|Mixed messages for Shakespeare from these reviews...|
Today I thought I’d blog about a subject every author worries about far too much, yet which most readers probably never give a second thought to: stars.
Authors would do well to take some advice from the Bard, who cautioned us that “the fault…lies not in our stars but in ourselves.” That said, I’m not sure I’m going to take advice from him because his works, in their various forms, don’t have nearly as many reviews on Amazon as you would expect and they aren’t always that great or, indeed, that logical. (“Bought for a student as present very pleased with it” 1*.)
Of course Shakespeare’s reviews are largely not about the plays themselves but about the edition — poor formatting gets your book marked down and easy navigability gets it marked up. Equally, reviewers award ratings for the introduction and the commentary rather than for the wonderful work which forms the main part of the book.
Apart from the odd moment of dismay, I tend to be rather sanguine about bad reviews — and in fact I think authors worry too much about them. We expect them to be focussed entirely on the content, but for the reader they’re about the whole process of buying and reading a product. Shakespeare’s experience, if you call it that, demonstrates this neatly.
There is often a disconnect between the review and the star rating. Some of my four star reviews have been very much better than some of the five star ones, for example. Again, there’s no point in moaning about them because they reflect the reader’s response. As a reader I don’t review that much but when I do I’m not always that consistent. Sometimes I rave about a book that isn’t, in objective terms (as far as objectivity is possible) very good or don’t enjoy book that is, by every measure, a classic.
Why? Because if I enjoy a book the quality is only part of it. It will be the right book for me, at the right time, and as a result I will enjoy it far more than I might have done under different circumstances. Or it might be set in a place I know and love, or one of the characters might chime with me for a particular reason, or what have you.
I try and be kind when I review but not everyone does and they don’t have to. So my advice to the author reading a bad review is not to take it to heart. Not everybody’s going to like your book baby — and a bad review does’t reflect a poor quality book, but the fact that a reader didn’t enjoy it. Focus instead on the ones who did.