Tag Archive for: reviews

Reviews that Sink Authors

Reviews that Sink Authors by Debra H. Goldstein

Traditionally, authors are told to ignore their reviews. Maybe some can, but most can’t. In fact, many writers can’t help focusing on anything except the bad ones.

I read reviews. Sometimes I totally agree and learn from the point being made, but more often, I’d love to respond (authors are also told not to respond). For example, when Maze in Blue was published, the reviews and ratings were all favorable – mostly 5’s and an occasional 4. And then, someone posted a one star on Amazon. The rationale was that I had gotten a main road in Ann Arbor wrong. The reviewer went on and on about how the road didn’t go straight and that if the character had really driven the route, they’d have run into a building.

The reviewer was right for the way the road presently runs, but the book was set in the 1970’s. The road and building mentioned were neither moved nor built until a year after the story occurred. I desperately wanted to respond with a choice comment, but happily, the next review, which was a five-star, pointed out that fact and noted what great and exact memories Maze brought back because the reviewer was a professor’s daughter who had lived on campus at that time. I was thrilled.

Talking to other authors, I’ve discovered they also have received one-star reviews that were a little out-to-lunch. One reviewer didn’t like the cover, another stated she didn’t read the book upon learning the name on the book was a pseudonym for an author whose last novel she didn’t like, and a third said the book, while enjoyable, wasn’t anything to write home about.

If you are an author, tell me about your “worst” review. A reader, have you ever left one you realized was an oops?

By the way, when it comes to being a writer or any profession, I think a sign I recently saw, says it all:


by Bethany Maines

Ahhhhhh… The soothing feeling of not being in a mad
marketing scramble.  
Being in a post-book release time frame is both relaxing and a little bit of a
let-down.  The majority of sales happen
around the book release week and after that, there’s just general marketing and
gulp, waiting for reviews to come in. Reviews, believe it or not, are quite
hard to come by.  In a world where
literally every service seems to ask for you to thumbs up, rate, review, rave
about, the good old fashioned recommendation of a book has become both more
important and yet, even harder to get.
Readers get intimidated by the process – do I need to write a book report?
  The answer to that one
is no.  Short reviews are frequently the
best.  For example, here’s the latest
review for The Second Shot
“A drunken mistake in college cost U.S. Marshal Maxwell Ames
the love of Dominique Deveraux and six years later, he’s determined to fix the
slip-up. But there’s just one tiny problem. When I started reading I couldn’t
put it down. Bethany Maines is magnificent and amazing writer. I cannot wait to
read more of her books. Keep up the great work. You should definitely read this
book. Can’t wait for the next book.”
Now obviously any review that calls me an amazing writer is
going to be tops with me, but beyond that, the reviewer did the one thing
that is required in a review – said what she liked. Then she gave it a rating
and moved on with life. No synopsis, spoilers, no over thinking or hard work.  Read the book, reacted, bam, done.
Then readers think
does it really matter if I leave a review?
Short answer, yes, it really, really does.  Even on
older books?
  YES!!  There are some marketing options that I can
only get if I have enough reviews or a high enough rating.  Your kind words really matter.  And of course, saying I’m an awesome writer
is the kind of thing that keeps me going when some meanie leaves me a two star
review. (It happens to everyone, we are breathing, we are breathing, and
letting it go…)
So to anyone who has left a book review, even if it wasn’t
for one of my books, I say thank you. 
And if you’d like to give a writer a gift… may I suggest leaving a
review on Amazon, BookBub, or Goodreads.

Bethany Maines is the award-winning author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, San Juan Islands Mysteries, Shark Santoyo Crime Series, and numerous
short stories. When she’s not traveling to exotic lands, or kicking some
serious butt with her black belt in karate, she can be found chasing her
daughter or glued to the computer working on her next novel.
You can also catch up with her on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and BookBub.

