Authors love reviews. We really, really do. Call it vanity, call it self-indulgence, but we really like it when people sing the praises of our books. At the same time, we feel somewhat afraid of them. I’ve received an okay number of reviews, and fortunately most of them were good, though two or three have managed to make cracks in my cocoon of review-induced happiness.
The best reviews are those written by complete strangers who you’ve never spoken to before, those who love your book even though they’re not under any obligation to be nice to you. Such reviews always fill me with such joy. On the other hand you have the reviews that make you feel as if someone wrenched your heart out and stepped on it. Then finally you have reviews from friends and family, which have to be good by default. In my previous post I wrote about how movie ratings are a lie. This applies to books too, where friends and family members are the biggest “liars”. Usually.
Honestly, when have you come across a bad review written by the parents or siblings of the author? While it’s true that they could’ve actually really enjoyed the book, one can’t deny that the reviews end up over the top and positively glowing, with remarks such as “The next J.K.Rowling!” and “The best book I’ve ever read!” Now I don’t know about you, but that sounds fishy to me… even more so when I see that the reviews have all been posted at very close intervals.
I know, I know… family and friends are probably the only surefire way to gain five-star reviews and increase one’s rankings, but that’s where their benefits end. Their reviews serve to bloat the author’s ego, and this can send him/her crashing down harder when an “outsider” gives them a negative review. Plus, overly cheery reviews might be a turn-off to some people who, like me, might smell something fishy about the book. It doesn’t give the author much credibility, and it doesn’t allow them to improve. If they think their book is the best thing ever, then there’s no need to change, is there? If someone dislikes their book, well… they just don’t know how to read, do they?
On a semi-related note, have you heard about Amy’s Baking Company that got featured on Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares? The woman was convinced that her food was amazing and nothing anyone said could change her mind, because her husband sheltered her from all negative remarks. If any dish got sent back to the kitchen, the husband threw it out immediately without telling his wife as he knew that she didn’t take criticism well and he didn’t wish to hurt her feelings. That, and he was scared of her temper. That’s just silly… if he wanted to help her, he would’ve done better to criticize her rather than allow her to live in her delusions. I suppose that’s the main problem; people are too afraid to hurt their author friend’s feelings to even dare give them some constructive feedback. =/
On a completely related note, Derek Childs wrote a fantastic review for my book today, and even though he knows me, he was still pretty honest and did not try to be nice on purpose… I asked!
Do you think friends and family should be honest in their reviews, or should they sugar-coat everything? If you’re a writer, what do you prefer? If you’re a reader, what do you do when your friend asks for a review?