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What Is Wrong With the C Review

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Last week we saw yet another author/reviewer contretemps in which an author, upset over a review, engages the reviewer in a comically bad mannered way. When we’ve witnessed this in the past, it almost always seems to be over a C review. An average review. A review that says this book is competent but it’s not for me. Often these reviews articulate carefully exactly the reason a book does not work for the reader.

After some head scratching, I’ve come to the conclusion that a C grade means a failure to many authors. I remember that Jamie Sobrato once wrote that she would rather evoke some strong reaction than a lukewarm reaction, even if the strong reaction was not positive. It might be stating the obvious since I am referencing a post written over two years ago, but Sobrato’s comments really stuck with me. I’ve never really understood it. I might be conflating lukewarm with average, but I don’t think so. Maybe the C review signals to an author that she’s failed to move the reader emotionally and thus is a failure overall.

While readers go in hopeful that they are going to get something better than an average read, the base expectation is that the book is worthy of publication. But let’s be realistic here. No matter how awesome you think your baby is, the fact is with 400 books printed in one month not all of them will be A or B.

We measure books against each other and out of 400 hundred books only a small percentage of those books will be A/B reads for me. I try to pick out the books that are going to be A/B reads and stay away from books that are likely to hit my hot buttons (no lawyer books for me, generally, although I did read the upcoming debut book by author Julie James Just the Sexiest Man Alive which features a female trial lawyer because, well, I had to see how much of it was done right). But back to the topic. Let me give an example

I absolutely adored Kristan Higgins’ Just One of the Guys and I bought ecopies for several people. Catch of the Day, the book that won the RITA was good, but it was not an A book in my estimation. It didn’t have the mirroring of issues that Just One of the Guys had. The hero was a cipher and in the first person, it was hard to see what really was the attraction for the heroine unless it was that she didn’t want to be alone. I felt that one character was absolved of too much sin and the other not enough.

I re-read the Compass Club series this weekend after answering a few private emails about which Goodman book to start with. Let Me Be the One, the first of the Compass Club books, is one of my favorite Goodman books. I think the entire Compass Club series is a phenomenal feat of plotting given that all four books, published in one year increments, have overlapping storylines to the extent that some books contain the very same scenes only from a different point of view.

There is one book in that series that I generally don’t re-read because I find it mostly boring. It is the third book, All I Ever Wanted. That book, if I were to give it a grade, would be a C. Goodman has another series, The Dennehy series, and the only book I’ve ever re-read in the 5 book collection is the last one featuring the lapsed (? don’t know what the word is for a nun that leaves nunhood) nun and the Indian scout, Only in My Arms (captive romance at its best).

The other four were meh to me (to the point I don’t think I could recall the characters or plot if you pressed me). The fact that there are books in Goodman’s backlist that bore me, that I would say are C or average books, doesn’t diminish her in my eyes. She’s a great talent whose writing I find tremendously entertaining. She is a wordsmith and I look forward to reading her books every year.

To any longtime reader of Dear Author, you’ll find that we hand out C reviews for authors we think wrote keeper books (Lara Adrian and Nora Roberts come to mind). I thought Lara Adrian’s first book, Midnight Rising, was a snoozer and her third book, Midnight Awakening, a wonderful take on a tired genre. I loved Angels Fall and High Noon by Nora Roberts but was less than enthused about Tribute. I’m not going to stop reading either author simply because one of their books didn’t resonate for me.

While average means failure to the author (and yes, I am making an assumption here, just go with it for now and take me to task in the comments), to me it means that this one particularly book did not work for me. It was competent. It had good sentence structure. It had a decent plot. It had character arcs, but it lacked something to move it to the next tier of grades.

To some extent I wonder if the grade for the book is conflated with the author. I.e., by saying that a book is average we readers are saying that the author herself is average. Witness Leslie Carroll’s invoking the “ugly baby” accusation to one Amazon reviewer. I’m increasingly concerned about the level of vitriol toward reader reviewers for the average grade. One average graded book means so little to me. It means that this one book didn’t work for me, but I bet I would try the author again under the right circumstances (cover, blurb, recommendation, availability).

So I’m curious to hear what authors think of the C review and what readers think of the C review. Does C mean competent but not Best? or does C mean failure, never to read again?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

138 Comments

  1. Naomi
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 04:19:21

    For me, C means “good but not great.” I liked the book, but didn’t feel that mad urge to rush out and hunt down something else by the same author. Giving a book a C grade doesn’t mean I’ll never read that author again. For example, Patricia Briggs’ Moon Called was very much a “meh” book for me, and I’ve no interest in that series. However, I adored the Alpha and Omega novella and really want to read Cry Wolf.

    I think the authors reacting with such vitriol to C grades may feel they personally are being attacked, rather than their work, and as a writer I understand it’s hard to accept criticism of your baby. But really, you have to suck it up and deal with the fact that you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

  2. Nora Roberts
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 05:04:12

    I’m going to wince at a C review. Naturally I want all the readers in all the land to feel every book I write is an A. Beyond an A. An immeasurable grade of unparelled excellence that has not yet been invented, and no other writer–living or dead–could hope to achieve.

    This is never going to happen, but I can still want it.

    Wanting it doesn’t excuse attacking a reader for their opinion on a book. Ever.

    What is a C book for one reader is an A for another, and a big honking F for yet another–and maybe for some sweet someone that unparelled excellence. Having a hissy fit isn’t going to change that, and it’s only going to make the hissy look like a complete butt.

  3. Ann Somerville
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 05:14:07

    I hate getting a ‘C’ review. But I hate giving them even more. I want to be moved powerfully by a story, either to hate or love, and when I’m struggling to make a ‘meh’ reaction sound less like damning with faint praise, I feel just awful for the author. I never know if the ‘meh’ is me or the writing – whether on another day, I might have felt more enthusiasm, or if the piece is simply merely adequate. I can only review my reaction on that given day.

    The middling reviews I give probably do hurt more because I try so hard to analyse what does and doesn’t work – and when a review is detailed like that, it’s very hard for an author to dismiss it as sour grapes. When I loathe a piece and say so, the author (rightly) can say, well, it’s just her because other people have liked it. When I gush and adore something, then of course no author is going to dismiss my ‘one person’ opinion :)

    Having a hissy fit isn't going to change that

    You speak truth, wise woman. I think some authors believe they’re Emma in ‘Clueless’ – arguing with a teacher to uprate a bad grade. But that’s fiction, not real life. Arguing never convinces a reviewer they’re wrong – it makes them more certain they’re right.

