Having recently completed and published a vampire fantasy book (Drasmyr), I am currently in the process of seeking out reviewers for it. Obviously, I want to get the highest score I can for my book; theoretically, a five out of five star review should attract reviewers. However, not to naysay the hard work of the reviewers, a five star review doesn’t quite mean what it used to, whether it is for a book, a movie or whatever.
The difference is the Internet; it has opened up the review process to anyone and everyone. I’ve seen some people review classics, like “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens, and give it a mere two stars out of five. At the same time, I’ve seen books of far more questionable quality get a score of five out of five stars. Obviously, the problem is that there is a lot of reviewing going on by people who don’t have the literary credentials to be doing so. But this is a free country, and freedom is one of the foundations of the Internet.
Anyway, does this mean that an Internet review is worthless to the consumer? No. It simply means that the consumer must approach the review with care. The consumer must sample the work of the reviewer; if she consistently disagrees with the reviewer’s assessment, then it would be for the best if she sought a different reviewer out; there certainly are plenty of them.
A review is a matter of personal opinion. It always has been, to a certain extent, but it is even more so now. Just because a book is a classic, doesn’t mean everyone will like it. I liked “A Tale of Two Cities,” but there were a few things about it I didn’t like. And just because it is a well-regarded classic, doesn’t mean I’m not entitled to dislike parts of it, or that somebody else can’t give it a mere two stars. In all probability, the two star rating was probably given by somebody who was very young who was looking for an action-packed, pulse-pounding novel, or something similar. There is action and blood (a great deal of blood) in the novel, but it is of an antiquated sort.
As a writer, reviews still concern me (and you, if you write). If I garner five-star reviews in abundance, my book will sell well. However, a single poor review, provided it is not the only review, will not sink my book. In the end, for those who need consolation after getting a poor review, I point to “A Tale of Two Cities” above. A single review, no matter the source, is not the final say.
Of course, knowing this intellectually is not the same as feeling it in your bones. That can be a difficult transition to make.
What do you think?