Thursday, September 8, 2011

Magic Thursday: I Review, You Review, We All Review

by Denise Rossetti


Reviews have really been on my mind lately. Now, that could be because I've had two books published this year - The Lone Warrior (BerkleySensation) and Guilty as Sin (Ellora's Cave) - but I've never ever quite known how to handle reviews.

As a reader, I find them genuinely useful. I don't follow them slavishly, but when I see a lot of people all saying the same thing, I have to admit, I do pay attention. After all, that's my hard-earned credit card I'm plunking down. Like anyone else, I want to get my money's worth out of my reading experience. I positively hate buying a lemon!

But when it comes to my own book babies, the boot is firmly on the other foot. ;) I find criticism much harder to take - and I've had some doozies, believe me! Most reviewers from review sites will make a genuine effort to provide constructive, well-reasoned feedback. That's fine, I appreciate it. But sadly, a few are no more than snide and carping.

I don't deal with the negative stuff at all well. It used to depress me for days, but I've learned to skim the occasional bad ones and then put them out of my mind. I have to, for my own sanity. Otherwise, I'd never write another word.

Here, I do need to make the point that I've had loads of positively glowing reviews, all right?! Lots of people enjoy the hell out of my books, honest they do. You can read what they say on my website. I've even won awards, so there!

But reviews have changed since I was first published (waaay back in 2006!). These days everyone and her auntie has the right to speak their minds about my work. And yes, they're paying customers, so why not? (For example, take a look at the reviews for Guilty as Sin on Goodreads or Ellora's Cave and you'll see what I mean.)

No reason at all and I understand that my books don't float everyone's boat in the same way that other readers are totally on my wavelength. Bless you all, my dears! I'm profoundly grateful to anyone who takes the time and trouble to write me a favourable review.

So yes, reading is a completely subjective experience, filtered through our own life events and emotional attitudes. But some people are weird. Like the woman who gave a book of mine a one star rating when not even I had the final proofs from the publisher. She just knew she was going to hate it in advance?? And of course, her real self (unlike mine) was nicely hidden behind an avatar.

Of course, the best - and by far, the most dignified - policy is not to engage in online fisticuffs over sucky reviews. It's a baaad idea! A few foolish authors who've done it discovered the hard way it makes everything hurt worse.

I'm interested in your opinions about reviews. And I'm giving away an ecopy of Guilty of Sin to a lucky commenter, so let's hear it!

  1. Do you write reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, Ellora's Cave or wherever? Or do you just do ratings?
  2. Do you pay any attention at all to reviews when you're deciding what to buy?
  3. If you're a writer, do you read reviews of your own work?
  4. If there's a bad one - that is, just plain mean - how do you cope with it?
A two-time winner of the Romance Writers of America Passionate Plume Award, Denise's work has been described as "darkly intense, warmly romantic and blazingly erotic". Reviewers praise her world-building and her ability to write "erotic scenes that exude sensuality without sounding at all cliche."

And that's all TRUE! Honest!

You can read all the first chapters of Denise's books on her website - and the (good) reviews too if that's not enough for you.

She also writes a monthly newsletter full of giveaways, freebies and fun stuff. And if that's not enough, you can find her on Twitter and Facebook.

35 comments:

  1. Hi Denise!
    Can't say that I write reviews anywhere - I only rate them. Don't seem to have time for a review these days (:
    As for paying attention to reviews, I do. I check Amazon's reviews before I buy anything. It doesn't mean if it's a bad review I won't buy it. Most of the time I just want to know a little bit more about the book before I get it. If everyone says the writing's poor, I might change my mind, unless its a topic or hook that's really intrigued me.
    As for getting reviews - not at that stage yet, unless you count numerous contest judged 'reviews'. If they're bad I tend to see if there's anything that could help me in the suggestions. Then I just ignore. Mind you I've had a few doozies. (:

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  2. I tend not to read reviews. I skim them to get an overall impression, but generally I find the review sites over write their reviews which annoys me. My policy with bad reviews is to seethe, ignore them and not draw them to anyone's attention.

