Monday, September 19, 2016

I'm a Fixator

Book Reviews: I'm a Fixator

Some authors don't read reviews of their own books. Others fixate on them. I'm a Fixator. probably because I've only written a couple of novels. I like to read nice things about my books. Five star reviews make my day. 

But there is grade inflation on how many stars a book receives. Your friends and family will award five stars because they love you. Other readers may not (they may or may not love you, and they may or may not award your book with five stars). But I really think that getting some negative reviews makes your book more balanced when both good and bad are posted on a review site such as amazon. To compare this to the traditional school report card, getting a "B" or even a "C" (which actually is/was "average" back in the day) brings us down to the real world, where some readers like a particular book and some don't. When I think of the great writers (Steinbeck, Hemingway, Faulkner, etc.) and compare them to myself, I'd award them twenty out of five stars. Maybe more. 

I've seen websites where other authors offer to post five-star reviews on your books if you'll do the same for them. I suspect many of these books aren't actually read.They can read the back cover and pull up a few reviews or descriptions on, and that's all they need to write a credible review.  
When we purchased a car, the salesman made a point of telling us we would receive a survey, and---there it was in his those puppydog eyes---the pain and fear of not getting top marks. Seems his friend had bought a car from him at the dealership and had raced through the post-sale survey, rating everything as "Good," with no knowledge of the harm he was causing the salesman, who explained to us that it had taken him two years to "pull his grades up" and overcome the "Goods" in his file. Who knew that Good was Bad?

Waiters and cruise ship stewards will ask you for "excellents" too. Their livelihood may be at stake. I nod my head and reassure them that they'll get top ratings from us. I've come to anticipate that embarrassing little speech and cut it short with a quick "Yes, you'll get all 'excellents' from us." So I became a player in that game, too.

You never know what to expect in a review. I have to wonder if Very Sensitive (and kind) Readers will give five stars to just about anything they read, while Insensitive Readers won't. I reviewed books for one nationally-known website for several years, but stopped when their instructions were modified: If you can't award four or five stars, please send this book back to us and we'll give it to another reviewer (presumably one who gives lots of fours and fives). Sometimes they'd sent me books that needed a lot of work and weren't ready for prime time, and I'd tell them I couldn't give it a fair review.  But now there's no room for that kind of interchange. They are now a four and five star review site. Perhaps business has flourished.

But now, in my case, we come to some of the Bigger Guys: Foreword Magazine and Kirkus Reviews. They shoot straight from the hip. In their reviews, there are some mentions of my strong points as a writer and negative comments that make me squirm. Well, I read both Squirmy Reviews and did a little wincing, too, because I think most of the criticisms were accurate and fair. Plotting has always been my weakness and a good reviewer will take note of that. 

These two sites offer you the option, after you've read your review via email, to allow them to post it on their web page or to not post it anywhere (the term on their web page is "kill it"). If you go for the "publish" option, the entire review appears on the company's website and may be posted (or excerpted) elsewhere.That means, of course, that you can quote one flattering sentence and put it on your amazon page. By excerpting and only publishing the best parts of the review, you can make it appear that the reviewer loved your book when they didn't. It seems we're all players here.

So, Gentle Readers, there you have it. 

p.s. I do like such terms as "nuanced," "strong character development," "imaginative tale" and "Jensen takes a light touch..." if you ever write about my book. 

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