  4. Erastes
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 05:22:11

    Dear Author is tough on its reviews, and that’s something I like a lot about the site. There are so many review sites that operate within the Cult of Nice and are little more than “precis precis precis – one sentence of review” and give it a high mark. I know many sites which deliberately will not give a bad review at all, will rather not review the book at all than do so, and some that don’t mark lower than 3 out of 5. There are a few reviews on sites, too, that are clear that the reviewer has done little more than read the blurb and perhaps the ending. Then there the sites who DO launch personal bitchy attacks on the author(s), not something that can be levelled at DA.

    I appreciate DA’s reviews, and while, like Nora, I would be disappointed to get a C, I would know that at least the reviewer has read the book thoroughly, and has taken notes throughout and gives a full opinion, whether that’s good or bad.

    I remember how thrilled I was when DA gave “Wicked Gentlemen” an A- (I think, forgive me if I’m wrong) and I went and congratulated the author because it was a pretty rare mark. It’s like getting a Silver Gilt at the Chelsea Flower Show.

    Authors who react badly to reviews disgust me, especially big-selling authors, although it’s pretty disgusting in any author imho. As has been said before on this and other blogs, the best reaction to a good review is “Thank you for taking the time to read my book, glad you liked it.” The best reaction to a bad review is “Thank you for taking the time to review my book.” – or no response at all.

    I’d be thrilled not to get an F, to be honest!!

  5. Corrine
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 05:31:22

    To me, if I write or read a C review, it means that the author had a good story, but it either (a)didn’t connect emotionally, (b)had a few questionable plotting techniques or (c)wasn’t satisfatorily wrapped up. It doesn’t mean it was a bad book, just not a keeper. Quite honestly, about 85% of everything I read is a C, 10% might be a B, and the remaining five make up the A’s, D’s, and F’s.

  6. Ann Somerville
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 05:37:22

    Quite honestly, about 85% of everything I read is a C, 10% might be a B, and the remaining five make up the A's, D's, and F's.

    Which, statistically, is pretty much what you would expect – it’s called a normal distribution. Basically it means that all things being equal, most books will be ‘average’. Sucks for those in the middle, but it’s where most of us are going to be. Which is why I distrust review sites and magazines which only give 4 and 5 star reviews to things – if you love everything you read, then there’s something strange about your taste, so it’s not a hell of a lot of use to me.

  7. Lynne
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 06:14:56

    I once worked for a company that had recently overhauled its employee review system, and OMG, was there much wailing and gnashing of teeth about it. In the past, the vast majority of employees — C performers — had been rated as “above average.” You really had to screw up to get an “average” rating. The bell curve was still there, but the labels were shifted one over.

    Well, when they changed it so that average performance was called just that — average — it was like the world was ending. People were freaking out about losing their jobs. They had never been called “average” in their entire careers at that company and were NOT happy about it. But statistically, average is exactly what they were. Average is not a BAD thing — it’s a statement about where someone fits in the spectrum of employee performance.

    I mistrust review sites that only give 4 and 5 stars. They come off as more of a promo mouthpiece than a legitimate source of reviews, IMO.

  8. Nora Roberts
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 06:39:00

    Well, does anyone strive to become average? Does anyone set a goal to be, or have their work seen as average?

    Probably not many.

    It seems natural and human to me to feel a sting when our work is deemed average.

    Whining or raging about it in public? Big no. Snarking on the reader who so deemed? Enormous no–plus wildly stupid. Sulking (privately or in the company of pals) for a little bit until you remember this is someone’s opinion seems fairly natural and human.

  9. Ann Somerville
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 06:54:14

    Sulking (privately or in the company of pals) for a little bit until you remember this is someone's opinion seems fairly natural and human.

    Unfortunately, even doing it privately has its pitfalls since some people consider that even information heard under privilege is fair game to spread around. Unless you vent to a piece of paper and set fire to it afterwards, chances are, someone will hear about your disappointment over a review (or make it up if they have to.)

    I completely get the instinctive rage one feels when you get a bad review. Like you said, no one sets out to write an average book, and only the truly deranged would set out to write a bad one. A lot of the sting comes from pure surprise – after all, your friends often like your writing (or say they do) and you will have shown it to a variety of people for preliminary comment and adjusted anything that they disliked intensely. Your editor also likes the story or they wouldn’t have bought it. So when you set a story free that’s been through the process, and you get your first warning that not every one likes it – or that almost everyone hates it – the author is often very ill-prepared for that. How many times have you reacted with fury, then calmed down and got some perspective on the review, your reaction and the importance of both? Most people will do that in every case.

    The nutty behaviour of the Victoria Laurie kind seema to me to be authors posting in that first flush of startled outrage, not letting themselves calm down, and bitterly regretting it later. Most of us might make that mistake once or twice, and hopefully learn from it. Some, like L K Hamilton and co, never do.

    The nutty behaviour of people like Deborah Anne MacGilivray isn’t an instinctive reaction but a cold-blooded control freakery, determined to ensure they dominate all views of themselves and their work, and not caring who they destroy in the process. To me, this is less silly than psychotic – but also much rarer. If we could get the message through to the Victoria Lauries of the world to shut the hell up for the first week after reading a bad review, that would eliminate 95% of all the hissy fits (but deprive us of much amusement, let’s be honest!)

  10. Michelle
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 07:03:57

    An author having a fit about a C review and then going after the reviewer is really going to damage them more than the original C review. It really demonstrates petty behavior and lack of control.

  11. francois
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 07:13:36

    My personal reading scale

    A = Love it! Would recommend it to anyone. I want to buy everything by this author.
    B = Good book.
    C = Meh. Would still try this author again if had nothing better to read.
    D = Deeply flawed but readable. I probably won’t read this author again.
    E = No redeeming features. Painful to read. Couldn’t finish it.

    Above all I value accuracy in other people’s reviews. Most stuff is average – any reviewer that doesn’t acknowledge that is of no use to me. As for authors, surely the number of copies sold is a better measure of what people think? Nora is a automatic must-buy for a lot of people, no matter what they might think of individual books. I value authors that consistently hit grades in the range A-C but never go below that.

