Published Author, Self Publishing, Writing

Why Your Four-Star Review Sucks!

Ok, I’m going to jump right in here and vent. As an independent author, reviews mean so much. Seriously, every time I release a book, or someone tells me they’ve read one of my books, the first thing out of my mouth is always, “Thank you.” The second thing is, “Will you please leave a review?” Most of the time people say yes, but also most of the time, they don’t do it even if they said yes. I’ve had to get my mind past that and not take offense. At first, I thought if they’ve agreed to it and haven’t left a review, they must hate it. But I’ve come to terms with the fact that some people just don’t leave reviews. They don’t want their name out there, or they’re not comfortable leaving one. I understand that, so I move on… but that doesn’t stop me from asking.

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I’ve been told that in order to feel like I’m not alone in this world of writing and self-publishing, that I should connect with other writers. I’ve tried that, and I follow quite a few on social media and they follow me back. But I’ve never felt a full connection with other writers. I’ve been in groups, and I see people connecting and talking about how they love each other’s books, and I’ve always felt like I’m on the outside looking in. What I’m constantly irritated by is the 4-star reviews I see writers giving other writers. I have seen more than one person lately talking on social media about being banned from Amazon or being reported on Amazon for leaving bad reviews. If you’re a beta reader and you’re giving poor reviews, you deserve to be blocked and reported. Seriously, WTF? Especially if you’re a fellow author. What’s the point when you yourself are striving for 5-star reviews, yet you’re so stingy with them and even go so far as to boast about the fact that you only leave 4-star reviews on principle? What’s your principle? Do you hold some special status in the literary world that we don’t know about? Do you feel better about yourself for withholding that one star? For the love of God! If you’re another author, you know the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into writing, editing, then self-publishing a book. Not to mention marketing! For those efforts alone, you should be giving 5 stars. Even today, I saw a review that an author left for another author. She posted it on Instagram. Of course, she only gave it 4 stars, then she went on to insult the plot, and even added, “insert eyeroll here” in her review. And the author she reviewed actually thanked her for that?!?!

This is why I don’t want to connect with other authors. For some of you, that 5th star may not be a big deal. For me, if I know you’re also a writer and you’ve held back that final star, I think you’re a jerk. A big, fat, hairy jerk! One of my recent books got a 4-star review… not only from another writer, but from one who had read all of the other books in the series and given me 5 stars. She not only withheld that star, but she insulted my writing. Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned that because now I’m fired up about that. How rude! My first instinct was to turn around and do the same thing to her, but I have more class than that.

I can think of at least 5 people I’m connected with who wear their “4 stars only” rule as a badge of pride. Not that they give a crap, but I don’t think that makes them seem intelligent or hold them in higher regard because if they happen to give me that 5th star, I’ll bow to them. Pfftt, hell no. I just roll my eyes and vow to never buy/read/review any of their books. Sidenote… I know of someone who bought The Art Of Zen and she’s a 4-star stickler. I’m thankful she bought my book, but I don’t want her to review it. Especially since I bought her book and gave her a 5-star review before I ever knew this about her.

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I know some who read this are probably thinking, “Geez, lady. Get over it and move on, it’s only a review.” That’s true. But this is my blog so I can vent about whatever I want. 4 stars is a good review, but if you’re willing to give it 4, there’s no reason not to give it 5. Oh, and another thing! My very first 4-star review on my debut novel was from someone who is not a writer, but a childhood friend. They have a strange screen name, so I didn’t know who it was. But I dug and I figured it out. I was shocked, and hurt… and 4 years later, I’m still irritated by it. I guess what I’m trying to say is, fellow authors and people who have known you since you were 8 years old, shouldn’t be jerks when leaving a review.

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Just my point of view… If we’re all in this together, we should lift each other up and give praise, especially if we want it in return. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk!

Published Author, Self Publishing, Writing

Screw The Review

As a writer, I like to share my reviews. By doing that, I hope to entice readers to check out my books. It’s a great way to thank a reader for a positive review, and to show potential readers that it’s worth their time. It’s all part of how us independent authors promote our books.

Yesterday, I went to Amazon to screenshot a recent review that I could share on Instagram. Because I had recently looked at my book, it was in my browsing history. I saw the number next to the book had increased by one, which meant I had a new review. Then I noticed the stars had decreased from 5 to 4, so I braced myself for a bad review. Sure enough, there was a new review. It wasn’t… bad… until it was.

