The Nasty Business of Reviews

These days absolutely anything is available to review. We all have our opinions and we want them to be heard, no matter what the product. There’s not only user reviews of books, but also reviews of my apartment building and its management, my husband’s kung fu school, and just about anything you can think of. Apps, movies, restaurants, products, services, etc.

User feedback is great, but there are some problems with it too. In this landscape of everyone has an opinion, it seems difficult for people to realize that not everyone is going to share their opinion.

I used to think that the world needed my opinions on books. (I’m sad to admit such egomania to you guys!). I thought readers deserve to know what they’re getting in a book. And I know what a bad book looks like because I have blah blah blah credentials. But the fact is, I don’t know what a bad book looks like. Because literature is subjective.

I haven’t read Twilight, but you know what? I don’t think it’s a bad book. Because thousands of people have loved it. It’s doing something for them, it is giving them something that they wanted. It may not be my taste, but so what? The people who enjoy it have every right to enjoy it.

I’ve seen too many reviews on books and other things that accuse other reviewers of lying. They say things like, “This book was so awful that all these glowing reviews have to be from bribed family members of the author. Because no one could actually like this book. It stinks.”

I’m tired of seeing these accusations. You didn’t like the book. That’s your opinion. That doesn’t mean that no one else could possibly like it.

These days I have realized that my opinion is not really worth much. It’s just how I responded to a story and the way it was presented. Others will have a different experience with it. My experience is not any more valid than theirs.

But what if the book is full of typos? Well, that’s what samples are for. Use Amazon’s look-inside feature. If every third word is spelled wrong, you’ll be able to see that immediately. All books have some typos. No matter how many rounds of proofreading and editing they go through, mistakes do happen.

This is not a self-publishing issue. There have always been books that snobby literary folks (like me) would turn our noses up at. We ask why any self respecting publishing company would put out this book? But they do. Big publishing companies put out books all the time that plenty of people call crap. Why do they do it? Because hundreds of other people love books like that. They don’t need to be educated or fixed, they need to be allowed to enjoy what they enjoy.

When you are reviewing any kind of product, please remember that your opinion is not the most important one. It is one of many: yours is valid and so is theirs.

6 Comments

  1. Amber West
    Jun 14, 2013

    The first “bad” review I received was one just like you described, and it’s the only bad review that really irked me. (Didn’t help that it was written by another author – I mean, really, they should know better.)

    Saying you don’t like a book is one thing – different people like/don’t like different things. But to make accusations that a) impugn motive of the author of the book and b) insult anyone who enjoyed the book is just bad form.

    Great post.

    • RuthMadison
      Jun 14, 2013

      I feel bad because I have left nasty reviews in the past. I mean, I never accused OTHER reviewers of being liars. I don’t think I did, anyway. But I can see now that if I want to leave a review for a book, it needs to be worded to show that this is just how I took it.

      For some reason I think it’s easy to forget that authors are people too. That we’re reading those reviews and feeling the sting of them. Feeling like we’re being judged as people!

      And when it’s other authors doing it to each other, I have to think there’s at least a little bit of jealousy at play.

  2. Grant Riddle
    Jun 18, 2013

    Hello, just discovered your blog. If you like pirate adventure stories check out The Contessa on Kindle or through my website. Other books are available.

  3. Grant Riddle
    Jun 20, 2013

    Hello again,

    Just read your blog about disabled/non-disabled partners. You have an interesting take on the the “devness” issue. Yes, the lack of finding the one you really “lust” for can lead to finding the one you “love.” That can be a whole subject in itself. “The Interest” never goes away, although it can be subdued and ignored for a while.

    To read about the feelings of women devs is informative. Your blog has opened the means of discussing the issue. At the time I wrote my book (1989) I was corresponding with several women devs who provided me withy a better sense of the emotional feelings than I received from the men. You will find my book referenced in the Wikipedia article titled “Attraction to Disability.” The book is listed on the halcyonbooks.com website.

    There is an interesting discussion of the subject of devotees on YouTube. Look for the title “Amputees are Beautiful.” I hope amputees are included in your subject matter. I am in contact with the professor who comments on the clip. I’ll give you her email address if you want.

    What is your take on the tumblr sites regarding photos of people in wheelchairs? One is called “Wheelie Wife” and discusses her life in a wheelchair.

    • RuthMadison
      Jun 21, 2013

      I’ve heard of your book!

      I am always glad to see material about devs. I hope one day that people know we exist and know that there are a wide variety of dev behaviors.

      Tumblr sites and Youtube channels created by men or women with disabilities seem like a great thing to me. If they want to cater towards a dev audience, that’s up to them. Now when they are not intending to and get harassing comments from devs or have their pictures taken and reposted, that is not okay!

  4. Grant Riddle
    Oct 2, 2013

    Check out the Canadian movie, “Vital Signs,” (2009) which has a real dbk amputee woman as the principal character, including romance. See my comment in the “Featured” section for more details.

    Provide a review!

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