  12. kerry
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 07:22:03

    To me, a C review means I didn’t like the book all that much. It was well written, with an understandable plot and characters, but it didn’t move me. It was one that I could take or leave. I actually think most of the books that I read fall into A or B categories. This is probably because I carefully choose books based on reviews (here and on goodreads), blurbs, authors I’ve liked before, etc. Sometimes I might pick up a book that someone else loved and I don’t, and it’s a C, but most often books that I read end up being a B or an A.

    To me, the disappointing thing is when I pick up a book by an author whose works I’ve loved and the book falls flat for me. That doesn’t happen that often, but man it sucks. Most of the time it’s just a one-time thing – I didn’t care for that single book – but I always worry that it’s a sign of a slide into mediocre or even just bad books (Patricia Cornwell’s earlier books vs her later books, for example). And in some series, I wonder if the “C” or “D” book signals the series has jumped the shark. I think this kind of disappointment shows in reviews (especially on Amazon) and the “behaving badly” authors react to that with hurt and fear.

    Last but not least – when I was a TA (way back in the 90s), I had students complain over C grades. It seems these days that everyone expected to be a B student, at the very least. C didn’t mean “average” to these students, it meant a poor grade. Dear Author grades fairly, IMO. A “C” is good, but average. However, some of today’s authors might have the same issue with a “C” being thought of as “bad.” I don’t know.

  13. Shannon Stacey
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 07:22:09

    I see a C as the low side of meh, and no author shoots for that. There are way too many books in the marketplace for a C to be good enough.

    As for surprising author reactions to a C review, I have a (possibly totally whacked) theory:

    If a book receives an F review, it usually dings the book as a whole. When a reviewer gives the book an Epic Fail, whether it’s plot elements, worldbuilding, sexual content or writing style, it’s easy for the author to tell herself the reviewer “didn’t get it”. Your book clearly wasn’t for that reader, therefore the review has less validity and can be discounted.

    The C review, however, is often about the author’s execution. The reader wanted to like the book and tried to like the book and therefore (based on my own observations) writes a much more focused and constructive review. Much, much harder for the writer to discount and—if she’s honest with herself—harder to deny.

    Because the C review is going to cut closer to home, it’s probably more likely to trigger an overly defensive hissy fit from an author prone to that sort of thing than an F, which can be tossed aside as “she didn’t get it”.

  14. Laura K
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 07:27:34

    Francois has the same type of list I have. I almost *expect* a C book fom a debut author, and am always pleasantly surprised when it’s better than that.

    And, of course, all bets are off if I’ve read other work by the same author and felt strongly (one way or another) about them. If I usually love an author, I certainly won’t stop reading her because she writes one C book. On the other hand, if I try an author and the first book is a C and the next one is a C or D, I just can’t be bothered anymore unless someone I trust tells me, “hey, this one you’ll like.”

  15. Jennifer Estep
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 07:36:16

    I think the reason some authors react so strongly to a C review is the fact that it’s an average grade — and nobody wants to think of themselves or their work as merely average. We all want to be special, lauded, appreciated, popular, etc. It’s the competitive culture we live in.

    Would Michael Phelps be getting so many headlines right now if he was a C swimmer? Of course not. He’s an A+ swimmer, which is why so many folks are talking about him. A C review is sort of like getting fourth place at the Olympics. You were okay, but not quite good enough to get a medal and folks aren’t likely to remember you after the games are over. (Yes, I’ve turned into an Olympics junkie these last two weeks. Hence the metaphor).

    There are many books folks have raved about (including some on this site) that have been C reads or less for me. Reading tastes are subjective, just like anything else. To me, a C book isn’t a bad book. It just didn’t do anything to really distinguish itself in my mind. A C review wouldn’t keep me from trying an author or reading something else by her. Like other folks have said, a lot of the books I read are C books. It’s the hunt for those A and B gems that keeps me going.

    As for attacking reviewers, it’s unprofessional and it’s not going to help you in any way. I always wonder who has enough free time to so closely monitor Amazon and other reviews in the first place and then decides to take even more of their time to fight back. I’ve got a million other, better things to do. Like write. And read.

  16. Rosario
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 07:39:46

    For me, a C book is usually a meh one, but it can also been one where I loved some things and hated others… loved the romance, but thought the plot sucked, for instance.

  17. Rosario
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 07:40:10

    For me, a C book is usually a meh one, but it can also be one where I loved some things and hated others… loved the romance, but thought the plot sucked, for instance.

  18. Jaci Burton
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 07:42:47

    An author engaging the reviewer or the readers anywhere about a review, other than to say ‘hey thanks for reading and reviewing my book’, is a lesson in futility. Unless the reviewer specifically asks the author to stop by and clarify points in the book or asks questions, the author needs to shut up and be gracious. There are a ton of books out there and not all of them get reviewed. A review, good, average or bad, calls attention to the book and that can’t be bad. Well okay, it might be bad. lol.

    No author wants her book to be meh or thought of as less than worthy. It always stings to read a less than glowing review. But it happens. And if you write a decent book there’s going to be a mix of meh and whoo hoo in reviews of your book. Not everyone sees the same thing in the same book. Suck it up, shut up, if there are commonalities in the ‘meh’ reviews, maybe learn something from what is being said, but never engage in debate with those who didn’t love it or try to argue your way into a better grade. The whole thing with authors trying to convince reviewers the’re wrong just mystifies me.

  19. Mireya
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 07:44:49

    To me a “C” review is an average review. That means the book was an okay read but nothing to write home about. I don’t consider it a failure because I would pick up another book from the same author. However, if I find myself feeling that all the books I pick from an author are “C” reads, eventually I will, most definitely, stop reading that author’s books.

    The problem, from my perspective, is that an opinion of a particular book is very subjective (I know, I am stating the obvious). Many times I’ve picked books highly recommended here and in other blogs that I felt only deserved a “C”, see what I mean?

    “C” is equated more often than not with “mediocre” and that does not sit well with most people, me thinks, and let’s face it, the word “mediocre” does have a negative connotation.

  20. Emmy
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 07:53:51

    C reviews mean different things to me.

    If I’ve read the author before and absolutely loved their books, C just means that I liked the other ones more. The book was good and I’ll get the next release when published; it just didn’t make me bounce and squee like the others did. It could conceivably be an A book for someone who hadn’t read any of the backlist, and I’d continue to recommend the author’s books to others.

