Random thoughts on reviews, writing and Lord of the Rings...

A fellow writer friend of mine got their first one star rating on Goodreads a few weeks back. They posted about it and how it made them feel. They even apologised to the rest of us who may read their post that they *knew they were being silly to be worried or upset* (paraphrased to protect the innocent!).

How as authors are we supposed to feel? Can we not be upset without looking like we are idiots. The grown up adult side of us (you know... the side that we try to keep quiet underneath our attempts to stay young) learns something from each review. The grown up writer grows even more with each point they take on board that makes them better at what they do.

When I got my first 'one' I was devastated; my second made me contemplate stopping writing. Now? Now, I think one of my books isn't truly critiqued unless I get a one from someone somewhere. It balances the other reviews and now most of my books sit at or around 3.5/5. As the holder of a statistics degree I am happy that I fall on average above the 3 line. This to me means that, in the main, people *like* my writing. Also as an aside, anything above a three seems to convert to healthy sales.

Empire Magazine rate films on a star rating. I very rarely like the films they rate as a five. I often find these films boring (I am still recovering from Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and The Constant Gardner). I tend to love the films that are rated as threes. The guilty pleasure films- Mission Impossible and the like (I must add that there are occasions we agree ... Return of the King, Shawshank etc!).

When One Night first hit the stands everyone on GRs appeared to hate it. It hovered at 2 point something for days... then I was lucky to receive a few fours and fives and suddenly *yay* my average popped above a three.

Still. I knew it - I was doomed. Throwaway may well have done really well for me a few months before, but reviewers were calling Heart of Texas *just a soap opera* and hated it...I even got into my one and only only row over a one star rating. It was an awful time. I hadn't seen proper sales figures for HoT and then One Night came out with the low ratings. One Night didn't have the perfect HEA, and it clearly wasn't what people expected from RJ Scott. I thought I had written hope and expectation when evidently I had just written complete shite. I had really fucked up on that AND All The Kings Horses. I was going to go back to Website Design.

Then... imagine the complete and utter shock when hubby informs me that One Night is selling well. Really well. Apparently. So... someone out there must like it... right? Nah. I told myself maybe people are buying it because they just read Throwaway and there wasn't anything else on the list that had come out at that time they fancied reading. They'd all read One Night and hate it... sales sharply dropping was a scenario that had all the inevitability of an inevitable thing.

Wait. It kept selling. So. How? Why? Because the reviews had been so SO bad. Even though my brain had known reviews are one person's opinion, my heart was still wrapped up in sending my baby out for people to read. My heart wanted so desperately for people to like it.

Slowly but surely (and this has taken me nearly two years) I am pulling myself away from relentlessly refreshing my screen for the first reviews, away from Goodreads. I am certainly nowhere near blasé about reviews from GRs and other sources but I am less prone to fall weeping to the floor. I don't have time; I am too busy using what they say that is good sound critique and making my next book better.

I think we all have to remember - reviews are a lovely thing to validate our writing and to help market ourselves but places like Goodreads are for readers and all readers are entitled to their opinion (me included). As long as I please the majority, and that majority buy my books, then I am happy. Right?

What do you think?


  1. I debuted this month, first with a short story and then a novel. I had some 5 stars and 4 stars for the short story and additional 3 stars (and now 2 stars) for the novel. I couldn't do anything the first week after the releases except sit and see what people thought. Then, to my surprise, the short story got a 1 star review and the same person gave the novel a 1 star as well (have no idea if he/she even read the novel or just liked my writing so badly in the short story that he/she decided to give the novel a 1 star as well - it's been known to happen). God, that hurt so bad and I couldn't do a thing for another week. But with the aid of a good friend I'm learning to look past the reviews and focus back on writing. He reminds me that reviews and ratings are very subjective, each based on opinion of a single person.

