My Take On . . . Reader Reviews (with some feistiness)


Modern Art

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I’m going to make this short and to the point. Reader reviews are what they are. Writing is art and reading is subjective. That whole beauty in the eye of the beholder thing. That’s what is wonderful about it. There’s something for everyone.

Yes, there are certain rules writers should follow that make for “good” writing but even those rules can be broken and broken with success.

But as for the reviews themselves, I put reviews into four categories: Positive about the story; Positive about the craft; Negative about the craft; Negative about nonsense.

I’m not going to dwell on the positive reviews because everyone enjoys positive reviews. For some readers the story captures their imagination or heart and they just love it. For others, the skill of the author impresses them. Positive reviews are awesome. Simple.

Negative reviews are another kind of bird. There are the negative reviews that actually mean something. They touch on the craft of storytelling or the skill of  word weaving. Pacing, character development, plotting, etc. This is called constructive criticism. I take these reviews to heart and seek to learn something from them.

Then there are the moronic reviews. Like this one for my family drama, A Thousand Sleepless Nights (written under a pen name, Michael King): The reviewer gave it 2 stars because “I ordered this book because my brother was recently diagnosed with Colon Cancer, I thought this would be a resource book.” Really? It clearly says “A Novel” right on the cover. My heart goes out to the brother and . . . he could still use it as a resource book.

And then there are comments like this attached to 1-star reviews: “Gives you the impression it’s going to be a horror novel, and ends up pounding religion into the reader.” And this: “This book is all about finding God, how your problems will all be solved and all will be right with the world. What a crock. If I want to find religion, I can do it without being tricked into reading a religious book. Shame.” Uh, did they read the book? Yes, it’s about finding God but all is definitely not right with the world. And these are the folks who accuse Christians of being closed-minded. Shame.

These moronic reviews really don’t bother me. They’re part of being a writer and you take ’em as part of the journey.

But sometimes negative reviews hurt. This one for Frantic still puts an ache in my heart. It’s honest and respectful and I appreciate that. I wrote a post on it before that discusses why it hurt so badly.

Other times I’m just baffled by positive vs. negative reviews. The two following reviews exemplify perfectly how subjective reading is. Both are for my short story The Last Hunt.

The positive one: From the first line of the story, Dellosso’s craftsmanship shows through. The story begins with boyhood memories of hunting trips with his dad, his uncle, and his grandfather. The tale includes anecdotes of how the narrator grew up on these hunting trips and approached manhood. Then the story delves into the fateful night and the hunting trip that was the final one. The story is narrated at just the right pace. It is a masterpiece.

And the negative one: I really enjoy Mr. Dellosso’s books, so I thought I would try this short story. It was very disappointing and definitely not worth the dollar I spent on it. The story was rushed and the conclusion just left me confused. Questions were not answered and storylines weren’t finished. I think this would make a good full-length book so that more things could be fleshed out. As a short story, however, it fell way short of the mark.

Did they read the same story? Obviously they did. But you see how the same story can affect people in two totally different ways. For a writer, this is frustrating.

Now, the negative one here would fall into the “Negative about the craft” category and is worth learning from. Except one thing that, I’m sorry, just irks me: “definitely not worth the dollar I spent on it.” I wish this reviewer would have used his real name because I’d gladly track him down and refund his dollar. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

Okay, that was a little more than short and sweet. Sorry.

FearlessCoverHey, if you haven’t read my newest thriller, Fearless, yet I’d suggest getting a copy and leaving a review when you’re done. And I’ll thank you ahead of time for any positive or thoughtful negative reviews. But please, if your review is going to be moronic, save your time and skip it. Or don’t use your real name.

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About mikedellosso

Mike Dellosso is an author of wide-eyed suspense. He writes stories that not only entertain but enlighten.