Equal Rights for Positives

by Bethany Maines

A funny thing happens when you read your own reviews – you start
thinking about them. 
I’m about a month away from completing the manuscript for Glossed Cause, the fourth book in the
Carrie Mae Mystery Series, and I made the mistake of checking out a few of the
reviews on High-Caliber
(CM #3).  I knew it was
a bad idea.  It’s always a bad idea.  What happens when I get to a bad one,
hmmm?  It’s not like I can look the
reviewer up, knock on their door and explain how monumentally wrong they
are.  But you think, “I’ll just look at
the good ones.  Just one.  I can stop there.”
You know this a total lie, right? Reviews are like Pringles
for the eyes.  Like I can stop with just
one.  I open up Amazon, I’m looking and…
then I read this: “If you enjoy reading about
Stephanie Plum, you’ll love Nicki! Maines is getting better with each book.

And I thought, “Hell, yeah!”
<insert fist pump here>

Just one?  But I have popped – I cannot stop. I should
read more! 

Eventually, of course, I got
to one with a complaint. I’d spent too much time on Nikki’s personal life. Gah!
But, but, but… Glossed Cause is about
her FATHER (among other things).  What do
I dooooooo????

Now I’m stuck staring at the screen, half way through the
book, trying to figure out if I should turn the ship or stay the course.  “Stay the course!” my internal editor
yells.  But it’s hard to hear over the
crashing waves of doubt. 
I was complaining a negative comment on another project to
my husband he said, “Well, I think it was awesome and my vote counts more.”  <insert lightbulb going on here>

Why do the negatives get more votes?  Shouldn’t the positives get equal
rights?  Here’s what I and anyone else
who is stuck in this trap are going to do: 
We’re going to go back, we’re going to read the first positive review,
and we’re going to believe that one.  Because
Maines really is getting better with
every book.

Signal Boosting

by Linda Rodriguez

I have piles of books sitting on my coffee table right now.
None of them are mine. Some of them are from people I know, even people I
consider dear friends. Many of them are from people I’ve never met and have
little connection with. Some are mysteries. Some are thrillers. Some are
literary fiction. Some are poetry. They all have one thing in common, though. I’m
planning to give their authors a signal boost in one way or another.

Today’s publishing environment is tough for authors in many
ways, but primarily in finding ways to bring the attention of readers to their
books. With the advent of easy self-publishing, everyone who finishes a
NaNoWriMo book can pop it up on Amazon with little or no editing, and amid the
flood of poorly prepared and written books, it can be difficult for the writer
who has put in the time, effort, and money to make their book the best it can possibly
be to let the potential reader know that hers/his is a good, high-quality book,
worth taking a chance on. The problem is the same for everyone, whether
self-published or traditionally published. It’s Gresham’s Law applied to books
rather than money—“Bad books drive out good.”

One helpful thing is for another author to lend a hand in
some way. Four of the books in those piles on my coffee table are books I’ve
agreed to blurb, that is, books for which I’ll write a short pithy review of
several sentences that will be placed on the cover of the book to entice
readers to pick it up. Blurbs can be terribly important. They help in getting
reviews and orders from bookstores, as well as in persuading browsing readers
to try the book. When I was starting out as a mystery novelist, established
writers volunteered to blurb my book, for which I will always be grateful. When
reviewers read brief raves from top writers, they became eager to review my
unknown debut novel. I try to pay that favor forward as much as I can within
the confines of time and scheduling. I’ve seen some writers who have benefited
from great blurbs by famous authors and then refuse to give blurbs to anyone
themselves. I can’t understand that attitude.

I have a blog, http://lindarodriguezwrites.blogspot.com,
and on it I have a long-running series called “Books of Interest by Writers of
Color.” I began that series as a resource for librarians and teachers who would
approach me after readings or conferences and ask for suggestions of books by diverse
writers. If it’s tough for all writers to get attention while buried in the
crowd, it’s nigh impossible for writers of color, who tend to be invisible in
modern American literature. I’ve been showcasing writers of color on my blog
for the past six years. Just a little way to pull an author or book out of the throng
and hold it up, saying, “This is good. Take a look.” The rest of the books on
my coffee table are books that I intend to signal-boost on my blog.

Like writing a blurb, this showcasing on my blog is
time-consuming. I could write an article or a good day’s pages on my current
novel or short story in the time I spend on reading, making notes, and writing
a blurb or review on my blog. So why would I bother?

