Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Reviews and the Author

I have been contemplating the concept of objective versus subjective reviews lately. I have a slight problem with writing reviews. I want to give everyone five stars. But when I look at all the books I have read and reviewed there are definitely stand out pieces of work, and others that – for one reason or another – I didn’t enjoy as much. So what is the right way to write or read our reviews?

As writers, our work will always be subject to someone else's opinion. I believe it is the bane of any artistic form. Our writing is as open to public opinion as a painting on a canvas, or a dramatic performance.

Objective view is a form of opinion we can all relate to. I can admire the construction and literary worth of a book independent of its storyline. It is when the story is not to my taste, that the subjective part comes into play.

It’s the difference between recognizing the right of a painting to hang in a museum, but not ever wanting to see it hang on a wall in your house. Or liking an actor, but not running to see every movie he features in.

I think when reading reviews of our work, or writing reviews for others, we have to remember that there is a large percentage of taste involved. God made us to enjoy different things. Thank goodness, because the world would be a very boring place if we all liked the same things. What I love will not necessarily be what you love. And that’s okay. It’s not about pleasing our friends or colleagues. It’s about honestly conveying OUR individual experience.

I have come to the conclusion that a part of having our work ‘out there’ comes with the obligation to listen to the opinions of others – no matter how ‘out there’ those opinions may be.


Rose Dee’s first novel: ‘Back to Resolution’ was released in November 2011. Please visit www.koorong.com.au or www.amazon.com for details.

Rose’s next book: ‘Beyond Resolution’ is due for release in April 2012.

Visit Rose

at: ww w.rose dee.com


18 comments:

  1. I've found it strange how two reviewers can form two totally opposed opinions about the same book. It's been reminding me of the story about the blind men and the elephant (which I guess we've probably all read or heard). After reading a book by Dr Caroline Leaf about how the brain's neurons get fired off in totally different ways for different people, it all begins to fall in place. In effect, the two reviewers really ARE reading a different book.

    About the star issue, I agree with you. As a homeschooling mum, rating systems make me chafe. I'd like to be able to ignore it and just write my thoughts in the review, but if we do, a book gets 3 stars by default, which is misleading if we did enjoy it immensely enough to give it 4s or 5s.

    Thanks for the thoughts, Rose :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The neuron theory explains a lot. I will often read a review and wonder how on earth someone has come to their opinion. Maybe stars should have been left in the sky and not adopted as a ratings system. It doesn't seem to work that well with hotels either?????

      Delete
  2. The other issue is people have different ways of rating some will give 5 stars only to books that are so good they dont want to put down or are a top ten book. where as others give books they really like but may not make a top ten list a 5. I feel bad giving 4 at times but have found books that take longer to read I now give a 4 I want a 4 and a half rating. 3 I would give books I still like but take longer to real get into (which means alot of my fives should be 4s!)
    it is interesting reading other reviews especially books that I haven't liked or haven't been able to read much of and seeing how someone raves about the book. But then its often that its not the genre I like although I still sometimes wonder if we read the same book.
    I find it hard to review a book with only really reviewing the first chapter or so. Often there are things that happen in the book that are really touching or make the book but they are also gems that I want to find for myself without being told before hand. For example a book I read alluded to a brother who the hero felt guilty about and was working to support etc about halfway through the book he couldn't reach him by phone and next we see a stranger turn up in the area it is his disabled brother but it also showed he was way more capeable than the hero realised. This was not mentioned in the blurb. it was something special for readers that we were not expecting. As much as it really impacted the story It was also something that should not go in a review. So it does make it hard to give an in-depth review

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I never realised how intense the review system was until I started doing them myself, Jenny. You do an incredible job of keeping it real, as well as being a huge support to us. I know it must be challenging at times. Thank you for what you do.

      Delete
  3. I feel your angst, Rose. I reviewed a book on Amazon and gave it three stars. (I like to keep five for the TOP books). To my horror my review came up on Amazon as the negative review. I went in and changed it to four stars! I hadn't written a negative review!
    I guess it is all subjective. Maybe I'll just everyone five!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know - it's so hard, Jo. I try to be a really overwhelmingly supportive person to everyone around me. So this review stuff is challenging for me. There is a lot of taste involved and it is so subjective that it gets in the way of my desire to encourage and appreciate others.

      Delete
    2. I agree, Jo. An Amazon 3-star review is not a critical review. It's like buying food from McDonalds. A McDonalds Chicken Salad is never going to be as good as one from a top restaurant. But it fills the gap.

      In book terms, a three-star book is fine. Sometimes I choose books knowing that is what they are, because that is what I want to read. If I've just finished a heart-rending epic, I want to turn around and read a sweet romantic novella next. I love those Love Inspired, Heartsong and Barbour titles - but only rarely are they five or even four stars. IMO.

      And that's the point - reviews are only ever the opinion of that one person.

      Delete
  4. This is tricky. For the reasons explained, we must expect a range of review ratings if people are being honest. As a corollary, if every rating were five, something fishy is going on!

    When I read others' reviews, I look to see whether they've said anything negative or whether they (almost) always give five stars. If 'no' and 'yes', I suspect a Dorothy Dixer and move on. Is it permissible for a Christian to be so cynical? :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it is permissible, Peter. Being honest about our experience is important, but it sure is tricky.

      Delete
  5. As a soft-hearted Christian, I don't want to discourage anyone, so I tend toward looking at the positive attributes of a book. Sometimes there are what I see as obvious flaws which weaken the book, but I tend not to mention them, unless I'm being paid to do a structural edit. If the book is really bad (in my opinion) I don't write a review. I don't have the heart to put up a one or two star rating. If it is in print, someone somewhere must have thought it had merit - I don't want to rain on that parade!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, Meredith. I think we will always come across stories that don't suit our taste. But they will be to someone else’s taste.

      Delete
  6. There have been books I have tried to read and couldn't get into them. Then later I pick them up and love them, so maybe it does have something to do with the day and how the reviewer is feeling.
    And everyone has different tastes, i don't care for sci-fi, but I have read a few.
    I will point out flaw if i need to, but don't do it mean. Just say what i saw that seemed wrong. I did that for a little girl, but I did write "I hope you don't take offence to anything i said"

    We should try to be encouraging if we can.
    MEL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agreed, Mel. Encouraging each other is why we, as authors, currently review each other's work. Also the fact that the industry is still growing.

      Delete
  7. Hi Rose, I don't write reviews often, and I only write 5 star reviews. I won't write a review that could potentially damage the sales of the book or stop potential readers from picking up the book. A multi-published author friend of mine once said you're either a writer or a reviewer. The writing industry is very small, and a negative review not only impacts the author but their publisher as well. I don't think it helps your writing career to put out reviews that are negative, but at the same time it's not ethical to write a glowing review of a book that you didn't like or is poorly written.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is a great way to approach this, Narelle. I love the idea that you are either a reviewer or a writer. It is just that this industry is so small at the moment.

      Delete
    2. On that basis, I am definitely a reviewer who lurks around writing blogs!

      Delete
  8. Thanks Rose for sharing this. I think it is important to give a range of reviews. Even lower reviews are still good as it gives a range of ideas. We just need more reviewers and as always more buyers :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'm in the process of changing the way I review and rate books. I came across a statement recently that revolutionised my thinking. "It's not about you." My review isn't about me - or even how much I liked a book - it's about how good the book was.

    In the past I have rated a book less because it is not in my favourite genre. That is wrong. I'm learning to rate a book on its own merits.

    ReplyDelete