Reviews – The Good, The Bad, and the Confusing

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If you publish with Amazon, you can be pretty certain that at some point or another you’re going to get a review that will make you scratch your head in confusion. The thing I like the most about these odd reviews is that it’s considered very bad form to ever answer one – I would hate to ever have to answer a rotten review. It’s not a good idea to answer any review for your book whether good or bad actually. Amazon reviews are a free forum type thing, and anyone who has read your book should be free to say what they thought about it without any fear of either a rant or a lot of fawning gratitude from the author. Poor old Hannah. One of the first reviews that my Fly Birdie got was a two sentence one star clonker, where the reviewer said, “I was disgusted by the actions of the “heroine” of the story.” After the initial shock wore off after reading it, I had a good chuckle because it didn’t make any sense to me at all, and I realised that now I really was part of the scribblers club – you have to get bad reviews now and then. It was a rite of passage that all of us writers have to go through at some point or another, traditionally published or indie. Stephen King gets one star depth charges all the time, like this one for The Stand – which was one of the best books I’ve ever read by the way. 1.0 out of 5 stars BORING AND SICKLY, LIKE A NEVER ENDING BAD DREAM, December 28, 2013 By Detective – See all my reviews This review is from: The Stand (Kindle Edition) Why so many 5 star ratings is a mystery to me. What this book reminded me of was a series of bad dreams like you get after eating too much bad food and trying to sleep it off in an over heated bedroom. Problem is this bad dream (book) doesn’t end at dawn, instead it goes on and on and on forever resulting in boring and sickly never ending reading drudgery. Makes me feel better to know that it’s not just me who will be blasted, although I think that possibly the above guy should eat more veggies and invest in aircon. Still, I take what reviewers say very seriously, and any valid point (valid to me that is) that they make about any of my scribbles that they don’t like, I’ll do my best to work on in future. I also think that it’s fair enough to say so if a story grosses you out that badly, so I’m not likely to get all Stanley about the whole thing. But if you’re going to give a negative low review, at least make sure you have your facts straight, because these low stars bring a book’s overall ratings down, and tossing them about willy nilly is irresponsible. In Fly Birdie, an ancient, massive tree is totally ripped up in a storm – roots exposed to the air, and left dangerously hanging over a house. Never mind the rest of the story – although Hannah’s sadness and helplessness at the death of the tree was fairly obvious when the story got to that point, but it’s absolutely not possible to save a tree in that state, that old, or of that size, no matter how much you want to. So this review started out as a bit of a head scratcher to me. 3.0 out of 5 stars An unkind woman, September 21, 2014 By marcia riley – See all my reviews Verified Purchase(What’s this?) This review is from: Fly Birdie (Kindle Edition) Everyone loves how kind she was to the bird, but what about the tree? When she learned the tree had feelings and went out of its way not to harm her, she let it be chopped down anyway. She showed no compassion whatsoever for the stately tree. That was not something a nice person would do. For shame…… But then it occurred to me that the story had actually got to this reader. Maybe not in a good way – it clearly upset her. All of us writers want our readers to be emotionally invested in our books, so maybe this isn’t really a “bad” review after all. Everyone has strong feelings for different things. And many people – myself included – have a deep and abiding love for certain types of life, be it trees or dolphins, or any other critter. My judgement has often been clouded in the past by these feelings, where logic hasn’t even come into the equation before the words come out. So to me, even though this seems to be just a negative review, what I get from it is that the reader was moved enough by what she read about that poor old tree to have some pretty strong feelings about it – and that, I reckon, is a very large compliment – when anything you write evokes such a reaction. So – I’m happy with it.

