Welcome to the first in the Blogger Insights series. In a recent post, Authors Want Confirmations Not Reviews, I gave a somewhat funny picture of an author’s response to anything less than a stellar 5-star review. Although we hope everyone loves our writing, universal appeal is probably beyond the realm of probability. There is, of course, another side to the rating and review story and that is the perspective, thoughts and feelings that the reviewer experiences during the process. And in a world of sometimes faceless relationships and bravado made possible by the veil of the internet, a reviewer can face certain perils in being honest. Joining us today to discuss the topic is author and proprietor of the blog Vampires, Crime, and Angels…Eclectic Me, Elaine White.
WIDW: So my thoughts on the issue of “reviews” were pretty clear in my post about Confirmation. Elaine do you think authors want “honest” feedback when that feedback is less than flattering?
Elaine: I think when an author asks for a review, they should be prepared to have any kind of review written. Whether it’s flattering or not shouldn’t matter; a real writer wants to know the truth about their book. As you said in your post, we all want Confirmation that we’re putting out our best work, but sadly you can’t please everyone. My take is that everyone wants different things, sees different things and feels different things about the same piece of work. All I really aim for is the majority vote.
WIDW: We seem to get caught up in the 5 star system. Humans love “grades” but do you think we’d be better served without them?
Elaine: Yes. Because, as I said above, everyone sees things differently. And if I read a story that I think others will like, I will say that in my review. I know there are certain things in books, e.g. certain words and phrases that rub me up the wrong way, but I also know that other people wouldn’t be bothered by them. By using a grading system we’re basically saying that everyone should be the same. But if everyone were the same, then what’s the point of writing? Everyone would be writing the same genre, the same way, so we’re removing the creativity of writing with grading.
WIDW: I notice you always add a little more to your grading, one of my favorites is “would I read it again” do you think that is more important than stars or is it tied closely to the star system anyway?
Elaine: I don’t think they’re linked. I can easily give a book maybe just three stars but say that I’d read it again. It depends on the writing, execution, plot, characters etc. There may have been lots of mistakes in the writing, but the story managed to stand out any way. Unless the errors are minor and infrequent, then I won’t take them into consideration during deciding on the star rating. If there is really awful use of grammar and spelling, but I enjoyed the story anyway, then I’d definitely read it again, especially if there was an updated/edited version available. For me, the story is everything. I have to connect with the characters and the plot for it to be something I’ll read again and enjoy.
WIDW: As an author, giving someone a less than stellar review could have backlash – does that concern you?
Elaine: Yes and no. I’ve always been one of those people that put honesty before the way other people see me. So in that sense, I’m not really bothered hoe people see me, but I do try to let the author know, in my review, that any less than stellar review I write is not directed at the author. It’s not about who wrote the piece, but how it was written and executed. I won’t lie to keep people happy, even if it made others look on me better. My biggest problem, is when I make friends with an author and then they ask me to review their book and I don’t enjoy it. I feel bad giving it a bad review, but I always try to explain myself, as to why it didn’t work for me and what I didn’t like, so that it’s not just a ‘No.’ answer. That doesn’t help anyone.
WIDW: Do you think authors are better reviewers than those who read but don’t write?
Elaine: I can’t say I’ve noticed. I think readers have a higher expectation of books, because they haven’t tried to write a novel. Authors know how much hard work goes into the plotting, writing, editing, publishing of a book, so we’re more appreciative of all that the author’s gone through to get so far. But that doesn’t stop me from using the dual personality part of myself to write my review. I write it as a reader and an author, pointing out which likes and dislikes come from which aspects of myself. It’s hard to separate them once you’ve written a book. You automatically spot the mistakes, that as a writer, you’d notice in your own writing.
WIDW: What do you think is the hardest part of the review process?
Elaine: I think it’s hard to define what you did or did not like about a book sometimes. There are some that just hit you and you love them for no discernible reason; it’s just that a handful of things capture your attention. As a writer, the hardest part of the review process is when a reviewer gives you a star rating with no explanation of why they did or did not like it, and what they did or did not like about it. I find it difficult to understand star ratings without any written explanation.
