Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Why I love my 3.5 Star Review

Two weeks ago, I released This Time, an adult contemporary romance novel and the first of four in the Time for Love series. Normally, when I release a new book, I do little promotion. I make a few mentions on my Twitter feed and post something on my personal Face Book page.  This Time, pun intended, I decided I was going to take a more aggressive approach to marketing my work.

One of the new things I did, and something I’ve never done before, is contact romance novel reviewers to ask if they would be interested in reviewing my book.  In the past, I’ve always relied on customers to post reviews. I’ve never sought out the opinion of a reviewer. I’m sure you can imagine what a daunting prospect this is.

Soliciting reviews is a lot like querying an agent. Most of them have different submission requirements which mean there’s a substantial investment of time on my part. Though it can and does seem tedious at times, I remember the bigger picture. Reviews can increase exposure to my work which can increase sales. Not to mention, since I’m asking this favor of the reviewer, and she too is going to invest time in reading and reviewing my work, the least I can do is follow the specifications for submitting the book.

One thing I was also surprised to find in my quest for reviews was how often reviewers had to post author etiquette. The biggest concern most reviewers expressed was negative and sometimes vicious feedback from offended authors. Considering how much of an author’s heart and soul goes into her work, I can understand the hair trigger negative response. That said, that doesn’t mean I agree with an angry author taking her hurt feelings out on an honest reviewer but more on that later.

A number of my review requests have gone unanswered, but it’s early in the game so I’m not worried. However, a few have yielded positive results. The first review is in and it’s garnered 3.5 out of 5 possible stars.

As the title of this post indicates, I’m not only okay with the 3.5 stars, but I love it. Not because it was 3.5 stars but because of the body of the review. The star rating system is only half of the review. The other half is the reviewer comments, which is what I focus on.

In the case of this, my first professionally sought out review, the reviewer found things to both like and dislike with the story and diligently pointed out both. At the top of her things to dislike was the negative body image of the female protagonist who is a plus sized woman. At the top of her things to like was the relationship between the male lead and his family.

If I felt so inclined, I could defend the portrayal of the female protagonist’s feelings with a litany of reasons. I could, but I’m not going to for a few reasons.

First, I’m a firm believer in taking the good with the bad. When I asked for my work to be reviewed, I was gambling. There was a fifty-fifty chance the reviewer would dislike the work or something in it. By asking her to read it, I accepted those odds.

Second, the reviewer invested time and effort in reading and analyzing my work and then sharing her thoughts with others. Whether I like or dislike her opinion is not only an insult to her endeavors, but it’s irrelevant. One of the most interesting things about the publishing industry is that no two opinions are identical. Two people may have opposite reactions to a story but that doesn’t make either of them good, bad or right.

Third, picking a fight with the reviewer, or even publicly contradicting her opinion could have a negative impact on my image. Not only could it cost me future reviews with other interested reviewers (no one likes a diva), but it could cost me readers who might see me as whiny and unable to take criticism. 

Fourth, this review isn't my first, last and only review for this work. As a matter of fact, there is a 5 star review on the very same site as this 3.5 star review is posted. With any luck, there will be more reviews to come. When I think about it, this actually ties in with my second point.

Finally, the most important of all, the review was one-hundred percent focused on the story. There was no mention of any errors with grammar, punctuation, spelling or other mechanics. Since I’m not only the author but also the editor, this is a huge win for me. I spend just as much time editing my stories as I do writing them, and I do that because I want the reader to be able to get lost in the story not get lost because of the story. The fact that this review did not single out any editing errors tells me that I accomplished that goal. 

So, the review is in. It's not a 5 star review, but I love it all the same. 

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