The Art of the Review

What makes for a good book review? It’s kind of like the old saying, “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like.”

Even as an author I struggle with writing book reviews: How much do I say? What will help someone else decide if this particular book is a good fit for them? I think carefully before posting a review of another author’s book. Here’s a good article on the topic by Kelly Gallucci: https://bookish.netgalley.com/bookish-lifestyle/02/2022/tips-for-writing-a-good-book-review/

Recently one of my books received a 2-star review. Then the reviewer went on to provide a spoiler without giving any warning. So, now what might have come as a shock or surprise to a potential reader is now revealed to anyone who reads the review.

Then just a day later, a reviewer gave the book 5-stars, and went on to tell a good deal of the story. Sigh. Might as well save a few bucks and just read the review, right?

In both cases if the reviewer had offered a brief Spoiler Alert caveat at the beginning of the review, the potential reader could decide whether to risk reading the review or not.

I know I’d save myself a few headaches if I just didn’t read the reviews of my own books, but a) the good ones stroke my needy ego, and b) the negative ones often help me improve my writing.

As a reader how much attention do you give reviews before reading a book? Do they matter more if it’s a new-to-you author?

Peace, people!

Just no spoilers, please!

Negative Reviews are Good for the Soul or Something

When my first novel, Mayhem at the Happy Valley Motor Inn and Resort received its first truly negative review on Amazon I must admit my feelings were hurt. Prior to that scathing piece of commentary most of the reviews had been stellar. I’d been in a bubble of positivity and it burst. Ouch.

After more than a year since its publication, the book has continued to receive mostly four and five star reviews. They make me smile, especially when they are from folks I don’t know personally. I’ve hopefully learned to read the constructive types of negative reviews as a way to make my writing better.

But the book received a doozy of a negative review a few days ago. Here, I’ll share it with you. That either makes me brave or stupid. Talk amongst yourselves.

Okay, lady (or gentleman) reviewer, tell us what you really think. 😳

If you’ve read Mayhem you might think, “Did this reviewer actually read the book?” I wondered that myself. I won’t refute everything she/he commented on, but nowhere in the book did I bash fishermen, and I never said lesbians get a bad deal in life (do they? My lesbian friends don’t seem to), and if the book in some way intimated that all men are bad, I certainly couldn’t see it. I kind of like men, a lot, and my characters do, too. Dr. Hunky, anyone?

I guess beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder, or in this case, the ugliness is in the imagination of the reviewer.

Now I think I’ll go read the negative reviews on Diana Gabaldon’s latest book. Yes, even her work gets blasted. I must be in good company.

Peace, people.

Ain’t it the truth?

Letting People Down Since Way Before 2021

My first novel, Mayhem at the Happy Valley Motor Inn and Resort, is doing well right now. It’s received 96 ratings and/or reviews on Amazon, and all but four of those are of the four and five star variety. The one star rating threatened to undo me, and the two star didn’t exactly cause me to jump up and down in celebration, but when I put them in perspective they didn’t bother me quite as much.

I love reading the reviews. When I’m feeling low I read through them and bask in the really good ones and when I’m feeling terrific I read through the less positive ones to see what I can learn. It’s my weak attempt at balance.

I love the juxtaposition between these reviews:

Proof that beauty is truly in the eyes of the beholder.

The funniest review I received wasn’t on Amazon, though. I discovered it on my Facebook author’s page and it’s made me giggle more than once. I hope this reader will hold on for the sequel.

I’ve experienced the exact same feeling, and I get it. The heart wants what the heart wants. All I can say is, Dear Reader Whose Name I’ve Scribbled Through, Wedding at the Happy Valley Motor Inn and Resort is being edited and revised right now, so don’t despair. And please don’t throw tomatoes my way.

Peace, people!

http://Mayhem at the Happy Valley Motor Inn and Resort https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08P76RBRD/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_fabc_3B4RG80QB3PBVZXZK2CH

Self Doubt

People are buying my first romance novel, The Cowboy and the Executive, and I couldn’t be more delighted. So far, though, there have been no reviews. Yes, I know it’s still early. The book went live just last week, and it typically takes a few days for Amazon to post reviews. Still, I’m getting antsy.

To an author no review is almost worse than a bad one. We begin thinking readers hate it and are just too kind to say so, or they didn’t finish it or are currently using it as a coaster or as kindling. It’s torture.

Okay, back in the day I didn’t always leave a review even on books I really enjoyed. Is this karma? I promise I’ll do better!

May be the theme of my next post…

Hindsight is Twenty Something

A few days ago I had what I thought was a brilliant idea. Sales for Mayhem at the Happy Valley Motor Inn and Resort have been good, but reviews were a little light. The reviews the book received were outstanding; there just weren’t that many of them.

So, I thought, why not have a drawing on my Facebook author page? When the number of reviews reached 40, I’d draw a reviewer’s name at random and give away either a Scout’s Honor coffee mug or a signed copy of Mayhem. Cool, huh?

Except I didn’t take into account that many reviewers on Amazon use nicknames or initials instead of their actual names, so for the last couple of days I’ve been trying to figure out who “Keek” is, and who among my readers might be “Amazon Customer.”

Also, and this is both a wonderful thing and an almost impossible impediment, I don’t personally know at least five of the reviewers! How would I contact them if they won?

Sometime this weekend the number of reviews not only reached, but exceeded the 40 mark. I was able to track down all but two reviewers through connections on Facebook and friends of friends, but those two were untraceable. I felt awful, but went ahead with the drawing as promised, and notified the winner.

So, any suggestions for future giveaways are welcome. I believe this was good for book sales and review numbers, but as Mayhem wanders away from my core group of friends and followers, it might be impossible to track down a winner. This one has given me a massive headache. But I’m also smiling!

Peace, people!

Innocent Bystanders

Folks, I promise I’ll try to keep my sales pitches to a minimum, but as many self-published authors have discovered, we really are our own best cheerleaders. And who knows? I get new followers on WordPress almost daily and perhaps they have yet to hear about my book. Honestly, it’s a public service I’m performing here.

You see my debut novel, Mayhem at the Happy Valley Motor Inn and Resort, is my baby, and I’m proud of her. Oh, I’m well aware that she has a few flaws, but those just make her more adorable. And everyone knows that only grandchildren can attain perfection.

If you have a moment today, I’d love for you to visit Amazon, look up Mayhem at the Happy Valley Motor Inn and Resort and take a moment to read the reviews. Yes, some of them were written by personal friends, but most are from innocent bystanders. Innocent. Bystanders. Who genuinely seem to have liked my story and my characters.

I know eventually there’ll be less than stellar reviews. I’m trying to prepare myself mentally for those. An author in one of my groups said her favorite bad review was along the lines of, “This story seems to have been written by a constipated rock. Just let it GO!”

Oh, if you have read Mayhem, THANK YOU! Please leave a review. A few words mean so much and reviews are the key to keeping one’s book in the spotlight on Amazon.

End of sales pitch. Carry on (to Amazon). And peace, people.

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