Reviews: To Read or Not to Read?

reading woman

by Andrés Nieto Porras

Last week I asked the question, “Do you write reviews?” And it seemed to me that many authors don’t, in fact, write reviews, although readers seemed to want to share their thoughts on books somewhat more consistently.

This week I’m kind of asking the flip side: Do you read reviews?

I’m very interested in the answer to this one because it has different meanings for readers and writers.

As a reader I don’t usually read reviews. And if I do, I’m not usually swayed by them (for the same reason I expressed about not agreeing with critics last week, i.e. my evaluation of Jewel of the Nile vs. critics’ view). An intriguing blurb will get me to buy the book quicker than glowing reviews. The only exception is if a review or word of mouth comments that there are historical inaccuracies or if it’s generally poorly written. Then I steer clear because those things make me crazy as a reader.

As a writer I don’t usually read reviews of my works, not because I can’t take criticism—I’ve been directing plays for many years and have had my share of bad reviews—but because I don’t want to dwell on the negative ones. And that’s the same reaction I’ve found with several authors who’ve told me they don’t read their reviews. I could have six glowing reviews and one bad one and the bad one is going to be the one I think about constantly. I love the good reviews (I have read reviews in the past, you see) but when a bad one comes in, I can’t help asking myself, “What did I miss? What could I have done to make that reader love my book instead?”

And even though I know, with certainty, that 100% of readers are not going to like my books, I still obsess over why they didn’t.

So to keep from going crazy (again), I don’t usually read the reviews. I will look at ratings to keep an eye on how my books are doing, but I do steer away from the reviews.

For readers, however, I’m very interested to see how many of you use reviews to guide your purchases in romance. Do you read them all? Do you read some good, some bad? Do you not read them at all? And if you read them, do they sway you one way or another?

Inquiring authors really want to know!

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7 Responses to Reviews: To Read or Not to Read?

  1. Pingback: Reviews:To Read or Not to Read? | Jenna Jaxon Romance–because passion is timeless.

  2. Lisa M says:

    I read reviews that don’t give spoilers away … I prefer to the point reviews, I don’t want to read a story (review) … did you like it? was the writing good, creative, etc? did the story flow? what about the characters?
    Keep it simple and I will read it

  3. Melissa Keir says:

    I only read reviews for things like clothes, cars and appliances. Books are too hard for me to read. I don’t want them to spoil the book and even if they don’t put in a single spoiler, something is going to stick with me and I’ll be disappointed at the end of the book. Better to just buy books that I like (Cover, blurb, author) than to worry about what others think.

  4. As a writer, I’m also a reader. To that end, I do read reviews on the books I’m thinking about buying. I read the bad ones. Now, before anyone starts chasing me with pitchforks, let me tell you why I read the bad ones. I hate finding numerous grammatical, spelling, and homonym errors in a book. It turns me right off, and I rarely finish those books, and always feel like I’ve wasted my money. The second reason I read bad reviews is that I hate books with no ending — serials disguised as complete novels. Those infuriate me. I read the blurb before buying any book, and if I’m not seeing that it’s a serial and yet the bad reviews are complaining that a book has no ending, I’m going to avoid that book and that author. If the book is clearly advertised as a serial and yet a bad review complains about it, I will, of course, ignore anything else that reviewer has to say. I do not consider any comments in bad reviews which are people’s pet peeves or purely opinion. I’m really only looking for technique and ending flaws.

    I rarely read the good reviews because if the book is rated high enough (in terms of stars), I figure that’s good enough information to be encouraging and persuasive.

    I do not write reviews, because Amazon almost invariably takes them away because I “know the author” whether I’ve actually ever known the author at all. (Mind you, I never write reviews of less than four stars, so no one would be complaining that I’ve left negative reviews on a competitor’s works.) I seem to be able to get the reviews accepted if they’re written about old books with deceased writers, or by writers like Stephen King or Johanna Lindsey, who are so famous that it is plausible that I’m a fan rather than a colleague.

    That’s my take on reviews, Jenna. Good, thoughtful article. I always enjoy your reasoning.

    • Jenna Jaxon says:

      Thank you, Trish! I’ve never had a review removed because I “know the author” but I suppose that’s because I’ve written so few they haven’t found them. 🙂 And you make a very good point about reading bad reviews to see if there is a problem with technical stuff like grammar, punctuation, etc. because like you, that drives me up the wall. Thanks for weighing in!

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