How a reader responds to a book depends on a myriad of factors – from age to life experience, from what they have already read, to what kind of day they are having. Peruse any online site hosting multiple book reviews and it is obvious “no two persons ever read the same book” (Edmund Wilson).
I’m not surprised when I receive notification from Amazon that a five star or four star review I have posted ‘has helped a customer shop for [book title]’ but neither am I surprised to find that of the dozen or so of these emails I receive a week, about half are notifications for books I have rated 3 stars (=OK- personally I don’t think three stars is a negative rating though it seems many authors disagree) or 2 stars (= I don’t like it)*.
Furore regularly erupts in the book blogging world when authors take offense at what they feel are ‘negative’ reviews or ratings of their work and each time the drama develops it makes me nervous . Thankfully I have rarely come under attack from an author unhappy with a review, but I am always aware of the possibility.
What I think authors sometimes need a reminder of is the simple maxim, ‘it’s not you, it’s me’. My opinion is just that, my thoughts, feelings and reactions influenced by my experience and interpretation of the world which determines the way in which I relate to any book. Naturally then, my review is going to vary from someone elses, sometimes only nominally and sometimes wildly, and it is also more than possible my response to a book will be different from what the author intended. I can understand the instinctive reaction of hurt when criticism is leveled at a novel an author has invested their heart and soul in, it is natural to be protective of their work and crave ‘five star’ glory but I must admit I don’t have a lot of patience for authors who publicly react badly to the honest, thoughtful and personal opinion of a reader. ‘Bad’ reviews are going to happen no matter who you are or what you write, as this blog, badreviewsofgoodbooks proves.
It is never easy to be critical of someone’s work and when I find it necessary, I try to be respectful. I strive to share reasons for my thoughts, both good and bad because I do believe it’s important to be honest. Personally I find reviews that articulate the positive and negatives discerned by the reader to be the most useful to me as a reader. Sometimes a review that shares what the person doesn’t like can actually convince me to try a book I was on the fence about, though it is true the negatives in the review may also confirm the book won’t work for me. Only in instances that I don’t finish a book do I not post a review (I discussed that in a previous post here).
I hope, should an author ever feel the sting of criticism from me, they comfort themselves with the knowledge, ‘it’s not you, it’s me’.
Do you post ‘negative’ reviews? How much does a ‘negative’ review affect your reading choices?
* I haven’t ever used a one star rating on Amazon * My rating system on Book’d Out is slightly different where 2 stars = OK and 3 stars = good. You can read more about it HERE