Late again, but whadaya expect? This is me we’re talking about! Besides, it’s still Friday in America, so it’s your own fault for living in the wrong timezone. (Which includes me, given that its 1am on Saturday here.)
Okay, so, some quick thoughts on this week’s Twitter drama – one-star reviews. No, I’m not talking about my own. Mainly because I’m a fucking genius and nobody would dare one-star me. I kid! I kid!
No, but seriously; this week there has been an unholy number of authors complaining on Twitter about readers one-starring their work on Goodreads and various other sites with an insufficiently detailed review, citing opinions the author disagrees with, or without having read the complete book.
We’ll deal with those points in order. First of all, authors complaining that readers are not being sufficiently detailed in their reviews. Excuse me? You expect a treatise from someone who’s spent money (one hopes) and time on your book?
You’re the one who writes books; you’ve got no right to demand a reviewer goes into exacting detail, matching your productivity. It takes much less time to read a book than it does to write one, which is why readers read many more books than individual writers write. If reviewers, particularly in the romance genre, which has voracious readers, were obligated to write detailed reviews for every book they read, their reading time would be eaten up.
Why do so many writers desire detailed reviews? Well, this week I’ve seen many say that detailed reviews help them figure out what they’re doing wrong, where they can improve, and so on.
This is the job of an editor, not a reader, and you have no write to demand reviewers act as unpaid editors.
Now, no-one is expecting your book to be absolutely dead-on balls perfect. Typos always creep through. However, your book should be as good as you can possibly get it before you publish. You should be fairly confident you couldn’t get it any better, rather than publishing a book you know to be sub-par. If you even suspect your book to need further work done to it, why the hell are you publishing it?
Secondly, a number of writers have been saying the opinions of reviewers are wrong.
Which is complete bullshit.
As I have often said on Twitter with regard to politics, “You are entitled to your own opinions. Not your own facts.”
I spoke before in “How not to handle a negative review” about how I’d reported reviews to Amazon myself because they were based on an inexplicable dislike of me, the author, rather than the books themselves. Too, the ‘reviewer’ was lying about having bought the book. Amazon decided to delete this person’s not-reviews due to their claim of having bought the books being demonstrably, factually incorrect.
On another occasion, I read a review of one of my novels on Goodreads (oh, shut up, every author does it, I don’t care who they are) which the reviewer decided they hated, which is perfectly within their rights. However, they hated it because of something that wasn’t in the book. I’m not saying they misinterpreted the text. I’m saying, they reported something in their review that I hadn’t written. Not even in the first draft, which was later deleted. They gave my book a one-star rating based on a conversation between the main characters that never happened.
What did I do? Well, what could I do? It’s Goodreads, not Amazon. I don’t even know if they had a complaints procedure, but as a friend said at the time, “Just leave it; you’ll only draw attention to it otherwise, and besides, if other people read the book, they’ll correct the wrong ‘un themselves.”
So, because the reviewer was so obviously incorrect, I judged my adviser to be giving good advice – to leave well enough alone, because other readers would put the first person right if necessary. Maybe they read another book at the same time as mine and mixed up the two? Who knows?
The above is talking about facts. Things that are in black and white. What about opinions, though? What if someone flat out doesn’t like your book?
Tough. Suck it up.
Yes, it hurts. No, you have no right to speak up about someone else’s opinion. Because it’s what they think of your book. What if their opinion is based on what you perceive to be a stupid reason? Again, tough. Maybe you didn’t make it clear in the text what the characters’ motivations were. Maybe the story in your head didn’t translate onto paper with quite as much clarity as you’d hoped. You just have to face up to the fact that people are allowed to not like your work. Of course you disagree. You’re the author. But I’ll say it again.
People are allowed to not like your work.
Last reason I’ve seen authors give for being upset: readers not finishing their books before giving a rating, review or opinion online.
Big fat fucking deal.
As many other folks have pointed out, if you’re handed a shit sandwich, you only have to take one bite to realise it’s a shit sandwich. You wouldn’t be expected to eat the whole thing before being allowed to say, “This is a shit sandwich,” unless the other person was a psychopath, which, let’s face it, they probably are, if they’re expecting you to chow down on a shit sandwich.
Okay, bad analogy.
If you’re in a restaurant and the food is undercooked, overseasoned, not what you ordered, gone off, or otherwise not to your taste, you are allowed to refuse the rest of that meal. If you know you don’t like something, you’re allowed to discontinue engagement with that thing.
You do not have to read a whole book to realise the author’s style isn’t for you, or there are a lot of typos in the book, or their book is badly researched. Hell, you can stop reading a book for no apparent reason at all. (When this happens with me, it’s usually because of boredom.)
Let’s face it, even if simple boredom is the reason you DNF (did not finish) a book, that itself is an opinion or review, which you have the right to express. If an author cannot hold your attention, that alone says a lot about their skill, or lack thereof.
Fucking hell, this blog post is over a thousand words long and it’s twenty to two in the morning. Over 1k words in 40 minutes, proof that if I don’t produce more words in my fiction writing, it’s definitely not a mechanics thing. I know how to type.
Anyway, I’ll finish up by saying this. Might cop some flak for it, don’t give a shit.
Any author who complains about reviews from readers who DNF a book, saying they have no right to opine on a book they haven’t completely read, knows deep down that they do not have the skill and/or talent to hold a reader’s attention across 300+ pages. They just can’t do it.