews, I actually read them. Most of the time it is non-related stuff like "This book cost too much" or "I didn't know it was a Christian book" which those have no bearing on the story at all.

Martha Randolph Carr said...

I generally only comment when I like a book for the same reasons you list. So much goes into a book and there will be plenty who want to crab-apple their baby. Why heap on top of the pile. It's a tough call though because if a book really is slow or really flowery that does help others to go buy something else.

Michelle Griep said...

So true, Susan. I look for the 1 and 2 star reviews first. More often than not, the reader hated the book because they didn't read the cover copy first, which would've clued them in to if they'd like it in the first place.

Michelle Griep said...

Yeah, Martha. There are enough steaming piles of ugliness out there that we don't have to add to the heap. There are positive ways, though, to get out the information that a book is slow or "flowery".

Ane Mulligan said...

You know, they say all PR is good, even the bad. If people read those reviews, then they usually read them all. They'll see the good outweigh the bad, and notice if the reader didn't like it because it's Christian fiction. That disclaims their review right off. :)

If the person reading the reviews isn't a Christian and Christian fiction turns them off, they won't bother to buy it and that staves off another bad review for the wrong reasons. :)

Now, remind me of all this when I start getting reviews. :o}

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Let me just say, it was easier for me to dole out those low star reviews before I was published myself. Once you get a few reviews of your own, you realize just how subjective it is, and how easy it is to pull a books' rankings down when it's a perfectly solid book, just not your cup o'tea. And like you said, almost every book will have readers that love it. Thanks for this perspective, Michelle!

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