The Reader Behind That Review You Hated

My last post was about the author behind the book you hated, but in order to make this issue a bit balanced, I decided to write a post about the reviewer. When a bad review comes along, authors probably don’t stop to think about the person who actually took the time to put that review out there and what their purpose was in writing a bad review.

Right now, I’ll tell you that I don’t rate or review books and I’m sure some of you may think I have no business writing a post about the reviewer. Luckily, this is my blog so what I say goes!

Sometimes, I’m completely confused about some of the reviews I’ve read online, especially those reviews for some of the books I absolutely loved. Is that the same book I read? Nope…couldn’t possible be. But it is!  People see things in totally different ways. Just as all writers bring something different to the page so do all readers.

A friend of mine told me she had a difficult time with my last book because she grew up in a home where alcohol was a really big issue and, like the protagonist, Cammie, she didn’t know who her father was. I totally understood why she might find, “Flying with a Broken Wing” a difficult read. Cammie’s aunt Millie is a bootlegger, after all, but I never would have thought of this book as being “difficult” for anyone to read. Many people have found it funny, in fact.  Still, her comment opened my eyes a little bit to the experience that each reader brings to a book. There could be many reasons why someone disliked a book or even wrote a bad review that might not have a thing to do with the story or the writing itself. Perhaps there was something in the book that reminded them of a bad experience they had or one of the characters reminded them of someone who made their lives miserable and they just couldn’t get past that.

We can’t know what all makes up that reader’s life experience, who they are and where they’ve been. Did they grow up in a loving household? Maybe they’re unwell or feeling unloved or lonely. There are so many factors that could go into this. Perhaps the only way they have of expressing their negative feelings is to lash out in words. Perhaps again, they feel an obligation to warn other readers that they’re about to waste their valuable time reading that 500 page book that they determined was gibberish.

One thing I have come to understand about this world I live in and my experience in it, my opinion, and my expression of that opinion, is only important to me (and perhaps the sacred few who value what that opinion might be.) I have lived long enough to know that, while opinions are sometimes important, many times they really are not. What I like or what I don’t like makes absolutely no difference in the big scheme of things. We won’t all like the same book, any more than we’ll all like the same clothes or food or cars or people. Thank goodness!

I’m all for responsible reviews where a reviewer is able to give their opinion about a book, maybe even point out some obvious flaws if they feel so inclined, hopefully in a constructive way. It’s important. Diversity makes this world a better place to live.

Any writer will agree that expressing yourself through words is important. We were born to communicate, but communicating in a responsible way only makes you look classy and maybe earns you some respect along the way if you care about those things. Truthfully, those things aren’t important to everyone. I know that.

I love what author Sue Harrison had to say about my last post. If a novel is too horrible, I simply don’t review it. Why break somebody’s heart because of my (perhaps erroneous) opinion!?!”   Smart lady!

Have you ever given consideration to the reader behind the review? Has your own life experiences ever influenced your reading experience when it came to a certain book? Have you ever wondered about the reader behind that bad review?

The Author Behind That Book You Hate

As young reader I can’t recall ever reading a book and thinking it was horrible. I was much more accepting, much more willing to read a book with open eyes, not critically looking and examining what I believed to be faults in the story or the writing. I just read for the love of reading. I accepted the story for what it was. But then, that’s the beauty of youth, the way we keep our minds and hearts open, and simply allow stories to entertain us without judgment or malice. Weren’t we just the cutest things back then?

Today, it doesn’t seem to be that way. People are reading and reviewing and rating (they have every right to of course) but a part of me can’t help but wonder what happened to plain old reading for enjoyment. Why does everything have to be rated and what it the purpose behind these ratings? Some argue that it helps them decide if they want to read a book, but with so many varying opinions how could you possibly decide if a book is beautifully written or not and worth your time? If twenty people rave on about a book, there are bound to be some who absolutely hate it. Guaranteed.

Having your work out there to be scrutinized by others isn’t the easiest thing in the world, people. Ask any author. But it’s part of the territory, like it or lump it. We write the best story we can and, God willing, we might be able to share it with others. But there’s always going to be someone who won’t care about the work you put into it or what it means to the author to be able to express themselves with the written word. I’m not sure there is any other craft out there that comes under fire the way writing does. People can get nasty. I’ve seen it, myself, in the reviews of some of my favourite books and I wonder what would cause another person to write such nastiness. I’m all for honest reviews. If someone didn’t like a book they didn’t like it.

