January 3, 2013
Let me repeat that—book bloggers are awesome!
There was a lot of friction between book bloggers and authors last year; in fact, there was a lot of friction between authors and authors. Most of the controversy involved reviews in one form or fashion.
I have been fortunate when it comes to book reviews. In the seven months since my book was published I’ve gotten more than 120 reviews on Amazon.
No wonder I think book bloggers are awesome! No, it’s not what you think. It’s not the reviews I’ve received that made me feel this way, but the reviews I’ve written. That’s what made me realize how unappreciated book bloggers are.
I came to this realization the other night while reading a new mystery book. I normally finish a book in two or three nights, but I was on my fourth night with this one and had only managed to slog through half of it. Needless to say I was struggling. I had already dealt with mistakes, typos, ridiculous dialogue, and when I hit yet another spot where the main character did something improbable, if not impossible, I stopped reading and deleted the book from my iPad.
I hate to quit on a book, and in the past I wouldn’t, but as I’ve gotten older I find time is too precious to waste on a book I’m not enjoying. So I pulled up the notepad on my iPad and started writing the review.
Normally I love writing book reviews. Not much gives me more pleasure, and why not—I’m sharing something I enjoyed with fellow readers so that they might enjoy it also. At the same time, I’m making an author happy by telling them, “damn good job.”
But this wasn’t one of those times. This wasn’t a 5-star review; this wasn’t even a 3-star review. This was what I imagine my cardiologist feels like after looking at my latest test results, and she has to tell me the news.
This book was that bad. It was rife with grammar problems, typos galore, and plot holes that you could get lost in. Despite all that, I searched for something good to say, not wanting to sound like I was bashing the author. After struggling for half an hour, I decided I couldn’t, and wouldn’t, write the review. Yes, I took the chicken’s way out.
I didn’t entirely chicken out. I wrote the author and explained to them that I couldn’t leave a review. I told them why, and I pointed out some of the more obvious mistakes in case they wanted to fix them. (And yes, I received a nasty email in return, but that’s another story.)
Getting back to bloggers.
This experience made me realize that bloggers don’t have the option I took. Bloggers have an obligation, whether it is self imposed or not, to share their opinions with their readers. Readers count on them to learn about new authors and in many cases to help them determine whether or not to purchase a book. Bloggers have to be honest, and they don’t have the option to chicken out like I did.
I tried putting myself in their shoes, and I imagined reading a book like the one I just quit, or even worse, a book from my wife’s shelf. That’s when I realized that book bloggers are awesome.
I don’t think I could do what they do. I don’t mean incapable of doing it. If someone held a gun to my head and said “finish this book or die,” yes, I could finish the book. But I wouldn’t want to, and life is too short for me to be doing things I don’t want to do.
Who Are Bloggers and What Do They Do?
They are readers, writers, editors, old people, young people, women, men, all religions, all colors—in other words, they’re people. People just like you and me.
They ignore their families, dedicate their own time and often their own money. They push through books they don’t like, and then take time to write reviews and, in many cases, they post those reviews not only on their own site, but numerous other sites. Why? Because they love it.
It’s not fun writing bad reviews. I can’t think of anyone who likes to say bad things about someone, so if a blogger is writing a review less than 3 stars, it is probably not a good day for them.
Bloggers not only have to struggle with their own conscience between doing what’s right for their readers and what’s right for the author, but they have to worry about the author lashing out at them if the review doesn’t meet the author’s lofty expectations. And let’s face it, all those expectations are lofty.
If you’re an author on the receiving end of one of those less-than-stellar reviews, stop feeling sorry for yourself for a minute—just one minute—and put yourself in the blogger’s shoes. They didn’t want to rate your book low; it’s simply the way they saw it. You can’t argue that. It’s their call. It’s their opinion.
I have a newfound respect for book bloggers, and for book reviewers in general. For the authors who see it differently, I’d ask you to do this. Go to your favorite bookstore. March straight to the aisle that you wouldn’t be caught dead in. Find a book you’re positive you won’t like, then take it home and read it. Force yourself to finish that book, and then think hard about what kind of review you’d write.
That’s what many book bloggers face. No matter how selective they are, even if they deal in specific genres, there will be books that clash with their likes and their style. As writers we have to realize that, and we have to accept that they might not like our books. And most importantly, we need to acknowledge that book bloggers have an obligation not only to their readers, but to themselves, to be perfectly honest. Bloggers must judge a book on the book’s merits, not whether they are friends with the author, or whether the author is a nice person.
Writers need book bloggers. We need them now more than ever.
Bowker estimates there will be @ 300,000 self-published books published this year. It is becoming more and more difficult to get noticed. Book bloggers are the magic bullets. They hold the keys to the kingdom. The secret to success. Give them a little respect.
Final note: I have to say, most of the bloggers I’ve seen go overboard to give authors the benefit of doubt. They are far more tolerant of mistakes than I would be. If a reviewer is saying something is wrong with your book, maybe it’s time to take a second look at it. They just might be right.
Ciao, and thanks for listening,