I see the literary world as one large community and a set of
smaller communities, and I believe that building these communities and making
them stronger benefits all of us in the long run—writer and reader. I see my
work as all part of a spectrum, writing my books and poetry, writing my blogs, teaching
workshops, connecting with other writers and readers on social media, and
signal-boosting other writers who deserve attention. I believe we make the
world we want to have. And so the piles of books on my coffee table continue to
exist, no matter how many reviews or blurbs I write.

Do you believe in signal boosting? How do you feel when an
author often blurbs or praises another writer’s book to you? 

Linda Rodriguez’s third novel in the Skeet Bannion series, Every Hidden Fear (St. Martin’s Press), was
a Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, a selection of Las Comadres National
Latino Book Club, and received an ArtsKC Fund Inspiration Award. Her second
novel featuring the Cherokee campus police chief, Every Broken Trust (St. Martin’s Press), was a selection of Las
Comadres National Latino Book Club, took 2nd Place in the
International Latino Book Awards, and was a finalist for the Premio Aztlan
Literary Award. Her first Skeet novel, Every
Last Secret,
won the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel
Competition and an International Latino Book Award Honorable Mention, was featured
by Las Comadres National Book Club, and was a Barnes & Noble mystery pick. Her
short story, “The Good Neighbor,” published in the anthology, Kansas City Noir, has been optioned for


Find her on Twitter as @rodriguez_linda, on
Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LindaRodriguezWrites,
and on blogs with The Stiletto Gang http: https://www.thestilettogang.com/,
Writers Who Kill http://writerswhokill.blogspot.com/,
and her own blog http://lindarodriguezwrites.blogspot.com

REPLIES TO COMMENTS (because Blogger hates me, and even though I managed to comment from another browser twice, now it won’t let me comment even that way–huge sigh):

Paula, I write about a lot of different topics on my blog, but I’ve had a running series on Books of Interest by Writers of Color for 6 years. If you click on the tag “writers of color” on one of the latest posts, it will pull them all up to read.

Cyndi, I’m glad you agree and also signal boost. I’m always grateful for all of the writers who try to build the literary community they want to live in.

Readers Review!

By Bethany Maines

a starving author – leave reviews for the books you read today!
There’s a lot of talk these days
about shopping local with the goal of supporting actual people instead of
massive corporations.  Well, you
can’t get much more small, local, and actual than author.  Reviews really do help authors. It’s
through reviews that their books percolate through the great Google and Amazon
algorithms and get recommended to other readers.  And new readers means new buyers, which translates directly
to an author’s pocket book.
That being said, I don’t often
leave reviews for books. An author, I know that harsh reviews can be
devastating to writers.  I also
think that after working on the craft of writing for more than a few years,
that I’m pickier than the average reader and that can make for some rather
negative reviews.  But since I
truly value an honest review I have adopted a “If I can’t say anything nice,
then I don’t say anything at all” policy when it comes to reviews.  Which means that my reviews on Goodreads are further
a part as my life becomes busier with less time for reading, and I find it
harder to find a book that I love with the same passion I did when I was
younger.  Hopefully, that means
that if you see a review from me, you’ll know that I truly enjoyed the
So keep on leaving reviews, try
not to be too mean, and definitely, definitely keep on reading. 
Bethany Maines is the author of
the Carrie Mae Mystery series and Tales from the City of Destiny. You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube
video or catch up with her on Twitter and

Literary Genome Project?

by Bethany Maines         

As I was furiously hitting the “thumbs down” on Pandora this
morning, I wondered just how their stupid blankity, blank, blank, algorithms
could get my musical tastes so wrong. Pandora, for those unaware, is a free
music service that plays “stations” based on songs you select or “like.” I
doubt that I have ever “liked” an Audio Slave song, and even if I have, at no
point in my entire life, will I ever feel like Audio Slave at eight in the
An internet search reveals that Pandora algorithms ignore
such things as genre, artist, or what other members also like those songs.
Instead, they run of Music Genome technology that analyzes each song and
suggests songs that have similar characteristics. Which, in theory, is awesome.  At eight in the morning, it sucks major
hind tit.
But isn’t that the problem with algorithms? There is always
one more factor you wish the algorithm had been programmed to consider.
I used to read the newspaper movie reviews and I became
attuned to interpreting the reviewers taste to mine. A one star comedy was
really a two star comedy. A two star action movie was really four star
awesomeness. And a three star drama was a three star drama. The man really did
not fully embrace the action movie ethos. 
Finding a book to read is another exercise in mental
jujitsu. We all do it – weighing what we know about the author, the person
recommending the book, the book blurb, and any reviews, all before buying or
borrowing. All I really want is a book with minimal plot holes that makes me
laugh, fall in love, and thrill to moments of action. We need a Literature
Genome project! Something who can tell us all about the tone, the writing
quality and the basic je ne sais quoi of a book. Although, now that I think
about it – that may just be currently known as “a Librarian.”

