I have a normal day job. Writing right now is a part time gig, though it really takes more time and I get paid a lot less than I would if I really had a part time job. It’s more for enjoyment I think than anything else. So of late I’ve been working through some issues with reader reviews, wondering why they matter. And as much I want to ignore them, they do matter, not to me so much, but to other readers.
Those of you who know me, know I’m an avid reader myself. I don’t post written reviews for most anyone’s stuff. There are several reasons for that:
First, for some reason people take my opinion really seriously just because I’m a published author. Mostly if it’s not a hundred percent positive review. People get upset if they get three stars. Hey three stars means I liked it. Very few people get five stars from me, like one in every forty books I read. Same goes for four stars, you have to make me really love your characters to get that rating.
Second, people take too much stock in individual ratings. If I wrote some big long spiel about how the book was so great except for this one scene, what does the author who reads that review focus on? That scene of course, and not in a way that has them thinking “well how can I improve this,” it’s more like a “woe is me.” How do I know? Cause I do the same thing. It’s human to have a hard time taking criticism. Even four years of creative writing classes in college can’t take away all the sting.
Third, sometimes what I have to say really isn’t all that nice. Yeah, I try to be neutral, but really, we all read stinkers from time to time. My tastes are also not the same as other people’s so just cause I don’t like it doesn't mean someone else won’t. I don’t like anything with BDSM in that goes further than a slap and tickle. Slave and master really irritates me, so when I find a book that I’ve picked up falls into that range, I just don’t rate it at all. There’s no reason my distaste for a genre has to affect how some other reader may or may not pick up a book. I also don’t like books with too much sex, and in the m/m genre it’s really hard to find books that don’t have too much sex. People use sex to fill up pages instead of plot. Those books get a lower rating for me even if I’d normally give them four or five stars because they have good characters.
Reading, just like writing is subjective. In college my professors would go on about the hidden meanings in books. Which always annoyed me to no end. Why can’t we just enjoy a book for what it is? The escape to another person’s life. I don’t have much for hidden meanings in my books. I write what I enjoy and hope my readers will enjoy. I get annoyed when readers take my time for advantage. It takes months to write a book, sometimes years. Authors make way less than minimum wage on each book. It’s more like $.50 a book, even less if you calculate all the hours put in for writing the book, editing the book, marketing the book and answering emails to the publisher. However we do put our heart and best work into each story. At least I do.
In the beginning I read reviews from readers, now I don’t. You don’t have to read my books if you don’t like them, but I will still write what I enjoy and remain true to each character. I also will continue to ignore comments from other readers when I choose a book to read. Since I read 4-6 books a week, I read a lot, in all genres.
So I say think a little harder next time you’re writing a review. Are you writing mean just because you had a bad day? Did you not like the book because it wasn’t the characters you’re used to from the author? Or was there some other detail that biased your opinion?
Why do I bring all this up you ask?
Because I want all of you to read more. Expand your knowledge not just of the genre, but of everything. Knowledge comes from books as well as the world around you and knowledge is power. I see people saying they won’t read from a certain publisher just because they read a bad book once. I’d never read again if that was the case. What a tragedy that would be. Come on, we all read Twilight. We all liked the first book and probably hated the rest. Does that mean we won’t ever read another book by Little Brown? Unlikely since they’re in the top five publishers in the world!
There are plenty of uneducated people out there voicing their opinions on everything from who should win the election to who gets the right to have sex. If you live your life judging others without being smart about how you come to those opinions why would anyone pay attention to you?