Stars in Our Eyes

My daughter in 1990

Yesterday was launch day for BOOKED, the first book in the Sugar Mill Marketplace series. Yay!

The early reviews are positive and make me very, very happy, because it’s scary to put a book out into the world!

Until the world at large sees it, you don’t truly know if you’ve done what you set out to do.

That said, reviews aren’t for the author. They’re for readers. Once the book is out of an author’s hands, it’s communal property and people get to have ideas about it, which is terrifying and exhilarating.

And the 5-star rating system? I was flabbergasted when I found out people used those stars for their own purposes. I had no idea! People told me they clicked the 1-star to remind them they already read the book. Or because they wanted to read it. Or they considered one-star the best rating. They were just as flabbergasted when I told them that’s not how those stars work.

There’s also a distinct difference between “bad” reviews and “negative” reviews.

A negative review points out the problems a reader had with the book. Too long, too short, typos, not funny, too sad, I figured out the plot. All of these (and more) are perfectly valid issues to discuss.

A bad review, on the other hand, is completely unfair, but often hilarious. One star because I ordered the wrong book. One star because the book arrived with a creased cover. One star because I didn’t like the font. Okay, I made up that last one, but you believed it for a minute, didn’t you?

These reviews from my author friends are funny because any reader who uses reviews to decide what to read will not be swayed against your book if they read one of these. They will think they’re funny too.

• “My dragon steampunk book got a one star because it had too much steampunk.”
• “This reads like a short story, about my 20,000-word novella.”
• “My urban fantasy was one starred for having a dragon in it. (I’m considering doing a FB ad using the quote.)”

This reminded me of my very favorite lemons-to-lemonade review moment.

A restaurant in Ireland did that very thing and people flocked to try the salad. I heard she also had t-shirts made with that image and can’t keep them in stock. That renews my faith in humanity.

Here are some one-star reviews that also make me laugh.

• Wolf of Wall Street: “No wolves. One star.”
• Great Gatsby: “My favorite thing about this book? It was short.”
• Wuthering Heights: “Vile people are mean to one another.”
• Emma: “It’s great if you’re into that old 1800s kind of speech.”
• The Runaway Bunny: “Terribly disturbing.”
• Gone Girl: “I was disappointed. Definitely not a happy ending.”
• Old Man and the Sea: “Worst book ever. Just throw the fish back in.”

Regardless, an author can never, ever engage with a reviewer. Not even to say thank you. Which is easy for me because I rarely read my reviews. I have a personal motto about reviews, whether positive or negative—Never read them; you might start believing them.

The only downside to a funny bad review is that it drags down an author’s star-rating. Not the be-all, end-all to a career, of course, but with high ratings come certain professional perks like higher ad placement, and “if you like so-and-so, you’ll like Becky Clark,” and the like.

I’m also reminded of a writing contest I judged. Unpublished writers entered the contest and as part of the fee, received in return a written critique of their three chapters. I read one person’s entry and was blown away. It was perfect. Literally. Everything about it was perfect. I gave it a high score, and sent off my glowing praise, about a paragraph long. I immediately got it back from the contest coordinator telling me I had to write some constructive criticism, since that’s what the writer had paid for. I argued there was nothing I could tell this writer, but the coordinator insisted that I had to write a full page of critique. I did, but I felt like the Peanuts gang writing their 100-word book report on Peter Rabbit.


And they were very, very, very, very, very, very
Happy to be home

The end

…94, 95. The very, very, very end

Don’t get me wrong. I relish every review I get. Each review is tangible evidence that a reader read my book and cared enough about it (or me) to want to discuss it in public.

For a writer, there’s nothing better than that. And if it’s tied up with a 5-star bow? Well, that’s something that will always feel like winning the lottery, the glittery sash, the belt buckle, and the blanket of 554 red roses all at once.

So I want to offer a huge THANK YOU to everyone who ever reviewed or rated one of my books. Even the person who long ago said about my 99-cent “healthy living” digital book … “a waste of e-ink.” It still makes me laugh.  

Do you write reviews? Why or why not? Do you read book reviews? Do they sway you in any way? Have you seen (or received) any funny reviews?

24 thoughts on “Stars in Our Eyes

  1. I want to write reviews but I’m not very good at it. I do post some on Goodreads for challenges as it’s required as part of the challenge. I also don’t read reviews for books. I usually pick a book by the author or cover or the blurb.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hey Q … I tell people not to think of a review as a book report. There’s no need to get into the plot or themes or anything, just say what you liked about it. As if you were telling a friend they should read it. I’ve found that’s much less intimidating. And it only needs to be a sentence or two. Easy peasy!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I love your difference between a “negative” review and a “bad” review, Becky. Spot on.

    I don’t review books any longer since I’m published. A publicist once told me that since I’m a “public figure,” either rate everything 5 stars or nothing. I can’t legitimately rate everything 5 stars – I read a lot of good books that don’t warrant 5-star perfection. So I opt for nothing.

    But I’ll gladly tell you about them over a cup of tea.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Wow, Liz. I learned something from your reply. I’m as-of-yet unpublished but getting closer. I never thought about the ethical and political sticky points involved with writing reviews AFTER I am published. This makes so much sense. Thank you for your teaching.