The Stiletto Gang is now on Facebook!  Please come join us!
Bethany Maines is the author of
the Carrie Mae Mystery series and 
Tales from the City of Destiny. You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube
video or catch up with her on 

I’m Glad You Asked…

By Laura Spinella

My original thought was to do a post about the upcoming RWA conference
and RITA awards. I’ll be on my way to Anaheim at the end of the month for their
annual gathering of romantic-minded authors and accompanying soiree where the
RITAs are bestowed.  However, I realized that
a dress, shoes and an airline ticket do not for a blog make.
Then, yesterday, I heard from a reader. Derek first
wrote me about a year ago, and we’ve been chummy ever since. He’s a voracious
reader, who visits Goodreads more often than I frequent my liquor cabinet. In
fact, he reads so much, I worry about his vitamin D consumption and terminal
paper cuts. Derek sent me this link to an article in Publishers Weekly. For the
full effect, please give it a read.  The main gist of the article is Goodreads
dialogue, and not necessarily pleasant dialogue, between readers and authors. Whether you are an author, editor, agent or the most important component: a reader, the article is thought provoking.
Direct from Facebook, the other social media Kool-Aid, is my conversation with
Derek.  I would however, love to hear
your thoughts on the Publisher’s Weekly article. If you’re a reader/reviewer, is
it license to say whatever you want?  If
you’re an author, how do respond, if you respond? 
            Oh, BTW, about that RWA RITA thing…
If you could all keep fingers and toes crossed on the 28th, it would be very much appreciated! 
           Derek: I know we haven’t
talked in awhile but I stumbled upon this article about reviewers and authors
and backlash on Goodreads, and was wondering what your thoughts on it?

Me: Derek, it’s
always great to hear from you! And you sure picked an interesting question for
me… I feel like a Miss Universe contestant in the dreaded question round!
Interpreter, please! Well, interpreter if one is going to spend a lot of time
dissecting reviews anywhere, including Goodreads. 

Here’s my take for
whatever it is worth: I don’t read them. I don’t read reviews anywhere,
Goodreads, Amazon…  I don’t read them
if they’re glowing or a one-star kick in the teeth. I made that rule right after
BD came out. It just struck me as “awkward” to sit around reading
judgments about something that could never mean as much to someone else as it
does to me. I spent six years of my life with that book. It’s like toting your
kindergartner to school, shoving him/her in front of the student body and
saying, “OK, tell me what you think?” Reading is SO subjective, and
no two opinions are going to be the same. To say that an author reads a
negative review looking for ways to improve their writing, I wish them luck with
that. What happens when the next reviewer says the exact opposite? I don’t read
the good ones b/c there’s always a risk I might believe what they’re saying.
Seems like slippery slope to me.  

Lastly, I’d never
get into a dialogue with a reviewer. To what end? If they disliked my book (and
I’m sure some have), is a word war with me going to change their opinion? Maybe
I’m just not any good at dealing with negativity, or maybe i just think life is
too short. I do what I do. I love my book/s. Are they perfect? Heck no. But they’re
mine. Part of the job involves putting yourself out there for the masses to
comment on, like it or not. It’s a strange caveat you learn as you go. 

Well, I hope that
answers your question to some extent. Ask the next author and you’ll probably
get a completely different answer! I hope you’re having a wonderful summer!!
I’m off to CA in a couple of weeks… Again, I’d probably be happier alone in
my sunroom with my laptop. Writers are strange people (-;


Laura Spinella is the author of the RITA nominated novel BEAUTIFUL DISASTER. Visit her at lauraspinella.net