Sunday, May 19, 2013

"Unprofessional Reviews"...WTF?

Oh my god! How dare you review my literary masterpiece, you’re not even a proper reviewer! You’re just someone unqualified person off the street who read my book!

So, some authors out there seem to think that it’s okay to look down on “unprofessional reviews”. I don’t know WTF an “unprofessional review” is because, frankly, unless you’re working a fulltime job as a reviewer for The Times Literary Supplement or something, everything else probably counts as unprofessional, right?

I can’t remember the last time I bought a book based on a scholarly review. Because, let’s be honest, they’re mostly boring. Not only don’t I care if the journey of the MC can be read as a revisionist reinterpretation of Marxist-feminist postmodern theory, I don’t really understand what that means. (Note: probably nothing. I just strung some words I remembered from university together.)

Scholarly reviews are interesting, well, if you’re a scholar. But what about if you just want to know if you’ll like a book or not?

And that’s where all those “unprofessional reviews” come in. Tell me how much you loved a character. Tell me how you wanted to throw your Kindle across the room. Tell me how smexy it was, or how it gave you chills. Because that’s the stuff I want to know about, before I shell out some money for a book.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep on saying it: A reviewer doesn’t need to justify why they liked or hated a book. Either it worked for them or it didn’t. As an author, you shrug and move on. And you know what? It doesn’t even matter. Because for every person who thinks what you wrote was a steaming pile of crap, there will be another one who loved it and wants to have its babies.

And what’s with all this passive-aggressive bullshit lately about “Oh, you just said you hated it, and didn’t give any constructive criticism, that’s not a real review”. Well, a reviewer doesn’t have to give an author constructive criticism. Hell no. The ship’s already sailed on that one, buckaroo, because that was the job of your beta readers first, and your editor second.

And while it’s nice to get a review that tells you exactly what a reviewer liked (or hated), again, that’s not their job. They bought your book. They can paper the cat’s litter tray with it if they really want. And what do you care? They bought your book.

So, authors, take a deep breath, step away from the computer, put the crazy down, and let me sum this rant up for you:

1.    A reader does not need to have a degree in Literary Criticism in order to have a valid opinion.

2.   A reviewer does not have to be a paid reviewer in order to have a valid opinion.

3.  People review books because, generally, they love reading books and then discussing them with other people who also love reading books. Not because they're part of a secret global plot to discredit you. (You're not that important.)

4.   Stop whinging and go and write something.  


Natasha said...

Yay! Now I know you are the best author out there :-)

Thank you so much for your post. I wish it could be reblogged everywhere. I never say anything about books that I rate less than perfect because sometimes I just can't say what didn't work for me. As a person who reads between 7 to 11 books a week, there are a lot of duds out there and I can't be bothered with the flack.


Lisa said...

Thanks, Tash!

And "best author out there?" LOL, I wish! I'm just tired of seeing reviewers get blasted for giving their opinions, when an author should be thankful they bought the damn book in the first place :)

Nona Raines said...

Thanks for a bracing dose of reality. Yeah, I've had a few reviews that made me shrivel, but you're absolutely right. Giving a reviewer a hard time only reflects badly on an author. Hey, a review is just one person's opinion, and how can one argue with an opinion?

And speaking selfishly, even though reviews are for other readers, they're so important to us authors as well. I've even heard that having some negative reviews sprinkled among the good makes a book look more legitimate. At least, that's what I tell myself :-).

Lisa said...

Absolutely, Nona! Nothing looks more suspicious to me than all five star reviews.

We've all had reviews that make us cringe. Or, in my case, make me head straight for a glass of wine, but that's part and parcel of putting your work out there. It just never ceases to amaze me the number of authors who respond negatively to a bad review. Because that's smart...

You're dead right that you can't argue with an opinion. And how boring life would be if we all only liked the same things.

Mel Leach said...

Very well put. In fact, if authors only relied on the reviews of the professional reviewers to sell their books, they wouldn't sell nearly as many. As an avid reader, I want to know what other readers think. I value the opinions of the general reading public much more so than the opinions of the professional reviewers and even other authors. I'm also not a fan of the "book report reviews"... don't tell me what the book is about; I can get that from the blurb. Tell me WHY you liked it or WHY you didn't like it. Also, do not discount the positive impact a bad review can have. I follow a lot of amateur reviewers and sometimes I know I will LIKE a book just because another reviewer (whose tastes are divergent from mine)doesn't like it.

Lisa said...

Thanks, MLissaLou! I've bought heaps of books based solely on negative reviews. And I agree about the book report reviews. I'm much more likely to buy a book if you tell me your emotional reaction to it. That interests me a lot more than a plot outline. :)

Nina said...

Great post! Shared on Twitter because I completely agree :)

Lisa said...

Thanks , Nina!

J.A. Rock said...

Great post, and could not agree more. If I have to be qualified to talk about books, we're gonna have some problems, because I don't think I'm "qualified" to do anything except sit around in my pajamas eating cookies.

Although, if I could find a way to do that full time...

Lisa said...

If there was a job you could do that full time, I'd fight you for it!