Behind every book, good or bad, there is a person. Someone who put their heart and soul into the story they want to tell. Hopefully, people will one day read it. And when/if they do, they’ll form opinions. They’ll either like it or they won’t. One thing I know for sure is, we won’t like every book we read, no more than everyone will like the book we write. It’s a fact of life. But being an author, I try to be as objective as I can and while I won’t like every book I read, I certainly respect the writer for creating it. Many, many hours goes into the writing of a book. We write and then we rewrite. Then rewrite some more. It’s a craft worthy of respect.

Honestly, I never used to think about the author behind the book until I became an author myself. I never wondered who they were or what kind of life they had. I only ever thought of them as an author, as if writing was their entire life. Of course, today, an author bio is on the back of books and we can get a small glimpse of who that person behind the book is. But that doesn’t tell a complete story. No bio I’ve read has ever told me that an author is trustworthy, honest or loyal. Or that they’re warm or caring and have a heart as big as the outdoors. I’ve not read a bio that told me how the author worked at perfecting his/her craft, working through the pain of rejection to produce something they truly believe in. Nor would you read in an author bio that someone’s nasty review was so hurtful that the author never wrote that second or third book because they stopped after number one. Nope, you won’t find any of those things in a bio. Although I’m not sure many people would even be interested in any of that and I’m sorry for sounding a little bit cynical at the moment

So while I don’t expect you all to love every book you read maybe you might stop for a moment and consider the author behind that book you either loved or hated.

 

Have you ever given any thought to the author behind the book you loved or  hate? Do you consider the idea that the reviews you write might be read by the author? Would you care?

There She Goes the Book-writing Man

Nope, I didn’t pull that title out of thin air, it was actually said to me at an anniversary party I went to last year for some friends of ours. Okay, so the guy wasn’t feeling any pain at the time, but even so— this from someone who isn’t your typical book buyer, or reader, for that matter. He seemed to be impressed that I had written a book. As a matter of fact, he mentioned earlier in the evening that his sister was reading my book to him since he couldn’t read.

It surprised me to discover that someone whom I wouldn’t think of as being interested in the fact that I am a writer actually was. It goes to show that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover… I know, that’s such a cliché, but still….

Seems as though, whenever I go out, I’m constantly being asked, “ Aren’t you the one who wrote the book?”  followed closely with a “When’s your next book coming out?” I usually smile and say I’m working on one, which seems to get them off my back please most people. Immediately their eyes light up and they produce a satisfied grin. I don’t bother to tell them that it might be years until they see anything tangible… It’s difficult to explain to people with little understanding of the publishing industry about wait times, and just the fact that you’ve written a book doesn’t necessarily mean someone will want to publish it. Still, it is nice to know that people are interested.

It’s like that when you live in a small place. Even people in neighbouring communities either know you personally, or recognize you as being so-and-so’s daughter, wife, sister, niece, cousin, friend, your co-worker’s mother, Sunday school teacher, etc. Sometimes, they want to support you for no other reason than that. It’s a pretty wonderful feeling.

I keep reading again and again that most books are sold by word of mouth, and while advertising helps, as do book trailers, having an online presence, etc, most of the books we buy/read are recommended to us by friends or family. It’s an interesting notion. When I stop to think of why I have read certain books quite often it is because they came with a glowing recommendation either from someone I know or from a review I’ve read. Perhaps there is something to that.

Last week I received a royalty cheque in the mail and, I was both surprised and delighted to think that copies of my book are still selling despite it not being promoted.  A book really only gets a few months of promotion until new titles come in to take their place. Seems unfair, but it also makes a lot of sense.

From the very beginning of this journey, I said I didn’t want it to be just about the money. I wanted it to be something so much more, and it is. The copies that have sold means that my words are reaching more and more people. Hopefully, it gives them something to reflect upon. One young girl wrote to tell me that my book taught her the importance of family, and to be strong. Can you imagine how wonderful that felt?

And so “the book-writing man,” will just keep writing away with the hope that someone will discover something worthwhile in her words. I’ve never felt that our worth should be measured only in a monetary sense (for money will come and go) but in our way of  touching the hearts and minds of others. Isn’t that what really counts?

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