Sunday, October 11, 2020

You Think What?

Post and discuss the worst/funniest/most ridiculous review you’ve ever received on Amazon or Goodreads. This is your chance to defend yourself and blow off some steam, since we know we can’t engage with reviewers.

What a provocative question this week! 

Brenda Chapman posting today.

As authors, we know to never engage with reviewers who slam our book. There's that infamous cautionary tale of the author who got into it with one reviewer and did not fare well. We're warned that those readers who would take the time to rip apart one's book would not hesitate to rip apart the author if given half a chance. Be afraid, be very afraid...

I'm always grateful to those readers who post thoughtful reviews, whether glowing or less so, but there are a few categories of reviews that make me shake my head.

1.  The one star review with no explanation. My question is, "Why bother?" I mean, really, why bother?

I sometimes check out the 1* reviewer posting on Goodreads and most often they give one star reviews to lots of books. (One reader posted about twenty one-star reviews a day, prompting me to send a note to Goodreads telling them that this reader looked to be bogus given that I don't know of anyone who can read and hate that many books in twenty-four hours for days on end. Goodreads essentially shrugged and said not their problem.) 

2.  The reader who says the book is okay but they wished they'd known it was part of a series. They say that they'd likely have given the book a higher rating if they'd read the rest of the books because they hate starting a series partway through. Gaaaa! 

3.  The reader who says they don't like mysteries so they don't like my book. Please, please never read another one of mine ... is what I'd like to say. And why did you pick up my obviously-a-crime-fiction book anyway?

4.  And then there's the reader who says they figured out the killer early on so the book is crap and the author is dumb. These types of readers always astound me since the vast majority of readers tell me they never guessed the killer and didn't see the twist coming. If you did figure out whodunnit, then kudos. The clues are there as they should be in a play-fair mystery. This doesn't make the book terrible. (and guessing every possible scenario and then saying you guessed the killer from the onset is not fair play for the author.)

So, getting back to this week's question where I'm asked to select one review.  This is a two-star review for one of my Stonechild and Rouleau books that stands out: 

rated it **
Made it to 3 stars until murderer revealed. I am very tired of The-Woman-Dunnit crime mysteries. Becoming as much of a cliche as the-butler-did-it, without the wry humour.
Okay, so half of the human race are women. If you rule out all women as killers, then that leaves men unless space aliens are a thing. And if all the killers are male, isn't this a cliche too? Just whom would you have be the killer? 
Enquiring minds want to know. Seriously.
I suppose what I'd like to say to readers is that I understand if my books or the books of my fellow authors are not your cup of tea. This is why we have so much selection, categories, genres, writing styles. Not all books are created equal and you are certainly entitled to your opinion and to express your views on social media platforms. All that I ask is that you give a thoughtful, balanced review, perhaps a critique that you'd say to my face if we were sitting in the pub having an honest discussion about the book. 
Most books take a year to write and another six months working with editors to bring to print. So few manuscripts ever make it to completion let alone to publication. This doesn't mean a reader needs to like  the story or the writing, but it should be enough to garner respectful feedback and not a sarcastic toss-off line.
Finally, I'd like to end by saying that it's human nature to focus on the negative. We can have forty lovely reviews and one critical review and guess what we obsess on? But not always! I'm happy this week to share a review for Closing Time in The Ottawa Review of Books that  made my week :-) 
But all good things must come to an end. The seventh novel of the series, Closing Time is also the last in the series, and for Chapman’s devoted readers it will be a bittersweet experience, reading the final chapter in what has proved to be one of the strongest and most interesting crime series to emerge in years. A skilled storyteller, Closing Time is a finely-drawn story, Chapman writing with an assured hand, confident that she’s nailed her subject – and she has. Closing Time is an evocative and compelling work, and a fitting end to the series; and while I regret reading the last of Stonechild and Rouleau, I look forward to the next step in Chapman’s impressive literary journey. I’m certain it will be equally special. – Jim Napier
Twitter: @brendaAchapman 


Ann said...

OK, I am a reader, not a writer, but I agree with everything you said here. I never give less than three stars. If I don't like a book, I don't review it.
Because I so admire anyone who can finish a manuscript and then get it all the way to publication. I certainly couldn't do that any more than I could fly to the moon. I might say something privately to a friend, but rarely do even that.

Books that I like pretty much always get a review, even if only one or two lines. I get the algorithms, and I'll do whatever I can for my favorite authors.

Lastly, I just ordered COLD MOURNING. I've not read you, but I'm about to correct that. Thanks in advance for a good read!

Brenda Chapman said...

Thank you Ann! You are the kind of reader/reviewer authors love.

James W. Ziskin said...

Great post Brenda!

Frank Zafiro said...

Very well stated, Brenda! You lay out the author's perspective perfectly.

Like you, I'm okay with a one-star review if it has meat. But I recently did a (thankfully quick) tour of my one-star reviews, and found two things (they tie into our post nicely). They either...

1. Gave no explanation whatsoever for the poor review, or

2. Gave a poor explanation. "I didn't like it." Yeah, no kidding, you left a one-star review. Or as you pointed out, they took issue with the genre elements, which you rightly call out as not fair. I daresay most books are pretty easy to place based on the cover (cliche about not judging books this way notwithstanding) and even if that fails, the description oughta do it. I don't dig cozies, so you know what I don't do? Read cozies. And lo and behold, when I spend .042 seconds looking at a cozy cover, it is plain that it is... a cozy. Failing that, I do another crazy thing - read the decription.

Anyway, love your example review, too. I think we all have one in almost those same words...

Your Goodreads example is frustrating. I had a similar one with Amazon. Someone left a scathing review of CHISOLM'S DEBT, one of the few bad reviews I've ever had with any substance to it. The problem is, the reviewer was clearly talking about QUEEN OF DIAMONDS. He goes on about hating my co-author (which CHISOLM'S DEBT didn't have) and claiming I was doing a James Patterson and lending my name (because I'm SOOOOOOO huge), and hating poker (an element that is very obviously shown as a major part of the story on the cover and description, btw), etc. I wrote to Amazon, citing the ironclad points to show it was a misplaced review, and asking them to either move it to the correct title or ask the reviewer to do so.

I didn't even get a reply.

So I did the big no-no you mention, too - I engaged the reviewer to ask him/her to move the review.

No reply, which is probably best. But it's frustrating.

Oh well.

Again, excellent post, Brenda!

And ANN...? You're in for a good read.

Brenda Chapman said...

Thanks Jim and Frank. I think this week's question hit a nerve, Frank:-)

Frank Zafiro said...

BRENDA, a bit. It's the justice part of it that riles me. Have whatever opinion you want, but things shouldn't be broken. They should be something approaching fair, when they can be. Like your GR one-star maniac, right? That irritates me. Hate my book? Okay. But at least hate the right one!

I dunno. Anyway, sorry to hijack your comment section. I don't know that I added anything other than a lengthy version of "Yeah, you're right!"

Brenda Chapman said...

I like hearing your viewpoint, Frank. You are not alone in your frustration. And I never hate hearing that I'm right :-)

Abir said...

Space aliens are definitely a thing, Brenda! Great article!

Brenda Chapman said...

Thanks Abir!