Welcome back! If you missed my post about reviews last week, you can check it out here. We’re talking about them again today!

Lupita asked…

How do you feel about unjust reviews on your work? (I know we all have an opinion and don’t enjoy the same reading material, but I’m wondering about unjust reviews where you know it shouldn’t have even been posted. You know those reviews where they are just blowing smoke and clearly didn’t give the work a chance.)

Wow! This sure hits the nail on the head of a lot of my issues!

First, let me say, unjust reviews can be both good and bad reviews. Unjust reviews, in my opinion, are not only bad. Most of the time that’s what we thinking, but there are unjust good reviews also.

Confused? Let me explain.

Author X has a new book ready to come out. She gets in touch with all her friends and family and says, “Hey, my book is coming out tomorrow! When it’s live, go buy a copy and leave me a good review. I don’t care if you actually read it, just leave me a good review.”

Is that fair? 

Um, no.

Does it happen? 

Unfortunately, yes.

Lupita did a great job of detailing an unjust bad review so I won’t go into that one. In either case though, they’re frustrating, to say the least.

I think the best thing is to tell you when I, personally, think a review should be written.

  1. When you finish reading the book.
  2. When you read a book in a genre you enjoy.
  3. When you feel you can write it without being emotional.

How many of you are questioning number one right now? Be honest! You can write a review on a book that you hated because it was so bad you didn’t want to keep reading, right?

Here’s my opinion on that… it’s never going to be your favorite book ever. It’s very possibly going to be a book you’re frustrated for wasting your time on. But is it fair to leave a review on a book that you never even read most of?

Let me ask you this… Did you ever see Fight Club or The Sixth Sense or Collateral Beauty or Sliding Doors? I’m not going to give away any spoilers here, but did you love the movie even more after you saw the ending? Maybe it started out okay, but you hung in there. It’s only a couple hours. It was a good story and the longer you watched, the more you became invested. The more you were curious. The more you wanted to know how it was all going to be resolved.

Then the end comes, and the big reveal, and BAM! It shocked the shit out of you. You never saw it coming (or maybe that was just me). Every single one of those movies was made better because they did such an amazing job concealing the truth behind the entire thing. You didn’t know the whole point of the story until the end. You didn’t see it.

What if that book you stopped reading that you gave a one star review to was the same? You could have missed out on something life changing.

Maybe you still hated it, but I have a hard time saying you should leave a review if you haven’t read the whole thing. If you read the whole thing and still hated it, then let’s go to my second criteria.

Is it a genre you enjoy?

My husband is big into fantasy books. He’s actually read The Lord Of The Rings – long before they were movies. He read Game Of Thrones years before HBO made them into what they are now. He enjoys stories with lots of characters and fictional worlds with magic and mythical creatures and intricately woven storylines.

I can’t stand it.

I’ve watched Game Of Thrones and The Lord Of The Rings. I enjoyed both. But to read the books would be torture for me.

But that doesn’t mean they’re bad. They’re just not for me.

There’s too much going on in those books. Too many characters that I can’t keep track of. Too many storylines.

But that doesn’t mean they’re bad. They’re just not for me.

Do you get it yet?

If you read a book in a genre you don’t typically read, you don’t always know the ‘rules’ of that genre. If you’re judging a book based on something you don’t like about the genre, that’s not fair to that book.

I had a content warning on one of my earliest books. It clearly stated in the description that there was vulgar language and sex in the book. I got a scathing review that there was too much sex in the book. Honestly, I laughed, but it still hurts my rankings. Someone didn’t like my book because they didn’t read the description and didn’t know the rules of contemporary romance. Many of them have open door sex. The ones that don’t, I’d say, are in the minority. But I don’t feel it’s fair to leave a bad review when that’s one of the expectations of the genre.

We’ve covered the first two. If you finished the book and enjoy the genre, then let’s move on.

Can you write a review without being emotional?

I get it. You read a book and that little thing pops up at the end asking you to leave a review. It’s easy, and tempting, to blast the book for all the things you hated. There was too much sex. And the heroine was too stupid to live. And the hero was an alpha asshole. And you hate small town romance.

And your dog just died, and there was a dog that died in the story.

And your boyfriend broke up with you because he found someone new.

And the hero has the same name as the one that got away in college.

And any number of things.

Are you thinking clearly? Are you upset because of things that happened in the book and you made parallels to your own life?

Does that mean the book sucks, or that the author is an amazing storyteller who has the ability to evoke emotion in you, even if it’s emotion you don’t like?

When we’re emotional, we can’t see things clearly. So while I get that you’re crying and the story really upset you, was it the story, or something else, that bothered you?

Take a day or two and see if you’re still as upset with a little distance. If you still feel the story is that bad, you’ll still want to write a bad review (or a good one). Go back in and write it. Yeah, I’d love to see only good reviews on my books, but I know they don’t resonate with every single person. I just ask that you don’t blast me, or anyone else, for something we can’t control.

Lupita has one more question about reviews for next week. Come back by then and check it out!

If you have a question, about writing or anything else, send me an email (mary (at) maryethompson (dot) com) with Q&A in the subject, or post it in the comments below, and I’ll answer your question right here on the blog!

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