Welcome to the Historical Fiction Online forums: a friendly place to discuss, review and discover historical fiction.
If this is your first visit, please be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above.
You will have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed.
To start viewing posts, select the forum that you want to visit from the selection below.

Interesting thoughts about reader reviews

User avatar
Anna Elliott
Compulsive Reader

Postby Anna Elliott » Mon July 12th, 2010, 3:23 pm

"juleswatson" wrote:I don't really understand this feeding frenzy of authors madly jumping on every review, getting into public spats and engaging in underhand behavior.

I absolutely don't understand that, either. What can these authors possibly think will be the result? That a reviewer/reader will say, Oh, well since you have yelled at me about this negative review, I've changed my mind and decided I love the book? :confused: :confused:

Not every story works for everyone, and that is how it SHOULD be. I don't love every book I read, so how can I possibly expect that everyone will love mine? I've said this elsewhere on the forum, but the author/reader relationship is a truly symbiotic one, and I don't mean in the sense that authors need people to buy their books in order to write more.

Words--no matter how much I've agonized over them--are dead on the page; only in a reader's imagination are my story and characters going to get the chance to come to life. And positive and negative reviews alike are really just part of the best and most magical part about writing, IMO--how many different ways my story will take shape in readers' minds.
Author of the Twilight of Avalon trilogy
new book: Dark Moon of Avalon, coming Sept 14 from Simon &Schuster (Touchstone)
User signature picture


Location: Arizona, USA

Postby Ash » Mon July 12th, 2010, 3:31 pm

3 star to me is average, usually a basically good read, but yeah, not necessarily a keeper. And usually its the three star reviews that are most interesting and balanced, and often persuade me to try a book.

This whole thing just goes along with the straight A mentality I see in the education system. I have a dear friend who has pushed her high school daughter to the point that she (the daughter) cries if she gets a B on a paper or a test (and my dear friend is now wondering what to do about it). I understand she needs to get good grades because of the field she is going into (she's wanted to be a vet since she was a little girl, and now is close to college age, the pressure is on in this competitive field). But damn it a B is good, and there is nothing wrong with a C (spoken of course by a B-/C+ student). Its the competition thing that just gets out of hand. You can see it too in the Olympics. Heaven help the athlete who has worked and struggled and actually made it to the Olympics if they don't get gold. Bronze and silver just aren't good enough

I just read a hugely hyped book and was so keen I bought hardback, and it was truly one of the worse books I have ever read, in execution, lack of basic story-telling skills, lack of suspense and characterization.

And the title is? :)
Last edited by Ash on Mon July 12th, 2010, 3:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Location: Wisconsin, USA

Postby LoveHistory » Mon July 12th, 2010, 3:42 pm

[QUOTE=Misfit]I don't recall which of the two blog posts it was mentioned, but apparently the *panel* also discussed how most everyone is at Goodreads these days and how to get them to post their reviews on Amazon as well. Well duh, everyone is at Goodreads because there's so many shenanigans at Amazon.

Actually, a large percentage of the reading public doesn't even bother looking at reviews on any website. While Goodreads is comprised solely of readers, the population there is only a small percentage of readers worldwide.

Interestingly enough, in any group 90% of the people who join subsequently disappear, leaving 10% who actually participate.

While I agree that Amazon has gotten ridiculous, I don't think blanket statements are necessary. The panel should perhaps have clarified that they were speaking of the online reviewing culture and not readers as a whole.

I don't recall if this has been mentioned, but while the "be nice to their baby" thing was being thrown out, did anyone happen to mention that one negative review does not sink a career? When there are so many people with differing points of view and needs as readers, a handful of people not being "nice" to the author's "baby" is not going to be a big deal.

And where did HK supposedly get her credentials as a "professional" reviewer anyway? Personal reviews, while striving for some level of objectivity do not have to be professional.

User avatar
Location: California

Postby Michy » Mon July 12th, 2010, 7:57 pm

Maybe "professional" here is meant in the very literal sense that HK is paid for her reviews; that is how "she" makes her living. Which would explain why she/they crank out soooooo many ridiculous reviews on a daily basis. She/they are obviously being paid for quantity, not quality.

User avatar
Location: On the Banks of the Hudson

Postby Telynor » Tue July 13th, 2010, 12:04 am

It's that ripped off feeling that I have when having finished a one or two star book, and the time that I've wasted wading through it that gets my blood on the boil. Writing about a book (or whatever it is that I am reviewing that day) is for me, a good way to look objectively at a book, and decide if I really want to keep it or not.

Five star -- a terrific read, and one that I am going to keep for later rereads. Author knows the period and history, can create characters that are interesting -and- intelligent, and I am left feeling that I want more of the story. EC and SKP are the ones that hit this mark nearly all of the time in historical fiction, and Julian May, CJ Cherryh and Lois McMaster Bujold are the winners in science fiction and fantasy.

Four star -- good but not great. One that I might save for a reread. There might be a few problems, but I can forgive those. Mary Balogh, and Mary Jo Putney will get this far for me on occasion.

Three star -- meh. It was neither good nor bad. Some grevious mistakes, but nothing to send it down lower on the scale. Most mass market romances hover around here for me.

Two star -- some serious problems. Characters are unrealistic, too over the top, shoddy research, lots of modern idiom or slang or weirdnesses can send a book to this bin. Definitely an author that I won't be trying again any time soon.

