Do Reviews Really Matter?

Apparently they do, at least to some people. I’m not one of those that read a review before buying a book. In fact, I never look at the reviews until I’m finished and then it’s only to see if other’s felt the way I did towards it. I’m a title, cover, blurb girl. If the title and cover catch my attention, I’ll turn it over to read the blurb and then if it’s something that catches my eye, I buy it. But never do I look at the reviews prior. I’ll be honest, I don’t really get the whole book review thing. This is coming from someone that has done review’s for a couple different sites, but as a reader, I don’t understand why someone would judge a book based on another person’s opinion. We are all different and like different things. Maybe I’m not the norm, but I’d rather try something out and make my own opinion. However in attempting to market my book, I have come to realize just how important reviews are. I’ve previously mentioned the struggles of asking book bloggers to write a review. I’ve received two. One was mediocre. It wasn’t great, it wasn’t bad, they said they liked it. The other was an amazing review, the kind that every first time author wants to have. So, right there goes to show you that opinions differ. However I’ve come to notice that many readers want to see not only positive feedback about a potential book, they want numbers. They don’t want five reviews, because we all know those first reviews come from our friends and family. They want to know what people who don’t know us think of our book. I don’t have a problem with this. I’m not an easily offended person. I know my writing isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea and I know there are going to be good reviews along with the bad. So I’ve continued to seek out unbiased reviewers, but it’s not always an easy task. Late last night, I sent another request. This wasn’t aimed at a specific blog or blogger, but a group of authors, readers, publishers and reviewers, whom pick and chose what they are interested in. I received a response today and after seeing the subject I was excited. Yes! I got a hit. But then I read the message and my stomach knotted and my chest heaved in a big sigh. My first instinct was to reply with, “Thank you for your interest, but I’d prefer that you didn’t review my book.” It might sound crazy, but that was my honest reaction. Maybe I should back up and tell you a little about my story so you’ll understand my predicament. The heroine in Drive Me Sane is an army veteran suffering from PTSD after a deployment to Afghanistan. It’s funny that just as I sat down to write this, I read a blog post of a friends that entailed how writing about what you know leads to writing about things you don’t know (Thanks Bill). I grew up near Ft. Hood, Texas so the military has always played a role in my life. I come from a strong military family; my husband served, my sister and brother in law both served, even my dad was in for a short time. I have several cousins and uncles who have also spent time in the armed forces, as well as, many friends who have devoted time as well. As for me, I thought about it once. Fresh out of high school and in my first year of college, I even went to see a recruiter. I was all up for it until I was informed that I’d be showering with other woman while in basic training.  That was the end of that idea. So I have no personal experience with being in the military and definitely no experience with PTSD. And yet, I chose to write about a female character that has experienced those things. It wasn’t the path that I set out to take. I knew my girl would be in the army, but never intended for PTSD to be a part of my story. It just happened that way. I researched the disorder and spoke to people about it, which did help in trying to develop her character, but I’m also a true believer in that if you’ve never walked in someone’s shoes, you truly have no idea how they felt. Which brings me up to point. My response came from a two time Iraqi War veteran. A gentleman whom has experienced the things that I know nothing about, yet tried to convey through words for others to read as enjoyment. Do you see my delimina? I see this going one of two ways: really bad or really good. I knew at some point my book would likely fall into the hands of a female soldier and I’ve always had mixed feelings about that. I worry if I missed something or if I stayed true to fact. I suppose every new author has concerns about these things. So my first instinct was no, I’d rather he not read it, because I’m sure what I’ve written can never stand up to the real thing and the last thing I would ever want to be is disrespectful in anyway. It took me five hours to think about it and respond, because not only will he be reading this from a soldiers perspective, he will also be reading it from a man’s. Please don’t think I’m being biased, but the truth is, romance is generally a woman’s genre. So it does surprise me a little when a man say’s he’s going to read it. In the end, yes I sent him a copy. Because, as a writer, I need to learn to overcome these fears. The fear of offending or completely botching it up.

So back to my question: are reviews really all that important? Generally, I’d say no. But this one? Yes, it’s very important, because it’s coming from someone who, to a certain degree, has lived my story and their thoughts will hold a great deal of meaning to me.

Comments ( 13 )

  1. Replywccunningham

    This is an amazing post Dena! I think the review you receive is going to be something special.

  2. Replydenarogers

    Thanks Bill! Although I haven't read the complete review, he did send some initial feedback and although he pointed a few things out that caught his eye, he also had some very kind and encouraging words.

  3. Replytheowllady

    Reblogged this on theowlladyblog.

  4. ReplyCarole Parkes

    I loved your honest approach to your writing, and yes, I'm sure we all fear we may not know enough about the subject we're writing about. However, what you need to remember is soldiers with PTSD are not all the same. Each individual will experience the same things in different ways because they are all unique people with multifarious lives. So have confidence, he may love it.

    • Replydenarogers

      Thank you Carole. I actually touched on that very subject and that there are different variations and degrees to the disorder. But, I still hope he does find it enjoyful. Thanks again.

  5. ReplyCarole Parkes

    I forgot to add that I'm reblogging this post on carolec55.wordpress.com

  6. ReplyCarole Parkes

    Reblogged this on New Author -Carole Parkes and commented: Every writer's fear?

  7. Replyaetherhouse

    I think it's great to get a reader who is close to the topics you write about in the book. It will definetly help you grow :) That's the sort of critique that it's beneficial to hear, because it's better to find out sooner rather than later so you can fix the issues in future books. I also wrote about a soldier in my WIP and the overwhelming response was "he doesn't act like one." So hey, dunno how I'm gonna fix it, but at least I'm aware of the issue!

    • Replydenarogers

      I agree, but it's also a little frightening. I wish that I'd had someone with the experience who could have taken a look prior to publication. I'm a closet writer though, so no one read this book or even knew I was writing it until it was acquired. But like you said, it's a learning experience for the future. Thanks :)

      • Replyaetherhouse

        Oh wow. We're quite different! I really rely on beta readers to help guide me through the process (not that readers are ever infallible. It's just a matter of figuring out what's just their taste and what is legit critique). I certainly agree with the fear though. I bite my nails every moment my draft is with beta readers - it must be even stronger with a published book.

        • Replydenarogers

          I'm thinking my approach now, might not be there best :).

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