Friday, 18 January 2013

Can you believe a review?

.Can you believe a review?

There has been a lot posted about the importance of getting plenty of reviews for a book. I've just printed off a five page list of review sites from "Fabianspace" and I'm sure this isn't the only site that will offer you contact details of reviewers.
If you want to promote your free book with KDP some sites insist that you have a minimum of five 4* reviews before they will accept your listing. Writers are always talking about reviews they have received both good and bad.
I review for the Historical Novel Society and try to only take books that I think I would like. As I am doing this professionally I have to be honest and if I don't like the book any reason then I will say so. However, if I really don't like the book and can find nothing positive to say about it I will return it to HNS for someone else to do the review.
I make sure that my comments are never directed at the author but the book and I never put in a spoiler. I wonder if the reviewers realise how much damage they can do by posting a 1* or 2* review?
I would like to share with you some of the recent reviews I've received for my books on Amazon. I think they illustrate my point better than anything I could write.
“I have only started this book so can’t pass comment on the whole thing. So far I'm finding the story engaging but I'm distracted by the poor grammar. Someone surely must have proofread this before it was published? It’s  = it is its = possessive form of it. This is basic. If you can ignore errors and random , then give it a go.” 3*
I checked this manuscript and there was one instance of the incorrect use of the possessive apostrophe out of 55 uses. I use Dragon software – I know this is no excuse for poor proofreading - and occasionally the incorrect form is put and I don't pick this up.
Was it fair of the reviewer to say that my book was poorly written when there was only one of the grammatical faults the reviewer mentioned? Is it going to put off a potential reader?
"I like Regency romances and this is a good, interesting and, well written and it held my attention all the way through. The price is pretty incredibly really. Recommended." 4*
This is the same book.
"At first I didn't like the hero but as the story progressed he won me over and showed himself to be a decent guy deep down. The heroine  and her siblings are delightful and resourceful.
My tolerance for indifferent writing is usually quite high, but I couldn't get through this book. The writing style seemed to consist of a long load of short descriptions and the story itself was not
interesting enough to get through the monotonous long sentences.
The plot is okay and the book could have been much better if the author had developed the characters. The lack of character development means that the plot developments are hardly credible and leaves the reader annoyed rather than pleased at the end of the book. I like historical romances but this author is a Z lister rather than an A lister."1*
"Good plot and characters. I would recommend this book to those who enjoy romances. No more words to say the end."4*
Again these reviews are for the same title.

"The writing is stiff and stilted. There were numerous spelling and grammatical errors. Neither the hero or heroine had much depth of character or behaved in an admirable manner, particularly the heroine. For roughly the first half of the book she hates the hero and then suddenly realises that she is in love with him with no real interactions between the two that shows how that love grew, although physical attraction has been indicated. I managed to finish the book will not be reading any other lots books by this author." 1*
"I disagree with some of the other reviewers. I enjoyed the antics and tribulations of the odd couple in this novel. They were entertaining, romantic and funny.
Unusually, the heroine was so care of her two younger siblings (as their parents died). This means she is mature, extremely organised and somewhat bossy. The scarred hero who is just home from the war is frequent in regency novels but Ms Miller has an unusual twist on this character. At the start of the novel he was very depressed. He was not taking care of himself, his home or estate. He was drinking and locking himself in dark rooms. He did not want to interact with anyone. He was aghast when the heroine and her siblings arrive to live with him (as they had nowhere else to go).
I felt it was extremely well written. The author uses descriptive language impressively. She betrayed the gist of the period in an informative and readable manner. The characters dialogue is well written and memorable. They use language appropriate to their time, education and class – with no irritating modern phrases." 5*
Once more these reviews are for the same title.
This brings me to the point of the post. Should a writer or reader take any notice at all of the reviews?
A review is just the opinion of one reader - and few books are going to suit everyone.
I think it's a shame that so much emphasis is put on reviews. The Amazon algorithms highlight books with more than 12 five-star reviews and these titles are then included in various promotions.
I know there are hundreds, if not thousands, of books on Amazon with more than 12 five-star reviews have been put up by families and friends. Amazon is also removing reviews written by Indie writers for other Indie writers as they say they are invalid.
Another strange fact is that is that all but one of my negative reviews have been written and posted on It must be a cultural difference.
What do you think? Have negative reviews caused you stress?  Do you buy/not buy because of reviews?
Best wishes
Fenella J Miller

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