Reviews--either a writer's dream come true, or your worst nightmare. Some writers consider reviews a necessary evil of writing. Of course, your viewpoint depends upon whether the review is 'good' or 'bad'.
What constitutes a 'good' review? Most of us think a good review offers undending praise for our work, recommends it as a 'must read' and gives fifteen stars out of the ten available. Of course we love those reviews.
Then there are the 'bad' reviews--the ones that, while reading, you can see the reviewer sneer, shrug and make an 'oh, well' gesture. And, of course, you may encounter the nightmare review--the one that says, in essence, 'this book is a piece of meaningless garbage and not worth the time or money you'll spend standing in line at the cashier.' I don't personally believe this kind of review is necessary, no matter how poor the reviewer considers the manuscript to be.
Here is the challenge posed to us writers. When we request a review and it's less than positive, do we include the review in our promotional material, post it to our web site or post the link to the reviewer's site? Do we thank the reviewer for his/her time, even though we're not thrilled with the review?
What is the proper etiquette here?
In discussions among authors, I've heard opinions fall on both sides of the fence--gracefully accept the review, thank the reviewer and move on, or ignore the review and the reviewer (and make a note to never request a review from that person again). Some post a scathing retort to the reviewer.
Writing is a business, albeit a very personal business. Not all reviewers seem to keep that in mind, to remember that an author's words hold more than letters from the alphabet, set into a particular arrangement to tell a story. Our writing holds our hearts and souls, along with hours of blood, sweat and tears. It behooves reviewers, I believe, to be both honest and kind.
I don't post every review I receive on my web pages. After all common sense and good marketing practices would dictate otherwise if a review does not paint a positive picture of a book. It is, in the end, about attracting readers and selling books. Is this dishonest? No. I do, however, thank the reviewer for their time and for their honest review. They've done their job, even if we don't agree with the outcome.
I have read of authors who received scathing reviews that slammed their work and their skills. And they've taken the review site or the individual reviewer to task, gotten the review pulled from the web and received an apology.
Tact. Some people lack it. As writers and reviewers, we have to strike a balance between honesty and tact. I've reviewed work for several authors. Have I thoroughly enjoyed each and every book equally? No. Have I ever told an author they should hang it up and go back to their day job? No. Cruelty and personal affronts are not warranted.
If, as a reviewer, I encountered a book upon which I could find nothing positive to comment, I would return the manuscript to the author with a note about my reasons for declining the review.
For whom are reviews written? For the reader. Yep. Reviews are not intended to provide the author with marketing and PR material. Although they can serve as a barometer for our writing. They are intended to give the reader either an enticement or a warning. But--every review is one person's opinion. We need to remember this, both as writers and as readers. Some of the best movies I've seen were panned by the critics.
Writers--employ good judgment about how you use reviews of your work. Respond professionally to your reviewers.
Readers--consider reviews, but trust your own instincts. Look at the book, read the blurb, visit the writer's web site and read an excerpt.
Reviewers--maintain professional integrity, but also remember that there's a person on the other end of that novel.