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Interesting thoughts about reader reviews

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Interesting thoughts about reader reviews

Post by Misfit » Sun July 11th, 2010, 1:38 pm

Thought I'd share this on a new thread for those who missed it on the Klausner thread. There's a conference of some sort, called ROMCON, between authors and readers with breakout panels. One of which was a panel of authors discussing reader reader revews. You can read the full post at Smart Bitches here and Babbling about books here. The comments at the SB's blog are rather interesting.

Catherine Anderson said some things that made me want to shake my head. She thinks that Harriet Klausner is a wonderful reviewer (mainly because all her reviews are so positive) I had to hold back a shocked laugh over this. But again, Catherine may not be that knowledgeable about the whole drama surrounding Harriet Klausner. Also, Catherine doesn't understand why a reviewer would give a book 1 star (based on a 5 star rating) and not at least 2 stars. Shouldn't an author get something for effort? How can you say a book maybe the worst book you ever read and perhaps give it the lowest grade possible because again, an author should get some praise for at least writing the book.

Courtney Milan, in her opinion, isn't in the same agreement about Harriet Klausner like Catherine is. *cheers Courtney* I fully side with Courtney on this issue because in my opinion, I think Harriet Klausner makes all book reviewers look bad and her reviews are total crap. Cathy Maxwell then asked the audience to raise their hands if they ever bought a book based on a Harriet Klausner review. You could have heard crickets in that room. No one raised their hand.

...but when you review books, be nice. Don’t give a book 1 star because that effort, according to Catherine Anderson, deserves more than one star.

Readers can help make an author’s career, or kill it because negative reviews or piracy can stop a series from being finished if the numbers aren’t there…

...but reviews should be positive and supportive, because the book is an author’s baby.

Readers have an enormous amount of power and supporting a book can make a huge difference in an author’s career…

...but when writing a review, a reviewer should show respect for the author’s effort and accomplishment.

Seriously, what the almighty freaking hell was that about? Readers are resposible in some ways for the author’s career success… but only if they are nice?

Catherine Anderson had contrasting opinions from the others on the panel, specifically Melissa Mayhew and Courtney Milan. Anderson held up Harriet Klausner as the standard of “professional reviewers.” Milan (I can’t believe I forgot this part, as it was awesome) surveyed the room en masse, after moderator Cathy Maxwell inquired earlier by show of hands who in the room had purchased a book based on word of mouth, on recommendations from a friend, and from a review, and asked who had purchased a book based on the reviews of Harriet Klausner. Not one hand went up.
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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Sun July 11th, 2010, 2:32 pm

I have had a few thoughts on this as well, although I don't post many reviews. For one thing, I don't have the time. But a reviewing system, to be useful to me, the reader, should be like measuring scales--which is to say, honest.

If the practice is for everybody to not give one star reviews, then the reviewing scale is effectively reduced in range to four stars, and then the two-star review becomes as 'awful' as the one-star review. Not that I think people will pay much attention to that pathetic suggestion.

A reviewing system is there to serve the READERS, not the writers. Writers have their own agenda, which is to support other writers. Not that there is anything wrong with that individually, but institutionally it weakens their credibility. Somewhere there was a comment about supporting living authors, and I thought, "What does an author's status have to do with a reader's needs?" I'm not the only one who has noticed. Publishers now report that back-cover blurbs from other authors are almost useless. And you can add aspiring authors, who measure their words against what may one day be said of them, to the list of 'those who are not likely to be fully honest about a book'. Expecting an author to serve the reader's needs in a review, instead of their own group, is a conflict of interest.

Of course, I write too, and I know the feeling in the pit of your stomach when somebody doesn't like your work. But those are the most helpful reviews I have received. Many people who don't particularly like what you write won't give you specifics, so you can't improve.

For the record, I tend not to believe five-star reviews, either. When I talk (email) to people who bought my work, I usually told them, "If you feel like posting a review, then for God's sake, don't give me five stars. Those always feel like fakes to me." A few did anyway, and I have to say I wonder if they would really tell me what they didn't like, or if they are more interested in appearing friendly.

But then, I'm a storyteller, not someone who is trying to make a living at this. I'm more interested in really entertaining the few people I know, and seeing the result, than in chasing down commercial success.

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Post by Misfit » Sun July 11th, 2010, 2:54 pm

If the practice is for everybody to not give one star reviews, then the reviewing scale is effectively reduced in range to four stars, and then the two-star review becomes as 'awful' as the one-star review. Not that I think people will pay much attention to that pathetic suggestion

Exactly. Harriet is always the prime example but there are others like her as well. When you give four and five stars to very good books as well as very bad books, how can you even consider that review worth while? This goes for other sites, blogs etc. as well. If every review you've ever given is a gush fest, well I tend to discount those reviews after a while.

Prime example for me, if I had been wise enough to look at the critical reviews of Pillars of the Earth and not all those glowing ones, I probably would have realized it was not the book for me and saved my time and money with it. Not every book is for every person, so what one reviewer didn't like I might love and vice versa.

