Shari is too kind to say this out loud, but I think she thought I was crazy – or self-destructive. Five star reviews were coveted by everyone – the best marketing for selling a book. Of course that’s true. I want 5-star reviews for Birth Offering when it comes out next week. But, then I wondered, am I shooting myself in the foot for thinking this way – and now writing about it. Am I inviting reviews that describe my book as mediocre (or worse)? I thought about this, and (gulp) maybe I am.
Here is my logic. When I read a review on Amazon or Goodreads, I pay close attention to thoughtful reviews that provide logic or rationale or some kind of analysis. These don’t have to be necessarily long, but they are often multiple sentences at least, and quite typically multiple paragraphs. A 3 or 4 star review that indicates what the reviewer found exciting, pleasant, or gripping, along with a mention of flaws or less than ideal prose are worth their weight in gold to me as a potential customer and to the author. The reviewer shows that he or she read the book and felt strongly enough about the book to provide the review. That means it had an impact. I can trust this type of review. Sometimes, even the described flaws can make me curious enough about a book to read it. I suppose even some 1 or 2 star reviews can have the same impact (assuming of course, these are moderated by a lot more 3-plus reviews).
On the other extreme, I do not give any credence to 1-star reviews along the lines of “the book sucked” and “I only read the first 40 pages and then gave up”. The former reviewer should give more detail as to why the book sucked, and I wonder whether the latter reviewer should even write a review.
During all of my considerations on the topic, I began to wonder if I am in the minority – and that some of the less that 5-star reviews I have “awarded” may have dissuaded readers from reading outstanding novels. For instance, I have read and provided reviews for a number of horror novels and novellas in recent weeks (The Tent, Fevered Hills, The New Flesh, The Cold Spot, The Bleeding Season, Conjure House, The Dazzling Darkness, Old McDonald). All of them were wonderful reads… scary, exciting, gripping (use whatever adjective you want). I don’t think I gave any 5-stars, mostly because of my approach to rating things. When I review, I try to outline things I liked, and things I thought were weaknesses. This comes from my day job – a university professor. I find myself rating novels like I am grading a research project or an assignment. In the case of these books, the extensive pluses far outweigh the few minor negatives. They are fantastic works of horror fiction. I would give anything to be as talented as these writers. So, by all means, read them.
When Birth Offering comes out, (please) read it. I will be pleased, honored even, to receive thoughtful and honest 3 and 4-star reviews. Of course, don’t feel bashful about giving a 5-star one either. I’m not that crazy to turn those down.