A native of Colorado, Mrs. Yolanda M. Johnson-Bryant, aka That Literary Lady, currently resides in the Piedmont Triad area of North Carolina, with her husband. Mrs. Bryant is a published author, freelance writer, novelist, editor, ghostwriter and a literary, marketing and entrepreneurial consultant and advocate. She is the founder and owner of LW Media Group, Bryant Consulting and That Literary Lady. She is a columnist for Examiner.com, EzineArticles.com and other literary venues. Mrs. Johnson-Bryant is a member of The Nussbaum Entrepreneurial Center, Women of Leadership and Learning (WELL Women) and Toastmasters. She is also a member of Junior Achievement, the Women’s Resource Center of Greensboro, the Volunteer Center of Greensboro and other community organizations. Visit her at www.yolandamjohnson.com, www.lwmediagroup.com, www.bryantconsultingonline.com, and www.thatliterarylady.com
In July 2011, I wrote an article entitled “Reviews Defined.” In that article, I talked about authors not understanding the real value or reality of a review. I also gave examples of why a writer should value both good and not so good articles.
In the past twelve months, with the increase of published books, especially self-published books, I still find that writers even now are not getting it. I continue to receive nasty notes from writers who question a review they have received from one of our reviewers. Because of these constant “tantrums,” I felt the need to revisit the issue of reviews.
Let’s look at the scenario below:
My name is _____. I am the author of _____. This is my first book and I am so excited about my new baby. Family and friends loved the book. In fact, if you look on Amazon, you will see that I have nothing but five stars, so I am confident that your organization will give it five stars as well. Thank you in advance for your consideration to review _____. Sincerely,
Outcome #1: 5
The book was well written. The story line flowed from beginning to end. The characters were believable, engaging, and entertaining. The editing was great and it is evident that the author did her homework. The book evoked a number of emotions as the author has a way of spinning the written word. I will keep this book as a permanent fixture in my library and refer to it often, and I look forwarding to reading more from this author.
Outcome #2: 3
The book was poorly written and hard to follow. After reading it, I could not figure out or understand the plot. Character development was poor as in one section of the story, a character was referred to as Michael, who stood six-foot-two; however, later in the story, the same character was referred to as Geoffrey, who stood five-foot-eleven. In addition, many editing errors caused me to put down the book several times. A book that would have normally taken four hours to read took two weeks. The characters were not believable. Although this book is pegged as a historical romance, it reads as a sci-fi thriller. I simply did not like the book. I don’t plan on reading other titles from this author.
Mind you, these are not actual reviews from any of our reviewers; however, the truth is, as in outcome #2, reviewers can be harsh. Authors really want to hear the first outcome. They want to hear that their work is the greatest, there is no need for improvement, and everyone is going to like it. When faced with outcome #2, they immediately become defensive. The reviewer who gave them a lower review is wrong and couldn’t possibly know what they are talking about.
Herein, lies the problem. I did a video on my YouTube Channel (http://youtu.be/HmKcifjRR-8) after an author questioned a review. The author requested a review from our organization. The author had received all five-star ratings until our three-star review. When the author received this review, (s)he was livid. In fact, I was read the riot act.
The author had ten five-star reviews. After our review, the author had ten five-star reviews and one three-star rating. Since checking reviews on Amazon, the person has fifteen five-star reviews, five four-star reviews, one three-star review (ours), six two-star reviews, and one one-star review. I can only imagine this author’s horror when the other non five-star ratings began to come in; however, had this author been realistic, (s)he would have been able to handle the reviews in a way that they should be handled.
I believe that once authors truly understand the real purpose and the sheer reality of reviews, they will then be able to receive reviews like one is supposed to receive marriage—for better or worse.
I often say this, and if you’re a writer who has not yet faced the reality and purpose of reviews, I want you to repeat after me: “Everyone is not going to like my work.” I want you to continue to repeat that phrase until you actually understand it.
Authors must realize that not everyone is going to like their work. Does this mean that they are not good writers? Not at all. It simply means that (according the review status I gave above), most people like your work, but not all. Should you take a negative review personally? Not at all. Should you pay attention to both positive and negative reviews? You most certainly should.
As I stated in the video, if you have two-hundred reviews on Amazon, and every one of them is a five-star rating, I’d really raise my eyebrow. There is no way everyone is going to like your work. It’s as simple as one person liking red, while another likes yellow. An atheist reader is not going to like a Christian title, and a Christian reader is not going to like an atheist title. I don’t know how to put it simpler than that.
In the article that I wrote back in July 2011, I used Stephen King’s The Long Walk as an example. At that time, Stephen’s stats looked like this:
5 stars – 224
4 stars – 80
3 stars – 38
2 stars – 14
1 star – 15
I can guarantee you that this New York Times best-selling author is not pitching a fit at those 1-, 2-, 3-, or 4-star ratings. This is because he is realistic about the readers of his writing. Some will like it, some will not. Some will like some of his books, while other titles may not be so popular.
Using the upset author that I mentioned earlier, what can we learn from his/her rating stats, scenario, and outcomes? The author should understand that the majority of readers who read and reviewed the work loved it. There were fewer who didn’t like it. As in outcome #2, the author could have taken bits and pieces of that review and used it constructively while discarding the rest. The review stated that there were errors that interfered with the flow of the story. Perhaps the writer should hire a professional editor. Maybe (s)he should work more on character development. Writers should value both good and bad reviews. Albeit, writers don’t like to hear that someone doesn’t like their work, some negative reviews help us become better writers, so please, don’t take it personal.
In closing, I want to give the true, raw, uncut definition of a review. A review is someone else’s opinion of your writing. It is not a review of what you’d like the reader and review to feel about your work. It is either someone’s solicited or unsolicited opinion of your work. It is solicited, if you ask someone to review your book and it is unsolicited if you simply have a book for sale.
I hope this article helps new authors who may become horrified when the reality sets in that not everyone is going to like their work.