Reblog: The Story Behind the Stories #003 – Reviews

I have written books and product reviews in my head as far back as I can remember. Now that the books are finally getting out there, it only stands to reason that the reviews should follow. It has only been in the last couple years that I have realized how important reviews are, and how much they can mean to an artist or creator. I always thought that any comments I left would disappear into a black hole where no one would read them, and the creator would never know of them. I had no idea that a customer review can make an artist’s day, or encourage others to follow their work; and honestly, I thought customer reviews and testimonials were always fake.

Well, the good news is I was mostly wrong. When something touches me now, I think of the reviews I have gotten and how grateful I was for every one. When something really leaves an impression, or speaks to me in layers, or in a way I haven’t been spoken to before, I understand a little bit about what went into creating those layers and that voice. I want to let the artist know, in whatever way I can, that their work changed me or my thinking somehow. I want to let them know that I am more for having experienced their art, and that I am grateful for it.

There hasn’t been much opportunity until fairly recently, especially when it comes to my favorite form of entertainment. I swore off all books while I wrote the Walking Between Worlds trilogy, to work in a somewhat sealed environment. Now that it’s over, I have finally started working on the pile of books that has built up in the interim.

The first on my list was Kind of Like Life by Christina McMullen, and it was a great place to start. It was an awesome book, and writing a review for it was a satisfying way to say ‘thank you’ publicly to a creative and compelling writer. I have a few more of her books waiting, but I need to space them out a little. I can be picky about what I read, and I love to have an author that I can depend on waiting on the bench with another story I know I will enjoy. Ms. McMullen’s voice is now welcome in my head, and I look forward to running from uncomfortable cadences and back into its familiar textured tones.

Speaking of picky…I’m not kidding. If I don’t like something, I don’t like it. But here’s the thing: I won’t finish it either. I also won’t write a bad review, partially because I won’t finish it and partly because I don’t see the point. Most of the bad reviews I have seen are basically either saying ‘I didn’t like it’ or ‘I didn’t get it’. I appreciate the former, when I get them; we can’t all be loved by everyone, and it’s sweet that you took the time to say it wasn’t up your alley. The latter are sometimes more fun to read than a good review…although if they got that they didn’t get it, they would at least maybe give it more stars.

The other bad reviews I have seen are ‘Improve your cover’ or ‘This needs editing’ or ‘Formatting could use work’. These are notes that I think should be messaged privately to the author, if any note is made of them at all. It’s not helpful in a review, especially after changes have been made and the comment remains. (I’m not speaking from experience, thank Dawn…just stories I’ve heard). I hate to sound elementary, but I think it’s a good rule publicly: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it. It reveals more about you than it does the object of your criticism. If you think a private exchange would be helpful, I encourage it. If the author is not receptive, don’t be surprised. But don’t be too surprised if they are, either. Authors are often open-minded folks.

I won’t be posting updates on what I am reading, or how far along I am. I did with Kind of Like Life because I was immediately hooked, and I thought it would be fun to try it out. It probably won’t happen in the future, however. Any reviews I post will be on my website and Sudden Insight’s, and that will be the first anyone hears of me reading anything. It’s just better that way, at least for now.

This has been more about author reviews than anything, since I am an author and reader; but I see other reviews in a whole new light since being in an industry that relies so heavily on them, and I look forward to all the opportunities I have with other meaningful creations. Mostly, though, I look forward to thanking other authors for writing some of my favorite books. Watch for my posts on Amazon and GoodReads, or just come back here for them. Oh, and if you’re an author, I am looking for book trade opportunities. I dig our Kindle, but I still love to curl up with a good print book from time to time.

Thanks for reading!
Jay Norry
Author, Editor
Sudden Insight Publishing

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