Monday, April 25, 2016

Through a Review Darkly

In a perfect world I would have found the article I wrote several years ago about this subject and posted it here. It was witty in the extreme and filled with examples both good and bad of reviews.

Instead, here we are with me pushing several deadlines.

So today I'll hit the highlights.

1) A review is as good as the reviewer. Most reviewers online can and will tell you why they like or do not like something. A lot of times their reasoning is, well, odd. I have, somewhere on Amazon, a one star review on Bloodstained Oz which was co-written with Christopher Golden. It wasn't that the reviewer didn't like the book. The tale received one star because the book was a signed, limited edition and at that time the alleged reviewer could not afford a copy. That, folks, is not a review in the real world. It's an online argument about pricing.

I have had many reviews that sang my praises and at least as many that suggested I try another area. Ultimately, as individual statements, one flatters and one condemns. Neither will be the end of me or send me intitial sales that defy imagination. I'm okay with that.

2) A GOOD review will actually be done by someone who has actually read the book. I've been astonished a few times to read reviews that had absolutely NOTHING to do with the books in question. They ranted about the author. They explained that having read a DIFFERENT book by the author,  the reviewer decided the next book must either be amazing or the worst thing ever written. I have, again, somewhere on Amazon, had a review that said the reviewer heard that my last book wasn't very good, so, one star review.

3) I keep mentioning Amazon because ENOUGH reviews on Amazon actually affects how Amazon presents an author. Allegedly, if a book receives more than 50 reviews (which can range from rants about your face all the way to deeply thought out reviews from people who border  on scholarly) Amazon starts pushing you books harder. They are mentioned in Amazon emails, newsletters and other publications. Amazon, for the record, is genuinely a large portion of any book's potential sales. For  better or worse, the world is changing and has moved into a different sales platform for books.

4) Any review can potentially help you. I used to live in Atlanta and it was a sure bet hat if the pompous windbags who did reviews of movies and books for the Atlanta Journal and Constitution hated a book or movie, I would give it a try. I mean that. I quite literally never agreed with them on a single review that I ran across. It might be there are a few where I would have agreed if I had ever seen them, but they were my metric when I was on the fence about a movie or story. Just because a review is negative, it doesn't mean the review is bad.

5) Bad reviews hurt. Grow a thick skin. You've now reached the stage where you are selling stories? Someone is going to hate them. has nothing to do with you and everything to do with someone else's opinion. I have never once run across a review that cut me top the point where I bled out, or a review that sent me into heavenly shivers of delight. Ever. Some have come close in both cases, but I recovered.

6) 8 days from now my next book, THE SILENT ARMY comes out in the US. It came out last month in the UK. So far there have been three reviews, all favorable. I'm still bracing myself for the negatives. They are, in my humble opinion, as inevitable as the tide. I will disappoint someone. YOU will disappoint someone. The sun will continue to rise in all events. It will also set each night.

7) In my humble opinion the only true purpose of a review aside from sales is as a litmus test of sorts: If five reviewers out of ten say something is wrong, you might consider looking into it. if one in ten does, you can safely ignore it.

In the near future I will have a map of Fellein, the world where my Seven Forges novels are set, completed by an artist I know. Why? Because people kept asking for one. I'm taking the hint.


  1. Highlighted well and finally....a MAP!

    1. Slowly I take the hints. SLOWLY. Also. I had to figure out which Fellein to represent because it changes a LOT during the books. :)

  2. Are professional critics even relevant any more? Or is it all about the teeming masses and bloggers ?

    1. I think a good scholarly essay of a review is a wonderful thing. I think they have their purposes. I think ANY review is a good thing if it makes ANYONE ANYWHERE$ decide to read a book.

      here, a few reviews for THE SILENT ARMY. Some are short. Some are not. Some contain spoilers.