Proper Etiquette for Writing Reviews on Goodreads

Proper Etiquette for Writing Reviews on Goodreads

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First off, I know I said I was going to do a post on my love for marketing my own book, but, well, I decided this one needs to take precedence.

I was reading the reviews on a favorite book of mine that I received as an ARC from Spencer Hill Press, and my heart broke into a million pieces upon reading one review. I will not name the book or author, as I don’t want to embarrass her, but hers is a book I hold dear to my heart because SHP publishes books that bigger houses may not pick up because they are so different and new. While it’s the only book I have read from SHP, I will be following them to see what other books they produce. In any case, I fell in love with her book upon seeing the cover and reading the description. I didn’t even care about the reviews because it is the kind of book I read: dark and eerie. That’s my thing. And I totally GOT the book. I have some strong literary analysis skills, and while the book wasn’t perfect (what book is), I was able to analyze the characters and situations to understand why they did what they did–and it all made perfect sense, given the threatening environment they’re in. I so wish I could name the book and author, because hers is a book I support fully, but I sadly can’t.

But the review I read was so nasty and so despicable, and while it attacked the book, the attack on the book also attacked the author, and I was so enraged that I felt like posting a response, but I held back, knowing it would do better on my blog.

This reviewer was deplorable. It isn’t that she gave it a 1 star–my book has several three star ratings, but they are so thoughtful and so considerate and they’re rooting for me to grow as a writer, which warms my heart. I even asked one reviewer for some tips on making the sequel shine.

Her review was not thoughtfully written, and, in fact, it was nasty–and included an AGGRAVATING gif. I hate gifs posted in reviews on Goodreads, even if the review was good. I don’t fault her for her opinions, as I felt they could have been written in a more thoughtful, intelligent manner, but then she said this at the end of her review: Fuck you, book. To me, this is also an attack on the author as well, as she is the one who wrote this book, who worked hard on it, who poured her heart into it, who wrote the book she wanted, and that SHP worked really hard on it for her too. Behind every book is a human being who worked REALLY hard on that book, and I feel like sometimes reviewers forget that. You take a risk when you buy a book, knowing that you might love it or hate it, so take some responsibility, too.

I don’t like, *ahem*, asshole critics. I HATED Simon Cowell on American Idol. I don’t know why so many loved him. I also hate some of the critics on some of those cooking shows. Sure, hate can sometimes inspire one to get better, but for many, it just tears them down and makes them want to give up on the one thing they love. Constructive criticism, people. Is that so hard?

So the ‘fuck you, book’ doesn’t sound too bad, but then it gets worse with the people replying to the review. I’m not going to quote them word for word. Some said they wanted this book burned. Another comment in the review said the book was so stupid, that it made her teeth hurt, and a commenter wanted to keep this review, even though he/she had never read the book. Someone wanted all the characters to die–in fact, the person’s brain broke just reading the review! Some thought the review was hilarious. Others thought the book would give cancer to those who read it (ableism much?). Some wanted the reviewer herself to burn the book, even though this commenter HADN’T READ IT! So many people who replied to this ONE STAR review had never read it. I think one star reviews should be taken with a grain of salt more than the other stars in the rating process, simply because most one star reviews are poorly written and are filled with so much assholery that I’m surprised people take the review itself seriously. This is why I often retreat to three star reviews, because they are mostly unbiased.

I’m not saying people aren’t allowed to post one star reviews, but I think they should do so intelligently and explain, really explain, why they feel the way they do about this book instead of forgetting that there is a human being who wrote this book. Like I don’t like Twilight, but I would never go on there and be so mean and nasty about it. In fact, I just rated it a one star and left it at that because sometimes it is hard not to get nasty when you feel like you’ve wasted your time reading a book you didn’t enjoy. So if you feel like you are going to get so nasty that you inevitably attack the author, DON’T WRITE A THING.

When you write a review, especially if you have some criticism to give, make it constructive. Make it so that it encourages the author to become better, even if it is a one star review. We writers do want to get better with each book, and readers need to realize this. As I’ve said before, I’m taking my three star reviews of When Stars Die and applying them to the sequel so that the sequel is MUCH better than When Stars Die–that’s the hope, but I know I can’t please everyone. If I read a book, and I didn’t ever want to read a book from that author again, I would still want the author to keep writing, and I would hold on to the hope that the author got better so that maybe one day I could go back to him/her and see what he/she has out now. Stephenie Meyer is my least favorite author, but this doesn’t mean I want her to quit writing. I hope she continues to get better, in fact. She deserves the success she has gotten because she did work REALLY hard on that book, and I know that because agents make you edit the crap out of your book. Editors at houses make you edit the crap out of that book. Even if the book still doesn’t seem publishable, editing, at the end of the day, is a little bit based on opinion–except for the grammar parts, of course.

So how do you feel about nasty reviews?

Tomorrow, I’m going to blog about how much an indie author can make, because, while I love this blogger, I also laughed at her “realistic” numbers she was posting, and I have something to say.

Why I Am Not a Creative Writing Major

Why I Am Not a Creative Writing Major

My therapist thinks I should be a creative writing major so I can go for my PhD and teach college since I’m already going for an English with middle education degree. Not only do I refuse to sank myself into debt, but I’ve never felt the need to do a creative writing degree because I’m a self-taught writer. Yeah, there’s the whole thing of being able to have groups in class and the teacher looking at it, but so what? That’s what my writer’s group is for. Beta readers. My freelance editor was practically my teacher. I had books on writing. I analyzed the fiction novels I read. Plus, I have tried other forms of writing, and I am a novelist through and through. I would hate to take a class on screenplay writing knowing I don’t like writing screenplays.

I took one class in creative writing and hated it. It was mostly the professor that drove me mad. He was not very effective at critiquing, especially poetry. His most common criticism? “This is a stone,” meaning I can turn it over and do something more with it. But he never specified how. I wasn’t even impressed with his critiques on my short stories. In fact, I never agreed with them, and this was the time when I had my freelance editor critiquing my novel. His criticism was just so shoddy compared to hers.

He isn’t the reason I didn’t pursue one though. Part of it is there isn’t much you can do with a creative writing degree, unless you want to go to grad school and teach. Another reason is that they teach you nothing on the business of writing. At least my university doesn’t. Even with indie or independent presses, you need to have some knowledge of the business, and many of the students I spoke with knew next to nothing. No idea how to do a query letter, synopsis, none of it. They only knew how to write, and even then there was some debate because critiques in class can be very shoddy since you don’t get to choose who you critique. Most don’t care to critique well either. How can I develop from that? I prefer to choose who critiques my stuff, and they are in the form of beta readers or an editor or something.

But mostly, I just don’t think I need to waste my time taking a creative writing class when I’ve effectively self-taught for years and learned from those already published. I have more control over who I critique and over who critiques me. And since I have a choice, criticism is often going to be a bit stronger–even though no one can compare to the freelance editor I learned from. At least, not now.

Perhaps there are creative writing programs out there that are great, but where I’m at, no thanks. I don’t know if I want to do teaching anymore, but I’ll give my apprenticeship a chance, and I’ll let the future surprise me.