Out for the Weekend, and Thoughts on Reviews

So, first of all, I’m going to be out of town all weekend. I’m attending a wedding, actually. Not my own. But nonetheless, a wedding that I’ve been looking forward to attending for over a year. It’s going to be great!

Naturally, though, this means I won’t be reacting to anything here for a few days. So if you should perchance to make a comment and find it still awaiting moderation hours later, I apologize. You’ll likely be waiting until I return. Same for attempting to contact me. As soon as I get back, I’ll catch up on everything.

For now though, I’ve got a wedding to look forward to, so I’ll see you all once more when I return!

Now, that said, I had a thought late last night that I wanted to post, so I am going to get this out there before I leave.

Last night, Dead Silver picked up another review. A short review, but a review nonetheless (and like all authors, I like to see reviews).

It gave the book five stars. It’s not the first. Now at this point, I’d imagine that most of you were already guessing that I’d received a low review and was about to “respond” to it. Nope. It was a five-star review. Also, and on a side note, writing “review rebuttals,” especially for low reviews, isn’t something authors do. As an author—NO.

So, Dead Silver got another five-star. Alright. So what?

Well, it made me think. I do self-promotion, most often on the heels of the question “What do you do for a living?” Naturally, my writing gets brought up quite a bit. And one question I often have to answer from time to time when I talk about my books is “Well, what are the reviews like?” And do you know what the strange thing is? People react better to being told that the reviews are “Okay” or “Pretty good,” than they do to being told that it has five stars.

Now, the logic for this kind of reaction has been discussed and touched upon more in depth over on 1 Lazy Robotwhich discusses lopsided reviews and how reviews may not matter as much anymore as a result of the internet (along with other things, seriously, go give it a look). But the thing that stands out to me is people’s reactions to being given the answer to the question they’ve just asked if I bring up the actual reviews.

“What are the reviews like?” they ask, or some variant thereon.

“Very good,” I reply. “Five stars.”

This is where things get weird. Sometimes, if I had to guess I’d say maybe a third to half of the time this conversation takes place, I then get this response:

“Pfft. It’s probably not that good.”

Which has always been a puzzling reaction to me. I’ve always consideredt that the whole point of establishing a review scale was to quickly give a rough idea of “good or bad?” based on a quick glance, and five stars was supposed to be good. So I never really had anything to say back to those people. If I tried bringing up numbers of reviews, or what the reviews said, I got quick dismissal. The idea that a book could be out for some time, sell X number of copies and still sat at five stars just somehow, to some people, meant that the book had to be bad. I’ve had responses that obviously only the people who really liked it bothered to leave a review. I’ve been told that there’s no such thing as a perfect book (a topic for another time), as if the high review score for my books are actually a sign that they’re even more flawed than the average book. A lot of puzzling responses that I didn’t really have a good response to.

Now I’m not going to sit here and pick those apart. A), it wouldn’t serve much purpose for this post and B) it comes dangerously close in my own mind, in light of the high-review that set this off, to being a “review response.” I’m not doing that. Additionally, I know no book is perfect. Crud, One Drink, for me, sits at about three-stars. Dead Silver four. I’m always trying to push my writing to a better place. I know it’s not perfect. But that also doesn’t immediately mean that it sucks. But that’s not a great answer to this kind of response either.

But last night, I finally hit upon the best possible answer to all those reactions. A challenge of sorts. Someone doesn’t believe that my book deserves that review rating?

Fine. Read my book and prove it! Add your voice to the pile! No one but themselves is stopping them from spending some spare change to pick up a copy of my book (or not even that if they have prime, I do both lending and the odd Netflix-like rental feature), reading it and then adding their own voice. Even if they hate it. You read Dead Silver or One Drink and didn’t like it? Then tell the world! Add your voice to the mix! Let everyone know! I have no problem with low reviews, provided you actually read the book and are being both genuine and honest (a topic for another day is the “critic” that never actually likes anything).

Now I have an answer. You don’t believe that my book can be that good? Then prove those other reviewers wrong. Grab a copy, read it, and add your voice to the mix. Nothing is standing in your way.

Risky? Well, a little. It’s quite clear that people who go into a work expecting to hate it usually come out without having their opinion shifted (something that’s been made highly clear in some of the “reviews” for the current Hugo nominations. Watching these reviews go into a Hugo nominee while declaring before they’ve actually read it that they know it will be terrible seems pretty suspect to me, though at least the reviewers are being honest about their biases). But I think it’s a valid answer.

Disagree with the reviews? Prove them wrong. Read the work, whatever it is, and add your voice to the mix. No one is stopping you but you. This doesn’t just apply to my work, but anyone’s work.

So at last, I have my answer. We’ll see how it works out.

For now, I’ve got a wedding to pack for. See you next week!

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