    C for an unknown author could very well be the kiss of death, so I can understand the concern. The book was something I’d rather not have spent money on, and the likelihood that I’ll purchase anything in the backlist or any future stories is fairly slim. It may not be representative of an author’s work as a whole, but I’m going to assume it is. I would not recommend the book to others, and if asked, I’d steer people in the direction of books I thought were much better.

    ps…lolz @ teh bunneh

  21. sallahdog
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 07:57:20

    What is a C book for one reader is an A for another,

    That just happened to me, and with the very books that Jane mentioned. I bought “catch of the day” and “Just one of the guys” and if I were to grade them, I would have reversed Janes opinion… I liked, but didn’t love “Just one of the Guys” and Loved ” Catch of the Day”…. thats just the way it goes…

  22. Ann Bruce
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 08:07:34

    C and 3-star reviews make me wince a little. Personally, I’d rather the reviewer absolutely detest the book than go “meh.” Meh means I failed to evoke a reaction, either good or bad, from the reader.

    (Somehow, I see this comment coming back to bite me on the asss.)

  23. Michelle Monkou
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 08:09:27

    The letter grades take me back to my high school days, maybe even college. The only Cs and Ds I got were in Math – once they started added letters to the numbers to solve for more letters…like WTF! Otherwise it was As and Bs and I was rewarded with lots of wonderful attention. I was the sibling that danced around the room in front of my brother waving my grades and accolades. I was the pain in the ass friend who said, what did you get – because I couldn’t wait to say what I got.

    Jump forward to the land of reviews and it’s like a cold douse of water. C, D, F is like knife wound to the heart, think warriors trampling over you, leaving you bleeding in the hills. Even your white flag is broken and dingy.

    Now would I attack a reviewer or reader – not ever. And I always respond with a thank you (for taking the time to read, maybe buy, for writing something). Because along with the good grades, I learned good manners. I learned stiff upper lip. And you learn grace from the icons that have walked before you.

  24. Ann Bruce
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 08:13:44

    Eek! I swear I know the word ass only has two s‘s.

  25. Sharron McClellan
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 08:20:44

    For me, a C review says, ‘meh’ and of course I don’t want my books to be seen as ‘meh’. I want to be loved! I want people to think I am the best damned writer. Evah. Of course, there is little chance of that happening. Some will love what a book. Some hate it. And I am good with that. But I’ll confess that the C makes me cringe.

    Frankly, I’d take a F over a C as long as the reviewer totally loathed the book. If I am going down, I want to go down in FLAMES, baby! Why, because it mean they felt something. For me, a C means a lack of anything. It’s landing with a slight thud as opposed to a spectacular flame-out.

    I still want the A :)

    Now, no matter what the review, I don’t discuss it online. Once I get word that one is done, I email the review thanking them for taking the time to read my book. If they liked it, I acknowledge that . If they didn’t, I leave it alone. To me, the point is that they took the time and that is appreciated.

    To attack someone for spending their time on something you created strikes me as poor judgment and taste. Granted, I am sure I will screw up somewhere in my career and possibly in a public way, but I would hope it’s not for something like that. And if I did do something that foolish, I’d also have the intelligence to apologize for acting like an ass.

  26. JulieLeto
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 08:23:50

    First, there is NO excuse for an author attacking a reviewer for their opinion. They are entitled to it. But I’m entitled to my opinion about that review and if I want to say something to my friends, then I can. The truth of the matter is that I don’t say anything to my friends that I wouldn’t say to someone’s face–though I often choose NOT to say it to be prudent or kind.

    I don’t judge a review by the grade as much as by the actual content. I received a B review recently from a site-that-shall-remain-nameless and frankly, I was shocked the reviewer didn’t give my book an F. She seemed to take great pleasure at mocking my story, despite the fact that in my opinion, she probably hadn’t finished the book or she would have realized that at least two of her assumptions about the story turned out to be wrong. Did I whine about it to friends? Yes. I think I might have even discussed my annoyance in a private email with Jane. I did not attack the reviewer. In fact, I can’t even remember who that reviewer was. It’s her opinion. It’s her site. She can say what she wants to and I’ve got to suck it up. She will not be the villain in my next book.

    Speaking of which, with all the discussion of authors who “punish” people who annoy them by making them characters in their books…it should be noted that many authors do the opposite. I’ve auctioned “character names” off in my novels for charity, raising a nice sum for my local YMCA and other worthy causes. My brothers-in-laws and sisters-in-law have all had characters in my books as a joke. My newest SIL is complaining because her character never actually appeared, just got mentioned. She wants her own story! I’m looking for the right person, but warned her…my other three SILs were strippers. They loved it!

  27. Jackie
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 08:25:02

    Well, does anyone strive to become average? Does anyone set a goal to be, or have their work seen as average?

    Probably not many.

    It seems natural and human to me to feel a sting when our work is deemed average.

    Whining or raging about it in public? Big no. Snarking on the reader who so deemed? Enormous no-plus wildly stupid. Sulking (privately or in the company of pals) for a little bit until you remember this is someone's opinion seems fairly natural and human.

    What Nora said.

    What’s tough for me to remember is that the letter grade ISN’T the sum of the review. Actually, one of the best reviews I’ve received for my first book was over at Smart Bitches — and I think Sarah gave the book a C or a C+. I remember feeling this wild disconnect — how could she have enjoyed the book and yet give it such a meh grade? But then, I realized that the one thing that didn’t work for her (which she very aptly explained in the review) affected her enjoyment of the book overall. Does that mean I did it wrong when I wrote it? Possibly. But more than that, it means that this was how she took it when she read it. And all I can do, as the author, is decide whether I agree with her assessment of what should have been done, and if I do agree with it, strive not to repeat that in future books.

    A letter grade is just a letter grade. That’s not the entire review.

    Still, it makes me giddy when I get A’s. And it makes me cringe when I get C’s.

  28. veinglory
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 08:31:56

    I have dealt with what we call ‘grade inflation’ in universities. In some schools, especially ones you pay a lot of money to attend, more than half the class gets an A. Can you say: ‘sense of entitlement?’ In my world As were for 5% or less.

  29. Keishon
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 08:41:19

    C review means neutral for me. IOW, wasn’t moved to love or hate it. My expectation when I read a new book is to be blown away. Every book (as my college professor used to say about term papers) starts off with an A but as you read, the letter grade either remains the same or it drops. Some readers don’t think like this but I do.

