2013-12-30 12:43 - Goodreads reviews

Listen. Iím a first time author, and maybe I donít know how the world of books works, but thereís something wrong with my reviews on Goodreads.

'What a shame', you say. Or maybe 'man up and take it on the chin'. Every author gets bad reviews. Live with it and move on.

Maybe I shouldnít be complaining, because Iíve had some great reviews, with insightful comments, and some quite decent star ratings. There are a bunch of people whoíve read the book, enjoyed the process, and then want to tell the world of Goodreads about this gem theyíve discovered. And thereís a reviewer who thought it sucked, but she was kind enough to say why. I may disagree with her reasons, or I might wish that sheíd persevered with the book, and discovered maybe that it was aimed at her age group after all. But Iím not so egotistical that I canít cope with a few one star reviews, and even learn from them. So thank you, Laura , for being brave enough to tell me what you thought. You probably are my target demographic for the book, and yet I didnít give you enough reasons to stick with the book Ė my fault. You canít be all things to all people, at least not in a single book, but thatís no excuse for losing a prime target reader.

So whatís my gripe?

My gripe is that (almost) every one of them feels compelled to reveal the plot.

No. Back off. Thatís my job. Iím the author. I decide what details to reveal, in which order. I want to build surprise, suspense. I want to take you on a journey, helping you feel the right emotions at the right time. (That includes making sure that neither the cover artwork nor the blurb on the back of the book spills the beans. So a lot of thought went into making sure that the blurb is intriguing enough to make you read the book, does not tell any lies, but does not tell too much of the truth either.)

Everyone else is a reader and potentially a reviewer. If youíre a reviewer, and you liked the book, your challenge is to encourage other people to try the book for themselves, and to experience the book as you experienced it. So donít tell them the plot. Please.

As reviewer, youíve just put down the book. My book. Hopefully thereís a tear on your cheek. Whyís it there? Because youíve just been on a journey with my protagonist. Maybe youíve been a step ahead of the protagonist, and seen the pitfalls before she did. Some readers do. Adam Meiswinkel did, but wisely realised that itís the journey thatís important, and sat back and let me guide him through it. Even more wisely, his review tells you nothing about the plot, but everything about why you might want to read the book and how to approach reading it. I should also commend Lars for his review, which reveals some plot details (but nothing that Iíd regard as a spoiler) but concentrates on the originality of the ideas and the pace of the book. He wraps up his review by telling his readers how he felt at the end of his journey, hoping that theyíll be intrigued.

One other comment for now - Lucie wrote ďThe summary on the back really needs to be revisedĒ. No. Because itís not a summary. Itís a teaser, to get you interested in the book. No lies, but not too much truth either. Yes. Because maybe Lucie felt that there was a bit too much misdirection in the blurb, and in hindsight I can see why she might think so. Anyway, one of the clever folks at Tor has seen the same deficiencies, taken a step back and done a new back cover blurb that does a far better job. You can see it on Amazon and elsewhere. Thank you, Lucie.

Iíve read a fair bit of crime fiction of the whodunit variety, and in some ways I admire it even more than SF. The crime writer pushes the Ďtell no lies, but not too much truth eitherí dictum to the limit. If the writer tells too much truth, the reader can see whatís coming, and the resulting journey is no more exciting than a ďGhost TrainĒ in the daylight.

Reviewing crime fiction is therefore arguably the hardest of disciplines, because if the reviewer gives away any plot details at all, thereís a much bigger risk of showing the endpoint of the journey, and nullifying the whole effect. (So donít do it.) Maybe I ought to try both the writing and the reviewing of crime fictionÖ

Am I being over-picky about spoilers? I donít think so. Sure, every author wants to sell books, but any author with integrity wants his readers to enjoy the reading experience as designed. Iím genuinely grateful for every review that my book has received, and not just for the five star ones. Every review has brought value, whether to me as an author or to the wider world of potential readers. Even the one star review(s).

Thank you.

PS. My own reviews of other books are at Goodreads . I hope that Iíve managed to practice what I preach. If not, Iím sure youíll let me know!

page last updated Tue Apr 22 12:12:01 UTC+0100 2014