Thursday, January 14, 2016

Reviewing as an Author

What's this? Another reviewing blog post? Well, it's important! And it's something I enjoy doing. Everyone likes to have their opinion heard! However, reviewing as an author is tricky. It is. There are some rules you need to obey from Amazon, but they don't tell you these rules.

First and foremost, if you are an author and you are reviewing something in the genre you write (and I've heard it anything at all, but especially the genre you write in), if you leave a bad review--one or two stars--Amazon may review your review and determine that you are trying to sink the other author by deliberating leaving bad reviews. Amazon's a bit picking about reviews... no family, no friends, and if they catch people who know the author leaving reviews, nebulous bad things will happen! Well, actually not so nebulous--the reviews will disappear. This has been documented in other writing blogs so I shan't go over it here. However, the one or two star thing you really should pay attention to. I try very hard not to give low reviews. I also try very hard not to give stellar reviews all the time, because it's disingenuous. I want to give my honest opinion. Happily, most books are at least three star worthy! It takes something bad to earn less than that.

Have I left bad reviews? Yes, of course. However, as a responsible reviewer especially for the Naughty Snitch Blog, if it's a bad review, I will contact the author first. I have before, and I will again. I will tell them why I found the book bad, and what I found good about it, then ask them if they want me to leave the review. It's a courtesy. When I DO leave a bad review that is not for the NBS site, depending on the author, the book, and honestly my mood at the time I will leave it on Goodreads AND Amazon, or just on Goodreads. No matter what, it's under my real name though.

Why my real name? First, there are more reviews than on the pen name. Second, Amazon knows it's me--the accounts are connected, it's not like I'm hiding from them so any worries about quality control or sneaking around should be assuaged.Third, I believe that strongly in what I'm saying. It's never just a 'Oh, it sucked' review. I list why I didn't like it, what I DID like about it, and suggestions if I think of any which may be applicable, especially with grammar, spelling, and formatting as all of those are easily fixable.

I mean what I say, and I'll stand behind it. However, why not always post on both GR and Amazon? As an author, I realize reviews can hurt books and sales. Keeping in mind that hidden rule of Amazon's from above, I also put MY publishing account in possible jeopardy. So, if it's on Amazon... yes, I feel that strongly about it. The second reason is just not to be a dick. Most authors pay attention to Goodreads too, and if a book already has over the magic number of 25 and are getting promotions from Amazon and showing up on also boughts and so on, they don't really need the review to help get noticed... but the constructive criticism in the review may still be read and appreciated. It may. Not usually, but it may.

When reviewing books, I look at it in three different ways. If I was reading the book as a reader, writer, and editor. As a reader... did I enjoy the story? Did it grip me? Did it provoke an emotional reaction? As a writer, did the plot make sense? Were the characters interesting? If I had to change it, would I? As an editor, how many errors are there? Are words spelled right? Is the formatting OK? How's the cover, is it eyecatching? Descriptive of the book? Will the blurb and cover sell books?

All of those go into what I think is a good book, and just because a book may have a bad cover doesn't mean the inside is crap. For instance, Sakura Von Sternberg's Erotic Adventures of Joan of Arc and Space Captain Cydd Yoshiba. I fucking loved that book. LOVED IT. But the cover (when I reviewed it) was terribad. The new cover is better, cleaner, with easier to read text and the author name standing out. Cover is appropriate for the book, but not necessarily erotica. But leaps better than the old one. Even though I hated the cover, I still gave the book five stars because it was that fucking good. I didn't just borrow it in the KU program... I bought it as well. LOVED it.

Which means y'all should go out and buy it right now.

Another one is Bohemia Beach. Lovely cover, good for romance, but the content was... a bit boring. Sexy filled, sure, but it lacked the fire, the... pizzazz. It was passable. The writing was good, there were hardly any errors, spelling was fine, the characters... bit boring. When they weren't boring... they got boring. I like sexy times as much as the next person (and I appreciate so much fellatio in the book!), but without a more interesting hook, I was bored. And I've read a ton of romances. I know some of them can be silly and they are all formulaic, but that formula works for a reason. Yet I didn't feel reading the book was a complete waste of time either, and I learned a lot about pottery!

I think it's more complicated to review things as an author, and not just because of Amazon's secret rule or to not be a dick. I tend to overcomplicate things, true, but it still takes a critical eye to look at a piece of creative work and critique it honestly. And it's hard to hear that criticism at times. BJ Thomas reviewed Knob Jobs and Broomsticks and gave it three stars. It smarted... but he had a valid point. He didn't like one of the characters in it, and thus his enjoyment of the book was brought down. A great review, and it wasn't bad! I just got all snooty thinking my stuff was totally awesome.

But it's not. Oh lord, it's not.

Don't get me wrong. Villainess I think I would probably rate it 4.5 to 5 stars, and maybe Delilah too. The Janus Key stuff, while all very amusing, would be 3-4 stars. Maybe a shining five here and there if it was particularly funny (like the first one was). Rock Hardin? Probably 3-5 stars. The Dominating ones... those ones... yeah, I was dialing it in, and for some of them it shows. Those would vary the most, being from 2 to maybe 4.5 stars. So you know, being able to take the skills you learn in reviewing other people's books and applying them to your own isn't a bad thing. I know we authors all want to think our shit is the best, and that everyone will love it, but even if it was the freaking Mona Lisa, there will still be critics, and there always will be.

One lesson to take from reading and reviewing a lot of books is how to look at your own and understand, "Hey, I love this, but other people may not."

I think I got off track at the end here, but all the points are valid.

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