A 4 star review is a bitchy move in my eyes. It means you enjoyed the book enough to give it praise, but your ego is in the way so taking away that one star makes you feel powerful. This person who deemed my book only worthy of her 4 precious stars is someone who has read the first three books in my series and loved them so much, she often promotes me on Instagram. I’ve been forever grateful that she gives me constant shout outs. She hasn’t promoted me recently, and really, that’s fine. I just figured she was busy writing because she’s also an author, or maybe she’s been reading. I know she’s an avid reader and is always talking about her latest read.

Why did I put the fact that she’s an author in bold? Because I think it’s important to point that out. In her review, she praised the path of the story and the happy ending these characters finally get to have. (Trust me, I got some hate from books one and two!) That was great, she loved how it moved forward. Then she insulted my writing. She used a term that is so demeaning to other authors because we’re all “warned” against doing it. Head hopping. Moving from one perspective to another. Look it up. Everything you see about it will tell you that it’s basically writing suicide.

I disagree for several reasons. I believe that in writing, the rules are… there are no rules. Write what you want to read. I like to read books that have different perspectives in the same chapter. I write in third person. One reviewer called it semi-omniscient. When you watch a movie, you see reactions and emotions from all the characters. Why shouldn’t you experience that in a book? Also, because I see this term pop up frequently, I’ve done my research and if there is a genre where that rule can be broken, it’s in romance. Why? Because romance is the main point of view. Guess what? I write romance.

I have wonderful editors and final readers. Highly intelligent individuals who would tell me if my work didn’t make any sense. This person- who put that term in the review that’s available for the whole world to see on Amazon and Goodreads- had the decency after reading book 3, to email me and point out a few things she thought should be changed. Ok, I was a little taken aback that she would do that. I mean, I’d never think to do that to her, but at least she kept it private. This wasn’t private! I was so insulted, hurt really, that I got in my head all day and chastised myself for being a horrible writer!

Was that what she hoped to accomplish? Did she need to tear me down in order to build herself up? Has she never heard the phrase, if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all? I wonder, if she knew how horrible I felt about myself after reading that, if maybe she wouldn’t have said that. She’s an author! A fellow writer! We’re all in this together, especially in the independent world. I’ve read several self-published books that I didn’t like. Because I’d never publicly shame someone or insult them, I gave them a positive review, pointed out what I did like, and kept my mouth shut on what I didn’t like. What’s the point?

As my editor’s husband pointed out, it’s one thing to leave a bad review about a product that didn’t work correctly but to say that about another person’s work is just plain shitty. I know that reviews are only opinions. But if her opinion of the overall story was a good one, why did she feel the need to take a dig? And it was a dig. How would she like it if I did it to her?

When I first started my journey as a writer, I received this advice, “Connect With Other Writers”. I did that. I went to a conference, met fellow romance authors there. I’ve connected with several writers on Instagram, done those stupid follow loops where people follow you, then unfollow you when you follow them back. I’ve collaborated with another author (More on that in a future post.) Do you know what connecting with other writers has done for me? It’s made me feel like shit about myself. I’ve participated in several author takeovers on Facebook and never gained a new reader. To me it was just a gathering of authors to see who had the best graphics and I never felt like I did compared to theirs. All I’ve seen are cliques of people who are never going to let you into their circle. No matter what I’ve done, or how I’ve tried to connect, I’ve always ended up feeling like the odd girl out. For the love of ***!!! I’m in my forties, I have no desire to feel like an awkward teenager again!

I honestly don’t know why this person said what she said. It was mean-spirited. End of story. I won’t reach out to ask her because if I wanted her critique I would have asked for it. In private. I hope she feels better about herself now. Maybe she needed to feel like she got her $3.99 worth from the purchase of the eBook.

If you’ve made it this far in this post, thank you for reading. Several people have told me to take it as compliment. “Brooke, you have a hater! You’ve made it!” Just be careful with your words when you’re leaving a review. Hundreds, probably thousands, of hours went into creating my book. For any author reading this, I know you can relate.

Rant over, but I’m still upset. I know a thick skin is needed in any industry if you want to succeed. I try to stay away from reviews because all it takes is one “meh” one to get into my head. But those good reviews really help us writers move forward. The bad ones make us want to walk away from something we love so much. So, from now on, my motto will be, Screw The Review!