In case you missed it, the lovely people at HarperTeen made The Art of Lainey available on Edelweiss a couple of weeks ago. That doesn’t mean everyone can read it for free, but it does mean if you’re a book blogger, book reviewer, bookseller, or librarian who is a registered Edelweiss user, you can probably access the text of the ARC.
If you are one of those people, and enjoy contemporary YA books, I would love for you to read and review my novel. I am grateful for every single review: the glowing, the critical, and all of those in between. I can’t speak for other authors, but here are a few reasons why reviews are so important to me:
1. Reviews provide helpful feedback. This isn’t the most important reason, but it’s the most obvious. If a lot of reviewers enjoyed the book, that tells me I did something right. If a lot of reviewers despised the book, that tells me that maybe I didn’t execute the story as well as I would have liked. It stings a little bit to read bad reviews, but they inevitably fall into one of two categories—the ones I agree with, which can be helpful in my future writing, and the ones I don’t agree with, which is simply a matter of different strokes for different folks.
True story: my very good friend Christina, who happens to be a book blogger and reviewer, was one of the first people to read The Art of Lainey. “I love it,” she said. “There’s only one thing I didn’t like.” She told me what that one thing was and it turned out to be something my publisher had concerns with too, something I thought I had addressed but maybe not well enough. I thought about Christina’s reaction. I went back to the MS and took a hard look at it. And I made a couple more changes because ultimately I agreed with her. My book is better because my friend had the guts to say “Hey, maybe you want to do this a little differently?” Thank you, C.
By the time you write your review, it might be too late to make changes to the book, but it will never be too late for me to consider your comments and use them to grow and improve as a writer. So please, please, if you know me in real life or online, don’t refrain from posting an honest review of my books because you don’t want to hurt my feelings. My feelings can take it, I care what you think, and also because…
2. Reviews sell books. When I stumble across a book on a website with tons of reviews, my initial thought is “Wow. This is popular. How come I’ve never heard of it?” It doesn’t matter if the average rating is 3.0 or 4.5—I’m immediately curious to find out what I’ve been missing. I don’t usually read indie published books (nothing against them, I just prefer to support the traditional publishing industry because I'm a part of it) but I bought a copy of Susan Ee’s Angelfall** when I saw how many reviews it had. And I loved it--I’m buying the sequel. I never would have given that book a second glance if it only had 20 reviews—even if all 20 were 5-star ratings. No one expects a book to have only glowing reviews. Your middling or negative comments legitimize the positive reviews, if that makes sense. Also...
3. Reviews sell books to the right people. Sometimes I’ll read a negative review that says “This book had too much swearing and underage drinking” or “I hated that this book had a love triangle.” Readers are totally justified in not liking those things. However, those things don’t bother me, so those reviews they don’t affect whether I’ll buy a book. Other reviews says stuff like “This book was really slow-paced and took 250 pages to get to the inciting incident” or “I hated that the heroine’s pet kitten died a brutal death.” When I read that, I’m less likely to pick up a book, and that’s actually a good thing for everyone involved. Maybe it means that I don’t buy a book I was thinking of buying, but I am much more likely to buy the author’s future books if I haven’t labeled her or him in my brain as slow-paced or “Violent Kitten Killer Author.”
I’ll be the first to tell you that if you don’t like funny romantic books or movies like Clueless and Easy A, that you probably won’t like The Art of Lainey. Maybe you think that’s me harming my sales, but I am looking at my long-term career, not just maximizing sales on one book. My second contemp, Liars, Inc., is much darker in tone and context, with dead bodies and plot twists galore. I am not sure how much reader overlap I will have between LAINEY and LIARS, and that’s okay. But I would rather not alienate potential LIARS fans by encouraging them to buy LAINEY if it’s "not for them." So in that way, I see the critical reviews I get for LAINEY as possibly benefiting my overall career. Finally...
4. Reviews motivate me. On those days when I'm banging my head against the wall and wondering if the writing life is really worth it, I sometimes flip through my emails or reviews. When readers say stuff like "I loved this book!" or "this book helped me through a tough time" it reminds me of why the writing life will always be worth it.
**Angelfall is now being published by Amz/Skyscape. My copy was purchased before that sale happened.
I <3 you Paula! I love that you look at reviews this way and that I know when I read any of your books that I don't have to worry about being 100% honest with you! I agree with all your points on reviews from a readers POV also. I definitely am more interested in a book with a ton of reviews vs small reviews. I'm also so intrigued when reviews are majorly mixed. I don't know why, but when I come across a book that half the reviewers hate it & half love it I HAVE TO READ IT! Guess I just need to know which side of the line I stand on. Also I completely understand what you mean by the negative legitimizing the positive reviews, if I see a book with ALL 5 stars, my first thought is "something's up with this". I mean even HP has reviews less than 5 star reviews. I completely agree with #3 also. I NEED to know why you didn't like a book! If it has insta-love....well I'm a little more hesitant to pick that kind of book up. Love triangles? Bring it on, I'm always up for a good "my heart is torn" story. All excellent points you make!ReplyDelete
Also, I love love love love Clueless and Easy A!!!! So that is an awesome thing! I'm also SUPER SUPER excited for Liars, like BEYOND excited. I'm in this mood a lot lately for "darker" books so I'm ready for this!!!!