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  3. Hi Denise. Your faithful follower Mima F here. I like writing reviews because nothing infuriates me more than spending hard earned cash on weak plots and characters. Reading is time off and entertainment for my busy brain. I set time aside, I look forward to it and I really want it to be good. I've found that the Amazon reviews are usually pretty decent. Most helpful: when reviewers say things like: if you like Denise Rossetti, Joey Hill, JR Ward, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Gena Showalter, Angela Knight, you'll like this book, too! That gives me a good indicator on the strength of the book. Another big one is when a writer I like very much, like you (shameless sucking up, I know) recommends other writers. You've turned me on to (among others): Joey Hill, Nalini Singh, Morgan Hawke and Shana Abe. I'm not a writer, but I think you hit it when you said that some work may not float everyone's boat. With that in mind, great reviews are reinforcement hugs and bad reviews are part of the "not on the same wavelength column", but should still be read with thick skin looking for something useful in there anyway. I know you put all your OOMPH into your characters and stories. You don't give them over until you've made them very shiny. That's why the world and characters you've created are unique and so darn enjoyable.

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  4. Do you write reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, Ellora's Cave or wherever? Or do you just do ratings? yes I post my full reviews on everything but elloras cave website.

    Do you pay any attention at all to reviews when you're deciding what to buy? yes i actually look at the lowest and the highest and see what people said

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  5. I love reviews. I read them before I buy. I write my own (sometimes, I admit, only a couple of lines--bad reviewer!) on Goodreads. And I have to chain myself to the kitchen sink to stop myself jumping online and scaring any reviewer with my joy if they've reviewed my books. I just plain love reviews. (well, maybe not the one star ratings without a word of explanation -- but two stars with constructive crit is totally cool)

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  6. I have a reading blog and write a quick summary of books there, and sometimes on Goodreads, but really I know my reading taste is different to others, so I don't say 'you'll hate it'. In fact, I don't say I hate things - things may not be to my taste but I know how hard it is to write, so slamming someone isn't going to help them grow as a writer. Instead i may point out an aspect that I didn't personally like. I suppose that is the criticism sandwich approach that I learned when I study psychology. Not always easy to do.

    I may not have gotten reviews but submitting and getting some comments is sort of like one. One person said a story of mine was pedestrian and unoriginal. Yeah, it made me go - WHAT?! But really you can't please everyone.

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  7. Hey Denise! I write reviews when I really, really love a book. Other than that I will rate the book. I only read reviews after I have read the description of the book and decided I want to buy/read it. Reviews have rarely stop me from buying a book because I assume that the review writer and I just have different tastes. :) However, I do find it interesting what people write.

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  8. Hi Bec!

    You're right - it all takes time, especially if you want to put some thought into it. I'm incredibly careful with my reviews - or even the ratings. I simply don't post any review less than a 4 or 5 (on romance titles anyway). I'd hate to be seen as 'putting down' other writers. It's a difficult line to walk.

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  9. I have to agree, Keziah. I lap up praise, but there's a certain degree of hyperbole... Still, it's better than the reverse!

    Seething and ignoring at the same time's a handy trick. Wish I could do it!

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  10. hi Denise,

    I've had some glowing ones - and yes *sniffle* some terrible dud ones. The great ones leave you beaming, the bad ones...not so much! LOL. Guess we can't please everyone and our tastes are varied for a reason =)

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  11. Hey there, Mima!

    Yes, the 'if you like...' type reviews are really useful - gives you a basis for comparison.

    As for recommending other authors, see what I said to Bec in the comment above. I'm VERY careful, so you can be sure my recommendations are whole-hearted.

    It would be good if I could be that philosophical. Guess I need a tougher hide! And finally, thanks so much for the kind words. Those are the reviews I like best! *beams*

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  12. Hi Denise. *waves*

    I really haven't written reviews as such, I tend to post one line things like "good book, throughly enjoyed it" to "Awesomely spectacular". :D

    Though I have read some that make me scratch my head and go "WTF?" O.o

    And yes I remember seeing the weird lady's one star on GR's. That was one that made me roll my eyes & shake my head. Some people are just plain weird.

    But I've throughly enjoyed everything you've written, like a hot mug of coco on a cold winter day. Mmmmmmmm. Keep 'em coming baby. ;)

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  13. Good idea,Tina! Though I have to admit, on occasion I've wondered if two people are talking about the same book! Just as well we're all so different.

