A good friend of mine and a fellow reviewer decided to help me out a bit with some words of wisdom from the other side of the coin. She scoped out her Facebook friends (read authors) and found me some hot topics to sizzle this blog with.
Ironically, or not, there were some common themes from authors. She had eight respond and seven had some really awesome input. What they had in common was interesting and it actually ties into the previous posts.
Remember the synopsis post? Part of what is missing from a short review or a synopsis masquerading as a review is the reason a reviewer marked it the way they did.
Turns out that authors look at reviews not only as a marketing mechanism, but a learning tool! How cool is that? And how frustrating.
What my friend was told basically follows this theme: How can an author improve her work if reviewers don't tell them what made them rate it a 3 1/2 instead of a 4? Or a 4 1/2 instead of that golden five? (Assuming that rate scales are based on 1-5, five being the best).
I reiterate that I'm not advocating snark or mean and cutting tear-downs of a writer's work. Nor do I mean reviews written by a person who is forced to read a book they'd never read in the first place and it colors their perception from the get-go. I'm talking about true issues that made it less than what it could have been. Some examples could be: unsympathetic or one dimensional characters, meandering plot, a villain that was more Wile E. Coyote instead of Hannibal Lector, a heroine that was whiny or so stubborn she did stupid things that put everyone in danger and instead of wanting to save her, you wanted the villain to win; or a heroine that just grated on your nerves because of how she reacted to everything (War of the Worlds and that screaming banshee child); or even a hero that was supposed to be an alpha tough dude and came across as a combination of Elmer Fudd and Monk.
If their characters didn't work for you, why? Or maybe it was only a part of the story? At some point something clicked and the book got really good so what would have been a 2 1/2 on the scale ended up with that extra half point to a solid three. I think that means if the book had never regained your interest it would have been rated low, but it did grab you back, so it made it a good book afterall. However, if it hadn't had those issues of disconnect in the first place, it would have had a solid higher rating, maybe even a five -who knows?
For those authors that really do read reviews and still find value in the doing, us reviewers need to be more aware. What we do matters. What we say and obviously, what we don't say.
If you write that you liked the book and recommend it, did you tell the reader why? If a certain part of the book didn't jive with you, did you tell the reader why? Please don't say, "Because I don't usually read these kinds so I don't like it anyway", that's so insulting.
Here's an example: Imagine baking a seven layer chocolate cake and working so hard on all the frosting and decorations until you believe it's close to perfection. You slice into it and delicately place that piece of that amazing masterpiece on a plate and present it to your friend for a taste test. Just think how'd you feel as you eagerly awaited the reaction of your friend when she ate some of that tasty goodness. And then, all she did was shrug and say, "Eh, it's OK. But I don't like cake so it's not that impressive. Nice design though."
CRUSHED! Hurt, and insulted. Then the mad might set in. I think the friendship would've taken a gut punch on that one.
Sure a review isn't like a cake, but still, a review that doesn't say anything to justify the rating leaves a reader and an author hanging. And like the baker of that cake, her 'friend's' comment never told her anything about HER cake. Now she's going to have to cut another slice for someone else and hope that they can actually give her a better review of it's texture and taste.
Ergo, if there's nothing to explain why you liked the book or didn't, how can the review have worth? An author finds value in being informed about what works for her readers just as much as what doesn't. So, to have nothing in the review at all leaves a reader with an incomplete impression. A rate that is not backed up with information is one of the missing links that is all too common. I am hoping to raise other reviewers' awareness of this because I don't think I ever gave it a conscious thought. Now I am and I hope to be a better reviewer because of it.
Which is why I'm doing this blog. Have you found your missing link lately?