Do you read reviews? What kind? The ones on sites like Amazon or Goodreads, or do you read the ones on review sites? Do they help you decide what you want to read/buy next?
It’s all right, you don’t need to answer, I just asked to get you to think about it. Back when I was “just” a reader, I read reviews on Amazon, All Romance eBooks and sometimes on Goodreads, but rarely any place else. I chose the books I was interested in, then read the reviews as a way of weeding out the ones that probably weren’t for me.
As an author, my relationship to reviews—at least the ones for my work—has changed. First of all, they aren’t written for authors, they’re for readers—I’m not the intended audience, so reviewers aren’t concerned with what I want to get from their comments. Them’s the breaks, and I live with it. Even so, I find them useful. All of them, whether they’re from fans, aficionados or professional reviewers—I care about the comments people have to make about my work.
Well of course I care about reviews, because they drive sales, right?
Not necessarily or at least not only that. There are books that are reviewed well that fizzle, and books with mediocre reviews that cling to the bestseller list like mollusks to rock. According to a survey by the Romance Writer’s of America, [http://www.rwa.org/cs/readership_stats ] reviews don’t play a clear-cut role in why people are influenced to choose one book over another.
Most people choose books based on personal recommendation. If Bobby Sue is reading my current release, Frat Boy & Toppy, and she chose it based on the recommendation of Melissa, who bought it because David said it was good, how does a review ever play into that? Well, the chain started somewhere, didn’t it? In my hypothetical world, it started when David’s boyfriend Alan read the book after he saw a “five blissful sweet peas” review on Mrs. Condit Reads Books [ http://mrsconditreadsbooks.com/index.php/?p=3768 ].
There’s additional value I place in reviews; they give me an idea of the “temperature” of my book. How people like it or not is reflected in reviews—in this case, the reader comments on a place like Goodreads or Amazon are the best measure.
Well-written, insightful reviews help me shape my writing in the future. Not all of them are created equally, of course, and the ones I’ve found most helpful have been the “professional” reviews. I’ll give you two examples.
When my first novel, 18% Gray, came out last August, it took a while before I got any reviews—I expected that. What I didn’t expect was how helpful some comments would be. When Lady M at Reviews by Jessewave [http://www.reviewsbyjessewave.com/2011/08/29/18-gray/ ] gave the book a four-star rating, I learned so much it changed things in the next book in the series, Turning Tricks (out at the end of May). This is an excerpt:
“As much as I liked the novel, I did have a few problems. In the forefront was the use of gazillion acronyms which made the reading difficult and whose number should have been considerably cut down. After a while, my eyes started glazing over whenever they appeared and I simply started skipping them completely so I wouldn’t lose the thread of the story.”
Here, I learned I needed to consider my audience. I made very obvious changes in Turning Tricks that became part of the storyline. Specifically, the military institutes a PlainSpeak policy, and the characters struggle through the whole book to adjust from using acronyms to using military-sanctioned shortened forms. Ultimately, a very important scene hinges on this change from acronyms to PlainSpeak. (Warning—there are still a few acronyms).
Sarah Frantz at Dear Author [http://dearauthor.com/book-reviews/overall-b-reviews/b-plus-reviews/review-frat-boy-and-toppy-by-anne-tenino ] read and reviewed Frat Boy & Toppy and it’s one of my favorite reviews so far, not because of the recommended read status or the B+ rating (or because she said the book kept her up until 3am reading), but because of her insights.
“And the final scene ends abruptly. We’ve had pages of Brad coming out to his frat, and when he and Sebastian go upstairs…the rest of the house isn’t mentioned again at all…
But all that aside, I loved this book. I loved the gentle humor. I loved the characters — all of them, but especially Brad.”
Ms. Frantz nailed one of my main issues with my writing—I have the hardest time with endings. Now I know I have to work on that more because someone else noticed it. Although she is the first person to mention it, so maybe…nah.
What I’m telling you is, reviews can be your friends. If you’re a reader, they’re a great place to find out more about a book you’re considering, and if you’re an author, you can mine them for lots of data. It’s sometimes hard to read them, sure, but they have a lot of wisdom to impart.
Not all authors see it this way; they want their reviews to be perfect or darn near, but my philosophy is that not all of my audience will like what I write—it’s impossible. Reviewers happen to be part of my audience, therefore they can’t all like what I write. When I read reviews with that premise in mind, I get the most out of them.
Like I said earlier however, reviews aren’t intended for the author. When I read them, I’m listening in on a discussion I’m not really a part of, except for providing the topic of conversation. I like to thank reviewers if possible, but most of the time I shut the door quietly and sneak away.
Raised on a steady media diet of Monty Python, classical music and the visual arts, Anne Tenino rocked the mental health world when she was the first patient diagnosed with Compulsive Romantic Disorder. Since that day, Anne has taken on conquering the M/M world through therapeutic writing. Finding out who those guys having sex in her head are and what to do with them has been extremely liberating.
Wondering what Anne does when not writing? Mostly she lies on the couch, eats bonbons and shirks housework.
Check out what Anne’s up to now by visiting her site. http://annetenino.com