    What is priority for me (I know you all don’t care but too bad) in grading anything an A is asking myself: was this book entertaining? Did I forget the real world for several hours while reading it? did I find it hard to put this book down? were the characters memorable? Were the h/h together for most of the book? Then I look at how the story was crafted, was the book paced well?, complexity of the plot etc, so forth.

    A reads should be sacred and awarded to books that truly earn them and obviously that is subjective. C grades are about the norm for most books out there so I don’t view it as a negative but YMMV.

  30. Kimber An
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 08:45:13

    As a book reviewer, I have three observations-

    1) Any review is a good review, because it gets your name and the book’s title out there.

    2) We don’t do ‘C’ reviews at Enduring Romance. I can’t force myself to read a book which isn’t my cup of tea. Besides, what’s the point of posting a review of a book I don’t really like? I think readers come to our blog searching for books they WILL like, not books they won’t. I figure this is why there’s a huge variety of book review blogs.

    3) Authors sometimes get in foul moods and are impossible to please while there. Their cats die too, yanno. I don’t hold it against them and I certainly never mention it in a public forum. In fact, I may warn my fellow reviewers, but I don’t even share names with them. I only tell my husband and he can’t remember a darn thing.

    4) I understand that authors, especially debut authors, are especially anxious around the time a book is released. So much is riding on that book selling well right out of the gate.

    All authors are human, as far as we know. It’s easy to forget that sitting behind a keyboard with a computer screen to protect us with anonymity.

  31. Gail Faulkner
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 08:45:29

    As an author I see it as a failure with that person. I agree with the amazing authors above. Making a fuss about any review simply insures the reviewer never reads you again.

    The overwhelming number of books published each week makes getting a blog review a win, regardless of the rating.

    The only book I’ve ever received a truly ugly response from ONE blog reviewer on is currently selling, used mind you, for silly amounts of money. So there ya go. She hated it. Doesn't mean the book is a failure.

  32. Keishon
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 08:54:00

    We don't do ‘C' reviews at Enduring Romance. I can't force myself to read a book which isn't my cup of tea. Besides, what's the point of posting a review of a book I don't really like? I think readers come to our blog searching for books they WILL like, not books they won't. I figure this is why there's a huge variety of book review blogs

    I agree, I can’t finish bad books either. That’s what Jane is for, reading the truly awful books out there. Hey, just kidding, J – maybe. But I think you do your readers a disservice or let me put it this way: I would be bored with just reading all A, B reviews. I like to see variation in tastes, what you like, don’t like, etc.

    It’s the content not the grade tacked on at the end that should matter most and of which I look at the hardest. As Jane has mentioned in other articles and many readers have articulated as well elsewhere, it’s rather difficult to write C reviews. Sometimes, it’s hard to explain why the book is just “meh.” It just is.

  33. MoJo
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 08:58:43

    As a reader, a C grade to me says, “Don’t spend your money; borrow it from the library.”

    An F grade says, “Ooooh, I need my train wreck fix today.”

    Naturally, this depends on who’s doing the reviewing and I’m slowly learning whose taste is in line with mine. There are books/authors who consistently get As and Bs from some reviewers and I won’t read because I will most likely find them C-ish and not cracktastic enough to pop open the wallet for the F.

  34. theo
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 09:00:58

    Opinions are like noses, everyone has one and everyone has to blow it from time to time….

    My FIL told me that years ago and it’s always stuck with me and I think, in the case of reviewing any book, that’s exactly what applies here.

    Any book out there can be technically great, the characterization is awesome, the structure, grammar and plot devices textbook perfect, the length exactly right…it doesn’t matter. Because it’s all subjective!!! If it wasn’t, there would be one, maybe two books in this world, everyone would love it/them and that would be the end of it.

    But what one person loves, another hates. That will never change.

    For me, I am not interested in the grade as much as I am in whether or not the critique/review is articulate, thorough and I pick something from it that either I can say “Gee, I see where that might be a spot I could look at to improve on” or “That spot couldn’t have been done differently and stay within the confines of the story but I’ll consider it next time”.

    You will never please everyone though I can’t imagine any author not wanting all A’s! Of course we do. It’s affirmation that what we’re writing is good, but it’s also reminding us why we do what we do. Because we love it, and our readers do too.

    I have an author whose books I have devoured, that is until she changed genre right in the middle of her series. It’s turned to a genre that I can’t read, can’t abide and have no interest in trying. Does that mean her writing is no longer wonderful? No! She’s every bit as good as always but the direction is no longer something I’m interested in. Rather than give a C review, I won’t review at all. Because let’s face it, whether we like it or not, part of our review is emotionally based and if you’re expecting one thing and get something else, it’s going to color your ability to review without picking at things because you’re disappointed. Doesn’t mean I won’t read that author in future though! Every bushel has a bad apple from time to time.

    And I’ve run on long enough which I apologize for but what it boils down to for me is, be honest with me, don’t attack me emotionally, and never, ever say anything more to any reviewer than “Thank you for taking the time, and spending the money, to read my book.” Anything beyond that and you’re asking for the DAM and VL fights to start and nothing is worth that kind of bad press.

    And that bunny is just the cutest thing!!! Reminds me of the Bugs Bunny cartoon…and I’ll hug him and pet him…

  35. Maria Lokken
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 09:39:16

    A review – “A” or “F” is an opinion of the reader. Period. There are many sites that give reviews and I’m often surprised that on one site the book will receive an “A” and on another a “C”.

    A “C” review is average BUT, it’s average in a different realm. There are many people who talk about writing and never write, there are many people who write and never get published. So for a writer to actually sit down, write a book, find someone to publish it, and in the case of the romance genre, pretty much have to promote the book themselves, I think a “C” review is great among the ‘average’.

  36. cecilia
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 09:45:33

    As a reader, a C grade to me says, “Don't spend your money; borrow it from the library.”

    For me, the impact of a C review depends on the author. A C review for a book by an author I already like isn’t going to affect whether I read that book or not. It won’t even affect whether I buy or use the library. For an author new to me, though, if I see the “C,” I may not even bother to read the review (I know, I’m lazy), and I am extremely unlikely to read the book (and by extremely unlikely, I mean “it’s not going to happen, but I don’t like to speak in absolutes”). I can definitely see why a C review would be upsetting.

