Tuesday, October 13, 2020

How Did You Like It?

Terry Shames here. This week we are discussing the worst/funniest/most ridiculous review we’ve ever received on Amazon or Goodreads. Reviews are a fact of life for writers—it’s one of the best ways to introduce readers to our work. Whenever we come out with a new book, we writers hold our breath, worried that reviewers will say that the books don’t work, or worse. But I suppose even a bad review is better than none at all. Because reader reviews are what alerts other readers that we’ve written a book. There are two types of reviews, those from professional reviewers and from readers who want to comment on their experience with a book. I was always happy to say that I had never gotten a bad review from a “professional” reviewer—that is somebody who regularly reviews books in some kind of ongoing forum. That includes Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Library Journal, Stop, You’re Killing Me!, Kathy Boone, Reel, Kevin Tipple, Kristopher Zgorski, and many others. In fact, I’ve received several starred reviews. So far, so good. When I published my first book, I thought the reviews were okay, but not wonderful. Then my in-house publicist told me that in the scheme of things the reviews were terrific. I took the time to read some reviews of popular books by well-known authors, and discovered she was right. Some of the best in the business had received lukewarm or even scathing professional reviews. Whew! So I was pleased with my reviews. And then, sometime after I published my fifth book someone (James Ziskin) sent me a review from a forum I didn’t know about. I read with pleasure the positive feedback and then went back to find out if the reviewer had featured others of my books. Oops. I found out. I would have been better if I’d left it alone.
Not only had he had read my fourth book, A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge, but he hated it so much that he threw it across the room! Did I weep and moan? No, I laughed, for three reasons. One, I was reading it long after it came out and he liked it. Two, I disagreed with his assessment. He said he didn’t believe such a thing could happen, and unfortunately I knew women to whom it had happened—including the woman that the story was based on. The third reason was the biggest: I felt like I had finally joined the club of people who had gotten trashed in a professional review. It wasn’t lukewarm, or damning with faint praise, it was an out and out loathing of the book. I took it as a badge of honor. Pretty much every writer gets bad reviews at one time or other, and it’s something writers have to accept. Not everyone loves every type of book. I had finally gotten my “bad” one. Reader-generated comments on books in Amazon and Goodreads are a whole different thing. These are much more scatter-shot. Some readers make astute comments, and some even go so far as to write, long, involved reviews that include synopses. Others are just a line or two. Sometimes you see reviews that are patently unfair—a one-star review because the book was damaged or wasn’t received on time. Or the reader expected a different kind of book, despite clear evidence of what the book was about. I generally get good, solid, well-though-out Amazon and Goodreads reviews. But I have gotten a few funny ones. As anyone who reads my books know, I write a series set in Texas. One of my glowing reviews, “loved the book!” said the reader especially appreciated my wonderful descriptions of Oregon. Another reviewer said she couldn’t give me a 5-star review because she compared the book to all literature and it was a 3-star. If she was comparing it to all literature, I have to say I’m well-satisfied with three stars. Move over, Jane Austen! Take that, Ernest Hemingway! And then there is this one-star review: “A good read with a suspenseful plot. I would read more books by this author.” Uh, okay, but you do know that one star indicates you didn’t like the book, right? I’ll close by saying that it’s useful for writers to get reader reviews on those sites, so if you’re reading this and have read my books, I’d appreciate a review. Even if you weren’t thrilled about it!


James W. Ziskin said...

I love your books, Terry! Your great reviews are well deserved. Nice post. Five stars.


Dietrich Kalteis said...

You're five-stars all the way in my book, Terry.

Susan C Shea said...

At least you didn't get a huffy comment like I did for my first book in it's first edition - "bad language - swear words!" And this first edition was published by Avalon, which insisted I scrub all but one "bad word," which was uttered by poor Dani as she sees her first dead body. "Golly" just wouldn't have done it. But a one-star review nevertheless, albeit from a non-professional reader. Fortunately, the professionals and the best blog reviewers are not such blushing 19th century women.

Terry said...

Susan, I don't know. "Golly," is an excellent word. The last time I heard it was last night. David and I decided to re-watch Brideshead Revisited. "Golly!"

You probably recall the minister of a mega-church who wrote to me how much he enjoyed my books because they are so "wholesome." Right. They're about murder. And they swear words.

Terry said...

Thank you Jim and Dieter for the 5-star reviews.