This might be a bit of a long post but it needs to be said. I see a lot of stuff going around about how readers distrust seeing a lot of five star reviews for a book. I get that. What I’m asking people to do is take a step back and think about things for a minute. Yes, there are frauds out there who buy reviews. Yes, there are authors out there who get everyone they know, regardless of whether they’ve read the book, to pop a five-star rating on Amazon. Yes, the are those unscrupulous wankers who create different personas and then go give themselves a great rating. Go you.
Here’s the simple truth. We are not all like that. Some of us earn our five star reviews. We don’t ask for them, we don’t solicit them, we don’t beg for them. Yup, we beg for reviews, but we don’t stipulate what rating they need to be. Reviews are unfortunately the lifeblood of an author’s business, enabling all sorts of things to go on in the back ground. Get a Bookbub deal; push our stories a little further in the ever changing and very confusing Amazon ranking system. We don’t like it any more than you do that we have to try push this aspect of our business. Because that’s what it is to us. A business.
We sell a brand- ourselves- in the hope someone likes it and buys it. The fact we enjoy what we do and would probably do it even if we didn’t get paid for it is beyond the point. We do it because we love to write our books and we love when people love to read them. Getting paid to do so is a great consequence and of course, we all love it when our royalty cheques drop through the virtual door, no matter how much. Anyone who says different is lying to themselves. It’s a validation that people like your work along with the things that DO probably mean more- messages you get from readers telling you this, the little comments you see about your work in groups and reading clubs, the postings on your Facebook wall when a reader wants to tell you how much they enjoyed your book. I love it when that happens. I do it myself too as an avid fan-girl of some authors. And Benedict Cumberbatch. And Adam Lambert.
But when it comes to reviews, 99% of us prefer honesty. We prefer someone to tell it like it is, as long as you’re not a troll just trying to destroy something, good or bad. Then you deserve to be covered in tar pitch and set alight. (Disclaimer- no trolls were harmed in the writing of this post and I am not advocating or promoting BRAT – Bloody Revenge Against Trolls).
The proof of this statement is in the pudding. Everyone knows I’m friends with a man called Scott Burkett, a well-known book reviewer and blogger and true friend of the MM genre. He’s given me great 5 star reviews for most of my books. But he didn’t hold back on Stripped Bare, or Feat of Clay, both books he wasn’t 100% sold on. No 5 stars there. I’ll be interested to see what he makes of Cross to Bare. Author Diane Nelson is an avid reader of my books yet Cross to Bare? 3.5 stars. She didn’t like it as much as my others. My own PA, Kirsty Vizard- a 4-star review for Feat of Clay. My own beta reader Rita R gave me 4 stars for both Feat of Clay and Cross to Bare because they didn’t ‘speak to her’ like my other books. So I think it’s safe to say no one is being held to ransom to produce a spate of 5 star reviews ‘because we are friends’ or connected in some way. I prefer this honesty from my friends. I don’t want lip service or fawning absolution. I want people to tell me how much they enjoyed my books, so I can perhaps write a better one next time. Just keep it constructive. Flapping your lips and spewing vile diatribe (often totally ignorant) about a book or worse, the author themselves, is just asking for karma to come back and shove its fist up your arse without lube. (Those of you who’ve read Laverne’s story will recognise this action. And no, it isn’t a secret desire I have)
Of course, while I take into account what people are finding negative in my books, I might not always agree with it. It’s my book, my story, and I’ll determine its pace and content, and factor in what I think I need to take out of a negative review. If someone doesn’t like that – well, that’s their prerogative. Just like its mine to write my story the way I want to. So I’m not going to race out and change my next WIP unless I think the reviewer has made a valid point, in my opinion as the author and based on what my beta readers and knowledgeable editor suggest. Again, I’ve been known not to listen to them either, in everything.
So please don’t think that just because you see a bunch of five star reviews on an author’s book, it means they’ve bought them or solicited them. That not only offends me, it offends the individual person doing the honest review the best way they know how and the professional bloggers who have no axe to grind either way and who run their business being honest and saying it like it is.
There’s a sure fire way to see whether an author is deserving of their reviews – it’s called a sample. The one thing Amazon is good at doing is providing you, the potential buyer, with a fairly hefty sample of a book you intending purchasing. Read it. If it appeals to you, then buy it. Of course, if you’ve read an author’s books before and loved them, thinking them worthy of five stars yourself, the chances are their next ones have the same appeal. If it isn’t a five star book for you; okay then. Perfectly acceptable. I’ve read books from favourite authors and thought ‘Meh’. definitely not a five, maybe not even a four. Some books I’ve read from those at the top of the charts, I’ve wondered how the hell they got there in the first place. Not every book appeals to everyone. Put a review up and tell people why. Tell them what you liked, didn’t like. Your opinion counts.
Read the blurb- make sure you want to read a book about men having sex with each other, ménage, BDSM, child abuse, and the like before you buy it. It’s all there for a reader to make an informed decision.
Then find a quiet place to read, make yourself a hot drink and get something to nibble (hot chocolate and crisps are my snacks of choice as I curl up in an armchair) and find out whether that five star review was truly justified.
6 thoughts on “Review Hype and How To Get Over It”
Absolutely bang on Susan. As a writer myself, I crave good reviews of my work, but I also desperately want people to be (kindly) honest about what they like.
And I find it MUCH too hard to write reviews myself to ever imagine trying to make one up that didn’t ring true, and the same goes for everyone I know. We all know how important they are, and we try to write them, but making them up? Pah.
I have several very good friends who I class as insta-buys. but I have never given them 5 stars unless I think the book honestly deserves it.
Well said Susan. I totally agree with you.
Amazing article Susan such great points you made ty so much
Oh Cross To Bate is a definite 5 Star for me like all your others
And No One asked me to say this haga
This blog post is perfect! Today was release day for my second book with Borough’s and not all my reviews were 5 stars. And that’s okay. Because I didn’t ask for GOOD reviews, I asked for HONEST reviews. And you are so right, pushing our books and asking for reviews isn’t easy.
Hi, Miz M. Like you, I do not solicit reviews. So when I get them, I am overjoyed. It takes my books forever to gain even ten reviews, so I hope folks understand that each one is unique and unpaid for … and each one is precious to me. Readers need to follow your very simple guidelines to decide for themselves whether this is a book that will appeal to them. Reviews are but one guidepost. Former books, the ten or twenty percent excerpt amazon provides—there are many ways to decide whether an author has earned high marks. Bottom line: decide for yourself, and never assume that an author has bought the review. No self-respecting writer would do that.
I give a whole lot of 5 star reviews, but it’s because I don’t have the time to read book after book, so I am very cautious about what I read. I read the blurb, if it’s what I like, then I’ll read it. I give books a chance to widen what I like, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. If I read something by an author and like/love it, then I will read as much by that particular author as possible. I try to give a fair review every time I write one by putting down what the book meant to me, what I took away from it. If a review gets me to read a book it won’t be because of stars, it will be what the content meant to the reviewer.