As an author I have mixed emotions about book reviews. I want them. My publisher trolls for them. I’m thrilled when my book is noticed. And yet…
I’m going through this process for the fifty-fifth time. It’s hard. Imagine dressing your child up for his or her very first day of school and then having someone tell everyone else that they really don’t like your child. Or they point out the fact that your child has one leg longer than the other. Or that his nose is a little pudgy. Maybe his clothes have smudges on them or he can’t say his ‘r’s’ and someone announces that on the school bus. Or over some loud speaker that crosses the United States.
On the other hand, if you sent your child out into the world and no one noticed, no one spoke to her or played with her, no one even saw her…well that would be worse. Having a book out that is not reviewed is like having a child that is invisible to the world. A child that doesn’t exist as far as the world is concerned. The child never gets to go to school, or have a friend or a job or a child of her own. Your entire heart and soul is wrapped up in something that is considered…nothing.
So then I ask myself, how much effect do reviews have on book sales? If the review is bad, well, it was only one person’s opinion. If it was glowing…well, it was only one person’s opinion. But how many people paid attention to that one person’s opinion? I don’t think there’s a way to quantify that, but I’m guessing there’s significant effect since reviews are sought after and respected sources have been doing them for a long long time.
And how much effect do reviews have on me?
I think reviews are something like grown children – you can’t live with them and you can’t live without them, either. Sometimes they fill up your emotional well to capacity and sometimes they drain it completely. They make you happy enough to fly and they hurt you enough to drive you to drink.
Lately, I’ve been on the happy side of reviews. My newest release, The Fourth Victim, MIRA Books, 12/10, was reviewed by Library Journal last week. They said: “Quinn has scored on all counts, creating a brilliantly touching, nail-biting thriller that becomes progressively intense…”
One of my favorite reviews came this past summer. It was on a book of mine that was written a few years ago, Sophie’s Secret. The review was done by a woman who has a blog and posts her opinions of books she’s read. She didn’t particularly like my book. But I really liked the review because it was honest and concrete. She said the writing was good. The book was about a politician and his much younger girlfriend. This reviewer doesn’t like politic stories and she doesn’t like the summer/winter romance theme. She was honest about that. I don’t happen to like Star Wars but it was a great success without me! I felt that her review was fair and valid and anyone reading it would get a depiction of my book that would help them make the best choice regarding a potential purchase. And, to me, that is exactly what a book review should do. Trashing a book is not helpful unless the reviewer can be open minded enough to acknowledge particulars about why he or she didn’t like a book so that readers of the review can make an educated decision before purchasing the title. We aren’t all alike and what one person hates, another might like. The best reviewers keep that in mind. As an author, I don’t want someone to buy my book and hate it. I’ve wasted his or her money and I don’t want to do that. And I could lose potential readers too if the reader tells others that she hated the book. One sale isn’t worth either of those things.
My most favorite review just came this past week. It’s on a book that’s out in April of 2011, It Happened On Maple Street. The book is my true life story and the review said: “This is truly a groundbreaking piece of literary work that is shocking in its raw honesty and starkly poignant in its message.” Of course, I’d like this statement because it makes the book sound good, but why I love it is because the word choice tells the reader what he or she is in for. Raw honesty puts it right out there. Poignant is another word that does more than praise. It explains.
Sometimes I read my reviews. Sometimes I don’t. Thankfully all of The Chapman Files (The First Wife, Harlequin Superromance, 9/10; The Second Lie, MIRA Books 10/10; The Third Secret, MIRA Books, 11/10; and The Fourth Victim, 12/10) scored big! If you are a reader of suspense, the collective reviewer opinion is that you’ll love these books. And if reviewers had hated them…what then? Would I have spent two years of my life creating a child who was invisible to the world?
I know some authors who drive themselves crazy with their reviews. They take them so much to heart they can’t sleep at night. A bad review sticks with them for months. It interferes with their writing. And the worst part is, it’s completely out of their control. Out of my control, too.
The one thing I know for sure is that reviews are a part of my life. I am a writer. And books are reviewed. Overall, I’m good with that.
Tara Taylor Quinn (www.tarataylorquinn.com) With over 50 original novels, published in more than twenty languages, Tara Taylor Quinn is a USA Today bestselling author with more than six million copies sold. She is a winner of the 2008 National Reader's Choice Award, four time finalist for the RWA Rita Award, a finalist for the Reviewer’s Choice Award, the Bookseller’s Best Award, the Holt Medallion and appears regularly on the Waldenbooks bestsellers list. Ms. Quinn writes for Harlequin and MIRA Books. Reviewer, Cindy Penn, wordweaving.com says, “Amazing character development is the hallmark of author Tara Taylor Quinn’s work. Indeed, Taylor’s profound observations of human nature and intimate understanding of values and priorities lends extraordinary psychological depth to all her work.”
Ms. Quinn is a Past President of the Romance Writers of America and served for eight years on the Board of Directors of that association. She has a wide range of experience as a public speaker and workshop presenter for writers groups around the country.