Lately, I’ve been wondering if reader comments are worth looking at. As the saying goes, “One person’s treasure is another person’s trash.”
I see this all the time on a Fantasy/SciFi group I belong to, where readers post about how great Sanderson is or how much they love Hobb, and commenters will argue back and forth about these authors. After awhile, I quit looking at these types of posts, because they’re all about the treasure/trash scenario. Personal preference.
When it comes to books, everyone has their personal preferences. That’s fine. But personal preferences should be jettisoned when rating a book. It’s like the movies your friend recommends that you think are meh, and vice versa. Why rate a book on the personal preference scale? It doesn’t mean anything.
Here are some favorite wacky personal preference reviews:
- “Not enough description.” “Too much description.” (For the same book. What???)
- “Really good story!” One star. (Does the reader know how the rating scale works?)
- “I don’t really care for romance books.” Low rating. (Okay, so why are you reviewing them?)
- “I was triggered by the love triangle.” Low rating. (Fair, but not all readers will be triggered. What about the plot, pacing and writing style?)
- “I didn’t like the ending.” (Hmm. Maybe the author hoped it would make you think?)
- “I didn’t like the law enforcement character.” (You weren’t supposed to, LOL!)
- My favorite is a reader who rates a book really low because of a personal preference or lack of comprehension, and Amazon lists that review at the top for all time and eternity. And there’s nothing an author can do about it. Thanks, Amazon!
The not so wacky review…
Then along comes a reviewer who makes a point about the book that all the beta readers and critique partners have overlooked. “I didn’t like the personal twist at the end, especially since it appears the twist will carry through for the rest of the series. I would read other books by this author, but this twist makes me not want to read the series.” Strong words, but I appreciated them.
A constructive comment like this, coupled with similar comments made by other reviewers, induces me to think about my book as it sits in pre-order. I included the twist for dramatic purposes. Life is messy sometimes. I thought readers would worry about the heroine and be anxious to see what happens to her in the next book. Apparently this particular issue does not thrill mystery readers. Who knew? So, I have decided to change the twist, especially since it comes to nothing in the next book. Why take the chance of alienating a reader?
That’s the power of a thoughtful review.
Comments about a book’s plot, character arcs or pacing is the stuff of useful reviews. Retelling the plot or rating the story on the basis of personal preference? Not so much…
Happy reading and reviewing!