Would you like to rate this purchase?


There are many things that, as a buyer of books, you can do, but that is not to say you will do them.

As an author, what is reasonable to expect of readers?

Well, I’d like to think that people will access my books legally, whether by buying them or legitimately borrowing them.  I get very unhappy about readers downloading them illegally – that makes me angry.

But that’s about it in terms of my expectations.

Amazingly, though, some readers have exceeded these modest expectations by reviewing or rating my books on blogs and on customer and reader forums.  Not masses of people, but yeah, some.  In fact, some people appear to have gone to some time and trouble to set out their thoughts in detail, and I’m grateful to them for taking the time.

We live in a world where we are constantly encouraged to share our customer experiences and to rate every purchase we make.  We are invited to ‘share’ and ‘like’ every product and service we utilise.

Has this endless participation in sharing user experiences  given us unrealistic expectations when it comes to our products? Have we reached a point where anyone with something to sell – whether it be a book or something else – thinks they’re entitled to some kind of response from their customers?  As though the customer’s obligations don’t end at the point they part with their hard-earned cash?

A couple of times recently I’ve seen comments to the effect that readers shouldn’t leave 1 or 2 star reviews of a book without some comment to back it up. I can’t fathom that view at all. Firstly, if someone hates your book, they hate your book. Frankly, any comment they leave to explain their feelings isn’t probably going to make you feel any better.  Secondly and more importantly though, once a reader’s paid their cash over, they can do whatever they want with your book.

Including saying nothing about it at all.

Every time Amazon sends me an email asking me if I’d like to rate a purchase, I feel a little frisson of rage. Then I delete the email.

Goodreads makes it really easy to rate and review books. But I don’t.

Facebook and Twitter make it simple to share the love. I don’t do that very often either.

This is how I feel about reading: I am not just a book lover, I am evangelical. If I love a book, I will press it on others.  It’s why I kept a reader blog going for five years.  Even now, I will occasionally have to  blog about something I’ve read – see for example my last post on Captive Prince – but I still don’t rate my purchases.

That makes it all the more remarkable to me that anyone’s bothered to do that for my books (and thank you, by the way, even if you disliked my books).

It strikes me that, aside from the dedicated book bloggers, there are two main reasons for readers to rate or review. One is that they are frequent users of the particular forum or site on which they are leaving their rating or review and as such, they tend to rate or review many/most of their reads (frequent reviewers).

The second reason is that the reader had a strong enough reaction to the book (whether positive or negative) that they were motivated to write about it (motivated reviewers).  I am a motivated reviewer.

So what do I take from all this, as an author?

Only that I’ll keep writing, keep trying to get better.

And I’ll do it with this objective in mind: if I motivate readers to speak well of me, maybe they will do so.

Grading the author

This blogpost has been bouncing around in my head for a while.

I’ve not reviewed any books in a long while – in fact, I gave up ‘reviewing’ books not long into my blogging career over at the old blog.  This was mainly because reviews were not really the right medium for what I wanted to say about books. I’ve written various blogposts in my time about that it so I won’t repeat any of that here (though, if you’re interested you could take a look at this, or this, or even this). Instead, I want to talk about how readers’ views of books change the more they read of a particular author.

I’ve noticed that, like any other fangirl, I always feel disgruntled when I see someone giving my favourite authors poor grades.  This is so even when I didn’t much like that particular book or haven’t yet read it myself. Why should that be?  I’m a rational person!  I know the value of reviews!  I don’t actually WANT reviewers to grade the author rather than the book!  But isn’t it interesting that readers do this?

Have you ever read a book by a new-to-you author and you were kind of *meh* about it, but it was good enough that you tried the author again, and then, when you read more, it changed your view both of the author and that original book? 

Let me give you an example: my first ever Mary Balogh was a book that is generally much-loved by Balogh fans: More Than A Mistress. I was intrigued to read this novel, which I’d spent ages picking from Amazon,trying to the find the one I thought was most likely to appeal to me.

I thought it was ok.

Despite this lukewarm response, I went on to pick up Simply Love (which I adored) and then another and another.  Eventually, I re-read More Than A Mistress, and this time, I loved it. I’d tuned into Balogh’s world by then. I’d come to like her deceptively straightforward (actually very graceful) prose and the strangely sacred quality to the relationships that MTAM is a perfect example of.

It’s a bit like when you buy an album and you start off loving the flashy songs that made it into the charts but you’re not awfully keen on tracks 4 or 9. And then, gradually, you get to like all the other stuff, though still not 4 or 9. And then, eventually, 4 becomes your favourite track, and whilst you’re still not that keen on 9, it doesn’t make you switch off anymore.

Another thing I notice is that while some of the individual books by my favourite authors are pretty much routine ‘B’s, as a whole, I think of the author as an ‘A’ grade author because either they very consistently give me what I’m looking for or because there’s just something I particularly like that they do. 

That’s exactly the kind of thing that always made reviewing so hard for me.  And why I gave it up.