  37. Fae Sutherland
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 09:46:02

    I’ve gotten a couple of C reviews, and I’ve gotten an F review as well (just the one thank god). I hated the F review more. But neither truly upset me. With a C review I can just say “Well, *shrug*, it just didn’t click with them, that’s okay.” while the F review was more, “Damn, she really thinks I’m a shitty writer, ouch.” I’d prefer my story not click with a reader than have a reader feel like they wasted their money completely on a book that didn’t deserve to be published.

    But still, even the F review didn’t phaze me much. Like Nora said, what’s one person’s F is another person’s A. I mostly felt bad that the reviewer (a reader not one who got a free copy) felt like she’d wasted some of her precious, probably limited, book money for the month. That made me feel guilty.

  38. Jeaniene Frost
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 10:02:42

    As an author, a “C” review stings a bit, because it’s my hope that people will enjoy the time they’ve spent with my characters and story. I certainly don’t set out to disappoint people or have them close my book and think, “Meh, I could’ve had a V8.” It’s an impossible hope that every reader will like my books, however, so all I can do is shrug and try to make each book I write the best it can be. That best may turn out to be someone’s A review, or C, or even F. But I can only control the effort I put into a book, not the reaction readers have from it.

    Arguing with a reader over a review is pointless. Who am I to tell someone that I think they’re wrong with what they like or don’t like? It’s personal preference, which makes it exempt from wrong, in my opinion. Do I understand the urge to say, “but, but, but!” and try to justify a book? Sure. Should an author ever do that? No. Aside from being rude to the reader, it’s also a waste of energy that could be better spent working on a current project.

  39. Jill Sorenson
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 10:04:40

    From a reader’s standpoint, a C review doesn’t deter me in the least. Lara Adrian’s Kiss of Midnight is one of my favorite books of all time. I couldn’t believe it earned a mere C. So wrong!

    I try to keep this in mind as an author. One of the most thoughtful, well-articulated reviews for my debut novel (at AAR) wasn’t all that positive, but I appreciated it very much.

    Perhaps the key here is in how a reader/reviewer states his or her opinion. I’ve read some reviews that aren’t worded respectfully, and I can understand why an author might get offended.

  40. Lori
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 10:15:17

    While I think that everyone has expressed remarkably grown up opinions and we’ve all put on our very adult face for this conversation, it’s obvious to me that there are those people out there who do not believe in ‘live and let live’ as everyone here professes. We all believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion, and that just getting your name out there, good or bad review, is a good thing. But if that were indeed the case, the unfortunate animosity that currently exists between reviewer and reviewee when a ‘C’ review is written would not exist.

    Personally, I think that a C is nothing more than a ‘so it’s not a keeper, better luck next time.’ And for me, there will always be a next time. I am such a voracious reader that I am very likely to read another book by that author – more than very likely. Unless I receive backlash for my C review. After all, it’s just my opinion. Am I really that important? I mean, really? Wow – I always told my mom I would grow up to be someone super important – I guess I was right.

  41. Jessa Slade
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 10:16:10

    As a reader, a C review says to me, don’t bother. As a (someday) author, a C review says to me, I lost a potential reader.

    Also, I’ve never understood the bell curve. Just because bells are shaped like a bell doesn’t mean quality is.

  42. JulieLeto
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 10:18:50

    Jill, that’s a good point. I believe that Kresley Cole’s DARK NEEDS AT NIGHT’S EDGE got a horrible review from somewhere (D or F) and I thought the book was utterly brilliant. One of the best I’ve read. I always keep that in mind and I can only hope that readers do, too.

  43. Jackie Barbosa
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 10:28:21

    I haven’t read all the comments yet, but I’m tossing out a thought here because I see it in my kids’ school grades all the time, and that is this: C doesn’t mean “satisfactory” any more. In California, anyway, a B now means “proficient.” Anything below a B means “your kid is on the verge of not being promoted to the next grade.”

    No one wants to accept being “average” anymore. Average, in modern America, doesn’t mean “acceptable but not exceptional.” It has really come to imply incompetence. Which may be why so many authors interpret a C as a failure.

  44. ilona andrews
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 10:37:54

    Books must evoke an emotional response. A and B clearly signify that the reader enjoyed the story, D clearly shows it wasn’t for them, but C means the emotional response you’ve managed to evoke is “meh.” It’s a depressing grade. Love or hate will sell books. Indifference won’t.

    I hate getting a C. I always want to get an A. Even getting a B, especially if the review doesn’t highlight the positives as much as it says, well “this was okay and I didn’t hate it” can be crushing, because you’ve failed to move the reader.

  45. Leah
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 10:39:09

    An F grade says, “Ooooh, I need my train wreck fix today.”

    Yeah, me too. I know it’s sad, but I won’t always read even an “A” review–it depends on the subject of the book. But I will always read the bad ones. I know I will pay for this someday!

    But I agree with the posters who mentioned grade inflation. I went to school in the ’70’s and ’80’s, and was very good at it (except for the math part). At least, I think I was very good at it–because I got all these “A’s.” When I got to college, that continued…until grad school, when I had a professor from Germany. This was for an advanced historiography, and seriously, how good could we really be as 2nd yr students? Most of us got C’s (others didn’t fare so well). We were just wounded, and complained bitterly. Our professor was surprised. “What’s your problem? A C is average! What’s wrong with average?”

    But to me, a “C” book is one that I read, that I liked, but which I will happily post on paperbackswap. A “B” is one I’ll have to debate about, but will eventually post, and an “A” is pretty much a never post. I might not always remember all of the details of a “C” book, but it provided me with a few happy hours. I may reread it at some point. For example, I like a certain author’s romantic suspense novels. I’ve read a few of them several times. They are spooky, I like the heroines, the premise…but for some reason, the endings are never satisfying. I’m not sure why, really. So I think of those as “C” books, but I’ll buy them and reread them.

  46. Leah Hultenschmidt
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 10:58:02

    I think the comments from Michelle, veinglory, Jackie and Leah really pegged this one, so I’ll keep it quick. It’s hard to separate these letter grades in reviews from the ones we all got in school. If I had gotten a C in school, I would’ve been devastated. And I think that’s what some of the authors here are feeling. It’s hard to reprogram the standard, though I think this site does a good job in trying to remind authors from time to time that there’s nothing wrong with a C grade *here.* They often have some very positive, quotable material.

  47. Karen Templeton
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 11:00:09

    What Michelle Monkou said (post #23). I, too, was basically a straight A student…until I hit Algebra and then I just prayed to pass the dang class. Actually, I was thrilled with a C in math, because that’s the best I could do. A C in English, however, would have meant I hadn’t done my best. A C was not just a disappointment, it really was a failure.

