July 24, 2019

Reviews…the good, the bad, and the ugly

By JoDee Neathery

Book reports and book reviews are often considered in the same light, but there is a major difference in the two. The “report” is generally a simple summary of the story and a “review” is a form of literary criticism in which a book is merely described or analyzed based on content, style, or merit.

An author’s best friend is someone who takes the time to read their book and offer an opinion on the work on Amazon and/or Goodreads. The review should be based on the reader’s opinion with all that is necessary is yes, I liked it and why, or no, I didn’t like it and why. When you have devoted enormous energy in writing a book that you can be proud of, it’s disheartening to read that someone’s opinion was short of enthusiastic. We must remember the reader’s opinion is not a commentary on you, the author, but it’s difficult sometimes not to take it personally. I was told early on in this process to never comment on any posted review…it opens a natural justification dialogue that you cannot win no matter what you say. Especially if it is a critical review, you will be viewed as a whiner sucking on sour grapes.

Authors are keenly aware that less than 10% of those who read their book will review it, but we also know customer reviews drive sales. Often the most critical reviews reveal more than the glowing ones. I received a one-star review recently and honestly appreciated the comment, “It was not my cup of tea. I prefer a faster-paced novel with minimal descriptive phases.” That’s a legitimate statement that should not offend even the most sensitive souls. Where we as authors draw a line in the sand is when a critical review is of the condition of the book with disregard to the reader’s assessment of it other than the cover was creased. This is when it is very tempting to fire back a response…but taking a deep breath is recommended instead. Another faux pas is a bend-over-backwards love of the book with a one-star rating…obviously something went awry in the understanding of I loved it (five-stars) and I hated it (one-star.)

In my capacity as chairperson of our community book club (92 strong on the email list) we research a good number of books before selecting them for our group. We look at the reviews both positive and critical as often threads highlight the same issues giving us a clearer idea of the merits of the book according to the overall reader’s opinions. A recent example of this was our May selection, one with over two-thousand reviews but 6% were scathing as though the other 94% had read a different book.

What we can garner from the mysterious world of reviews as readers and writers alike is to respect a person’s right to an opinion, offer ours in honesty, and take all with a grain of salt.  
JoDee Neathery, born in Southern California, moved with her family at age five to her Dad’s home state of Texas, residing in Midland. After graduating from high school her eyes were on attending a small liberal arts college in Louisiana, majoring in dance with aspirations of a Broadway career. Her daddy, whom she adored, set her pipe-dream aside suggesting that unless she wanted to be a teacher or a nurse, a better option for her would be to find a job. Thus, her jazz hands were relegated to typing and shorthand with her professional career beginning in the banking industry, moving into public relations executive recruiting until the explosion of the Internet changed the way employers searched for employees. After her husband retired, they relocated to the Cedar Creek Lake area where she handled publicity for the Pinnacle Women’s Club and became chairperson of their book club. “Without the encouragement, prodding, and cheerleading of these members who believed in me before I did, my novel would still be a flight of fancy.” Literary novel, Life in a Box, debuted, July 2017. JoDee and husband Mickey live in close proximity to their only daughter, son-in-law, two grandsons, a bird dog, two cats, a donkey, and a few head of cattle. She continues to chair, write minutes and reviews for her book club, enjoys a by-line in a local newspaper, and loves to share her journey to all that will listen. Social Media links: Twitter: authorihope  Instagram: neatheryjodee   LinkedIn: JoDee Neathery

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