What I can't understand is why we can criticize movies, restaurants, plays etc. to our heart's content without all this *don't hurt my baby* business but we must never ever do the same about books. You put your work out there, you have to realize you take the good with the bad.

Publishers now report that back-cover blurbs from other authors are almost useless.

Most readers I know are pretty much feeling the same. Honestly, after you see the same authors blurbling over and over again on various books that I find fair-mediocre, I give them about as much consideration as I would a Klausner review.
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Post by Ash » Sun July 11th, 2010, 3:28 pm

Sounds like this author is from the Special Olympics committee (everyone gets a medal). Im not going to give some writer a good rating because she knows how to use a keyboard, how ridiculous.

What I think authors should be complaining about are the one star ratings from the idiots who should be going to customer service with their complaints. Those should be tossed out as soon as they are written, imho.

I do wish there was some direction for readers on the star system. Is a five star for a book that entertained you tremendously, or is it for what you consider to be great literature? Is a one star being given because you hate it, or because you think its among the worst written you've ever read? For me, a five star is classic, a three is a typical read, a two is a book I finished but barely, a one is a book I couldn't read. But everyone has their own idea about what the system means, so is it even useful to the reader?

That being said, I tend to actually read reviews, so no matter what the star rating is, I usually get a feel for the book by reading a few reviews in each range (tho I depend on the fours and twos for the most part). Im not sure any rating system is better than just darn good written reviews; they are the ones I tend to base my decisions on anyway.
Last edited by Ash on Sun July 11th, 2010, 3:32 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by LoveHistory » Sun July 11th, 2010, 3:41 pm

Sorry to interject Lulu, but they're 6 star rating system has corresponding definitions. A 6 star rating is "Rock on!"

Correction: I just went to look at the other definitions and they've changed it to the standard 5 stars with no definitions. That sucks.

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Post by Anna Elliott » Sun July 11th, 2010, 4:06 pm

reviews should be positive and supportive, because the book is an author’s baby.

It's so common as to be almost a cliche for authors to say that their books are their 'babies'--but I don't think you can healthily look at your published work that way, I really don't. I mean, just on a basic level, you do not--I hope--sell your children.

I have 2 real-life babies (that I'm not planning on selling anytime soon!) and because I'm the primary wage earner in our family, I do sell my books so that we can have a house and food and all those things that real babies do peskily require. And that means I have to detach from my books and just let them be out in the world and belonging to anyone who reads them, not to me.

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Post by boswellbaxter » Sun July 11th, 2010, 4:09 pm

To extend the baby/book comparison, if you enter your baby in a beauty contest, you take the chance that people will say unflattering things about your baby's looks. Same with book publishing.
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Post by Michy » Sun July 11th, 2010, 8:35 pm

The writer -- is it Catherine Anderson? -- who can't understand why any book would get only 1 star, and every author should get something just for going to the effort of producing something makes me want to laugh. I would love to tell her, "Catherine, darling, we're not in kindergarten anymore. You don't get an "A" for effort, nor do you get a star by your name just for showing up." Puleeeez! But then, what do you expect from someone who thinks H. Klausner is a great reviewer? :p

And as for every author deserves something just for producing a book -- actually some authors would be doing us all a favor if they WOULDN'T produce any books!!!

The whole concept of rating a book is so subjective -- I've thought about this many times, and how I go about deciding how many stars to give something. I don't have any sort of "system", and not all of my 5-star books are equal. Some of them I would give 10 stars to if I could! The only steadfast rule I follow is that if I don't finish a book it automatically gets only 1 star. Other than that, there are all different sorts of criteria I go by -- it's a very visceral process for me.

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Post by Telynor » Sun July 11th, 2010, 9:30 pm

Excellent subject for a post btw. I was floored by Catherine's comments -- I was following along on Twitter at the time -- and wondered just where she was coming from.

As someone who worked on the creative end of publishing (I worked as a graphic artist in newspapering for years) you learn really quick to develop a thick skin. The hardest lesson to grasp onto was that not everyone is going to like your work. Period. Some things I got great praise for, others I was waaayy off the mark. In writing, it's the same deal.

I just completed one book that I really wanted to give no stars to in the review because it was such an outlandish plot and story. I tried to be as polite as possible in the review, and because the site I write on doesn't allow no stars, I had to give it one. I don't hand out a lot of one stars, I can usually filter through the stacks what I know I will enjoy pretty much.

OTOH, there are a few authors that come very close to getting that 5 star Excellent! review from me. CW Gortner's The Last Queen got that just because I found the book to be very entertaining, well researched and very believable as well as well written.

But I'm rambling on here...

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Post by Ariadne » Sun July 11th, 2010, 9:42 pm

I find it odd to have a panel on book reviewing run predominantly by authors at a reader-focused conference. I appreciate when I hear from authors about reviews, but I write them for other readers. Direction from authors on what they do/don't like in reviews doesn't influence my approach, although I suppose it made for an interesting and controversial panel!

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