    What can I say, old habits die hard. :)

    And when you know readers are more likely to read F reviews than Cs, or to even buy F-rated books than C-rated ones, it gives one pause. Not that I want an F review, God knows, but neither am I going to think a C is good, either. As countless others have said, nobody sets out to write an “average” book. No author wants to get lost in the crowd. Obviously, we have no control over a reader/reviewer’s reaction to our book — and, also obviously, one person’s declaring a book a C read doesn’t make it so for every other human on the planet — but still, it’s an ouchie. Just as a great review is an ego-boost.

    And both last for approximately 2.5 seconds. ;-)

    Like Julie Leto, I do think an author’s entitled to her opinion of a review just as the reader is entitled to her opinion of the book. She is perfectly within her rights to whine to her husband. Or whoever. She is not, however, entitled to act like a diva about it on a public venue, or take the reviewer to task, or put out a hit on her. That’s just dumb and petty and — here’s a thought — self-defeating.

    Because being gracious — let alone circumspect — is far more likely to encourage someone to try one of your books than releasing your inner Dragon Lady.

    IMHO, of course.

  48. Toddson
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 11:04:35

    hm … I have some books that didn’t excite me either way – a “C” read – but that I don’t regret buying or reading. I might well buy something by the same author. An established writer that I consistently enjoy – such as Ms. Roberts – if one of her books strikes me as a “C” I’ll just decide that it wasn’t my cup of tea … but the next one probably will be.

    Some judgements are objective – such as was it coherent, was it competently written, did the plot hang together. However, so much is a matter of personal taste. I’ve bought and enjoyed books that reviewers didn’t – I’ll read the review to see if the book sounds interesting.

    If a reviewer makes personal comments against an author, I’ll discount the review. So … that’s my two cents’ worth.

  49. Jane
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 11:09:00

    I think that an author is “entitled” to act however she wants, but of course will have to suffer the consequences of her actions. Although these days, it appears that a blow up on the internet actually increases sales rankings on Amazon so maybe acting out by authors is just a new way to get publicity.

    Maybe if reviewers made the C reviews as entertaining as the F reviews, they would get read more. It’s hard to be entertaining with a C review though because as a reviewer, you really struggle to articulate why it’s not getting a higher grade. And, I didn’t realize that Bs were borderline distasteful either. I’ve always equated B with Buy. and C – get it at the library.

  50. Meljean
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 11:09:04

    I was just thinking about this the other day as I was reading through a preface to a nineteenth-century Russian reader, which mentioned that Dostoyevsky’s favorite Biblical passage was “I would thou wert either cold or hot. If you are lukewarm, I shall spew you out” and which went on to say that, particularly in Russian literature, this was a cultural mindset: to prefer the extremes.

    I find it’s true with me, too — as a reader, I really hate the book that falls into the C range. The F or D range, I can e-mail a buddy and tell her about a really stupid scene. The A or B, I can gush. The C range … meh.

    But as a writer, the C range means that there is some that is good, and some that is bad, but overall … meh. There is a lack somewhere that could have been filled in, either in plot execution or the emotional connection to the characters. Something could have been done better so that it wasn’t a “meh” and that’s much more frustrating to know than the epic fail that is an F. It’s lukewarm, when you wanted to deliver boiling.

    An F … in my experience, there just isn’t any way that book is going to work for that reader. There’s nothing that could have been done better (and still be the same general book); nothing that could really be fixed that would take it above a D or a C anyway. So they are easier for me to read, because it’s a matter of realizing: I don’t think there is any way that this book/these characters could have worked for this reader. So the more they hate it, the easier it is not to … not not care, but to push it aside, and not spend a lot of time picking out what might have been done better.

    And, of course, much of that is subjective and out of the author’s hands. And there are C reviews that DON’T leave me frustrated with myself, because the reviewer clearly articulates what didn’t work for her … and that particular thing(s) couldn’t have been improved. For example, my last book, one reviewer said she liked it overall, but graded it down because the hero’s drawl got on her nerves. Or my first one, readers didn’t like the demon heroine’s character. Those aren’t issues of craft, but taste … and it’s impossible to do it for everyone, every time.

  51. Val Kovalin
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 11:18:54

    What a fascinating thread and comments! Somebody mentioned that she skips the review itself if she sees a “C” letter-grade. This may pinpoint why authors panic over grades or Amazon-stars. Our attention span is so short that if a book gets reduced to a value within a measurement system, it makes it that much easier to dismiss it.

    From a new author’s standpoint, a “C” can be a disaster if readers skip the review itself and the possible good points it acknowledges. From the readers’ standpoint, grades on a review site are useful because they’re in a hurry. They might miss some interesting reads, but what do they care since the world is full of too many books to read in one lifetime?

    As a reviewer, I’ve wondered whether or not to grade. On Amazon, I’m forced to, and it feels a little weird assigning three-stars, which to me can be a positive grade, when I know that many readers consider “average” to be not worth their time. On my own review sites, I don’t give grades and I hope that it makes visitors read my entire review for my conclusion, ha, ha! At least it gives the book I’m reviewing a better chance.

    As far as authors objecting to reviews, I agree that the best response is for the author to ignore the review and move on to her next project. I also agree that it’s hard to do when some reviewers intentionally use your book as a platform for a sarcastic comedy routine; i.e., they never intended to review your book fairly in the first place. As one of you said, however, any publicity can be good if it gets the author’s name out there.

    What, if anything, can be done about reviews that – through a reviewer’s misunderstanding – can harm the public’s perception of your book? I’d be interested in hearing people’s ideas on this. I’m thinking about a review I saw on Amazon in which one of their mega-reviewers (who may have been reviewing so many books that she got two of them confused) stated that one author’s book had a graphic rape scene – and it didn’t. The poor author tried to correct this misperception in the comments, but if readers didn’t check the comments, a lot of them might have been immediately turned off of buying the book.

    By the way, I’m impressed with the sheer number of you authors who mentioned that you always thank the reviewers for their time, whether the review was good or bad. How classy! I rarely get thanked and always remember those authors with great warmth in my heart!

  52. Ciar Cullen
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 11:19:45

    When I reviewed, I gave the equivalent of C marks to books I just tolerated. Review scores are inflated at most review sites, so by comparison, DA is going to seem harsh. But meh, one person’s opinion.

