In the movie Grease, Sandy reminisces about her evening with greaser Danny Zuko. Her clique of friends respond with, “Tell me more!” I have much the same reaction when reading book reviews.

I occasionally check the reviews of my own books. It’s not just a way to torment myself or seek validation, it’s also a way to pick out what readers like or dislike about my stories. Their comments inform me. Sometimes, I ignore their gripes, especially if that reader’s one review is an outlier offset by a preponderance of opposite reviews. That happened with Daughter of the Twin Moons. One reader loathed the heroine.

I admit to being taken aback by that, but she’s entitled to her opinion. I also appreciate her taking the time to explain the negative rating. I learn from such explanations and factor what I learn into future stories.

Of course, I love when readers praise my work. What author doesn’t? What author doesn’t crave more such praise and validation? Russian Lullaby recently receive three very nice reviews. The readers leaving those reviews didn’t go in to detail, but their short comments were complimentary.

When deciding whether to purchase (or download) a book, I look for detail in reader reviews. Some (usually negative) reviews are vastly entertaining, probably better than the books themselves. I pay detailed reviews credence: these are readers who can and do explain why they did or did not like a particular story. I evaluate those reviews.

I often discount reviews that complain of explicit content or profanity. In the genres I read, such content or vulgarity is to be expected. However, when a reader notes that the F-word is grossly overused or that there’s little to no plot connecting sex scenes, I do take those into consideration. It’s a matter of degree. However, if a reader gives a book a 1-star review because a character takes the Lord’s name in vain once or twice, then I ignore the review, because saying “OMG” or some other, spelled-out variation is realistic and I prize realism in the escapist literature I read.

Contrary, I know.

Some readers automatically assign a negative review to any book that ends on a cliffhanger. I can understand that, especially when there’s no mention of that cliffhanger in the book’s description. The reader feels duped by receiving a partial story and being forced to fork over additional money to finish the story. Some authors do use cliffhangers as a money grab: They charge $0 or $0.99 for the first installment, then $4.99 or more for each additional installment until the reader has paid considerably more for the entire story in installments than he or she would have if purchasing a single printed book.

I find that infuriating and deceitful.

Reviews lambasting a book for rampant grammatical errors and/or poor writing count highly in my decision whether to get that book. My “to be read” pile is overwhelming enough that I don’t need to waste my time on substandard content. Reviews that complain of protagonists who are too stupid (or stubborn) to life also get my attention. Human frailty is allowed, even welcomed, in character development, but abject idiocy is not. If the protagonist has a fatal flaw, I like to know that the character can be redeemed. A good story arc encompasses character growth. In my novella The Barbary Lion, the protagonist (an anti-hero) gets his comeuppance and, in the end, negotiates with his one true love. What makes that ending acceptable after the way he has treated her is his one enduring trait of keeping his word no matter what.

People in real life as well as characters in books make bad decisions and/or behave poorly, but do they learn from the consequences of their poor choices or bad behavior?

If you leave a review, however, please explain it. Others who may purchase that book want to know why you did or did not like it. Reviews without explanations are worthless. I discredit them entirely when considering a purchase. Reviews need not be exhaustive–I seldom write long, detailed reviews–but they should be honest. Simply indicating you liked (or didn’t like) something gives a stranger no reason to allow your review to influence his or her decision. If you want to be useful or helpful to potential readers and/or authors …

Tell them why.

#bookreviews #hollybargobooks #opinion