    That said, I *always* look at the 3 star reviews when I'm choosing a book, so I'm very grateful when people leave a review with their 3 star ratings. The 5 stars tend to over-praise and the 1 and 2 stars tend to down-talk the books I'm checking out and often be mean just to be mean. The 3 star reviews are usually fair and I can judge whether the things they didn't like is something I generally don't mind in books. I've found some of my best reads by looking at the 3 star reviews.

    Anyway, I was able not to obsess over my reviews on Goodreads for a few days, so I'm learning!

  2. I am so there with you... it is a hard lesson but one that is worth it in the end... I am nearly there...

    And good luck with the not obsessing... eat chocolate instead... my motto... x

  3. I can't imagine you ever got a one star rating! Seriously though very good article, I don't worry about the individual ratings on GR, I like what I like.

  4. I am so much like that... I like what I like... xx

  5. I can't say I don't look at ratings but I don't go to sites to read them because they really mean nothing to me.  I also like what I like and I don't think I ever read a story of yours that I didn't like. Some people like a lot of sex but I like the sex light and more to the imagination and emotion.  Love your stories. 

  6. Thank you Jean. That is a lovely thing to say. So pleased you enjoy and interesting to hear that statement again 'I like what I like'. HUGS Rj x

  7. I gave a one star yesterday :(....it's not like I wanted to, I don't like hurting any-one's feelings but I didn't like the book. Everyone is different, thank the good Lord or else we would live in a boring ass world!

  8. It sounds like you've come to a really good place regarding reviews! As a reader, I have to confess that I'm pleased my average rating on GRs is 3.30 - I obviously don't just rate everything a five, which I swear some people do.

    I remember a bit of that HoT dust-up. The person in question has since quit GRs in a snit, complete with account deletion, so - the review and commentary should have ceased to exist. :)

  9. RJ I love your blog post. I've struggled with the rating issue myself, particularly on GRs, and I've come to realize that ratings and sales are not at all conducive. There often does not even seem to be a correlation. My best selling books--those I've sold thousands of copies of--only have a couple hundred ratings on GRs. And my lowest rated books on GRs are my best sellers. Goodreads is merely a tool. Although I love my readers who are GRs members, I also know that the GR audience only makes up a very small percentage of total sales.

    As far as low ratings go, every author, regardless of how popular they are, gets both good and bad ratings. You can pull up one of JK Rowlings books, which have thousands of 5-star ratings, and still find quite a few one-stars.

    The two things that are most difficult for me about GR are not the ratings themselves. I tend to get my feelings hurt when there are disparaging comments in response to a critical review. It feels like it did back in middle school when a bystander on the playground was laughing while someone bullied me. I think that is more my own hangup than it is anything specifically wrong with GRs or its participants. The other thing is that feeling of invisibility. Reviewers write their reviews for the benefit of readers, not authors. But as both a reviewer and an author, I know that the authors are the ones who tend to hang on every word of the review.It is very difficult to stand by silently while I'm being skewered, and comments are flying back and forth as if I either do not exist or am insignificant. Again, it is not the fault of the readers/reviewers, but rather a hyper sensitivity on my part.

    I think the only effective way that I've been able to deal with my own insecurities is to try to offset the bad with the good. When I look at overall ratings and see that I have far more 5s and 4s than 2s and 1s, I have to ask myself why I'm getting so worked up over a few negative remarks. What really matters is that far more people view my work favorably, and I have the ongoing, ever-increasing sales to prove it. If I can just talk myself into looking at it objectively, then I'm able to get beyond the depression.

  10. Too right... one man's goose and all that... We can't all like the same things...Rj xxx

  11. Looking at it objectively is so difficult when it's *your* baby that is being critiqued... and hey, if we weren't hyper sensitive maybe we wouldn't be writers of feelings? I don't know...

    Offsetting bad with good HAS to be the way to look at it. It has just taken me a while to get there...

    RJ xxx

  12. Really? Gone??? ROFL... interesting... I have one reader who consistently gives me 2s, and sometimes the odd three. That reviewer gave decisions a 5...I was stunned and so damned pleased! ROFL... Hugs Rj xxx