3 stars isn't bad and other musings on reviews...
Since becoming an author I am hyper aware of reviews. Definitely more than when I was an avid reader, with a review blog that gave a handful of bad reviews. And when I say bad reviews, I mean like 1-2 stars. 3 stars, in my opinion, is not bad. It’s not great, but I’m not tossing and turning and losing sleep over 3 stars. It simply means that you think I’ve done an adequate enough job. You were entertained, but not blown away. Which…if we’re being totally honest…I can accept. Mainly because there is always room for improvement, so you might think project A is 3 stars, but when I hit you with that 5 star project C, will we even be thinking about project A anymore? Probably not!
I've gotten a lot better about being super obsessive with reviews and not taking the bad ones too much to heart, but...can we talk about when you don't like a book and want to leave your feedback on a public forum for the writer of said book to see?
Can we pleeeeeeeeeease talk about that for just one minute?
I'm gonna rewind for just one second. Once upon a time I was a book blogger. And when I was a book blogger, I prided myself on giving honest reviews, even when I wasn't the biggest fan of a book. And I remember one book where I haaaated everything about it from the title being misleading to the characters being downright unlikable and it was just terrible...so I wrote all of that out on my little blog and let the writer have it, basically.
Well, she found it. And read it. And let me have it right the fuck back in the comments section and honestly? I had to eat it. My review was poor form and I really didn't have to go that hard about the book. And if I did feel like going that hard, I could have offered ways (in my opinion) that the author could address some of the things I had beef with in works going forward. Instead I chose the asshole route and lit her aflame.
Years later I look back on that and think, "wow you sure were arrogant, sis. What makes your opinion mean that much more than anyone else's? were you even the target audience for this book?"
And I know this is informed author me thinking this way and not book consumer me. But also, it's just logical. I get it--I GET IT. Sometimes books are annoying or infuriating or just don't quite hit the note & they aren't such a good time. And maaaaaaybe you want to warn the next reader or whatever, idek, i'm spitballing here. BUT. can you just take a second before you press submit on the amazon or the goodreads or the tweeter with my fucking @ in the tweet and think about how your words may impact the person behind the ones you so despised. Or...OR...keep this lil tenet in the back of your mind:
The function of critique is for the person receiving said critique to absorb, assess, & adjust.
So, for the person who is leveling the criticism: You don't have to be a jerk, my g. Deliver what you're trying to say with clarity and resolve. Ensure that behind the tear down is a hint, a peench of something that the person you're criticizing can use in some way.
For the person who is receiving the criticism: The absorb part of this is simple--take it all in. The assess part of it gets a bit more complicated. For example, there is a loooooooooooooong goodreads review on one of my first projects in which the person picks apart everything they didn't like about the book. Some of the things are nitpicky and personal to that reviewer, but others are valid critiques that I could objectively understand. So when I say assess the critique, I don't mean to either decide the person leveling the crit is a hater and brushing it off, but actually dissecting what is being said and really determining the level of value that it brings towards helping you elevate your craft. And finally comes the adjustment, which is where you decide after assessment which elements are actually impactful and making modifications to do what you need to do in order to fix any areas in which you've fallen short.
Also, for the person offering critique (again, I like a good double back): If you know 20% of the way into the book that it ain't your tea and crumpets, you can just stop reading, baby. I promise no one will shoot you in the pinky toe if you don't. And if you continue to read and compound your irritation? you'll most likely end up trashing a person over an experience that you were in FULL capacity to control.
IDK, this is just all my $0.02, and your mileage may vary...