Reviews and bias

Happy (or not so happy) Monday!

I’m going to take a step away from writing and promoting for a moment, and talk about reviews. I’m not talking the quick two-line 5* review that we leave when we’re happy with a product or service. I’m talking about the blogs that make a job out of reviewing books / free advance reader copies, pre-publication.

I’ve said it before how reviews can make or break an indie (self published) book. It is hard for an author to reach new readers outside of their immediate circle and fan base; reviews build a sort of ‘word-of-mouth’ aspect that also brings a small level of trust.

I have had fantastic reviews where the person has raved about how much they love my book, yet only leave 3 or 4 stars. And I’ve received a 1 star review of how much they hated my book. That’s fine, people are entitled to their opinion, and everyone is different. As an author, I have to be prepared for that (it’s not the reader’s problem if it’s a kick in the gut, and the author spends the day feeling like they’re shit and shouldn’t be writing, right?)

Blog reviews though? These are where the reviewer sits down and reads a book (that is usually gifted to them for free), and offers their take of the book. The sites I’ve been reviewed by all offer ‘honest’ reviews – but at what point does ‘honest’ turn into an attack on the author?

A review should be written based on fact, not the reviewer’s personal issues, sexuality, and opinion. It should give their readers a snapshot as to whether or not the book will suit their reading taste. The post is about the book, not themself.

I read two blog reviews of the same book today. The first one basically invalidated the gay characters and sex scenes, all because the reviewer themself is asexual / non binary and couldn’t relate. This reviewer tried to cover up a whole post of nasty comments by saying that it’s a good book, but hey, too late M’theydy.
They also tried to downplay the historical events that had occurred, just because their family member hadn’t validated that it happened that way. I’m here to tell them, it happened.

The second review was professional and based on fact, and as a reader, would have me more inclined to purchase the book than the former review.

I understand that every reader takes away something different from a book; we all interpret a story based on our own morals, values, opinions and beliefs. But let’s face it, a reviewer’s job is to review a book, not sit down and analyse every single chapter as though they are in year 12 English. At the end of the day, most people just want to read a snapshot to see if the book is worth buying, they don’t want to hear about perceived pacing issues or a missed typo.

As for Goodreads, I just want to say one thing: before you decide you hate the book, please actually read it properly before you go blasting the author. One reader actually thought that The Lowest Realm is some sort of dystopian story set in the future, post-apocalypse. What the? Add then we have the one for Catalogue of Disaster, which I have responded to below. Note: I do not engage with readers over their reviews, as I said above they are entitled to their opinion. But I thought it was important to address some of her points below.

SPOILER BELOW!

In response to Goodreads review:
I just wanted to call out the 1 star review I received yesterday on Goodreads. The reviewer labeled Catalogue of Disaster as completely unrealistic, and went on to list a number of things about Jake that couldn’t possibly be true.
* Sex toys in readiness for a first date? Sorry love, that happened.
* Falling for someone who isn’t usually the gender you’d fall for? Yep, that’s happened.
* Accepting that ^ and rolling with it? Yep. It’s called being open minded.
* Falling in love in two weeks? Hell, I’ve fallen in love in a day!
-These three points were all modeled on my own experiences while I was dating back in the day.

As a demisexual, once a bond is formed, I have fallen head-over-heals very quickly! And being pansexual, that bond can be with anyone. As one of my author friends put it, it’s falling in love with the person, not their gender.

The point about Garret putting Jake at risk of HIV:
I want to make this clear. Garret is portrayed as a responsible character; he is on ART, which is a treatment for HIV that, in simple terms, makes it almost impossible to transmit the virus. Garret is already on this treatment since he was diagnosed.
He and Jake used condoms, and although some semen was shared outside of intercourse, there is almost no risk of transmission in this way. When Garret and Jake are texting, and Garret advises him to go on PrEP “maybe we can talk about ditching condoms” – ART + PrEP = impossible to give Jake HIV.

Garret’s reaction to Jake’s suspension:
His reaction was due to being dragged over the coals by his boss all afternoon, and he snapped. We don’t hear what Riley was blasting Garret about, but as the author, I can tell you that it was about being gay, HIV and AIDS etc – homophobic hatred. Garret does explain this later, and how it triggered his past with his ex.

So anyways, that’s the end of my rant. If you have such a deep negative reaction about a book, rather than call out the author on it, try and remember that we are people too. We battle every day with thinking that our writing is not good enough. For many writers, our characters are a part of us; each of my characters are an embodiment of myself or someone I love dearly. To attack our writing, is to attack us. So be respectful, always, and if you feel you have to leave negative feedback, do so in private DM or email, not on social media! (Or if you write a negative review, do NOT tag the author in it!)

-AAC

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