Posted on May 31, 2013, in Book Reviews, Christian Fiction, Fearless, Frantic, The Last Hunt and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. This is helpful to me as a reviewer. I don’t get why people need to be hurtful in their reviews. Just reading the one review and I was ready to give them back their dollar. Makes me wonder if they read over their review. Perhaps I’m a weird freak of nature (a dying breed, my husband tells me), but I believe that we can get something from everything we read–there’s always something to be gained from the experience, and it’s worth more than a dollar….

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    • I agree, Tina. There is something to be gained from every reading experience. What bothers me most is folks who don’t take the time to investigate what they’re about to read and then slam it because it wasn’t what they THOUGHT it was going to be. That’s not the author’s fault.

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  2. Bravo tinamhunt, and bravo X 2 Mike, for this blog post. A writer pours out his/her thoughts on a PC for days, months, sometimes years; developing story lines and interesting characters, weaving subplots, not to mention the mounds of research. He/she reviews the work for content compatibility, spelling, grammar, word ussage, and much more. Then comes editing from outside their office doors. The entire process is an often lonely, heart wrenching experience. Yet he/she is compelled to do so in the hopes the reader will climb aboard, click their seatbelt and enjoy the ride. And all this for a dollar? What can be bought at the store for a dollar these days? What price can be asked for creative talent?
    I’ve read Dellosso; his ups and down, sideways jerks and loop-de-loops. I find him to be a mesh of talent and heart. I admire him for standing on his faith while asking the “what ifs”. And Mike, as for that reader who pinched your ego–maybe hurt your feelings–I say stop the ride, let her off, she probably didn’t meet the height requirement.

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    • Thanks for your thoughts, Donna. Always appreciated. I’m all for folks having opinions and stating opinions but be intelligent about it. That’s all I ask. It always amazes me how readers can rant about a book they paid $0.99 for or even got for free. I’m sorry they felt their time was wasted, I understand that’s valuable, but to complain about the price. C’mon.

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      • At the recent BRMCWC Eddie Jones was saying that some readers actually return books they got for $1…seriously? have we gottne this cheap? It just amazes me where people’s head are. keep doing what you’re doing…you’re doing it right.

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    • Donna, I’ve had some of my $0.99 short stories returned. Yes, we’ve gotten that cheap. That $1 could be used to buy a sweet tea at McDonald’s

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  3. This is a great post, Mike, and I appreciate your feistiness 🙂 And it’s so true that reading is so insanely subjective. As a writer, it’s difficult to not let that get in the way of the story you have been given to tell. But at the end of the day, we write the story as well as we know how and release it–like a child entering the world for the first time without holding our hand to cross the street. Scary, but necessary. And always a learning experience. Your post was honest and thoughtful – thanks!

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  4. Yikes, now I feel great guilt for a negative review I just made this week on Amazon for the new book by Owen King. It was short, to the point, I didn’t mention price, although hardcover from Amazon is not cheap. But it made no sense , I did muddle through almost 100 pages and could not figure out where it was going. So I gave up and I said so. Now I feel bad. I also admit, knowing he was Stephen Kings son and Joe Hills brother made me assume I would like it.

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    • Pat, don’t ever feel bad for leaving a bad review. If you’re honest and give good reasons it’s worth the review. Constructive criticism is always appreciated!

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  5. I have read the first two revews you referred to. I don’t get it. If these are the reviews I think they are, did you hit the button that says see all my reviews? Some of these people it is the only book review they have written. I have done this on several occasions and some also only write negative reviews. I believe they think they are some kind of critic and cannot possibly write a good review. I read one review where the person said this is the first book I read by this author having not heard of him until now. 3 long paragraphs later she mentioned reading another book by this author. I don’t get it. Then there are the readers that love a certain author and wouldn’t write one thing negative about that author, no matter what. I may not write great reviews but I am honest without being rude.

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  6. As Tina said, this was really helpful to me, as a reviewer! I really enjoyed the article. On a side note: I’m reading (almost finished with), and will be reviewing, Fearless!

