What’s in a Review?
Today I thought I’d touch on one of the more interesting parts of being a writer: The review.
I think it’s only fair to first look at what reviews do. As a reader or user of a product, we are often put in the position to share our thoughts on the product. Good, bad, and in between are all viable depending on how we choose to look at them. They often give us a tagline to use to help sell our product, whether we share it or other potential customers read them. Not to mention the rush we get when someone tells us how much they love something we poured our blood, sweat, and tears into.
They can also be informative if they cite specific problems or issues the readers had with our stories. I like to divide them into three categories. The first is the helpful one where any that offer a critique that isn’t a misunderstanding or vague mention. These I think on for a good amount of time and weigh what they say against what I said or wanted to say. If I believe their assessment is correct, then I take it as a learning experience. If I don’t agree, that’s the end of it.
The second category is the misunderstanding one. I’ve had some that were nothing more than a misunderstanding. Often times it’s something they missed or I didn’t explain it properly. It happens, and it’s another valuable learning experience. Not everyone will understand what we mean or want to go to Wikipedia.org to look something up, while others love to have to think their way through something and not have it in simple terms. It’s all good.
The third category, and one I think we’ve all had to deal with at some point is the what the… pile. This group includes reviews where the reader was as vague as possible like they hated it, but didn’t say why. There were plot holes, but they leave no examples, and so on. It’s a frustrating thing to see, but not everyone is into leaving detailed reviews. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just something that’s frustrating when we’re hoping for feedback.
This brings me to an interesting thought and where I’ll probably get into trouble. Are reviews really the best way to judge a book?
Not to me. While I do appreciate them, I don’t use them to determine if I’m going to buy a book. I prefer reading the available sample to determine if I’ll like it or not.
As I mentioned before, reviews are someone’s opinion and not everyone will feel the same. While I do read through them to get a feel for things, I prefer to leave the final judgment to myself. I’ve loved books many people hated and I’ve hated books many people loved. At the end of the day, I look at it as trusting ourselves and our readers to make the best decision we can. Can we really ask anything more than that?
What are your thoughts? Do you put more emphasis on reviews, or do you have a different method?