It would seem that 2012 has been the year of the review controversy on all fronts. I've read numerous posts from both sides of the fence and thought I might offer my spin on said topic.
When I first started in this industry almost four years ago—My first published work has been re-made and put out under another press at this point so folks won't find me prior to circa 2010, and I unlike some count the months leading up to the actual release as they are in fact part of the journey and in my opinion count as time in grade. So, when I started getting a review was like pulling teeth from a hippo. I mean it was tough! I had no idea how to even go about getting a reviewer to pay attention to me.
Today I'll not only share why reviews are important, but how I believe a writer should react to a review, and my method of getting an ARC in the right hands.
Reviews 101—The good, the bad, and the ugly. If you've ever put yourself out there as a writer and let a reviewer have your work to analyze, chances are you've received one of the following: a good review, a bad review, or a downright ugly one. And I've come to learn in the last several months they're all important in their own right.
The good. Well, it's good. What can you say? Every writer needs to hear they did something right or they get discouraged, down on themselves, depressed, and some even threaten or go so far as to quit. So getting a great review, when it's deserved, is important for us.
The bad. Well, it's bad. But also good if you let it be. You see, we as writers also need to hear when we've done something wrong. And we do. Some of us can admit it and some of us can't, but it's true and no one is immune, we all have that story out there which gets the bad review for a good reason. Either we didn't trust ourselves or our editors, but nonetheless the work left the press in less than stellar shape and needed a whole lot more work. In some cases it might even be a work that was a bad idea altogether and should have been left on the idea room floor. I got horrible reviews for my first work because I had no idea what I was doing and neither did my editor. After learning via the school of hard knocks, I took it down, fixed it and tried again. It's now getting five stars vice two or three.
The ugly. What to say about these? Sometimes you just get a reviewer that can't be pleased and if you take a look beyond the ripping they gave you often you'll find everyone in their wake has experienced the same thing. These reviewers are far and few between, but they do hold value like the rest. They hone our skills and abilities in how to control ourselves and act civilized in public even under duress.
Writer Etiquette 101—The good, the bad, and the ugly. The good. When the author is tame enough to smile, go with it, and scream in the shower if the result is not so good. The bad. When the author complains about the review/er in public places—like Facebook. The ugly. When the author gets into a "verbal" exchange with the reviewer over the review via the blog or another public forum. So how should we act? Always thank the reviewer no matter what their opinion was. They took the time to read your book and the time to write the review. Whether you agree with their assessment is irrelevant, they should still be thanked for their time and energy in some manner. I usually post my reviews on my Facebook wall with a thank you to the reviewer if the review is good or bad. I also post links to them on my website with the hosting sites icon so people know where to go to get an opinion. Ugly? Well, I haven't had to worry about that yet. I've not really encountered much from a professional reviewer that was ugly. Regular readers are another story and a topic for another day. I will say this much. It's my belief that it's a sad state of affairs that anyone can go anywhere and post something about your work even if they've never read it—most of this ugliness comes from jealousy, "posses" that regularly troll thinking they are doing their favorite author friend a favor by tearing down another, or they simply are bitter with the world period. These I ignore. My real readers and the reviewers that are familiar with my work get the word out and one ugly reader comment won't tear down a house of dozens of good and/or bad cards. These aren't worth the worry or a response. So, what have we learned writers? Smile, say thank you, share, don't have hissy fits in public…oh, yes, and learn from what the reviewer has to say. Take something away from each of your reviews you can learn and do better from.
Getting the ARC in the right hands…
First, be picky about where you go. I don't highly recommend sending your goodies to someone that lives in a basement, is not professional, and is only trolling for you ARC so they can pirate it. And how do you know the difference…trust me, you'll know. There are plenty of good review houses out there and while it might be a while in them getting to you particularly if you're new to the industry, be patient. Your time will come. I promise. How do you get them to pay attention to you? Come out of your writer's closet and let the world see you and know you're a real person and are serious about your craft. That means blogging, going on tour, and asking for guest spots. Reviewers do pay attention to what's going on around them. If they see your name a few times, you'll become interesting. When you write in asking for a review, be polite, concise, and professional. Tell them you would like them to review your work in one hundred words or less. Give them all your information. Don't call them dude or girl. Don't use smiley faces and LOL. If you act professionally, you will be treated as such. Something else I've become aware of is the trend to get as many of your friends and family to go to Amazon and leave a review as possible even if they never read the book. Bad idea. Your potential audience knows this trick by now and when you get ten or twenty 5 stars over there in a row with nothing in the comments but, "I loved this work!" on a first book, people know what you've done and you become less marketable to future readers. Food for thought, do with it as you will.
It took me a long time to build a readership and reputation, and relationship with reviewers. I followed the advice of other seasoned people and used the methods above and now I have reviewers asking me for my work. You can be there someday, too.
A side note to reviewers everywhere, professional and readers—thank you for all you do. If I had a piece of advice for the novices out there, please be constructive. A four word review, ie "I loved this story" or "I hated this story" doesn't help us develop as writers. Tell us what worked and what didn't. I for one need to know so I can keep growing and giving you what you want in a romance.
As always, thank you to Carole and the crew for letting me be here today. If you'd like to follow me and all I have going on, you can find me at Realmantic Moments .
Have a great day everyone and happy reading and reviewing!