Sunday, February 1, 2015

A Letter To Readers

This is something that I talk about often with my boyfriend and pretty much anyone who gets on the subject with me. It's about readers and reviews. For authors, leaving a review is crucial. It's almost like the biggest deal ever for us. We rely on customer reviews to help us sell books and get our name out there. Reviews are awesome but they can also be very cruel.

I noticed on Goodreads and Amazon that people leave an alarming number of one star reviews for novels. The funny thing about it is those books average a four to five star rating from most readers but a surprising number always gives one star. Now, everyone is entitled to their own opinion and if by any means you believe the book deserves one star then rate it; however, think about the context you're rating around.

I find it troubling when I see a book that has an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars receive a 1 star rating based on a small subject within the book. For example, I've seen someone give a certain book a 1 star rating on Goodreads because she claimed a character slut-shamed another. Even if this is so, I feel it's unfair (and brutal) to slam an entire book and label it misogynistic over one character.

When writers create a story they make their characters both likeable and dislikeable. It's realistic. Also, another thing to keep in mind, just because a writer writes something, doesn't mean they feel that way personally. We make up things we would never say or do all the time. Not all characters are meant to be likeable so if you become frustrated or angry, it's a sign the author did their job right.

Things to think about when reviewing a book are:

1. Was it well written?
2. Was the story interesting or not?
3. Did the story flow well?
4. Were the characters believable? (Regardless if you liked them or not)
5. Did the book make you feel any set of emotions?

It's okay to write in a review that you hated a character and wanted them to die (trust me we all feel that way) but if that's how the author wanted you to feel then they did their job well. I've seen people give a book 1 or 2 stars because a situation made them angry. It's a situation that would make anyone who's human angry, therefore if you felt anger while reading it, that author got their point across. It's almost like giving the movie P.S. I Love You a bad review because it made you cry at the end. That's the point of the movie...it's a tearjerker!

Now, thankfully this hasn't happened to me yet (knock on wood) but I'm sure it will sometime in the future. So, readers before you review any work by any author keep the questions above in the back of your mind. Does a book really deserve a bad review because it made you cry or angry? Does it deserve a bad review because a character frustrated you with their choices?

It's okay if a book wasn't for you (and it's more than okay to put that in a review) but don't try and discourage other people from buying/reading that book. Everyone likes something different. It's cruel to an author if a reader rates their work 1 star over something that didn't represent the plot of the book overall. There's a lot of time, editing, and frustration that goes into place when writing a book. On top of that, there's a mixture of fear and excitement to release the book to the public. People are going to tear us apart regardless but think before you become one of those people. If you feel the book wasn't well written, the story sucked, it didn't flow, the characters weren't believable or realistic, and you felt nothing at all while reading it, then by all means give it 1 star and maybe even give the author a few tips for his/her next book; but if all of these factors were pretty much there and you didn't like one character or one situation, then be a little more considerate. Readers, we depend on you.

S. Elle Cameron

4 comments:

  1. I've seen similar comments in reviews. At one point, while shopping for a hunting memoir to give my dad for Christmas, I found a book with multiple four and five star reviews and one one or two star review because the person didn't like hunting. It was clearly a book about hunting, so why did you read it if you feel so strongly about it?

    Maybe it's because I'm a writer and have plenty of experience doing critiques, but I find there's almost always something positive about a book to point out. You might not like the main character, but maybe the voice really grabbed you, or something. Most books don't deserve one star reviews, and certainly not because one thing turned you off, unless it was really soul-crushingly awful. You are right--writers depend on reviews, and my hope is that most reviewers will treat a book fairly.

    Good post!

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    1. Thanks! I feel the same way. I'm not sure if there's even a published book out there that truly deserves 1 star. There's usually always something that's decent about it. I try to always rate things fairly in hopes that people will do the same for me.

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  2. I'm always cautious when I see a one star review. If possible, I check to see other reviews from the same person. Some folks just love giving negative reviews! This goes for Amazon, Yelp, Goodreads, Tripadvisor, etc...

    Often, a review says more about the reviewer than about the item being reviewed, from what I've seen!

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    1. This is very true! Hopefully more people realize that. It's isually more of a personal/character issue moreso than the customer not liking the product.

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