WIDW: It’s a slippery slope to ask someone outside of your writing genre to review your story. I think it can have its benefits though, what are your thoughts?
Elaine: I agree. I think asking someone who doesn’t write in your genre is a benefit for a few different reasons. One is the age old, someone from another genre won’t want to lower your ratings in order to make their book look better, which I’ve actually seen happen. Two, is that they look on it with fresh eyes. Sometimes when someone reviews the same genre as they write, they’ve experienced too many stories about that genre to notice anything new; when they’re outside the genre they usually have little exposure to that genre so they can judge your book as an individual.
WIDW: Have you ever been asked to review something and found in the first chapter that you didn’t even want to read the book let alone review it?
Elaine: Yes. Recently. I won’t say which book, but I did find that after even one page I didn’t want to continue reading the story. It wasn’t what it had been advertised as, it wasn’t what I’d expected and I really didn’t want to continue. But, I had agreed to review it, so I had to find the nicest and diplomatic way to say how I felt without being insulting.
WIDW: Some stories are just a matter of “taste.” But other things in stories are universal. What do you consider to be the Unforgivables in a novel…other than glittering vampires (oh wait that’s just me)
Elaine: LOL. No, it’s not just you. Glittering vampires don’t really wash with me, either. There are certain ‘crass’ words that really don’t work for me in romance stories. I’ve read a few erotica, but there is a way to do it tastefully without going off the wall. I also don’t like unexplained events. E.g. the murderer being someone we’ve never met or heard about, who didn’t exist until the crime is solved in the last few pages. Unbelievable events also get on my nerves. I don’t care how outlandish the story is, or the world the story is set in, but if someone sets up a story and then has something happen that is just sooo out there it’s impossible, then they’ve not set the groundwork down and I’m not going to fall for it. I also really, really, disapprove of glamorizing assault/kidnap/murder/etc. I think it’s sending the wrong message, so the moral side of me just really doesn’t accept it in a story.
WIDW: It’s interesting that there are stories that are extremely popular and yet highly criticized – 50 Shades and Twilight being the current favs. What do you think that says about reviews in general.
Elaine: I think it goes back to the whole ‘everyone is different’ thing. Some people read for a real literary adventure, to get transported somewhere no matter what. Other people have limits, e.g. things they can’t stand or can’t believe in, no matter how well written they are. I think it also goes to show that some writers write in a way that is ‘universal’ so that anyone of any age can read it. Personally, I have to admit I’ve never read 50 Shades and I only got 40% of the way through Twilight before I gave up, so I can’t comment on them properly. I can say that I found Twilight to be unbelievable, within the groundwork of the story. I also thought that being inside Bella’s head was just a brand of torture I couldn’t stand to suffer.
WIDW: Writers often want reviewers to look “beyond” certain things – like don’t worry about the typos just tell me if you like the story – I think a book is the entirety of the story, characters And mechanics – what do you think?
Elaine: I agree. I think typos and grammar mistakes can really ruin the flow and plot of the story if it becomes too difficult to read them. I once read a story that had one character’s name, e.g. Anna, written as Chloe, (made up names). It made the story really confusing, because there had been no Chloe before and it was unclear who she was supposed to be, until I asked the author. It meant taking a break from reading, to ask the author what was going on, wait for an answer and then get back to my reading. The break really ruined the story; I had to start the chapter all over again. No matter what is wrong with the story, even small things, it is going to have a detrimental effect on the reading of the story.
WIDW: Do you think Indie books would be well served by a “certification” that the author got the mechanics correct?
Elaine: I’m not sure anyone really cares. I buy books all the time without reading reviews, if the premise sounds good enough and I like the cover. I think a book cover, shows that time was spent caring about every aspect of the book. Certification would just be a reassurance to me, rather than a reason to read the story. It may help other readers, it all depends on the reader, I guess, and how they choose their books.
WIDW: Now you’ve received a tough review or two of your own. Be honest – did you call the reviewer a stupid poopie head?
