Reviewing the reviewers.
Authors live off reviews; well, let’s face it they don’t live off the royalties!
Readers cannot begin to imagine how much a four or five star review boosts a writer. The years of work and their raison d’etre is satisfied and they know that someone, somewhere, at least, gets it, but not only that, they enjoyed it. They found it entertaining, or thought provoking, or emotional, or, even better, all of the above. So readers; you don’t have to leave a written review, unless you feel so inclined, but if you liked it, please consider demonstrating it to others and indeed the author by clicking on the button.
There are different types of reviews, some of which I categorise below:
This is a journalist who is paid to seek out and write a review of books. I have been lucky because through my initial publisher I got access to top reviewers in The Times, Financial Times, Sunday Express etc. I do wonder how those who self publish manage to get to these hallowed grounds. I’m not sure they do.
These people are…well, people. They have an opinion. I think it is true that you could have an awful book that appears to be written by a five year old; but beyond that it is pretty much subjective, Some like flowery build ups and descriptions, others like you to get to the point. Sub-plots can be obvious or hidden, character arcs recognised or scan read. You are in the lap of the Gods and sometimes their own personal agendas.
I only remember one bad review, (we always remember the bad reviews). I think it was someone in The Guardian? She thought that it was distasteful to show that an office full of ‘hairy arsed detectives’ (unsurprisingly my quote), in the 1980’s, might discuss women’s breasts, make comments which were not politically correct, and swear quite a bit. This was kind of the point; rather than pretend it didn’t happen, in which case she would have been happy, presumably. This taught me to meet the two imposters the same, and stick to your guns. It is your book. You own it, girlpants!
These could be anyone. No qualifications required; but they do seem to hold quite a bit of weight. This is a new thing for me returning to writing, but I like it. The fact that anyone can do it, is quite a good barometer for the public at large. People with an interest in reading, commenting on whether they liked the thing or not. It’s just that it can make you cringe when they are simultaneously telling the world.
Will a devout Christian like my gritty, sweary, sexy characters? Maybe.
Will a shy 17 year old understand the nuances of word play when the cops are grilling a criminal, if not explained? I am asking myself these questions and I think at varying levels they will. It is only the barking mad extremists (a growing breed) who will think the book is some sort of individual slur against them personally, but that’s life, in today’s world, folks.
I did see a blog criticising a book for bad editing and the article itself was poorly edited. That's a little bit amusing.
I like Blogger reviews, because it is a wide range of disparate (yes, disparate) people, from potentially all over the world, who have taken the time and trouble to read your book and offer a view. That is a good thing surely? In the round, it is a service to writers. It also helps to publicise the book and offer some validation particularly to new starters. That encouragement is so important.
There is some sort of weirdness in this arena too, from what I can gather. I saw a tweet from a reviewer who was relishing a detrimental review he had done, and revelled in how upset the author was. Gloating that he was able to tear a strip off her, via communicating on Goodreads. How sad is that? I’m guessing he is not an author himself?
These are people who are essentially Trolls in the reviewing world. I just wonder if your average reader is aware that they exist, when they look at customer reviews?
I also believe there is a secret code of ethics whereby if the blogger does not like the book, they do not publish a review. I may have just made this up. I only say that, because I have sent my book to a couple of bloggers who wanted to review my books and never heard from them again. I’m guessing the book was not their bag, but then at least only I know that, so there is a kindness in there somewhere.
This is your Lord and Master (or Mistress). The main reason to write is that someone, firstly will read your work, and then get something out of it. Beyond that, the green pastures of wanting to read another of your books. Beyond even that, is some sort of Nirvana, that is never spoken about by mere mortals. The thing is, these are the people that we are all hoping to reach, and satisfy. In my view, and some disagree; the only route to Nirvana is to write for yourself and if you get it, and love it, there will probably be some people with your warped mind who will also appreciate it. Please tell us, readers, if you do! We will listen to you. The point is, when all said and done, these are the ones who really matter. When ten thousand readers love your book and one reviewer doesn't, you can chill.
The Troll mentioned in ‘The Blogger’, above, comes under this category. People who relish in pulling people down. Particularly new writers, who may well not be the finished article, but have spent, God knows how long, dedicated to pouring their heart and soul into a piece or work; for some Viz reader to ‘chortle’ (see what I did there?) and rip into them, using their D in English Language, or worse their first class honours degree in literature to explain how ‘shit’ it was.
Reviewing Gits come in other forms, the estranged wife (or nominated friend), the jealous work colleague, the ‘who do they think they are?’ -Judge, the failed everything, the cynic, etc etc.
Other Gits are the sort, who we all come across in our lives, who think that by ripping you apart, it somehow makes them look better. The secretly insecure Git. These are just people of course, but it can be damaging, with no right of reply. As with anything in life, just plough on, curse the injustice of the world and keep going.
In my experience writers are pretty kind to other writers. Not always, but mostly. If we can’t be, it’s a sorry tale. We know what it takes to finish a project, regardless of the quality; it is a noble quest to offer yourself prostrate on the alter of criticism. That takes balls, and other girly things, which are the equivalent indicator of courage. Which is what I should have just said; just said courage, but hey, don’t you start guys. Jeez!
The most terrifying Writer reviewers are those who, contrary to me, are highly educated; with degrees in English Literature and Royal Society (with distinction) rosettes with a big tick and ‘well done’ written at the side, in grammar.
Of course, it is necessary to understand grammar, to make the story coherent, but I would sooner have a great story, regardless, than a dull one with all the peeps and squeak’s in place.
The Writer review can offer all sorts of useful critique; but for public consumption, I would stick to the positives. If the writer wanted a more professional opinion, then that is between the two of them, surely?
Quite how writers find the time to review, is beyond me in any case. Grateful though we are.
It takes all sorts, and I feel I am just scratching the surface.
I can let you into a secret that most established authors know in their heart of hearts. Come a little closer, I want to whisper it. ‘Nobody knows anything, really’.
Some people will like your book, and some won’t. If there was a magic formula, robots would be doing it. Oh Christ! Guess what’s coming next?
We all know the stories of brilliant writers, rejected by publishers and editors, and having awful reviews. See, it’s all opinion, and we live in a world where we all respect contrary opinions, remember? Ahem! Anyway, I will say it again. Some people don’t like your books. It’s allowed. Sure, it stings a bit, but you must entrench that realisation, and bask in the knowledge that many people love your work.
There are some genres that simply do not appeal to me, for example; and that means books I wouldn’t enjoy; but that does not make it a bad book. It just makes me the wrong reviewer for that book.
Happy writing, writers. Happy reading, readers, and happy reviewing, reviewers.
Keith Wright is the author of ‘One Oblique One’ (the UK police radio code word for sudden death). Available on Amazon paperback, Kindle and Kindle Unlimited. His second in the series – ‘Trace and Eliminate’ is also available now. His books have received critical acclaim in ‘The Times’, ‘Financial Times’ and the ‘Sunday Express’ as well as many others such as ‘The Mystery &Thriller Guild’ and ‘London Evening Standard’.
His third book in the ‘Inspector Stark series’: ‘Addressed To Kill’ will be out in the Autumn/Winter of 2019.
Visit Keith’s website: keithwrightauthor.co.uk. To read blogs and samples of his books.
Follow him on twitter: @keithwwright