An Author Writes About Book Reviews


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Review the book that you have just read, not the one that you wish the author had written.

Beware! Reviews get reviewed, too.

Although it might be presumptuous of me to speak for other writers, I think I can safely say that the vast majority of authors love getting reviews for their books. The sad statistic is that only about two out every thousand readers take the time to write a review on Amazon about a book they have read. That constitutes about 0.2% of readers

Harold MacMillan, publisher (and once Prime Minister of the UK) once said that a writer wants naught but praise for his work. There might be some truth in that, but it is not all of the truth. I know that I, and many writers of my acquaintance, tend to very quickly skip over complimentary reviews and spend more time with the critical ones. It is, of course, gratifying to hear words of praise for one’s work, but in those words, as well as the critical ones, the author always wants to know, “Why?” Why was it that you liked it? Why was it that you didn’t like it? Answers to these questions by reviewers who appear to have some idea about writing and prose, are often very helpful to a writer both in terms of how he approaches future work, and in terms also of whether he feels he should rewrite parts of already published work. I received well over 100 reviews for my last mystery book, close to 90% of them between four and five stars. But there were some criticisms that hit home, and I contacted my publishers with significant rewrites and corrections of errors pointed out by readers. The book has benefitted enormously from these changes.

However, does that mean authors jump to attention at all critical comments (or, indeed, complimentary ones)? Some reviewers are articulate and take a lot of care to structure their reviews and present them to Amazon (or wherever) error-free. Such reviewers command respect and writers would tend to take careful note of what they say. Other reviewers contribute lazy, poorly expressed reviews that often attempt present the author’s work in a poor light. I never quite understand why they do that, particularly when these reviews tend to indicate that the reviewer has limited awareness of what the author was actually writing about. I have had a couple of reviewers downgrade my rating because they had to turn to the dictionary too many times, while others compliment me on the clarity and simplicity of my prose. Who does one believe? And what do both critiques say about the people who wrote them? Indeed these kinds of contradictions turn up quite a bit, leaving writer mildly confused.

Enjoy more……

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