Sunday, May 3, 2015

Reviewing Expectations

What leads to a bad review?  I mean, do people go into reading a book just so they can trash the person who wrote it?

Sometimes, sadly, the answer is yes.  There are nasty people out there(we call these people "assholes"), and they revel in taking down the dreams of others.  Most readers, however, are hoping to find a good story they can enjoy.  And if they find one worth writing a good review about, that's just dandy.

Unfortunately, a hated novel can also inspire people to write reviews, and those reviews are rarely kind.  I've seen plenty of one and two star reviews on Amazon, and I always wondered what led to that.  Sure, we could wax eloquent about poor writing or a story that didn't quite get there, but I think I've finally found the answer - expectations.

Consider that you are likely to judge a picture book written for pre-schoolers differently than you would for a work of high brow literary fiction that you waited months for.  If that book you've waited for reminds you of the picture book, you're likely to come away disappointed, if not pissed.

When I start to read a book, I have in mind what I think will happen and how I expect the author to convey that.  If the author fails to live up to my expectations - perhaps the verbiage is full of breathless and unnecessary modifiers, or maybe the story was more simplistic than expected - then I feel let down by the work.  I had this image built up in my mind about what I thought I'd be reading, and now I'm dealing with disappointment.  That picture book may have been just fine for my six-year old, but I was expecting War & Peace.

This goes back to understanding the audience you're writing for.  When you have a set of readers in mind, you better know what they want, and if you can't deliver, don't be surprised when some of them take out their frustration in a review.

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