Readers don’t talk much about discoverability or even reviews, I find. Writers, of course, worry about them all the time.
I’m both. But I read more books than I write.
Heck, I read more words than I write and I’ve been motoring at 3,000 words a day for a while now. That’s gross, you understand. In every sense of the word, probably, though I’d prefer you to interpret it as the opposite of net.
Reviews and Recommendations
As a reader, I like recommendations. Not reviews so much. Well not big ticket reviews in the Grown Up media, anyway. I slightly mistrust them. There’s always the feeling that the reviewer is writing with one eye on the book and the other on his own credibility with fellow critics.
If Ralston McTodd a.k.a. Smith is making a name for himself with the cognoscenti, it’s a brave literary cove who puts his weekly column on the line by saying of the latest work, “Impressive on the bookcase, tedious on the train, supremely resistible on the night stand.”
Indeed, I once had an assistant (hello Hugo!) who, when asked to cast a critical eye over my own, mainly romantic, work, usually started his helpful remarks with, “Needs more sex and violence.” You wouldn’t catch Chummy Critic saying anything as crisp as that.
But a personal advocate? Yes.
I don’t care about stars. Low star reviews with personality can convince me this is a book I want to read, in the way that a well-reasoned, dispassionate 5 star assessment from one of Amazon’s heavy hitters will never do.
The same goes for Smart Bitches, Trashy Books who have some reviewers who really come out of the broom cupboard and say what they mean.
Recent example: having issues with several plot elements, the reviewer nailed the protagonist in one masterly sentence. Max is hyper-vigilant, violent, uncouth, and wonderful. If I hadn’t already done so, that would have had me scampering off to read the book at once. Bleurgh star rating? I’d take my chances.
Another reviewer I trust, is the crime-focused Mrs Peabody. She does use stars, very discreetly, but they are precise, rigorous and consistent – and hard to find.
The great delight of her approach is that a) the judgements are one person’s, so you get to know where your interests overlap and b) wonderful value added on context. And she’s very selective.
What I look for in reviews
- What struck the reviewer as memorable?
- Do I connect with it?
- Does it intrigue me or otherwise draw me in?
- Did the book make an impact on the reader?
- Is there any significant context which might add to the book for me?
- Is there a sporting chance I will suspend disbelief in this novel?
To be honest, I’ve only just worked all this out. So I’m now starting to calibrate how and where I hear about books I read against how much I enjoy them and whether I then read more from that author. And then I’m going to pin other readers into corners on planes and boats and trains and, possibly, at parties and find out what they do. You have been Warned.
This is a research project that could run and run.