What’s In A Review?

All authors get bad reviews. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, it will. While it is inevitable, it can help us all, authors and readers alike, to understand what a bad review is. Before we can do that, we must ask ourselves, what is a book review?

What is a book review?

A book review, or any review for that matter, is an opinion about a product or service. They are subjective because they are dependent on experience. No two people experience the same thing the same way. This goes for movies, classes, paintings, and even books. We try to bring some objectivity into our reviews, but at the end of the day, these are our opinions, not facts.

At the same time, book reviews can offer valuable insight for prospective readers and the author of the book. If book reviews are thoughtful and thorough they can say something about the book. So, then, what should you do if you get a bad review?

As an author – Not all reviews are created equal

Kevin just finished reading a book. Long story short: he didn’t like it much. He doesn’t know why, exactly, but he feels the need to share his experience with others, so he writes a review. In his review he shares his distaste, he says he had a hard time finishing the book and he won’t be reading more from the author, but it is what he doesn’t say that is more important. Why doesn’t he like it?

We wish we could attribute this message properly, but we cannot find where it originated. If you know, comment below and let us know. It goes something like this:

There are only four types of reviews. There are smart-good reviews, ignorant-good reviews, smart-bad reviews, and ignorant-bad reviews. As author you should only pay attention to three of these kinds of reviews.

Smart-good reviews can tell you what you are doing right. They can bolster your confidence and help you move forward. Ignorant-smart reviews too can bolster your confidence. It helps to know that people like your work. As well, smart-bad reviews can offer insight into areas where you can improve as a writer. Believe it or not, no one is perfect, and bad book reviews can help you improve no matter how great you are. After all of that, however, authors (and readers) have no reason to read an ignorant-bad review. It will deal a blow to your confidence without providing any constructive feedback. In the end, it is the equivalent of a slap in the face without an explanation.

As a rule of thumb, longer reviews tend to be more insightful. If you see a 1-2 star review on Amazon and it looks like a flimsy paragraph at best, don’t bother reading it, it won’t do you any good.

As a reader – Make your voice count!

Now, if you’re reading this, you have likely written a review before. If you’re worried you’re writing ignorant reviews, here is some advice. Take some time to gather your thoughts. If you don’t like a book, know why you didn’t like it. Maybe its the character development. Maybe there are errors. Maybe it just isn’t your kind of book. If its the character development, mention it in your review. If there are errors, mention spell check. If it’s not your thing, mention that, say what you expected so that other readers don’t expect the same thing. A review is more than a thumbs up or down, its a service to authors and readers alike. Do your best to provide pertinent information. If you can’t do that, then maybe you weren’t invested enough to offer a valuable opinion in the first place.