Elaine: In my head, maybe. LOL. But I decided, with some advice from my publisher, that I shouldn’t risk replying to reviewers. I’d seen other authors replying to bad reviews and being seen very negatively by other readers. When a review comes in, especially one that its tough to swallow, then your pride and ego is the first to suffer and you tend to say things you don’t mean. In the cold light of day, you tend to regret it. So I decided that to not say anything I’d regret, I’d justnot say anything. I have a little conversation with myself, in my head (like you did in Confirmation) or write it in a message that I’ll never post to get it out of my system. Then it’s over and I try to move on.
WIDW: In the coming months you’re going to review my book, You and Me against the World. Would it change the process if you knew I’d be watching you through your window while you write it?
Elaine: Probably not, to be honest. I although I’d probably be sitting giggling the whole time with nerves and glancing over at you all the time, just to check and see if you were looking. 🙂 Once my hands are on the keyboard, I sort of ‘bleed’ words that flow from my head out of my fingertips. It’s as instinctual to tell the truth in my review, as it is to answer these questions honestly.
WIDW: Famous authors get panned all the time. Do you think Indie authors get a little too obsessed over reviews and ratings?
Elaine: No. I think Indie authors have more need of reviews and ratings than famous authors do. Indie authors need those reviews and ratings to encourage other readers to read their work, to give them a chance and get a little exposure. I think Indie authors have to work a lot harder at self promotion, while famous authors have a team that do it all for them, with very little input other than ‘real life’ appearances. Reviews and ratings are the bread and butter to Indie author’s survival.
WIDW: Back in the day, Anne Rice went a little ballistic after receiving some “bad” reader reviews. How do you think an author should respond?
Elaine: If an author decides to respond to a review, then they should remember, first and foremost, that the whole world will see that response. If it’s too negative or argumentative then other potential readers will see it, and that may turn them off the novel and the author’s work forever. Some readers find bad behaviour, or questionable behaviour by an author as a reason to veto all of their work, no matter what. My suggestion, would be to either be as courteous as possible in your reply, keep it private, or don’t reply at all. It’s all personal choice for the author, as to whether to reply or not.
WIDW: Before an author asks for a review, what should they consider or research on the reviewer – if anything?
Elaine: Probably the genre you read most. They need to decide if they want their reviewer to be well experienced in the genre or not. They should probably also have a look at the other reviews the reviewer has written. If they seem well balanced, honest and impartial, then they’re a good choice. If they comment on the author, as a person, rather than the book, then they’re probably not going to give you the good review you’re looking for. Look at their own work, the genres, the style, the length, and then look at their reviews, their blog, and their comments on other people’s work. You can often tell the measure of a person and the type of review they’ll give by taking note of those things.
WIDW: Well thank you much Elaine for joining us. It was a good discussion and I hope you give my book 5-stars so I don’t have to go back and delete this from the archives LOL.
Elaine: Thanks for having me, these were great questions.
WIDW: Here’s a little more about Elaine and where you can find her.
About the Author
Elaine White was born and raised in the small town of Haddington, Scotland. She began writing from an early age when she thought that she would have written differently passages from the books she was reading. At the age of 14, she tweaked existing stories to experiment with various writing styles. Eventually, this led to her taking a Creative Writing course and writing her own stories from scratch. Now, she finds inspiration everywhere, which has lead to numerous novels and series ranging from college romance and crime to the supernatural world of witches and vampires. Elaine currently lives at home in Scotland with her parents and boisterous poodle. She is a full time student and full time writer.
Elaine White is an author of everything from paranormal romance, containing witchcraft, vampires, werewolves and magical school, to crime with master criminals and secret agents. She specializes in anything with a hint of romance.
Elaine’s novels usually contain a varied POV and be classed as anything from New Adult to Young Adult. She tries to keep all stories available to the widest audience possible, unless the story calls for more mature themes.
Elaine currently has two stories released, the first being her vampire novel Runaway Girl, which is the first in a six book series called the Secrets of Avelina Chronicles. The second story is a short story to accompany Runaway Girl, as a 1.5 novel to the series. The story is called A Heart That Cannot Beat and is contained in the Valentine’s Anthology Novel Hearts, released by Write More Publications.
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/elainewhite.author
Categories: Blogger Insights