Crystal @ Crystal in Bookland
I am like that too when a book is majorly polarizing. I knew I was going to read Allegiant, but when the initial reviews were all like 5 MEGA STARS BEST BOOK EVER or 1 STAR I HATE THIS BOOK MORE THAN LIFE ITSELF I had to read it right away just to know what the big deal was.Delete
Wow. I love your outlook on reviews! I always struggle when writing a review for a book I don't necessarily care for after meeting/talking with the author before I've read it. It's good to know that honest reviews are appreciated.ReplyDelete
Also? Can I express how excited I am for Liars? Seriously. I need that book in my greedy hands now. Now. NOW.
Thanks for being so awesome, April. <----- Still funny
Not funny ;)Delete
Part of it I think is that my agent is unbelievably honest with me. She's read stuff I wrote and just been like "Let be me frank. [List of all that is not right with my writing.]" As painful as that can be, ultimately it pushes me to be better and also makes it really easy for me to believe her when she says she loves something.
OMG my first letter for LIARS is supposed to be showing up ANY DAY. I'm SO excited to make that book even better :)
Really looking forward to LIARS and LAINEY even more now! It's awesome to meet and work with authors who understand honest reviews! Thanks so much to all the authors like that out there and for writing this post! :) <3ReplyDelete
You're welcome. Thanks for being part of #TeamLainey!Delete
Amazing post! I am always so worried that in writing a negative review for a book that just wasn't for me that I am getting other people who might like it to not read it.... (I hope that that made sense) But it is great to know that authors appreciate honest reviews!ReplyDelete
We do, we do. We need your reviews :) I try to make every book better than the one before, so I would be super-bothered by all 5-star reviews. It'd be like "Huh. How am I supposed to top that?"Delete
This is a really great post, Paula! I review books because I love reading them and talking about what I thought, but it's always so nice to hear that authors appreciate the reviews as well. I do love supporting authors, after all :)ReplyDelete
I totally agree with your third point. Not every book is for every person and that's why I always try to say something like "this thing really didn't work for me, but that doesn't mean it won't for you" in a fair number of my not-as-positive reviews because it's true! I may hate something that other people love. A crazy love triangle may turn some people totally off a book, but be the best darn thing about it for others. So I think reviews definitely help steer people in the right direction there.
I also love point number 4 because I do LOVE your books - I find I really connect with them well and get so drawn in - and so if that can give you any kind of motivation or warm fuzzies, I'll keep saying it :)
I have no problem with reviews and ratings, because the US was founded on freedom of expression (Oh right, you're Canadian. What was Canada founded on? Hockey? Maple syrup? Just kidding :D) But I don't like the idea of judging books as "good" or "bad." I'm always going to prefer fluffy contemps and genre thrillers over super-literary award-winners, but that doesn't mean my tastes are worse than anyone else's--just different.Delete
Yay for warm fuzzies! (It's cooold here).
I think my favorite part of this post was how you admitted that the rating doesn't matter. Sure, negative reviews aren't as great as positive reviews, but in the end they are still a marketing strategy. I have one friend who, in fact, buys every book I write a negative review for because she is curious to fully know what exactly pissed me off about everything. For others, they get curious.ReplyDelete
LAINEY, LIARS, and VENOM all have completely different premises and I think this will display your abilities as a writer and show that you can write across genres. I'm so excited to read them all! (and I'm going for that grand prize!)
It's all about getting the word out :) it would be super-arrogant of me to expect that everyone is going to love all of my books, especially when I seem to be making them all different ;)Delete
LOVED your trip pix. FIVE ROBUST STARS for that blog post :)
I love this post! YAY Clueless and Easy A are two of my favorite movies! So I am definitely sure I'll love The Art of Lainey as much! :) It was up on Edelweiss? I didn't know that! I'd definitely write a review once I do get to read it though :) I love how you don't expect people to automatically love your book and how you're so open to all kinds of reviews, even negative ones. It is true that feedback is really helpful, even if it's already too late to edit the book, but it can help the writer grow and improve in the long run. Great post, Paula! :)ReplyDelete
-Kimi at Geeky Chiquitas
I just saw this! Thanks for your kind words, Kimi :)Delete