Not all reviews are made equals, and not all reviews are fair.
Let’s say you buy a toaster.
It works, all good, you give it a 5star.
It doesn’t work, 1 star.
In between, there’s how well it cooks bread on both sides, how easy it is to clean, to use. All those things, though, can be judged in a fairly impartial way measured on a works/doesn’t work scale. There’s little left to the personal interpretation in a burned slice of bread you had set the timer on 2 minutes for.
How does that relate to books reviews?
It does by contrast, because books reviews gravitate in the opposite realm as writing, like all other forms of art, is strictly personal. The works/doesn’t work rule hardly applies.
There are wrongs, sure, but the line is subtle, grey, and often based on the (over-inflated) ego of the reviewer.
Let’s take grammar. Some things are plain wrong. Just wrong. But with so many types of English out there (US, UK, Australia, India, New Zealand) which are all correct in their own differences, a different phrasing might end up being considered wrong.
Would an Australian author deserve a 1star review from an Indian reader because, in each country, that concept or thought is wrote differently? To me, it’s a hard no.
On top of it, a lot of what goes into a review is a matter of personal taste. Overthinking characters. Domineering Hero. Vaguely silly Heroine. Violence. A lot of action. A little action. Explicit sex or closed doors. Unclear settings. All the above, and so much more, can be capital sins to a reader and shruggable details to another.
Does the author deserve a 1 star review?
Personally, being both a writer and a reader, the golden rule is clarity, so as long as things (settings, situations, and characters) are clear, I’m good–if I like the story.
There’s truth in the fact that many 1star reviews mean something is not working in the story, and for sure readers are entitled to their opinion. It’s what art is about, as I said. Personal.
The problem is another, and it doesn’t touch only book reviews.
Have you ever spent some time reading all the negative review of a product, any product?
If you have, you’re bound to have met some stupidity.
I kid you not, following are some of the reviews I found–
About a pair of shoes: “I ordered the wrong size”. 1 star.
About a set of children painting that had a pre-set colors choice. “I wanted to order the other set of colors.” 1 star.
About an erotic novel: “there was too much sex, it was offensive.” 1 star.
About an adventure book: “I don’t like the cover.” 1 star.
Sadly, I could go on.
Again, it would all be good and well because if I’m interest in buying a product, it’s not that kind of review that makes me question it. It may crack the faith I have in human intelligence, but it would not go against the product.
Back in the books market, though, such reviews do more damage than that.
To promote your book on websites with huge newsletters, those that assure the book decent exposure, you need to have an average of ten 4star reviews for a newly released title.
So those little 1star, idiotic reviews any functioning brain would discard within 10 seconds, actually make a lot of damage. Math, being the merciless bit&h it is, states clearly that it takes more than one 5star review to take up the average of one 1star.
That author will be refused from those websites, will not advertise a book that maybe has merits, and make no money.
Yes, the problem is the system, is bonding advertising to something as fickle as people’s judgement, but as this topic would require a blog post all on its own, I’ll leave it at that.
So, to put it all together, being this a world where anyone can say what one thinks, I will certainly review books and publish reviews with less than 3 stars.
On my blog, on someone else’s blog, websites, and so on. Not on Amazon.
I’ll never publish a less than 3 stars review on Amazon, unless I see there’s so many positive reviews (I’m thinking numbers in the hundreds) where my review will not impact that author’s chance to advertise his or her work.
An author, especially one fighting for reviews like indies or newbies, has a lot to lose from a review I write that might be tainted by my own ignorance, not the Author’s.
And for what people think is okay to write in those reviews, I’ll leave it for another fight.
About Viviana MacKade
Beach bum and country music addicted, Viviana lives in a small Floridian town with her husband and her son, her die-hard fans and personal cheer squad. She spends her days between typing on her beloved keyboard, playing in the pool with her boy, and eating whatever her husband puts on her plate (the guy is that good, and she really loves eating). Besides beaching, she enjoys long walks, horse-riding, hiking, and pretty much whatever she can do outside with her family.
The best way to know me is through my website (and the books I host): http://www.viviana-mackade.blog/