      And Becky, this was a star-studded post you gifted us with today. Both thought-provoking and funny. When the day comes that I have a book out in the world to receive reviews, I plan to keep this post in mind. I enjoyed it immensely. Thanks.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Thanks, Pamela! If I do nothing else with my life on this earth, if I can teach new writers to avoid their reviews, then I’ll have lived with righteousness. (But here’s another tip … when you’re feeling bad about your writing or career, go read the 1-star reviews from your favorite authors. That’ll cheer you up!)

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Exactly, Liz. There’s no way I’m going to give an author less than 5 stars anyway since I know how hard they worked, even if the book isn’t my cup of tea. Plus, the Zon gets weird about who can and can’t review books sometimes. If I really love a book, I take a pic of me and the dog reading it and post it to social.

      Liked by 3 people

    3. I’ve known authors and reviewers who have had reviews removed permanently from Amazon because they say you “know each other”! So I no longer put up reviews, even for good friends and authors I adore — like the Chicks! Instead I promote them and share posts for pub dates and discounts on my social.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Big time congratulations on the new release, Becky! I used to read reviews so I could use positive ones for promo. I don’t do that anymore. Now, I’m content leaving reviews I receive to readers. Better for my mental health that way.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, JC, and you’re absolutely right! When FICTION CAN BE MURDER came out, as a new series with a traditional publisher, I was scared to death it wouldn’t measure up. I got a friend of mine to update me on the reviews, just in case there was something constructive I could take away. She copied all the 3,4, and 5-star reviews into a word doc for me to read. After that I realized there was never anything I could correct, and I was saved from the dreaded abyss of hurt feelings. But it’s so stupid … why can we get 99 excellent, positive reviews, but only remember the 1 that stabbed us through the heart?? Writers be wack!

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Congrats, Becky! I am in awe of your vision and power to execute it. Can’t wait to read the new series.
    I am eternally grateful for all reader reviews, although 1-star ones scare me. I can’t stop myself from thinking, “What if they’re right and everyone else is wrong???”

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, Ellen. Sometimes I wonder about the motivation behind a 1-star. Surely there was *something* redeeming about the book. And why’d they read to the end?? I watch a local snarky newscast and the anchor often reads feedback that is the equivalent of 1-star. But they keep watching! Why?? Why can’t they just walk away with their mouth shut??

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Congrats on BOOKED, Becky!

    I occasionally write reviews of books I enjoy, but my TBR list is huge! For other books, I tend to read reviews after I post my own (to figure out if people are thinking like me). For my books, I am grateful for all readers but try to stay away from reading reviews unless I’m tagged (on a hopefully good one) or it’s passed on by my publisher.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Jen, but I had to laugh. Can you imagine tagging an author in a 1-star review?? That’s some special kind of aggressiveness, eh? Often when I’m still reading a book I go to the reviews to see what others thought. I’ll figure out a twist or get taken out of the story by something and try to see if it’s just my problem, or if others mentioned. And sometimes I “thumbs up” a review if I see too many unfair ones getting all the attention. But I’m a renegade. I also face my friends’ books out when I see them in bookstores or the library.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Becky, All the congrats on BOOKED! I’m sure readers will be extra-delighted to know that more books in the amazing Sugar Mill Marketplace mysteries will burst into e-land (and onto shelves) very soon. Re: reviews, here’s to many more great ones to come!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. First, huuuuuuuuuge congrats on BOOKED, Becky!!

    Second, some of these had me literally laughing out loud. (No wolves!) I don’t write reviews, but I do read them–and not just for books. In fact, I very much enjoy reading the Amazon reviews that have gone viral for their comedic effect. Pure gold.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Congrats on the new series, Becky!! Like El, I am amazed by your ability to even come up with a series like this, much less actually execute it (pun intended).

    As for reviews, I try really hard not to read them, because every tiny criticism is like a punch to the gut. But I do check to see how many reviews I have–which I think is even more important than the star rating.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I do not like to read reviews because people are crazy. I like to read the book for myself and make up my own mind. I go by authors that I have read before or a book that looks and sounds like what I would like to read. I don’t like those new animated covers, but it does not stop me from buying the book if it sounds good. It is a bit different with restaurants, as I do sometimes read the reviews, but again, I like to try it myself. If I don’t like it, I don’t go back. I rarely leave reviews on anything unless it blows my mind. I just don’t feel comfortable about dissing someone or some place when it is after all my humble opinion.


  10. Excellent post, Becky. I just covered bad reviews in my most recent newsletter and mentioned this topic on Instagram. Readers seem to fall into three categories:

    1. Leave diplomatic reviews that, while not always positive, let other readers know what specifically didn’t resonate with them as a reader.

    2. Believe in Mom’s old adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

    3. Aren’t sure what reviews are or how to leave them. Or rave about a book in the description after giving it two stars.

    I’ve learned to stop reading my own reviews . . . for the most part. And whenever I read a bad one, I like to go back and read some of the 1 and 2-star reviews of some of my favorite books. That puts things into perspective!


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