Ratings and Reviews: When Expectations Fall Short

Have you ever been worried about reviewing a book you weren’t thrilled by? How about posting a less than four or five star review on a book by someone that everyone loves (including you)? As I begin to advance in my own career as a writer, and start to meet some of my fellow authors, I feel like I’m heading to a cross roads as a reviewer.

About a year and a half ago Ronald Malfi posted something nice on his Facebook page about a piece of my work. I was psyched and humbled. I then messaged him to see if he might do me the honor of a proper review. He was kind in his reply, and stated that he didn’t do regular reviews anymore. I thanked him anyway and went about my business. It wasn’t until recently, when I started releasing my own books, that I began to understand the benefits of opting out of posting reviews. It all goes back to that question: What if I don’t like it as much as everyone else? What if that person is a now a friend? It’s a hard position to be in. You never want to irk somebody (or their fans), and us writers are a pretty sensitive bunch.

So far, I’ve been lucky. The majority of works I’ve read by people I know have been good, really good, or great. Still, there are those few…

I love to read, I know writers love reviews, so I keep on going about it as I always have: honesty, with no spoilers! But it this year, I had to stop reading a few books because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to give them nice reviews. One book was like a horrible B movie, one insulted me, and one was just bad. Those ones were easy, I didn’t finish them, so I didn’t review them. The more difficult reviews to post are now the three star reviews. In the Goodreads world that seems to be littered with glowing four and five star reviews, a book that rates with Orion’s belt seems like a sad, sad thing.

OR

And it’s not! I’ve actually been applauded and chided over the lesser (in some eyes) rating. Personally, I would love to get three stars, and have. A couple years ago, when I was just starting out, I ran into one of the authors I gave three stars. They told me I was the only one to give them that low of a rating. They didn’t say whether or not it upset them (this person didn’t seem irritated at all), they just noted it to my face. I’m quite certain I blossomed into ten shades of red. Although it was a little uncomfortable, we have remained friends. My little three stars paled before the heaps of love this particular novel received, but that didn’t erase the fact that I felt bad. It really does seem silly that I almost don’t dare to do reviews for the less than four star books. I wonder if I’m the only one with this problem, if I’m an oddity, but doubt that I am.

Going back to the Ronald Malfi stance…If I were as big and well-respected an author as he is, I guess my “opinion” might be more damaging. I can see that, especially if their fans are your target audience. It puts one in an interesting position.

If I ever reach the status of a Malfi or a Keene, maybe I’ll adopt the no review philosophy. Until then, I’ll keep on doing what I’m doing and hope I don’t ruffle too many feathers in the process.

3 thoughts on “Ratings and Reviews: When Expectations Fall Short

  1. Funny thing. I found this post because I follow Hunter Shea. As I read it, I found myself disagreeing with you – strongly, at times. I always thought I was doing other readers a favor by posting a negative review when the product an author was selling was sub-standard, just as I thought a positive review was merited to spread the joy when I was uplifted and/or entertained. After all, a book review is just that: a review of a book, not a judgment of the writer as a person, and any writer who couldn’t glean the difference had no business being IN the business. But I gave the subject a lot more thought, and came to a simple conclusion: I would rather spend time writing reviews only of books I enjoy. Life’s too short, and I hold the genre in too high a regard to waste one more minute dwelling on the negative. So thanks for giving me something to think about. Safe and happy New Year to you and yours.

    1. Thanks for reading my piece. Hunter rules! My post is definitely more about authors reviewing authors, rather than readers reviewing authors. You are absolutely right about writers needing to have tougher skin. I agree, but the truth is, a lot of us are sensitive still. I might just be being a little over cautious, and hopefully I am.
      Thanks again for reading. Hope you have a great 2015, as well.

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