Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Let’s review


One of the things I hoped for when I gave away 3250 copies of Occasional Soulmates last weekend was a spate of new reviews on Amazon. Books with lots of reviews get more attention. It’s especially effective when readers can be sure that most of the reviews aren’t by people the author knows, so getting a bunch of reviews by complete strangers is important to us indie writers.

On the other hand, all bets are off, star-wise, when it comes to objective reviewers. Over the past two days I received one two-star and one five-star review by readers I don’t know, and the fascinating thing is that they both count equally. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Here’s the two-star review:

This book depressed me as it gave me a sad outlook on love.

That’s it. I can’t really complain about it, since the reader clearly has the right to her opinion, nor can any writer control how a reader receives his work. Psychology’s a funny thing. I will say that this particular reader has very stringent needs in books, though she probably read Soulmates a little bit superficially.

Here’s the five-star review:

Expectation. That’s what this lovely novel is about. I don’t know how I found it originally, but I started the sample, got the book, and continued reading, because Sarah’s story pulled me in. Good writing does that for you. Sarah’s – Dr. Phelan’s – world is richly detailed, but nothing is in it without a reason, and the language is not the point (which is what I consider literary to be). The point is the story: a woman takes a chance, lets herself be vulnerable, goes on a rollercoaster ride, and has hard choices to make, even if some of them are only in accepting the things she ultimately has no control over.

This is a real woman, a doctor, with a life and a job and baggage. And it is all utterly believable in its own context, leading me down the path of understanding who she was and why she was with none of the little ‘refrigerator moments’ – the ones where you wake up in the middle of the night questioning a plot point that has to be swallowed whole for the story to happen, and doesn’t really make sense.

The writer is sure in his handling of every scene. I’ve visited the Mission District recently – it was exactly as described.

But all the background is just background. The necessary base for a relationship that shines through. Where people make love and commitments and mistakes and where your heart aches along with them.

It’s so well thought-through that there’s nothing to say about it. Other than, Thank you. Even if she’d given me a thumbs down, I’d have to give her props for thinking about it carefully.

But it’s true that the pool of reviews at Amazon contains both kinds, and both kinds have the same weight in the overall rating of a book.

We can only hope that most readers who are moved to review a book put some real consideration into their comments. The authors are listening.

12 comments on “Let’s review

  1. kingmidget
    May 10, 2015

    I agree that all reviews can be good even when they’re not, but the one-line reviews drive me crazy.

  2. sknicholls
    May 10, 2015

    Totally awesome. Amazes me how different people perceive the same work. I guess our life experiences influence our perceptions more than we even realize.

    • Kevin Brennan
      May 10, 2015

      Strange, isn’t it. Still, you can always tell who read a book more carefully…

  3. Dylan Hearn
    May 10, 2015

    I agree with you, there’s nothing better than receiving a well-written, thoughtful review, whether positive or negative.
    I personally don’t mind the one line reviews. Would I like to know more? Of course, but most readers aren’t writers so the fact the person felt moved enough to write anything is a compliment enough.

    • Kevin Brennan
      May 10, 2015

      Strangely enough, though, I have yet to receive a positive one-line review. They’re always negative, and more or less phoned in.

  4. John W. Howell
    May 10, 2015

    I have a one-word review. I was glad the word was complementary, but so it goes. That one line said a lot about the reader. I wouldn’t want to live their life.

  5. 1WriteWay
    May 10, 2015

    The 1-star review says more about the reviewer than the book she/he reviewed. The 5-star review says much about the reviewer AS WELL AS the book she/he reviewed. My favorite line: “Good writing does that for you.” Indeed, Kevin 🙂

  6. Phillip McCollum
    May 11, 2015

    The second review is gold. Hope any forthcoming ones are like that. And thank you for the millionth reminder to read this book. I just started a Murakami tome that I need to return to its original owner soon, but I promise to read Occasional Soulmates next.

    • Kevin Brennan
      May 11, 2015

      Has it been a million already?! (Seriously, no rush. Murakami comes first, I humbly agree…)

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This entry was posted on May 10, 2015 by in Publishing and tagged , , , .
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