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  7. Great post, Mike. I’ve had a negative review for a non-fiction work that’s stuck with me for years – not thick-skinned enough – and proof the reader didn’t read the book – perhaps scanned, but didn’t get the message. Thank you for sending FRANTIC. It arrived about a week ago. I look forward to it when I finish current reading. I’ll post what I hope will be a fair and good review. 🙂
    BTW, I loved the bittersweet message of A THOUSAND SLEEPLESS NIGHTS.

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  8. Good post, Mike. One of the first reviews of Angelguard had this title: “awful; melodramatic dialogue, silly plot; avoid!” and was a 1/5. I expect he would have given it a 0 if Amazon allowed it. The reader could only get through the first 40 pages.

    It hurt. But I soon realised reviews often say more about the reviewer than the reviewed. And the novel won’t appeal to many people. It was also a good exercise for me to learn to ‘let go’ & not allow it to discourage me.

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    • Ian, you are so right that reviews say more about the reviewer than the reviewed. Also, I think Amazon has an avenue where authors can challenge poor reviews and request they be taken down. I’ve never gone that route and don’t know if it’s a viable option or not.

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  9. Thanks! Needed this. The ones that hurt me are the ones that are outright lies, just mean-spirited by obviously mentally ill people who are off their meds, or ones that are–I guess, less than a lie, but written about something that they don’t get? Like, claiming spelling errors when there’s dialog, or when there are house rules from an International publisher? Real reviewers understand those things and take them into account. And yes, it reflects on the reviewer, but when stated with authority, other readers might actually believe it. And really, yes, one must get over oneself.

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    • Agreed, Lisa. The ones that get you scratching your head, wondering if the “anonymous” reviewer even read the book are frustrating and annoying.

      But about getting over oneself. I think most authors are not too big-headed to take a poor review on the chin if the review makes sense. If it states legitimate reasons and offers constructive criticism that’s okay. It’s the ones that are just unfounded or ignorant that bite, not so much at the pride, but at the sense of fairness.

      Also, what annoys me is the fact that it is so taboo for authors to confront or challenge a poor review. Why can’t we? Let’s have an intelligent discussion. Unfortunately, it only makes the author look like a poor sport. This isn’t right.

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  10. This is helpful to enable a writer to keep a healthy perspective and also points out how powerful are our words for good or ill. Reviews are valuable to an author; reviewers shouldn’t waste their time if they aren’t trying to be helpful in some way to the reader or the author. Thank you for sharing.

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  11. Linda Dindzans

    I particularly like your classification of reviews. Could be adapted for advice people offer, compliments, and even gossip under the guise of “reporting of information”.

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  12. I was guilty of being an abusive reviewer once and once only. I objected to the author taking so much poetic licence with biblical doctrine that I got personal and criticised his writing and talent despite me loving the novel apart from that issue. I reacted to him having a born again believer leading a fallen angel to salvation and then God restoring him to his angelic state!! I just felt that this was an insult to God and His way of doing things and that a non believer who was reading that would get a warped and totally mislead view of God and salvation.

    The author contacted me, (we were on the same book site) and asked me to explain. I did. He asked me if I felt it fair for me to become so critical of his writing also attack him personally. I was so convicted that I realised I was wrong. I apologised and he then explained to me why he did this in the story. He knew that bit would be controversial and was expecting some flack. We have ended up good friends and I have modified my review since that discussion.

    I learnt a lot from that situation. About myself, about authors, about writing reviews. What improved my reviewing style was your guide on writing reviews, Mike!! That needs to be reissued and now would be a good time to do this!! LOL.

    I now have more respect for authors as people and myself as a reader and reviewer. This has also led me to support them and encourage them. I totally agree with everything you have written here, Mike. Now I would be the first one to go into defence mode of an author if a reviewer was playing dirty in their review. I have on occasion done this and man, does this bring out the dark side even further of the reviewer, despite me not being in attack mode or emotional in my defence of the book and author but just sticking to the facts!!

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