Friday, March 4, 2016

All About that Review

 Hello! This morning we are going to grab the bull by the horns and have a little chit-chat about authors, books, readers, and reviews. So you might want to start your day with an awesome smoothie, an open mind, and a little consideration. 


Broken down that way hardly seems to be the kind of thing to make an accomplished author want to quit on the spot…but the blade of the review can be sharp and merciless, leaving behind a wound so deep that it can be near impossible to recover from.
In truth, all authors hope their readers will take the time to leave a review, but in reality, very few of them do. I have had people tell me how much they loved my book. Much appreciated…until I asked them if they might post a review. You’d think I’d just asked them to streak at the next Super Bowl. Either that or they pull out the red pen and dissect the novel…hardly what I was going for, and didn’t you just tell me you loved it?

Taste is personal. Just because you like something that I don’t, doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s simply not my taste. Do I strip away the stars in a review? Not necessarily. There are some points to take into consideration. Things like spelling and grammar, plot, storyline, character development, and conflict are all essential items. But as a ‘reader’ leaving a review, no one asked me to put on my ‘editor’ cap and dissect the piece.

When we give an evaluation in the military, we are asked to highlight strong points, and bring up points to improve on, indicating WHAT and WHY. How does this apply to a review?  
Don’t just say, “Ugh, I hated it.”  What does that tell the author or the other readers? Try something like this: “I didn’t like the MC. Maybe she was bi-polar, I simply couldn’t believe her ‘I’m superwoman and can handle everything,’ one minute, and her psychotic meltdowns the next.”
“I liked it because the characters had such depth and were so believable I couldn’t help but feel what they were going through. I had to cheer them on…”

Now, when you consider that there are only 5 stars to begin with, that doesn’t leave much leeway for a good vs bad balance. Some things are a given, like spelling and grammar. If you are putting a book out there, there is no excuse for an over-abundance of mistakes. If English wasn’t your forte in school, then hire an editor. I spend an average of $500 per book to have my work edited, (and my manuscript is as polished as I can get it before sending it in). Sadly, that does not guarantee a 100% typo-free book, and yes, it is a lot of money. I am the author, the ‘professional’. I am responsible for my creation and its quality.

Another point is accuracy. In the last book I just finished, the MC notices her suitor’s dimples the first time they meet and she melts…and then near the end of the story he smiles and she does a repeat, claiming to see them for the first time and melts...again. (This could get messy). This was a novella…not the Bible. How can you forget a simple detail that creates such a dramatic response barely 80 pages down the line?
In another, the MC is supposed to be Hispanic, and uses Spanish expressions throughout the story….only he comes from Brazil…and they speak Portuguese there…not Spanish.
Yet another story has the group charter a flight and take off in an ice storm….uh, no. There is no way a small plane would ever risk flying when freezing rain is coming down. Even commercial airliners do not blindly take off under these conditions. (I have flown single engine planes, but if you don’t have that personal knowledge, GOOGLE IT!)

And lastly (though trust me, I have many more), name changes….In book One, the names given to the kids vanish somewhere down the line, and in the latest book, the kids now sport the names that had originally been given to the dogs. Hopefully, if these are mentioned in a review, the author will pay more attention to details next time around. (Or if you're lucky, correct the mistakes and upload a new version for readers).

Not every author has taken a creative writing class. Some simply respond to the deep and overwhelming urge to write, to express themselves, and not everyone (classes or not) is born to be a storyteller. A constructive review can help authors improve their writing. If the descriptions were so vivid and realistic, to the point that you were convinced you were there, then say so. The dialogue was convincing and poignant, let the author know the good and the bad.

Let’s recap.
Why write a review? In a nutshell, people need oxygen, authors need reviews.

Anyone can write a short, honest and constructive review. No one said it had to go on forever. And when I say constructive, I mean tell them something that will be useful to encourage the author to continue working on his/her craft, by pointing out things that need improvement as well as the things that rocked. You’ll be doing everyone a favor. And that star rating thing….I’ve been given detailed, awesome reviews, yet only 3 stars and no clue why. I once received an impressive review, pointing out things others hadn’t, BUT since the reader did not like Sci-Fi, and it happened to be just that…she gave it 3 stars. In the end, I am more inclined to relate to the comment than the rating. I am grateful to have someone take the time to write a review, and guide me on my journey as a writer.
See it as teamwork, creating better stories and adventures for all.