Read This Before Going On...

02 December, 2019

Reviewing Books and Pushy Authors...

Today, I'd like to talk to you fine people about the dreaded book review.

Book reviews can make or break an author. They can showcase the work of someone by telling others how much they liked or disliked a book and for what reasons. But everyone (at least in some writing communities... looking at you, Twitter) seems to think that anything below a 5-Star review is some blight. Some people think a 3-star review will sound the death knell for any aspiring indie-author. And that's just ridiculous.

Writing a shitty book and publishing it is the death knell for indie-authors... Your 1st draft should NOT be your finished product.

One of my all-time favorite books ever written has 248 1-Star reviews, 277 2-Star reviews, and 271 3-Star reviews on Amazon... Shocking, right? This book also has 1,608 5-Star reviews and a movie based on it that has a similar distribution of reviews.

Because of the new "EVERYONE IS PUBLISHING!" world of writing, we all thrive to have that solid 5-Star rating. We ask our family and friends to, discretely, leave reviews that tell the world how great our books and stories are. We build up "Street Teams" or whatever they're called these days... and we try to send legions of rabid fans to Amazon to flood our work with 5-Star ratings to get us all the way to #1 in our given genres... They're all "GO, MY MINIONS! LEAVE ME GREAT REVIEWS!!!" - And, this is just me being honest here, I think that cheapens things a bit. I get it. You're trying to make money. You're trying to be a brand or get a name for yourself. We all are. But, Jesus, do it by writing quality content and letting the readers decide.

If I leave a 4-Star review, I don't hate the book, or the author, nor do I have something against the author as a human being. I will most likely re-read that book and recommend it to other people.

If I leave a 3-Star review, I don't think the author should be upset by it... I still enjoyed the work. Just not as much as some other things I've read.

I, personally, won't leave a 1 or 2 Star review on a book.

Why is this an issue? WHY am I writing about this?  Well, I recently left a 4-Star review for a book. And the author asked me, "Why not 5?" -- and he asked this not in a "I would like to understand and improve my craft" way, but in a "What the fuck, dude?" way. And that rubbed me the wrong way.

I owe you, the author, NO sort of explanation.

I am a consumer and you have released a product to the world. It is up to me to decide where this product sits in my "pantheon of reviewed items." Your book sits on my 4-Star shelf. It was good. I liked it a lot. I will re-read it at some point and I've even recommended it to people ALREADY! - but since you're being a passive aggressive shit about the number of stars in my reviews - I'll probably be recommending it a lot less now.

And this - is how I would breakdown book reviews and the "star rating" system...

1-Star should be used for books that are poorly written with typos and bad grammar. It should NOT be used because "Well, I don't like the F-Word." - THAT is personal taste. Not a review. We've all seen these reviews and these people are trolls. They can get fucked. (I will NOT leave a 1-Star review)

2-Stars should be reserved for books that were okay, but not stellar. Books that won't be re-read in the future. (I will NOT leave a 2-Star review)

3-Stars should be for books you like. And may re-read at some point. Books that you enjoyed reading and were well-written. You should say WHY you liked the book and WHAT you thought could be improved upon in your opinion.

4-Stars should be for books that you would most likely buy in two different formats. Something that you will absolutely read again and recommend to other people. You should go out of your way to explain to people WHY you liked this book so much.

5-Stars should be for the books that evoke emotions within you and make you want to be IN the book. 5-Stars should be "I want this book signed and on my bookshelf forever!" You should do your best to explain to the reader WHY they need this in their life.

So - there you have it. Dr. Bourbon's guide to reviewing books.

It's my first day