My name is Andrea Grigg and I don’t like writing reviews.
Some of it stems from the fact I’m not a natural reviewer. It takes me hours, even when I love a book. I could rave about it verbally – albeit not coherently – but to write one is a challenge. I forget plot points, themes and often can’t remember the subtext. All I know is I adored the characters, felt their pain and then the love when everything turned out as it should.
But there’s a great deal more to my discomfort than that.
Nola encapsulated my thoughts beautifully in one of the threads on my January 14 post: (You’ll need to set aside half an hour if you want to read all the comments). Here's what she had to say:
‘I sometimes feel 'put on the spot' when I read something I don't think is up to scratch. I want to support Aussie authors, but I don't want to give a book an endorsement or write a good review unless I feel I can wholeheartedly do that. Sometimes, I feel there's a subtle pressure to support Aussie authors regardless of the quality. While this might seem helpful (especially when these are people you've met at conferences and have friended on Facebook), it can do damage in the long run. If I give a book a four or five star rating, my integrity is on the line. If a friend of mine takes up my recommendation and then discovers the book is not up to par, they're unlikely to follow my recommendations in the future and may even get the impression that that particular book is indicative of other Aussie Christian novels. I hope I haven't offended anyone by this comment. As I said, I think we have some great Aussie Christian writers. But quality is key. I want to read and recommend a book because it's a great read and not because I'm friendly with the author or don't want to hurt the author's feelings. So although it may seem counter-intuitive, a good way to support Aussie authors is to write honest reviews that include less positive comments when warranted. I'm not talking about tearing something to shreds. If I really can't endorse a book, I don't review it. However, readers respond more to honest reviews than glowing reviews that lead them to buy a lacklustre book.’
Totally agree with you, Nola! I too have had a problem allocating stars.
So what do they mean?
On Goodreads, three stars means ‘liked it’; four means ‘really liked it’ and five says ‘it was amazing’. (Amazon is one star higher than Goodreads, ie. Three on Goodreads is four on Amazon).While I obviously prefer to get four or five star reviews, I’m ok with three stars. At least they still liked it!
As a teacher, I spent a lot of time convincing parents that a ‘C’ on a report card is completely acceptable. A ‘C’ means satisfactory; their child is exactly where they should be for their grade level. What’s wrong with ‘liked it’?
I’ve also received a couple of two and one stars, but you know what? My books aren’t going to be everybody’s thing and that’s ok. No point in chucking a hissy fit. Besides, they’re not the usual ratings I receive. If they were I’d be taking a good look at my writing.
Second, I have absolutely NO CONTROL over what readers decide about my book. I have to ‘let it go’. (Ha! Just when you thought you’d got that song out of your head!) This may seem a very simplistic view, but until someone convinces me otherwise, I’m keeping it.
To back up my thoughts, here’s what one reader said in a controversial thread on Goodreads recently: ‘I actually steer clear of books that only have high ratings. It stinks of coercion.'’ That’s not the first time I’ve heard or read that sentiment.
The other thing I wrestle with is the fact I’m a writer. Aren’t writers supposed to write? Is that not where their focus lies? And doesn’t that suggest readers review? Nora Roberts stated this in a recent (and controversial) article published on The Passive Voice earlier this month. You can read it here.
An excellent ACW post addressing the dilemma an author faces as a reader/reviewer was published by Narelle Atkins this time last year. You can read it here.
Despite everything – and please don’t think I’m saying everyone should do this because I’m not – I will continue to review. It stretches me and I like a challenge. However, as an author/ reviewer, I’ve made myself a few guidelines:
- If I know the author personally and I can’t give their work four or five stars, I will contact them and give the option of whether I publish my review or not. Usually it’s simply because their book is out of my genre comfort zone and therefore hasn’t grabbed me like it would someone else. Their call.
- If I don’t know the author personally and would give their book three stars, I won’t write a review. I don’t want to risk someone getting upset, perhaps Googling me and discovering I’m an author too. I had an overseas author give my first book three-stars and then explain what they thought needed improving. I certainly didn’t contact them and complain. I have no intention of becoming what Amazonians describe as a BBA (Badly Behaved Author).
Here's an article Iola shared on the ACW Facebook page recently. I read it thoroughly, ie. Clicked on all the links and I have to say, it was pretty scary! It also confirmed my third personal guideline.
- I will NEVER, EVER comment on any reviews. Even if the reviews are good, in my opinion, commenting directly on the review site can make the reviewer uncomfortable and come across as stalker-ish. If I want to thank someone I will send them an email or message them on Facebook (if I know them well enough).
So what are your thoughts on reviewing? I’m looking forward to finding out J
Andrea Grigg lives on the Gold Coast, Queensland, and is a writer of contemporary Christian romance. Her first book, ‘A Simple Mistake’ was a finalist in the 2012 CALEB awards. Her second novel, ‘Too Pretty’ was released in August 2014.
Twitter: @andreagrigg https://twitter.com/andreagrigg
Twitter: @andreagrigg https://twitter.com/andreagrigg