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25 thoughts on “Reviews – The Good, The Bad, and the Confusing

    Peter Wells aka Countingducks said:
    October 3, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    You’re right, but it does take a bit of getting used to. “I had one review which started saying something nice about my use of language and character and then began to list her criticisms in a great and through way which totally obliterated any sense she may have enjoyed the book. I realise there are people of many points of view, and that won’t change, but oddly, it is often those who are irritated who write the reviews, while those who enjoyed it, just nod and move onto the next one. At least I hope that’s true ha ha ha

    Liked by 1 person

    Sherri said:
    October 3, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    Having not gone down the review road yet as you know but you hit the nail on the head Jo…a strong reaction, good or bad, is actually a very great compliment and I’m so proud of you! BTW, I loved The Stand too 🙂 Have a super weekend my lovely friend 🙂 ❤ xxxxxxxx

    Like

    Ronovan said:
    October 3, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    Reblogged this on Lit World Interviews and commented:
    LitWorldInterviews very own Jo Robinson shared something on her personal author blog that I thought was absolutely amazing, helpful, and something I have thought for so long.
    Jump over and check it out. It’s a quick read that will help every aspiring author and established author as well to handle reviews we get of our work.

    You get to see just one of the reasons I went after Jo so hard to be part of the LWI Team. Her experience is just a wealth for all of us to pull from.
    Much Respect
    Ronovan

    Like

    Charles Yallowitz said:
    October 3, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    I’ve had some doozies over the last year. Most of them involve me not knowing the English language because of my style or the use of elves. It’s weird seeing some people praise the variety of creatures and characters while others scream that those things are one-dimensional and boring. Shows that everyone has their own perspective.

    Like

    […] something on her personal author blog that I thought was absolutely amazing, helpful, and something I have thought for so long. Jump over […]

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    Mishka Jenkins said:
    October 3, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    Reviews are difficult to deal with at times, but other times they can be really useful and help us grow as writers.

    But yeah, sometimes they are just plain weird!

    Even if someone didn’t like the book, it’s good to know you drew them into the book 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Jack Eason said:
    October 3, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    Don’t you just love how these self imposed literary ‘experts’ still hide behind psudonyms, just in case someone actually figures out who they really are Jo. 😉

    Like

    Jack Eason said:
    October 3, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
    Jo talks about Trolls and other Idiots 🙂

    Like

    philipparees said:
    October 3, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    As a recent reviewer of books that engage me enough to review freely I am aware of an inhibition when it comes to indie authors who have fewer defenses ( I don’t mean emotionally), but both in terms of publisher backing and money, and enough other reviewers to balance what might be wrong or insufficient about mine. The stakes are so much higher for them, and reviews so precious and hard to come by. This is why I don’t accept review copies, but buy my own and then at least I have bought a book I don’t choose to review, rather than have to write a half- hearted one to fulfil an obligation.

    Another realisation is this issue of five stars, and anything less seems almost negative, whereas I tend to reserve five stars for the kind of book that is so original that there is no comparison by which to judge it. Obviously it has to meet the basics and engage totally on its own terms, and if it does that then who is to say it could have been better? But in the welter of nothing but five stars three or four have now taken on a ‘mean’ and perjorative connotation, and Grade inflation has come to devalue the whole business. I hope we can reverse it somehow.

    Like

    Elle Knowles said:
    October 3, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    I was devastated when I got my first bad review – but I got over it! Sometimes people just have to vent.

    Like

    Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life. said:
    October 3, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    Great post Jo as ever….Constructive criticism is always useful. 10 to 15 years ago reviews were sought after and scarce appearing usually in more erudite papers and magazines.. Today instead of perhaps 100 established reviewers everybody can post their opinion about your work. They are our buying public and of course their review should have a bearing. However, as someone who had bought and borrowed in the region of 7,500 books in the last 50 years, it is my fairly accurate buying criteria that I usually find works best. If the vast majority of reviews about a book are very negative then I might have second thoughts but to be honest if there is only a handful and they are mixed I will follow my usual process.

