As I’ve started on this journey of writing and reviewing I have connected with several authors on Facebook. Some are long-time, successful, traditionally published authors; some are successful, independently published authors; and some are just starting out.
It’s interesting to see what approach different authors take to get the word out about their book and how they interact with their fans and, more importantly, their critics.
Books, like any other form of art (and I truly believe storytelling is an art), are subjective. What genre a reader prefers, what draws them in, and what they enjoy is completely individual and personal. Some readers are willing to give any author and/or genre a fair chance, knowing they may find a new favorite. Some readers prefer to stick with specific authors or specific genres because they know that’s what they like and they’re happy with it.
Here’s where reviewing books, and posting those reviews in public forums, can get tricky. As a reviewer, it’s important to be as objective as possible while taking part in a past-time (reading) that is completely subjective. I try to go into every story with an open mind. I don’t review books that I don’t think I will enjoy or that I know I will not be able to give an impartial review of because of my preferences (I recently declined to review a book because I knew I was not a good fit and it wouldn’t be fair to the author).
As an author, it’s important to be able to read reviews just as objectively. Most reviewers are not out to bash the author or the story. They are simply expressing their opinion of a story. News flash: not everyone is going to love your book. Even die-hard fans may not love every single book an author publishes. Yes, there are people out there that, for whatever school-yard bully reason they have, are going to give you a bad review just because they can. I don’t understand those people and I would encourage authors (especially new authors) to pay no attention to those people. But if the review contains valid points – poor formatting, bad grammar (not colloquialisms of dialect your characters may have), frequently misspelled words, gaping plot holes, etc. – then the author should make note of that feedback (because that is what it is) and try to fix it the next time around. Especially if that feedback is given in a polite and constructive manner.
I recently unfriended an author because of her lack of professionalism and mean spiritedness toward someone who left an unfavorable review on Goodreads. The reader/reviewer had issues with the grammar and spelling of the book she had purchased. Notice I said purchased, as in she paid for it, she didn’t receive an ARC of the book. The author taunted the reviewer asking her if she was an author, saying she would love to read one of her books because they must be perfect (emphasis is my own). Not only was the author’s behavior and response unprofessional, but then the author’s fans jumped on board and started bullying the reviewer as well. I was disgusted by not only the author’s behavior, but that she would encourage her fans to do the same.
Here’s the thing, if you are publishing a book that you expect someone to pay money for, it had better be perfect, or damn near to it. That means hiring a professional editor if you know grammar and formatting are not your strong suit. That also means being a professional. That means if you don’t agree with a review you ignore it, OR you contact the reviewer in private and ask them if they would like to discuss what they didn’t like. Maybe their opinion is representative of a larger body of readers who just don’t bother to leave feedback. Maybe their feedback is more honest than the friends and family who are leaving you five-star reviews but are secretly talking about how much they didn’t like your book. (I’m speculating here, I don’t know the author or her friends/family in real life.)
I have personally contacted a couple of authors whose books I really enjoyed, but the formatting was off or there were several contextual mistakes and let them know. I try not include those issues in my feedback, especially if I received an ARC because those kinds of mistakes are typically corrected prior to the book’s release. If the book was already published and/or I purchased the book I will absolutely point those errors out in my review, especially if they were so bad they distracted me from enjoying the book.
I am not a published author. I hope to be one day and you can bet I’m taking notes. I’m watching what successful authors, with a large fan base, are doing and how they are doing it. I’m making a list of editors, graphic designers, critique groups, and any/and all recommendations or advice they have to give. Because one day, I hope to be in their shoes. And I hope, when I receive bad reviews (because I will) I have the wherewithal to either ignore it, or make note of it and, if it’s something I can fix, make sure I don’t make the same mistake again.
I hope to remember that what I write will not appeal to everyone and above all, remain professional.