Rating Event Blog Hop: The Lovely Ms. Stacia Kane and Paperback Action Figure Anton Strout Shares an Author’s Perspective
Today our 3-star rating event blog hop takes us to the other side of the story – the Author’s side! Laurie from Bitten at Paranormal Romance and WildAboutBones asked that authors share honest thoughts about receiving a 3 Star rating on their work; not what their ego feels but how they take the news of rating and what that rating means to them. So the Dolls decided we knew just who to ask…
Stacia Kane is the author of the light-hearted romantic urban fantasy “Megan Chase” series starting with PERSONAL DEMONS.
She currently writes the gritty dystopian urban fantasy “Downside” series starring Chess Putnam and featuring ghosts, human sacrifice, drugs, witchcraft, punk rock, and a badass ’69 Chevelle. She bleaches her hair and wears a lot of black.
It’s amazing how uncomfortable I feel writing this. Even commenting in a vague fashion on my feelings about reviews and ratings makes me feel really weird and scared.
But I can’t say no to the Dolls, so I’ll do my best.
Do I like getting three-star reviews? Do they make me feel good? Well, no, to be honest. They don’t upset or depress me, but they don’t exactly make me punch the air with joy, either (not that I ever actually punch the air with joy, over anything. I don’t). I mean, I don’t consider three stars to be negative, really, but I didn’t get into this business to have readers put my books down, shrug, and say, “Yeah, it was okay, I mean, it was decent but nothing really special.” I don’t think that’s any author’s dream: Hey, everyone, I’m just above mediocre! Yesss!
But the perverse thing is, I’d rather have that kind of three-star review—“It was meh” than the kind that’s rated three stars but says very, very positive things about the book, about the story, the characters, the worldbuilding and the writing, and leaves me wondering why, if everything was so good, it only got three stars? Especially when I look at that reviewer’s previous ratings and see that three stars generally is “Meh” for them, and I know that when readers look at their reviews they’ll just see the rating, assume my book was also Meh, and move on. So it’s a little…confusing, maybe. A little disheartening.
Of course I know not every book will appeal to every reader. And that’s okay; not every book appeals to me, either. Readers have the right to say whatever they want about a book, to pick it up or not, to review it or not. There’s absolutely no reason why they should take me into account when reviewing my work; none of this “You should respect the author’s hard work and it’s her heart and soul blah blah blah” garbage. My work stands on its own, and it should. And if they feel it’s just not exciting or absorbing or touching enough to give it more than three stars, that’s okay—well, they don’t need my permission, but I mean it doesn’t hurt or bother me. I’m just glad it wasn’t two or one (although I’ve gotten one or two one-star reviews that made me laugh like crazy; hey, if you can’t enjoy being called the Anti-Christ what can you enjoy?) I’m just glad they read it. And depending on what the actual review says, I may well walk away from the three-star review feeling better than I did after a five-star one (for example, no matter what the rating, I’m always pleased and gratified when a reviewer compliments the writing itself, and I’m always left a little empty when even a five-star review is only one or two sentences. Not that I’m complaining, of course).
I guess the bottom line is that a three-star review or rating is just like any other review or rating: it’s one person’s opinion. I don’t see why one person’s opinion is something to get upset over, and I don’t think an honest three-star rating is the type of rating or review to get upset over. Any review that isn’t totally positive can sting or be frustrating, depending on the day and my mood and all of that, but in general, when I see three stars I just kind of shrug and move on. Which is basically what three stars means to begin with, right?
Fantasy author Anton Strout was born in the Berkshire Hills mere miles from writing heavyweights Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville and currently lives in the haunted corn maze that is New Jersey (where nothing paranormal ever really happens, he assures you).
He is the author of the Simon Canderous urban fantasy series and Alchemystic, book one of the upcoming Spellmason Chronicles for Ace Books, a division of Penguin Group (USA). Anton is also the author of many short tales published in anthologies by DAW Books.
The Once & Future Podcast is his latest project, where he endeavors as Curator of Content to bring authors and readers together through a weekly news show format.
He has been a featured author guest of honor, speaker and workshop leader at San Diego Comic-Con, Gencon, New York Comic-Con, the Brooklyn Book Festival and many other conventions.
In his scant spare time, his is a writer, a sometimes actor, sometimes musician, occasional RPGer, and the worlds most casual and controller smashing video gamer. He currently works in the exciting world of publishing and yes, it is as glamorous as it sounds.
I Know Why The Raged Author Weeps, or How I Learned to Let Go of My Three-Star Reviews
by Anton Strout
When the Paperback Dolls invited me to write on “Three star reviews and how you react to them,” my first reaction was to cry from traumatic flashbacks. Once I uncurled from my fetal ball, however, my therapist and I decided it would be good to work out my inner demons in a manner that might help others, and… well, here we are.