    Like

    John W. Howell said:
    October 3, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    The other wonderful thing is when a reader confronts you in person. I had one who was upset that the terrorists did not have accents. The point is the terrorists were in such deep cover accents would have been unrealistic to the story. I just smiled and said I would look at that for the next book. I will cringe when the person approaches me again since the next book has no accents either.(they did not do a review)

    Like

    sknicholls said:
    October 3, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    Tree huggers can be quite emotional. 🙂 I have learned to toss bad reviews over my shoulder like salt. I feel lucky that they aren’t any worse than they are 🙂

    Like

    teagan geneviene said:
    October 3, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    Jo, you have a marvelous attitude. It’s positively inspiring. Hugs!

    Like

    olganm said:
    October 3, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    I’ve heard such bizarre things as people talking about the quality of the audio for a book that was not only not audio but had no audio version, so the comment couldn’t be more wrong. If I bother at all to read the contents of reviews, I do what Sally suggested and tend to be also more interested in the content that in the number of stars. If somebody gives a book 5 stars and writes only great, or fantastic and does not really talk about the book it does nothing for me. I agree that stars are devalued now and they would need to come up with another system, although the same good happen. Writer something about the book but not necessarily a classification as such, as it’s very subjective. Thanks for the people who take the time and patience (and take no notice of) the others. Life is too short.

    Like

    Hugh's Views and News said:
    October 3, 2014 at 5:54 pm

    I’ve yet to publish anything, Jo, and I must say that getting a bad review has always held me back. However, having now read your post, it has given me confidence to not be afraid of reviews, especially the bad ones because, as you say, the reviewer must have felt at least something by giving you their review.
    Very helpful and having now read your post and thought about it more, I should just get on and publish something.

    Liked by 1 person

    Sherrie Miranda said:
    October 3, 2014 at 10:17 pm

    I know of a writer who got several really, bad reviews that turned out to be from a woman she had rented her property to. The woman was mad? jealous? or just plain mean.
    You never know where this stuff comes from. Personally, I usually only write good reviews, mainly because if the book isn’t good, I can’t waste my time to finish it.

    Like

    theowllady said:
    October 4, 2014 at 2:25 am

    Reblogged this on theowlladyblog.

    Like

    Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life. said:
    October 4, 2014 at 9:24 am

    Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    More down to earth commentary on writing and Indie authors from Jo Robinson. From our unease at the end of term reckoning of the school report to the reviews of our books – taking criticism onboard can be a tricky thing…another interesting post Jo thank you…

    Like

    Jacqui Murray said:
    October 4, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    Then there are the ones that start “I didn’t read/finish the book, but…” Hopefully, potential customers will ignore those!

    Like

    Cate Russell-Cole said:
    October 8, 2014 at 5:03 am

    Thank you for pointing out that you should never answer reviews. Someone I know personally thanks everyone who reviews her books, on the review. I looked at that and thought. “oh God, not another to-do item.” I have never seen it as appropriate or necessary.

    As for the review on Stephen’s book, it sounds like the work of a troll, on a long, wet Saturday afternoon.

    Like

      jorobinson176 responded:
      October 13, 2014 at 10:21 am

      You’re so right – we definitely don’t need another thing to do. I’d be a bit uncomfortable if authors answered my reviews, so I’d probably leave less of them just in case. That guy is definitely one of those weirdo trolls hanging around in their dank spots. Such silly people to waste time like that – I bet old Stephen couldn’t care less.

      Liked by 1 person

    Margaret Lynette Sharp said:
    October 28, 2014 at 10:23 am

    After a while, I got used to reading a diversity of opinion. But it’s still nicer to hear that the reader actually enjoyed my work. 🙂

    Like

    Author Massimo Marino said:
    November 9, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    There’s so much more into reviewing than many believe. Yet, most are just more or less expanded versions of “I liked it / I didn’t like it”. Some reviews are meaningless whatever the star rating.

    http://massimomarinoauthor.com/difficult-role-reviewer/

    Like

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