Friday, April 29, 2016

The One Star Review

Moon set on the western edge of the continent.
Reviews. Am I wrong in thinking there's so much weird psychology wrapped up in them? I mean, sure. 95% of reviews aren't meant for the author at all. They're meant for other readers, a fact I appreciate. All hail ANYONE who spends the time and energy to read a book and the write a review. That's the greatest gift a reader can give an author, I think - it's time and life energy spent on your book. Doesn't even matter whether the review is good or bad. It's still a chunk of another human being's life being dedicated to your work. So please, if you review books (mine or anyone else's) thank you. I owe you chocolate.
The other 5% of reviews, though, that's where things get strange and where the agendas become far more transparent than I suspect the reviewer wants. You know how it is. Writer slogs for years trying to learn her craft and get published. Because then all her problems will be solved! Finally, the call comes. The first precious book goes out the door into the wide world. Someone reads it. Then someone else. Reviews start coming in. And they're okay! Until - hey! ONE STAR?? WTH? Your heart lands in your shoes as you read. 
Interesting story: It happened to Enemy Within. A reviewer on Amazon left a one star review saying he didn't understand why anyone liked the book, there was nothing new in it. (Even more interesting - I just went to find the review to quote it and it's gone. Huh.) Why did that review in particular stick with me? Was it because it was the first critical review of the book? Not hardly. If I want to play my critical review trump card, I note that no one less than Angela James wrote a very constructive, if critical review of the book. No this one star review stayed with me because the reviewer's agenda was plain in his dismissive tone. He's a frustrated writer. He had an idea that was similar-ish, but his was SO MUCH BETTER - the only problem was that he hasn't written it. He may never write it. It's much easier to take pot shots at the work someone else did than to do your own and face that the reality will never live up to the idea.
It seems like if a critical review is constructive and calls out issues that bothered the reader, then it's an honest opinion. The snarky one or two line reviews that don't actually give you any specifics - those set off my psychology senses (100% unqualified as they are) I think it's Julia Cameron who, in her ARTIST'S WAY books points out that the most vitriolic critics are creatives who aren't creating. I do my best to keep that in mind when some nitwit drops a snide, unhelpful line of bitterness into the flow of actual reviews.
Would I get 'author behaving badly' demerits if I pinged that reviewer with a note saying 'write yer damned book already?'   :D
PS: Don't forget to offer up suggestions for a name change! See Jeffe's post on the matter. You do NOT want me naming this blog. Just saying.

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