writing

Death of a book review

I was reading a post from a book blog I follow on Facebook, and they were discussing an author who not only cyber-stalked someone who left them a one star review, that author actually went to the reviewer’s home to confront them. My first reaction was speechlessness, followed quickly by an overwhelming urge to consult Dr. Google.

I opened a new tab and put in a few different searches, found one case that sounded the most like the one they were discussing and asked the bloggess if that was who she was talking about (in private to avoid adding to the issue). It wasn’t. You see, strange as it may seem, this happens somewhat frequently. In my search for the case she was talking about I came to realize that some authors even have a bit of notoriety for doing this. Do a search yourself, I was shocked at the number of cases I found.

I experienced a very minor bit of this type of behavior a year ago, but I only found it recently. I left an author a three-star review. I explained in the review what I liked about the book, but there was one thing about it that did not sit right with me and I put it in the review. The author commented on my review at Amazon and also, unbeknownst to me, blogged about me using my real full name with a link to me. I will not include her name or link. You can find it easy enough if you must, I am not willing to donate hits to her site.

I say all this with the knowledge that a huge majority of authors would never confront a customer or reviewer (most of the time they are one in the same). I think it is important to remember that with human interaction such as this, there are really only two things that will happen. Either you will increase the likelihood that the reviewer will purchase more of your literature or not. Sometimes people will begin to like you more simply because someone viewed as famous responded to them in a positive way. But what’s perhaps more important to remember is, does your interaction affect future sales? You may never win back Suzie Q negative reviewer, so be it. Don’t scare off Chatty Kathy who might have been your biggest fan.

Here is the deal, at least in my way of thinking. Authors open themselves up to the possibility that perfect strangers will like them or not. They hope and expect that you will buy the product that they are selling. Reviewers generally have no such expectation. They, usually, do it to help fellow readers or, if the reviews are requested, to help authors get needed reviews to increase search hits. I understand how a negative review could hurt, you’ve spent countless hours writing and editing, that is a little piece of you sitting out there. I am sure the temptation is acute to lash out at reviews that don’t meet your expectations or even ones where you think the reviewer is confused.

Let me offer a suggestion. Let other reviewers handle it. In most cases of lackluster reviews, those that do like the book are more than willing to point out the problems with faulty reviews. If you see such an egregious review that you are certain there is no way the person even read the book, you could ask a close friend (and I mean that, don’t do it yourself, we will know) to go in and make a calm, knowledgeable response to the review. Then leave it alone, consider it handled and try to read all the other 5-star reviews you have. I am in no way condoning the gang mentality that some authors have employed. I mean one friend, and that is it.

I avoid books that have all 5-star reviews, I like a few negatives to read and prove wrong…or right. I can promise you that I will avoid writing a review for any author I see attacking the people who took the time to go write a review. If I see it before the book ends up in my cart…I probably would not even buy it. Food for thought.

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