As a publisher and avid reader, I read SO many book reviews – both of our books and of others. Reviews that are done by average readers such as those on Goodreads or bookstores; reviews written for professional reviewing entities like Kirkus or Booklist; and reviews that bloggers write on their blogs.
Thankfully, the vast majority are well written and thought out – expounding on the reader’s thoughts about the book, the characters, the plot, the writing, etc. Intelligently discussing what they liked and didn’t like. In the end, they apply a number or star rating which is a usually a requisite of the site which they are posting to, like Goodreads or Amazon.
However, there are those reviews that are the opposite of this, written by people who love to hate. They seem to spend a lot of time thinking up fancy words to describe how bad the book is, what a horrible person the author must be, or how they can’t believe the hype around the book because it is simply the worst piece of literary torture they’ve subjected themselves to.
Then, and even worse than the aforementioned type, there are those who quickly whip up a very negative review of the book wherein they describe aspects of the book that weren’t even there: wrong character’s names; or ideas that are misrepresented; all wrapped up in a misspelled mess of a paragraph. It makes me think that perhaps they didn’t really read the book or read it so quickly that the essence of the book didn’t really seep in.
Personally speaking, I want to read the first type. But, I don’t want to read only positive reviews, I read the negative ones too, because it helps me decide if I should buy the book for myself and in the case of our own books, it helps me and the author make better books. I honestly like reading other people’s opinions, even if they don’t agree with my own. I find these reviews so terribly helpful in so many ways and I only wish everyone would do this. It helps make the book world a better place – truly.
The last two types of reviews do nothing to help authors, other readers or publishers. All they do is show that some people are capable of spewing forth such vitriol that it makes the rest of us wonder what those people are like off-line.
In an era when we are so exposed to everyone’s thoughts, we are subjected to so much negativity and hate. It drags us all down. I am in no way suggesting that we all live in one happy bubble where everyone and everything is GREAT. Like most regular folk, I am suggesting that we remember that our online presence is just as important as how we act offline. That the words we use and the way we use them affect people – deeply. Sure, I tell our authors to grow a thick skin and just deal with the bad reviews. But personal attacks on a writer are just so unnecessary, and poorly written, hateful reviews affect writers just as much as if you had walked up to them in real life and told them that they suck.
I think it’s easy to pick on people that we perceive as untouchable: actors, artists, singers, writers, politicians, etc. All these people are doing their jobs and in most cases, trying their best. Sure, we know that doing this job means we open ourselves up to public criticism, but unless we have done something truly heinous, we are looking for praise and constructive criticism. Just like people who are doing jobs that are seemingly more mundane like working in a bank, writing marketing campaigns or building roads.
Today, I read a great Facebook post from author, Molly Ringle which actually inspired this blog post. In it she declares today to be Good Karma on Goodreads Day. Here’s the text from her post:I’m declaring it Good Karma on Goodreads day! (Or Amazon, if you don’t have a Goodreads account.) What you must do: go to Goodreads/Amazon and click “like” on a few POSITIVE, decently written reviews. They don’t have to be for my books–though of course that’d be awesome. They can be for any books that interest you or that you’ve enjoyed. The more “likes” a review has on Goodreads and Amazon, the higher it gets placed, so more people see it. So please, let’s boost the nice and useful things that are said out there, to counter the mean snark! Feel free to share this post if you think your friends might like to do this too. Maybe we can make it a weekly thing. The internet needs more nice.
I would suggest that you like the reviews that you truly do like – and don’t be disingenuous (not that Molly is suggesting that either). Do what feels right and good and help spread good feelings. Because we all know what karma does when it comes around.