Sunday, June 2, 2013

One Perspective on Snarky Reviews

Unfortunately not everyone loves our books. It's a fact writers accept when negative opinions come from professionals, and even honest, critical amateurs. However, it appears there's a growing list of nameless customer critics out there with minds conjuring poisonous words and phrases to vent upon some hard-working author.

I'm on several lists and social media sites, and, lately, there have been several posts about bad reviews and how unfair customer opinions are. On Amazon, if you buy a trinket, you're eligible to review a book. If you're an author whose work is out there for all to read and review, you know whereof I speak.

Bad reviews are inevitable -- and for a variety of valid reasons. I review other writers' books. If I don't care for a book's plot, premise, characters, etc., I don't review it. Chances are I don't finish it. Life's too short to read something I don't enjoy. All that said, there's never a reason to give a two-star or a two-heart rating, much less a one. Others might not agree, but opinions on weightier matters differ, too.

I read a phrase from an author that stuck in my head. He called unnecessarily cruel reviews "electronic snarking." These are tirades from readers who, many times, have not even read the book. You know the type: This book was so awful I threw it against the wall. The best part about it was the cover and that wasn't good either.

If you're a small press, mid-list or indy author these rants are very damaging. The meanies may simply think they're being cute, have an ax to grind, or possess a devilish desire to bring down your star rating. Whatever the motivation,  their snarking can kill sales for a promising book. It only takes a handful of unfair opinions to dampen enthusiasm.
I would implore those with a bent to rant negatively to stop and think of the consequences to an author with whom you might enjoy drinking a cup of coffee or sharing jokes over a beer.
Also authors must constantly monitor internet customer opinion sites. It is said that we authors should not answer our critics. That's easy if you're Nora Roberts and have multi-thousand reader reviews per book, but we who toil at protecting our reputations must comment on unfair snarking, and promptly.
And now a little blatant self promotion on the subject of reviews. My coming release, THE DEVIL LAUGHED (Five Star/Gale) was reviewed by Kirkus, a giant in the world of professional reviews. That they chose my book to review out of the thousands they receive a month was good news. While not glowing (does Kirkus ever give a glowing review?) it was positive, fair, and I'm happy with it. That's all an author can ask for.
 Gerrie Ferris Finger