    I also think it's about expectations. I've had readers accuse me of writing porn. Well, duh! It's an EROTIC romance, geddit? But clearly, that's not what they expected.

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  14. Hi Jenny!

    Yes, anything constructive is fabulous. Shows the reviewer cares enough to have given your work some thought and found enough positive things in your writing to make the effort worthwhile. It's the others that drive me nuts. *sigh*

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  15. You know, Eleni, sometimes I feel writing is the equivalent of placing your beating heart on a plate and handing someone a sharp knife.

    I think you're right about how much effort is involved in writing a book. Because it only takes a couple of hours to whiz through a novel, some people seem to assume authors pump them out in a similar amount of time. Wish I could. LOL

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  16. Hi Ashley!

    I must admit, I'm fascinated by how diametrically opposed opinions can be about the same book. It happens in the book club I belong too as well. Has me scratching my head.

    Excerpts are the make or break for me, even more than reviews. If it's badly written, banal or just plain awful - forget it! I won't buy a book without an excerpt unless it's by one of the handful of autobuy authors I keep in the back of my mind.

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  17. Hi Mel, my friend! Vive la difference!

    True, some readers just don't 'get' what I'm trying to do, but oh my goodness, I really do love it when someone does - and says so!

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  18. No worries, Meg. I know who you are. Heh heh. ;)

    You know, I think even one-liners help. There's nothing more powerful than word of mouth when it comes to any kind of product. So you keep those ones coming and I'll do my bit. I like being a hot mug of cocoa. *grin*

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  19. As a writer, I slavishly read any review written about my book. As a reader, I skim over reviews and they don't affect my choice of book... much. If they're absolutely stinking then I will probably turn away and choose something else, but if they're mediocre or all over the place I'll give it a go. I used to be a harsh critic of what I read. Now that I'm published I'm a lot more careful with what I review. If I hated a book, I won't write a review at all. If it was OK, then I'll give a three star. I figure if I don't want to recieve a bad review myself - I'm not going to write one about someone else.

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  20. Hi Denise! Finally figured it out...so I could post...Firefox was the problem...

    I never used to write reviews..just sent off a note every now and then to an author whose book touched me in a profound way...I did that after reading Rubies and Black Velvet, the way you captured the lovers brought tears to my eyes...(I'm a sook!) It was so beautiful, so moving...

    Then I started writing reviews for a blogsite because I wanted to learn how to ‘write better’ myself and slowly started writing (chuckle) more than a quick sentence or two on all the sites you mentioned, plus my reviews were all published on the blogsite and I passed on ‘special’ authors and their works to the various fan groups I joined.

    I’m still not sure if I’m doing it right, in that I don’t like to ‘go over the same ground as the blurb’ and will usually concentrate on what it is about the book, and especially the author, that captivates my attention in the first place... Reviews are a personal expression of my appreciation for incredible labor of love that is an authors work...

    I try, always to find something positive to say in a review and find the negativity of ninnies who would rather poke fun at, rather than actually create something original themselves, superfluous...

    I absolutely pay attention to reviews when purchasing books, and anything else for that matter...then go with my gut and my own mind regardless...

    I’m a ‘wannabe’ writer. Still puddling about in the ‘kiddie’s pool’ messing about with my blog and working on my first manu-scr-ipt...(doesn’t that sound wonderful!?!...)

    But coping with people now who read my blog and chapters from my WIP, and think I’m some sort of pervert, has been...startling to say the least...Good grief!...I an old lady granny with a dirty mind is all...;)

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  21. Hi Denise,

    I rate a story for my records, *, OK, N, but I don't write official reviews.

    For favorite author's, I don't even peek at reviews, but for a new author, a review and excerpt could help sway me to give the story a chance.

    cathy m
    caity_mack at yahoo dot com

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  22. i am not a writer but i do review on nor
    amazon good reads and on and the authors web site and then twitter with over 1200 followers and then on my face book and the authors site on both twitter and face book i now of the one on good read were i have had people say the book suck and they did not understand the book so i tell them that they do not do that to a authors desitheblonde@msn.com you can see me at face book Desiree Reilly
    twitter desitheblonde and good read and amazon nor as Desiree Reilly and i have had some author book go high for the reviews i done and blog on them

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  23. i for got to say that page is wicked and i love the cover of the books and then blurb on them congrats
    desitheblonde@msn.com

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  24. I'm with you on the not writing bad reviews even if they're deserved thing, Nicole. As a writer, I feel it's not right. Especially when I know what a prolonged effort it takes to write a book.

