Before You Weep Over that Review…

I made a mistake when I took this photo. Apparently I moved the camera at precisely the right moment to create a shadow image. I had no idea I’d done it at the time. Only when I looked through the backlog of images on my camera this morning did I see it. I kind of like it.

It’s a good reminder.

The hoopla over “bad” reviews and various author reactions seems to be growing worse, not better. I put this down to several factors. Mainly, there are a lot of people who eat up this drama and love it when a new fight breaks out. These are the people who run around yelling “Fight! Fight!” while rounding up everyone they can find to scream from the sidelines. This is the reality TV of the interwebs. And, to follow up that analogy, the book reviewers and authors have discovered that this kind of fame is still fame. It’s all, as I’ve mentioned before, the chocolate-covered heroin of attention. A hit is a hit, after all. It might be the poisonous grade, but it’s better than jonesing.

At any rate, I don’t read all of my reviews. I read some, here and there. Especially if the reviewer calls my attention to it. But I’m fragile enough that I often skip the low-star reviews. I know, I know. Toughen up, sweetheart.

Eh, I’m not much for pain, outside certain contexts.

Then, the other day, I saw a book blogger on Twitter mentioning my name along with several other authors, saying she was doing a giveaway of some of her new favorite authors. I tweeted her back with a thank you and she replied that she was happy to, that she’d loved Sapphire. Surprised I’d missed a “loved” mention on a book blog – and, ok, maybe ready for a little hit of heroin – I looked at the review. Now I remembered seeing it. I hadn’t read it before, because she only gave it three stars.

Turns out, she uses a scale of zero to four stars. And she rated it low because she thought it was too short. (It’s amazing how many reviewers will do this. Feeding the Vampire gets low stars all the time for being too short. It’s one of the great drawbacks of digital presentation, I think. Had Feeding the Vampire been in a short story collection, for instance, no one would have felt betrayed by its brevity. But, because readers don’t necessarily pay attention to length when they buy and download, they settle in to read a novella or novel, only to have it end when they expect the story to be ramping up. I don’t blame them a bit – I’d likely feel the same way.)

Still, the point is, you never really know what you’re going to get and who will turn out to be a supporter. She didn’t have to include me in this special giveaway with these well-established authors. I didn’t expect such enthusiasm from that quarter.

Sometimes you look again, and see something you didn’t before.

20 Replies to “Before You Weep Over that Review…”

  1. Why a four-star system and not the standard 5? Daring to be different? :shrug: I don’t think I could ever dock someone a star because of shortened story length – unless the shortness left me feeling like the story suffered. I don’t get the need. I mean, it’s not like you’re buying books by the page. “Hey, I paid for 300 pages and you only gave me 250. I want a 50 pg refund.” LOL You pay for a complete story – whatever the length. These aren’t eggs or pencils, people. These are words. You get whatever amount of them it takes to make it from Chapter One to THE END.

    :end rant:
    Sorry. I didn’t know when I started that I was grumpy about stuff like this.

    1. Funny, B.E. – sometimes rants just lurk inside and we don’t realize how much they want out. I think that people *do* see it as a purchasing gyp. Like they only got half a bag of potato chips. For some readers, the length of immersion in the story is very important. I know I used to prefer the longest book possible, so I could stay “in” them longer.

  2. If you keep mentioning heroin and jonesing, you’re going to end up drawing some interesting traffic to your site.

    Buy, hey, attention is attention, right?

    1. Ah, Kev – you clearly have no idea. I already get upwards of a hundred spam comments each day. Believe me, the “interesting traffic” is not attracted to that kind of thing.

  3. Yeah, I have a couple of bad Librarything reviews that are quite explicitly about the length (You Fly Like a Woman is 12k but I can’t find a non-fiction equivalent for short story / novella). I’ve now tried to make the short length clear in the description. It still strikes me as an odd thing to rate down for, though.

        1. Well, FEEDING THE VAMPIRE is only about 7K and I have essays about that length. Of course I also have 1,500 word ones. All relative! I think managing expectations is huge.

  4. Nice post, Jeffe, and a very cool picture.
    “Mainly, there are a lot of people who eat up this drama and love it when a new fight breaks out. These are the people who run around yelling “Fight! Fight!” while rounding up everyone they can find to scream from the sidelines. This is the reality TV of the interwebs.”
    I think you make an excellent point here. There seems to be some kind of malignant pervasive anxiety in the air that is becoming more toxic. I guess uncertain times breed this kind of fear, but it sure is exhausting.
    “Never quit, never surrender” 😉

    1. There is a lot of anxiety, Jeanne – good point. People seem just desperate to sell. Suddenly it seems that EVERYTHING is a money-making venture. It can be exhausting, it’s true. Alas.

  5. Look at the examples we have for baseless stardom – Paris Hilton. The Kardashians. People who don’t actually *do* anything except stir pots in public venues. I get the impression the whole authors behaving badly shtick is a page out the starlet wannabe book.

    What’ll chap my hide is if this lack of ethics and personal integrity gets rewarded with increased sales for those authors indulging in temper tantrums over what amount to other peoples’ opinions.

    1. That makes a lot of sense – I totally believe that. However, I also believe that what flies for pretty people on TV doesn’t work so well for storytellers. I doubt they profit much from the behavior.

  6. People were upset Feeding the Vampire turned out to be short? It was called a ‘Quicky’!!! That’s kind of a giveaway that it’s a short story isn’t it! o_0
    (and yes: it was too short, but all good stories are, even if they’re a 1000 pages long 😉

    And I hate rating a review. That’s why I don’t use stars on Sullivan’s blog and grudgingly use them on goodreads.

    1. Isn’t that funny? Maybe they think “Quickie” means something…ELSE? You know, I hadn’t noticed that Sullivan never gives starts, but I can see that now. I like how you always include the “why you should read it” part.

  7. Nice post! I actually saw a 2 star review of my story that was a pretty good review. Don’t know why it only got two stars. When I was a reviewer, I didn’t give stars because like a lot of bloggers, I wanted my review to be read, not just a place to rack up another 4 or 5 star review.

    1. That makes sense, Tia. And yes, sometimes I read reviews – of other people’s books – where the rating seems wildly different from the text. I’m never quite sure what to think there, except that there’s something the reviewer isn’t saying.

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