On Book Reviews & Knife Fights

A couple weeks ago, a woman I don’t know gave a less-than-great rating for The Middle of Nowhere. Even though Adult Me knows to stay calm and that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and that other people really love the book and hey, maybe she doesn’t like books with strong female leads and lots of swearing and moderately fun sex scenes, the Writer Me still wanted gather a gang of Street Toughs (preferably Street Toughs who love the book) and have “Beat It” play in the background while I challenged her to Mexican Knife Fight*.

So I wrote about that glass case of emotion in a FB status update and then kind of freaked out to a couple of friends via text about it, too. A couple of pals were all, “YO, chill, reviews don’t mean anything”, but that’s just the thing: To a writer trying to make a living as a writer, ratings + reviews actually mean a LOT. 

Just like how Willam Belli has declared that thigh-gaps are a currency in Hollywood…in a writer’s world? Ratings + reviews are currency.

Nobody wants it to be this way (except for maybe professional book review bloggers)…mostly because, as readers, we’ve all had our own instances of only taking 2 seconds to casually click “3 stars” on a book that we liked but maybe didn’t love, and then we became writers and started cursing that casualness because now we know it maybe ruined another writer’s career because it turned everyone off who was maybe going to buy + read the book but then decided that they didn’t wanna take a chance on a book that had less than a 4-5 average star rating. And then that author didn’t sell any books, and so their self-esteem plummeted and they eventually stopped writing altogether and then fell into a deep, dark depression hole and now they work at a Burger King because what’s the use of doing anything else worthy with their lives when the one thing they wanted to do has now been ruined by SOME CARELESS REVIEWER?!


So then as writers we started praying that all of our readers would really take the time to thoughtfully rate + review our book(s) so that other potential readers wouldn’t be turned off by someone’s 2-second verdict on the precious literary work we’ve given 5 years of our goddamn life + numerous potential lays + countless happy hours with friends over to creating.

And then you get into the mess about how, if you’re an indie author, ratings + reviews from readers mean EVERYTHING, because most news publications + magazines still won’t review your work unless it comes from a big publishing house, and so/plus potential readers feel that the only way to “vet” an indie author is from their ratings + reviews, so it’s on the author to count on great readers to help get the word out and show potential readers that your work is worth their $$ + time.

And lastly and more on the positive side, if an indie author gets a number of really great ratings + reviews, Amazon and other progressive publishing companies take notice, and you then have leverage to negotiate a great deal so you can make more of a living on your writing and actually focus on the writing instead of the marketing. But before you can not care about it, you gotta care about it, ya see?

So yes – as authors, we would rather not care about reviews and stuff.

And it means everything that someone simply picked up our book and read it.

But it also means a lot if they rate + review the book.

Because a great review can literally pave the way to legit success as an author.

And a bad review can bug the hell out of you and make you want to track down the person to…y’know…just talk! Just chat! Just maybe meet up for coffee so you can buy them a delicious pastry and then convince them of what a great person you are and how likable you can be and now that they’ve met you in person, that maybe they just didn’t give your book the undivided attention that it maybe deserved and now that they really like you and are probably your new best friend (probably), maybe they should go back and amend that review so as to not ruin this great new budding friendship that the two of you are now building!

So anyway.

I’m currently in the process of trying to take the stellar ratings + reviews Holiday Chick received and rebuild that radness over on the The Middle of Nowhere’s Amazon pagebecause even though they’re both essentially the same story, Amazon won’t transfer HC’s ratings + reviews over to MoN because it’s just not how they do stuff. So if you’ve read Holiday Chick and liked / loved it, it would mean everything to me if you would take a moment to give The Middle of Nowhere a star rating (and maybe write a short review if you’re fancy + really love me, MOM) on Amazon and/or Goodreads.

As a lil’ bonus for trotting over to Amazon, all the things you never knew is free on Kindle today! You can download it for 0 dollars AND share it with a fellow Kindle-lovin’ friend!

I’m also rolling out a VIP Book List for readers who want to be the first to know about new + sweet + free book news. Emails will be totally infrequent (cause I haaaaate signing up for an email list only to be rewarded with a bunch’a emails every other day, and like Ghandi, I am the change I want to see in the world) and signing up will also give you immediate access to the VIP section of this blog, a password-protected section full of ssseeeccccreeetttssss (a.k.a., a special place chockfull of exclusive book features like bonus chapters, soundtracks, etc)!

Download your Kindle copy of all the things you never knew here!

Want in? Sign up for the VIP Book List here!


* And yes, it totally reminded me of this story about this author and how I had given her book a 2-star review (which I stand behind, because the book…was not good) BEFORE I read the piece about her stalking a Goodreads book reviewer, which was kind of hilarious and scary but also I gotta say that I kind of get it even though I would never stalk someone because HELLO, if I learned anything from high school it’s that stalking is way time-consuming and I’m an adult now which means that I could get in WAY more trouble for it and besides there’s Reality TV that I gots to watch instead. 

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About Amber L.

Hi! I'm Amber. I've been telling stories with books and blogs since 2004. I also spent 10 years working as a behavior therapist, which I now put to proper use by publishing thought pieces and dissertations on '80s pop music and the defining TV shows of our current times ('The Bachelor', 'Vanderpump Rules', etc). I can also be credited with single-handedly ruining the city of Portland, OR just by moving here.

2 comments on “On Book Reviews & Knife Fights

  1. I’m honest on my star rating but it would be a whole lot more help if Goodreads started going on a half star rating. I also will read (happily) books with three stars just like I would watch movies with three stars because my taste isn’t everyone’s taste. I only give a one or two star to books that are truly terrible, or truly terrible to me.

  2. Thanks for your perspective, April! I’ve thought that, too, about Goodreads and the half-star rating. And you’re right – sometimes I scoff at a three-star rating when it comes to books and movies, just because I know others are usually way more critical of a thing than I am. Unless a book made me physically angry (as in the case of Kathleen Hale’s), I usually just won’t rate it at all and consider it an act of kindness.

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