    I was brought in the school that says, "if you can't find something nice to say, don't say anything at all." I realize people should be warned off crappy products, but there are plenty of other readers out there to do it!

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  25. Hi there, Pearl! I see you 'made it' in the end! Thanks for persisting. *grin*

    Reviews are a personal expression of my appreciation for incredible labor of love that is an authors work...

    I have to say I love this. It's wonderful when someone 'gets' what it's all about and what it takes out of you, the joy and the pain. Thanks, mate.

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  26. Pearl, I meant to say good luck with your writing. If you haven't joined your local branch of RWA (US), you might like to think about it. Or even RWNZ as an overseas member. They're a terrific bunch.

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  27. Hi Caitymack! Yes, I'm the same. There are a few authors who are autobuys for me - Emma Holly, Joey W. Hill, Josh Lanyon, Harper Fox. There are others, but not many!

    For a new author, yes, they have to get through the reviews/excerpt test before I'll buy.

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  28. Good on you, Desiree! Authors absolutely love it when fans spread the word. There's nothing better than word of mouth for selling any kind of product. Sounds like you really create a buzz out there in Romancelandia. You go, girl!

    As for this website - the amazing Eleni Konstantine did the hard yards. She's a treasure!

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  29. Hi Denise,

    I am a big reviewer. Rated 14th on Goodreads out of the Australian members, so I do quite a bit of it. I also run a review blog with some online friends - but we will not post reviews of books that we rate less than 3 stars. We do it to promote authors, not harm their sales.

    I buy books based on my friends recommendation and reviews - they know what I like and because I read so much I don't want to waste valuable money on books that I am not going to enjoy.

    In saying that - I can't stand it when a reviewer writes nasty comments. Explaining why you didn't like a book is acceptable but stating that someones hard work is 'crap' is uncalled for in my opinion. I admit I have probably been over critical on a few books and no doubt I may have hurt peoples feelings, but I try to provide a balance with my reviews.

    I have had friend disrespect authors in their reviews without even thinking how their words would upset the author. Their reviews are written down in a few minutes but the effects could last a hell of a lot longer to the author.

    I once gave an author 2 stars for her book - and she actually wrote and thanked me for my review. Even though I didn't like the story, I had the decency to explain in a nice way how it wasn't suited to my tastes instead of making fun of the topic and putting the people down that like that sort of thing.

    I think some reviewers feel that it is their right to disrespect authors because they have paid a few $$$ for their book. Yes, ok, the money entitles them to give an opinion but you don't see me slandering the local check out chick because she packed my groceries wrong. The polite thing to do would be to bite my tongue or nicely say - "Could you please pack them differently".
    The internet is an easy way to get attention and most of the time that is what these people are trying to get from their reviews.

    I hope all that made sense ladies - I am at work and shouldn't be here ;)

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  30. Wow, sorry didn't realise I got so carried away.

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  31. I only occasionally will write a review for an EC story. I do not do Goodreads and rarely visit Amazon. I do read reviews for authors I do not know but I would rather read an interview by the author to get a sense if I want to read the book. I sometimes read the snarky reviews on the Smart Bitches site if I want a laugh and I am in teh right mood but usually ignore bad reviews.

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  32. Oh Jodie, you sound like my ideal reviewer! Your reviews sound like they're intelligent and insightful - and most importantly, respectful.

    After reading your post, a big light bulb came on for me - it's the disrespect I find so hurtful. And yes, it's easier to write - this was boring crap - than to explain why it bored you.

    So no, you didn't rave on too much at all! *smile*

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  33. Hi Lindseye!

    That's interesting - it sounds as if you like to get a sense of the author as a person as much as you want to know more about the book. Certainly, a book is very personal piece of creative art. It makes sense!

    And yes, I'm afraid I'm much more likely to be amused if the Smart Bitches aren't reviewing me!

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