Hello, my friends! Another week has begun, and it has the hints of promise to be a good one. In fact, we’ve got a special guest to start us off on the right foot.
Today on the blog we are lucky enough to welcome the wise, deep-thinking, and fun Geoff Le Pard! He has some great insights into that thing that we as authors love and hate . . . and love to hate . . . and hate to love. Book Reviews!
Geoff Le Pard started writing to entertain in 2006. He hasn’t left his keyboard since. When he’s not churning out novels he writes some maudlin self-indulgent poetry and blogs at geofflepard.com. He walks the dog for mutual inspiration and most of his best ideas come out of these strolls. He also cooks with passion if not precision.
Geoff Le Pard:
Reviews – A New Author’s Reflection
(or the sudden dawning of the bleedin’ obvious)
I recently passed the 2nd anniversary of pressing publish on my first book. Since then 3 others have gone out into the ether and, as a consequence, I have received reviews both on Amazon and on Goodreads, as well as on Facebook and Twitter (and maybe elsewhere of which I am not aware).
My Father and Other Liars is a thriller set in the near future and takes its heroes, Maurice and Lori-Ann on a helter-skelter chase across continents.
To begin with I was both flattered and dead chuffed with the reviews, mainly because the people reviewing them probably knew me and were being kind with their dusting of stars. But gradually the range of reviewers and reviews widened.
What grabbed me were the comments. Some were just nice, some helpful and pleasant and some pointed in their criticisms. But each had some sort of takeaway that I could appreciate and anyone looking at them could understand. So far I’m lucky to have avoided any that are personally offensive – or maybe I’m thick-skinned enough to blank them out.
Maybe I was self-deceiving in thinking reviews helpful, because the early reviews were essentially positive or at least of some use. It took time for people to find my books who weren’t so keen on them. Even then the critical comments gave me something and, more importantly, gave someone visiting the chance to see what that reader liked, what they didn’t and allow the potential reader to decide if the described negatives would be similarly off-putting.
Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle is a coming of age story. Set in 1976 the hero Harry Spittle is home from university for the holidays. He has three goals: to keep away from his family, earn money and hopefully have sex. Inevitably his summer turns out to be very different to that anticipated.
I learnt more, in truth from those who found some fault or an issue than the ego boosts, nice as they are, that arise out of uniformly positive reviews.
Some reviews were rather bizarre
…I didn’t like the font…
Some showed the reader’s prejudices more than anything
… the plot was complex so I gave up on it…
But at least there was a takeaway.
And then there was Goodreads.
I have a thing about Goodreads.
You see on Goodreads I have received some reviews with commentary which have been very useful but I have received just stars. 1 through 5. It’s the same on Amazon, of course, but at least on that behemoth the reviews have been accompanied by something else (well so far). See, even if it’s a 1 or 2 star, if it’s accompanied by an explanation then I can begin to try and take something from it and ditto a future reader. Maybe I’ll not agree but I will begin to understand.
This 30 story anthology covers many genres: fantasy, romance, humour, thriller, espionage, conspiracy theories, MG and indeed something for everyone. All the stories were written during NaNoWriMo 2015.
But, and here’s the thing that has taken time to sink in, a review of stars only, whether 4 or 5 star or a 1 or 2, tells me the square root of bugger all. It is useless. Less than useless because what is again apparent with only a little thought is that everyone has their own methodology for handing out stars.
As a child at primary school we could earn a merit badge if we achieved three credits in a week. In every school year as I went up the school, merit badges were given out except in year 5 which was the preserve of Miss Hazel (known inevitably and appropriately as ‘witch’). She never gave enough credits for a merit badge. For her it was a source of boasting – ‘don’t overpraise the child’. All I took away from that was that it was an arbitrary and opaque system.
Salisbury Square is a dark thriller set in present day London where a homeless woman and a Polish man, escaping the police at home, form an unlikely alliance to save themselves.
Goodreads rating is just the same. Ditto Amazon and any other system using stars (or warts or werewolves or whatevers). For some 3 stars means a good read, for others an average book. How are you meant to know without the commentary?
So, as an author and as a reader I’d encourage everyone to dump the stars where they can but, at the very least, add something to the rating to explain why. I’m as guilty as the next person in my lazy and sloppy use of the stars. But let’s not mistake the giving of some stars with a review. It’s about as useful as a chocolate teapot and as welcome as a fart in a lift.
Make sure to connect with this friendly, fun and inspiring guy on his blog: geofflepard.com