While my fifth book Alchemystic is coming out this October, I’m still considered well under drinking age if we go by writer years. Since Dead To Me came out in 2008, and its three sequels—Deader Still, Dead Matter, Dead Waters—one a year after that, I’d say I’m in my teenage years as a writer. That means all the growing pains and wounds from being a published writer unleashed on the public not too long ago are still fresh.
So what does a 3-star review really mean? Well, I’m not really sure. It’s all terribly subjective, isn’t it? I have one idea, but me not knowing all of you, well, your mileage may vary. In my writerly little brainmeats, I’ve always equated 3 stars the way I do the school grading system:
A=5, B=4, C=3, D=2 F=1
So a 3-star review is a solid C. Average. Is that so bad?
And that MAY be the case when someone sets down a 3-star review, but here is where I fear my logic is deeply flawed. First of all, I have no proof that people are grading it as such. Zero. Not even anecdotal. In fact, I’ve only heard people say that 3-star reviews are what they normally give books they like well enough. Some people NEVER give 5 stars, reserving 4 stars for books that blow them away on a cosmic level. In their book, 3 is a book they liked very well. But it’s nothing provable. If I all polled you right now, would you all end up with the same definition? Doubtful.
But, as you might be beginning to suspect, authors are neurotic by nature. I see 3 stars as a C, which is mediocre at best. That kind of grade wouldn’t get you into the really good schools I have my fair share of 3-star reviews for all my books, and long ago come to terms with the fact that I am not in ANY place to judge what criteria total strangers apply to their review giving. The urge to hunt reviewers down one by one to get it out of them has long since died down. (I can not speak to the mysterious disappearances to those who have given me one or two start reviews.)
I joke, but here’s the hard truth I have come to learn: I have no business wondering what you think of me. Does it change my work? No. If I sat down and argued with you about it, would it change your review? Probably not. So where does that leave us?
For me, I’m just one guy writing one story, and thousands of people read it. What are the odds—even on a good day—that everyone’s going to love it? Not high, because people are all different. I was listening to The Nerdist Chris Hardwick talk about doing stand-up, and he said some night’s people laugh and other nights they don’t. Sometimes, he says, the comedian and certain audiences just don’t fit together.
Does that make my book bad? No. My reviews run from 1 to 5 stars, settling heavily on 3 and above. It’s the neurotic nature of authors (remember that from earlier?) that keep me hung up on the 1, 2, 3’s. Sometimes a book and reader aren’t the right fit, either and I’ve learned, that’s okay.
The best way to deal with it for me is a way you can practice right this second! Pick your most favoritest book in the world. Got it in your head? Good. Now go on Amazon and click on the 1-star reviews for your precious and read some of the commentary. I’ll wait…..
Laughable, right? The book you hold most sacred is that book someone else pisses all over. Has it made you hate your favorite book? No…? I didn’t think so. It’s that idea right there that I find terribly centering as a writer. It gives me something us author’s forget all the time—perspective.
Why do we forget that? Because we’re dreamers and weavers of lies. We spin a web of words and want to catch you in it like the hungry little spiders we are. And yes, there is a vanity in that. We are presenting our word babies to you. We’re holding them up for the world to see, hoping you ALL adore them, and when you don’t ALL run to give us 5-star reviews, yes, we die a little inside. I don’t say that for a pity round of good reviews. It is simply the nature of the beast. We want you to love us, but the hard truth is that what you think of us is truly none of our business.
I wish I could say I ignore the bad reviews. I can’t. The fact that someone might rage against my books is like holding that adorable word baby of yours up and having it punched in the face by a stranger. It hurts, but the longer you succeed as an author (ie: someone keeps paying you to write books), your skin learns to thicken. It’s why book five for me feels like I might be turning 18 or drinking age in writer years. I’m becoming an adult.
I’ve learned to let go and get a chuckle out of the poorly written ones. Hell, I agree with some of the better written one star reviews, which hopefully only lets me improve as a writer. But I have to keep reminding myself: what you think of my books is none of my business. I’d love you to love them, but there are so many x-factors out there the the mathematics of desiring that just don’t work out. And there’s a strange comfort that comes in accepting that and learning to let go.
So what CAN I control? Only the things I do know directly. Like the fact that many of my readers have taken the time to write and tell me that I’ve pulled them out of moments of hardship in their lives—the mother overwhelmed dealing with two autistic kids or the woman in the hospital who latched on to them for escape and comfort before her all too brief life came to an end. Those to me are the things that stick.
If I’ve amused you, gave you a single moment of escape, made you say “oh, cool!” or even just gave you an “average C” level of simple enjoyment … those are the things I’ve learned that matter, as they should: the strange communions that happen between myself and readers, whatever small differences those make.
Oh, 3-star reviews! I get you, but I don’t “get” you. Nor is it truly my place.
Thank you Stacia and Anton for sharing your thoughts.
You get 5 stars from us :D
And once again, a huge Thank You to Bitten By Paranormal Romance and WildAboutBones for creating this event and letting Paperback Dolls participate!
Check out all the 3-Star rating Event participants