Remember those days when you were a kid... What? You don't? Well, let me remind you...
You're playing with your best friend, one of your many "best" friends (because aren't they all when you're a kid?), and everything's going fine. For a while. Then, one of you does something the other one doesn't like: had GI Joe kiss a Barbie, won in a game of Checkers, used the wrong shade of blue while coloring Spider-Man and, suddenly, the dreaded phrase rings out, "You're not my friend anymore!" Usually, that's followed by the offended party running away, probably, to go tattle while leaving the unfriended in tears wondering what s/he actually did wrong.
Of course, you didn't do anything wrong, did you? Even when you told your friend that you didn't like the picture he drew. Because, you know what, it's not wrong to have preferences.
And what inevitably happens (at least when responsible parents are involved) is that the kid who yelled "You're not my friend anymore!" is marched back in to apologize for being hurtful, which is as it should be.
[And this is when I would like to talk about being forced to eat horrible things that I didn't like when I was a kid all in the name of being polite, but I don't really have room to go into that.]
Some of you know that I do a lot of reviews ("lot" being a relative term) and that I try to focus on indie authors. Being an indie author, I know how important the reviews are. Yea! for reviews, right? But, also, I don't give any special consideration, which means I give negative reviews, too. I believe honest reviews are better for the community overall than just lying and giving someone 4 or 5 stars. This has the unfortunate result of people (metaphorically) yelling, "You're not my friend anymore!" and running off and unfriending me from all of social media. Mostly, I'm okay with that, because I should be allowed to say whether I like something or not, and I'm not the one exhibiting the bad behavior (unless you're one of those in the camp that says a bad review is bad behavior, in which case, you should yell at me right now and run on off and unfriend me).
Here's the thing, I was checking out the reviews for a book I've been looking at reading and the book only has 5-star reviews and all from people that are in the blogging community. Okay, so right away, that sets my warning bells off. I don't tend to read 5-star reviews, because they usually amount to no more than "Everything is Awesome!" But I was scanning down the reviews for this book and one of them happened to catch my eye. The reviewer had a list of all the things she didn't like about the book. Okay, that intrigued me, so I read the review. Now, let me make this clear, the review only had negative things to say about the book but, at the end, she said, basically, "But it was intense and I loved it," and she gave it 5-stars. This was not a short review, either. Paragraphs and paragraphs about the issues with the book and then gave it 5-stars. Clearly, there is some amount of dishonesty happening here.
One of my favorite reviews for a book was by a guy who ripped the book to shreds in his review. I mean, he really tore it apart. It was an even longer review than one I mentioned above. He had absolutely nothing good to say about the book but ended with something like "But it was very creative and a good read" and gave it 4-stars. The author actually responded with, "I'd hate to have seen what you would have said if you hadn't liked it." Again, clearly, there is some amount of dishonesty happening here.
All of that to say two things:
1. Reviews are believed to be important. [It's hard to say how important, though, because there is some evidence that suggests that reviews are not as important as we think. I think early in an author's career, though, they are important.] As an indie author who wants to support the idea of doing reviews, I do reviews. We have to learn to be comfortable with giving honest reviews. It hurts everyone when all we do is lie to our friends and give them 4- and 5-star reviews. Yes, that means we have to be willing to risk people yelling "You're not my friend anymore!" at us.
It also means we have to address only the work. For instance, it would be okay for me to say, "I didn't like how the author chose to color Spider-Man's costume green. I believe Spider-Man's costume should be the traditional red and blue." It is not okay for me to say, "This author is SO STUPID! She couldn't even get Spider-Man's costume right! Flaming IDIOT! Don't read this crap!" See, when I say, "I didn't like the green the costume," someone else might see that and think, "Huh? A green costume? That sounds interesting." But, if I attack the author's intelligence, we've moved the discussion away from creativity and made it personal.
2. We have to learn not to yell "You're not my friend anymore!" That's just destructive behavior. Sure, I get that it doesn't feel good to have people not like what you worked so hard on (which is why you have to like it enough to not worry about how other people feel about it (but that's a different discussion (and one I've had before, but I'm not finding that post, at the moment)), but cutting someone off is like kicking someone out of your restaurant because she didn't like one particular dish. Maybe you should try saying, "Well, I'm sorry you didn't like this book; maybe, you'll like this other one better." Or the next one. Or whatever. What I can say for sure, though, is that, in my case specifically, I won't be returning to the particular author who unfriended me because I didn't like that particular book. She's not someone I'll continue to support.
And you might be thinking, "But a negative review isn't support," but I would argue with you that it is.
1. I bought the book, which is, honestly, more support than most of you out there are willing to give (I have hard evidence on that by looking at my sales numbers).
2. I left a review and, even if it's not a 4- or 5-star review, it shows that I read the book, which, again, is more than most of you out there are doing. And there is a component that quantity of reviews are just as important (or more important) than quality of reviews.
3. My reviews mean something. Whether I like the book or not, I give the reasons why I did or did not. Those things are important. They tell other people, like with the green Spider-Man example, whether they think they want to read it.
At any rate, all of this stuff is insecurity inducing, but, as authors, it's stuff we have to learn to deal with. If you want people (especially other authors) to be willing to give your book a review, you need to be willing to do reviews for other people. If you want to get reviews, you need to be willing to listen without unfriending people when they say, "I didn't like this one."
This post has been brought you in part by the Insecure Writer's Support Group.