Our Lives in Words
Writing, editing, critiquing, publishing, marketing
3/5/19 The Three-Star Review
I’ve heard an author bemoan a three-star review as not supportive enough and as not promoting sales. The author was requesting that reviewers of the book not post any review if it were not at least four stars. This strikes me as wrong for several reasons.
A three-star rating is a supportive one. It means the book had strengths, but there were areas significant to this reader that could be improved. In the mystery-thriller arena, I would reserve the five-star rating for some books of leading authors like John Sandford, Dean Koontz, Martha Grimes, Agatha Christie, C.J. Box, and Jonathan Kellerman. Some of their novels might get only four stars. All these authors’ works have hundreds or thousands of reviews on Amazon that include one, two, and three stars. Even Harry Potter books get one or two stars. This is to be expected, for as Andrei Tarkovsky said, "A book read by a thousand different readers is a thousand different books."
· A larger number of reviews, including three stars, benefits sales. Few reviews are a warning sign. Many reviews, including those of three, four, or five stars, tells the potential buyer that this is a book with appeal. Readers know that a few reviews of five stars are the authors friends and relatives and reflect kinship, not quality. Many reviews means widely read and therefore readable.
· A substantive review with three stars is of value. Readers appreciate knowing what works in a book and what is missing. This guides diverse readers who may have no qualms about lack of description or interior dialogue or humor because they want plot, action, mystery. An honest review also guides the author for what worked and what didn't.
· A three-star review avoids censure by Amazon. A slew of reviews, all five stars, makes it easy for the Amazon robots to glean that this is a set up, especially since the reviewers did not buy the book.
· Restricting reviewers seems unethical. If we demand only four- and five-star reviews, isn't that the equivalent of ghost-writing our own reviews?
I guess my sentiments fall under the umbrella that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Authors should cherish all reviews as signs of being read. Nothing is worse than writing a book, getting it published, and being ignored. One can always contest a negative review and thereby garner more notice due to whining.
Author Robert Brooks of Brevard NC is a featured guest at The Curiosity Shop bookstore in Murphy on Friday, October 5. The book-signing event from five to eight p.m. for his mystery novel The Clown Forest Murders is part of the regular Friday night Art Walk celebrated each month in Murphy, NC.
Bob, along with first author and son A.C. Brooks, wrote The Clown Forest Murders released last November by Black Opal Books. The tale is set in a small town with surrounding forests and fields where strange mushrooms can arise and change behavior. Those who marvel at the alluring fungi in western NC forests will see them in a new and mysterious light. The novel tells Dave’s story: he witnessed his brother’s murder, amnesia protects him, memories return, and he must investigate. Dave’s return to his home town sparks problems with his psychiatrist, local cops, and the killer. Written in memory of a son and brother, the novel is dedicated to those who endure mental illness. Elements of an attractive but flawed hero, a heroine who holds a secret, and a hidden killer make the book a great read. The author will be available at The Curiosity Shop to discuss his books, reveal secrets of their creation, and sign copies.