Swallowing Reviews

Writers live and die professionally by the reviews of their work. I’ve written lots of book reviews over the last several years…lots. I used to write a book review blog. I’d read something and then write about it. Over time, as my blog became more popular, authors began to contact me and ask me to review their work. I read a lot of great stuff that I might otherwise never have even known about. I also read some real dogs.

One of the dogs, I did review for the blog and I did my best to be diplomatic about it. I couldn’t, in good conscience though, review it for Amazon as the author had asked. It was not a work of fiction but the actual memoir to date of the author. Though I didn’t at all agree with choices he made along the way nor did I find his writing at all compelling, the book was the written account of his personal story and not something I could fairly pick apart for all of the world to read and potentially decide against reading his book because of what I said. That wouldn’t have been fair to him.

Another author contacted me about reading her work of fiction and, after reading the brief synopsis she emailed me, I agreed. The synopsis was the best thing she wrote.  Her book was apparently a play that she had written and then later decided to convert into a novel without the benefit of the stage directions so the reader would have a sense of action, time and place. With no narrative, just dialog, people came and went with no way to know how, when or why. It was so incredibly terrible that I was rendered speechless. I couldn’t even review it for my blog. I just didn’t want to talk about it at all at that time. It was that bad.

When I finally published my own book, I knew I needed to get some reviews to give me a sense of how well my writing would be received and, if it was deemed good enough, to drive sales. I contacted five friends who I felt would be amenable to the genre, LGBT themed mystery, and two authors I’d formerly reviewed works for who I keep in touch with. Five of the seven people responded that they would be happy to read my book and give me an honest review. One friend and one of the authors did right away.

My friend’s review was very brief but effusive in its praise. To me, she was much more verbal. She genuinely liked the book but didn’t seem to find it necessary to write a detailed review. So far, her review has two “not helpful” votes. I feel bad for her that it hasn’t been well received but it has helped me. The review from the author, AR Fiano, author of the Gabriel’s World LGBT Mystery/Thriller series , was much more detailed but also effusive.

I emailed AR and asked for complete honesty after such a stellar review. 1st novels are never, after all, sterling. AR continued to be complimentary but did point out a couple of flaws that needed to be addressed. One, I fixed right away… I just love the ease of updating books! The other, I’ll work out over time. Neither affected the review of the book. I was elated.

Yesterday, I got my first unsolicited review. The reviewer declared my book, not her cup of tea and rated it three stars on the Big River but declared it well written. Huh? She declares herself to be primarily a reader of romance and likes it laced with smut. Relic isn’t a romance – though it has small elements of that – and it’s definitely not smut though there is a little of “fade to black” sex in the story. It has a place in the story but it isn’t integral to it and so it doesn’t fit for it to be detailed enough to be erotica. I’m glad she bought the book and read it but I’m not sure why she did. I stewed about the oddly mixed review over night and now, at this writing, I’m letting it go. You can’t please everyone but, obviously, I’m doing okay!

About Anne Hagan

I'm an East Central Ohio based government employee by day and a fiction author by night. I specialize in mystery fiction featuring lesbian sleuths and cozy fiction featuring women sleuths. I also dabble in romance especially romantic lesfic. I live with my wife and our dogs in a tiny town that’s even smaller than the Morelville of my first fiction series and we wouldn't have it any other way. My wife grew up here and she has always called this little village home. Though it’s an ultra-conservative rural community, we're surrounded here by family, longtime friends and many other wonderful people with open hearts and minds. My wife and I are the co-owners of a commercial haunted house: Hagan's House of Horrors. Much as my dream has always been to write fiction, hers has been to create it through the medium of horror. We went full commercial in 2015. Watch us as we grow!
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