One star -- the turkey awards! Usually these are the ones that are so silly or so stupid that I'll either DNF or send it to the wall if I get too annoyed with it.

what are other readers' criteria for rating a book?

User avatar
Location: California

Postby Michy » Tue July 13th, 2010, 12:45 am

"Telynor" wrote:It's that ripped off feeling that I have when having finished a one or two star book, and the time that I've wasted wading through it that gets my blood on the boil.

Oh, yes. We can get a lot of things back, but wasted time is gone forever. :(

My criteria are pretty close to yours, except perhaps when it comes to 4 stars. Most of the time when I give a book 4 stars it's not because there were any errors or anything wrong, per se, but because the book was nearly perfect but just missing some quality. Perhaps it didn't tap into my emotions quite enough? Perhaps the pace lagged a little bit in some spots? Quite often it's "je ne sais quois" -- some X factor that's hard to define.
Last edited by Michy on Tue July 13th, 2010, 12:47 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Location: Wisconsin, USA

Postby LoveHistory » Tue July 13th, 2010, 1:04 am

I don't review but I use the Netflix rating criteria:

1 star = hated it
2 stars = didn't like it
3 stars = it was ok
4 stars = really liked it
5 stars = loved it

User avatar
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favorite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA

Postby Margaret » Tue July 13th, 2010, 5:21 am

I don't do star ratings on my own website. I figure if I can't describe the book well enough in a review to give readers a pretty good idea of whether they would or would not enjoy a novel, then giving it a high, low or middle-of-the-road star rating isn't going to help matters. I know from browsing reviews at LibraryThing (which the family and friends of authors evidently have not yet discovered, because the reviews all seem sincere and usually well considered) that the same book can get star ratings that are all over the place, depending on whether it's the sort of thing a particular reader enjoys.

That said, I'm required to give stars when I review for Heritage-Key. They have a 10-star system, and I do try to take into account the type of novel it is. I've reviewed novels for them as different as David Malouf's Ransom (a poetic literary novel) and Elizabeth Peters' A River in the Sky (her latest Amelia Peabody mystery), and it's really comparing apples and oranges. I enjoyed both. Ransom is one of those novels I enjoyed more after I finished reading it and began reflecting on it while I wrote the review, because there was so much going on under the surface. A River in the Sky was fun to read, but not something I would spend a lot of time reflecting on afterward. I think I gave them both 8 stars, but I could easily see a certain type of reader despising one and loving the other, and vice-versa for another type of reader.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

User avatar
Avid Reader
Location: now Washington DC

Postby juleswatson » Tue July 13th, 2010, 11:44 am

"Margaret" wrote:the same book can get star ratings that are all over the place, depending on whether it's the sort of thing a particular reader enjoys

And that is what makes reviews difficult for authors to get their heads around. As Anna said, your book might not be someone's thing no matter how good you think it is and nothing about how you wrote it (technically) is going to make any difference. This is what I meant by sink or swim. You accept you will get good and bad but hope that the bad are more the type of "it's not what I was expecting / not my thing" rather than "utter tripe" If you got a large majority of "this is utter tripe and I do normally read this genre" then maybe you are in trouble overall and need to make some changes. If it's more about opinions, then yeah, suck it up. I think it's the "oh my god how did this even get past an editor stuff" that riles you up if you bought the book. As I have said before, some of the absolute best-selling books are characterized by the extremes of reviews they get, from one to five star. That there shows us how different we all are. If your books are selling and you keep getting publishing deals then I guess you have to go on that and not get fixated on reviews. I read an interview recently with a chick lit author in the UK and she said she has never read a review or looked online - publisher keeps giving her new contracts so she is happy! The creative arts are one of the few fields where there is no straight line at all between amount of effort or even talent put in, and eventual success. They are also usually passion-driven jobs and that has to make up for the rest. They are not like other jobs, or school exams!
Author of Celtic historical fantasy
New book "THE RAVEN QUEEN" out Feb 22 2011: The story of Maeve, the famous warrior queen of Irish mythology.
Out now, "THE SWAN MAIDEN", the ancient tale of Deirdre, the Irish 'Helen of Troy'

User avatar
N. Gemini Sasson
Location: Ohio

Postby N. Gemini Sasson » Tue July 13th, 2010, 1:07 pm

"juleswatson" wrote:I don't really understand this feeding frenzy of authors madly jumping on every review, getting into public spats and engaging in underhand behavior. . . One thing that was a pleasant surprise from reading this forum was that a/ bad reviews don't necessarily put people off, and they can gauge from the review whether it suits them or not anyway; and b/ a three star review aint that bad! When authors start freaking out and getting into public debates about bad reviews, it does MUCH more harm to their reputation than just leaving those bad reviews floating out there. Do people have too much time on their hands? Are they masochists???? :eek:

Agreed, Jules. Books are subjective and not every book is going to be right for every reader. An author who doesn't realize and expect that isn't being very realistic.

Part of being an author is about maintaining professional behavior. For me as a reader, an author who throws a hissy fit because someone didn't like their book doesn't shine a favorable light on that author. It means they're turning their focus away from the readers they should continue working to please. I think much more highly of the author who simply (publicly) ignores negative reviews.

Return to “Chat”