A Writer Sees Stars

Ann H Gabhart Ann's Posts, One Writer's Journal

As writers go, I have a skin of average thickness. I am pleased
by a good review, disappointed by a bad. None of it penetrates far enough to
influence the thing I write next.
 (Rachel Cusk)
Book reviews have been around as long as writers have been writing books. I’m guessing that even before books were printed, storytellers around the fire pits got reviews, and they probably weren’t any happier with listeners spitting in their fire to show they didn’t like a story than writers today are with bad reviews. Even famous writers don’t like bad reviews.  Danielle Steele says, “A bad review is like baking a cake with
all the best ingredients and having someone sit on it.”

I’ve gotten bad reviews and I try to be like Rachel Cusk and let them slide off me. As much as I want to, I can’t write a book every reader is going to love. But that sure would be nice. When I first began writing, any review a book received was a printed review in a magazine or newspaper. The average book didn’t get many reviews. Now the internet has changed all that. Reviews are everywhere and anybody can write a review. Amazon and Barnes & Noble e-mail you and ask you to write reviews of the books you buy or download. And of everything else you buy too! A reader can join up with Goodreads and review every book she or he has ever read. On there you don’t have to say anything. You can just click on a few stars and either make a writer jubilant with five stars or be in despair over the one star slams. 
All this to say that my free book, Scent of Lilacs, has been getting a lot of new reviews on Amazon. (By the way, it’s still free if you haven’t downloaded it yet or know an e-reading friend who might enjoy the story.) The reviews have all been surprisingly positive which is great. Sometimes with free books, the readers can slam the book because it isn’t the type of story they would normally buy. I had one reviewer say about one of my Shaker books when it was offered free a while back that “free was too much to pay for this book.” The very fact I remember that points out the problem with reading reviews. I can get a dozen glowing reviews and not remember a word of any of them, except maybe those lovely works “I couldn’t put it down.” But let me read one of those one star reviews and the words flash like a neon sign inside my head. 
But tonight, I’m going to share bits of some of the 5-star remarks about Scent of Lilacs with you. 
“A beautiful heartwarming story. I loved it. It is so human and full of love. Some beautiful lessons about God’s love for all of us.” (E Carlson)

“I loved the voice of Jocie, the thirteen year old pastor’s daughter who tells most of the story.”  (Breiann)
“Loved, loved, loved this book! I laughed and cried. I’m so glad I read it.” (Cindy)
“It is clean, funny and good. I enjoyed it so much I bought the next book…” (Dianne)
(I love those that say my story made them smile or laugh. I’ve always wanted to be funny. Always!)
“…a moving mystery of life including narrative arcs for each of the characters.” (IJ Palmer)
“Lots of unusual, imperfect characters add to the great story line.” (Book Addict)
I could pull out lots more excerpts. To date, Amazon has 185 reviews for the title, including the one where the reader said she “tried and tried” to read the story but just couldn’t it was so dull. Had to throw that bad one in to balance the  others. But most of the reviews have been kind, even enthusiastic and lighting up all five stars to make this writer happy to see stars.    

A good, sympathetic review is always a
wonderful surprise.

(Joyce Carol Oates)
It’s enormously cheering to get a good
review by someone who seems to understand your work.
(Kenneth Koch)
I am glad to get good reviews, but I try not to dwell on those any more than on the ones that aren’t so good. I just have to try to write the next book better. 
If you wrote one of the reviews on my books, thank you. Reviews matter. On the internet a review is sort of like word of mouth and everybody knows that having a friend recommend a book is the very best advertising a writer can get. 
Have you ever written a review online? Or told a friend about a book you’ve read?