    One thought though–if Dear Author itself was getting reviewed, and received a “C”–meaning, okay, not great, not horrid–how would you feel?

    I never liked the grade in school because passing wasn’t good enough. Um, except Organic Chemistry. Passing was good enough that time.

  53. Monica Burns
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 11:26:28

    For me, the impact of a C review depends on who the reviewer is. At places like DA, Mrs. Giggles, etc. a C review carries more weight with me, simply because I see the reviews as honest commentary with a good analysis of why a book does or doesn’t work for the individual reviewer. Reviews from places like Amazon or elsewhere can range from credible reviewers with insightful commentary to reviewers who make you wonder if they even read the book. Nonetheless, All reviews are subjective.

    Does a C review sting…not so much a sting as a sigh of disappointment because a C grade means I didn't hit the mark well enough to leave a lasting impression on that particular reader. When I get an “average” review, I put it down to reader preference. I can't please everyone, and I'm not trying to. Getting into a shouting match with a reader over an average or otherwise lesser review isn't worth it because it's one person's opinion, and that's all it is, the opinion of one person, nothing more.

    I do confess to taking a hard look at C and lower reviews if they're detailed commentary. Sometimes an author can learn a lot from insightful reviews. Now this doesn't mean I'll change my writing to please a reviewer, but occasionally comments do resonate with me about a book. When that happens, I'm able to examine my work with a more critical eye. There is no perfect book, only the best book a writer can produce at that point in time. At the same time, I don't give undue emphasis as to the influence a single review has on my work. I think reviews of any grade or rank are all about perspective. Took me a few reviews to learn that, but it's pretty ingrained now. *grin*

  54. Jane
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 11:34:45

    If someone were grading Dear Author and gave it a C, I would look at the reasons why and hope I could improve on it because I know that DA is far from a perfect site. I’m always looking for ways to better it, but I don’t think I have the same attachment to DA (as much as I love it) as authors seem to attach themselves to their books.

  55. Amy Wolff Sorter
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 11:45:29

    Jane, you bring up a really good point. As a reader, I can tell you that “C” review does mean average. It means I didn’t like the book, but I didn’t hate it, either. It was okay. Nothing memorable, just okay.

    As a writer, it means the same, but I have to agree with the other authors on this thread when they say they wince at an average grade. No writer I know strives to be “average.” I certainly don’t. But sometimes that average review can cause a lot more doubts than even a failing grade.

    While I understand what writers goe through when receiving a “C” review, what I don’t understand is why some get so pissy about it to the reviewer and the reader. On another post, an author considered the relationship between herself and the reader as sacred, and I pretty much feel the same way. If the reader isn’t moved by what I write, or doesn’t get anything out of it, or is only compelled to write a “C” review, that’s not the reader’s problem. It’s my problem. And it means I need to do better next time :-). It does NOT mean I should waste my time and energy explaining to the reader why he or she is wrong about my book.

    But I guess for these authors behaving badly over a C review, it’s like being told their children are average, rather than brilliant. And as a result, they act like typical parents by going over the top to try to convince the reader (or reviewer) why their children are above average.

    But in the end, instead of putting their energy toward producing a better product (or maybe improving their kids’ GPA, to take that analogy even further), they’re using that energy to defend themselves against what they see as “attacks.” In turn, they end up attacking and looking like total asses in the process.

  56. Leah
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 11:46:01

    If it helps any, I have a poor memory for reviews, and don’t use them (normally) to buy books. If I’m buying on Amazon, I generally buy the book based on the description, not the reviews. And if I see your book in the bookstore, I’m not going to remember if you got a high grade on SB or DA, or 5 stars in RT. I’ll look at the cover, read the back, and if it sounds interesting, I’ll buy it.

  57. bettie
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 11:54:12

    To me, C means “average, nothing special.” As a reader, I view a normal percentage of C reviews as a mark of legitimacy for the reviewer. I simply do not trust reviewers who give everything an A or a B, and will very rarely buy a book on the glowing recommendation of a reviewer who gives nothing but glowing recommendations.

    As a reader, I would never condemn or give up an author for writing a book that struck me as “nothing special”. But when it comes to my writing, the idea that one of my stories would be “nothing special” makes me feel like I’ve failed. Hypocritical, huh?

    Also, a C review is one of those reviews you really can’t argue with. Saying “How dare she think my book isn’t special!” is the height of ridiculousness. It’s easy to write off harsh words, mockery and flat statements of dislike as unfair, but it’s harder to argue that about a tepid review. A tepid review is a niggling little voice that can’t be pushed aside by defensiveness or anger. Such a review is awful because, of all the lower grades, it’s the one that’s most likely to make a writer think, “What if they’re right?”

  58. Virginia Kantra
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 11:54:43

    I never challenge a review. If I haven’t made my case to the reader in three or four hundred pages, arguing with her on-line certainly isn’t going to convince her of anything except perhaps that I don’t know when to keep my mouth shut.

    That said, there are days when I have enough trouble shutting up my internal editor. On those days, a C review, any review, no matter how justified, well-expressed, or well-intentioned, just swells the chorus of self doubt.

    Eventually, you have to learn to turn down the noise and simply write. For yourself first, and then for the readers who “get” you.

  59. Gennita Low
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 12:04:40

    All I want to add is, “Yes, I do look that Cute when I get a C review.”

  60. MB (Leah)
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 12:05:04

    As a reader, I will read a review with a C because I want to know what worked and what didn’t. I will almost always read and F and and A, but B’s I kind of skip over. A B means that they liked it and probably I will too, so I don’t bother to read the review.

    With a C I’m very curious about what the reviewer didn’t like because it could be something I will like.

    With and F– I read if for the entertainment value and I have to see why it was so hated.

    I’m mostly curious as to what the reviewer says about the book. I don’t really care if they like it or don’t unless I know their taste, but I like to have info about what’s really in the book and those reviews that give that info are the most helpful.

    As a reviewer, a C means that it was just OK. I will probably read another of the author’s books unless that author is an ass online.

    If I give a D or F to a book and the author is polite and thanks me anyway, I will almost always buy another of their books even at the risk of hating it.

  61. ilona andrews
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 12:06:32

    Also, a C review is one of those reviews you really can't argue with. Saying “How dare she think my book isn't special!” is the height of ridiculousness. It's easy to write off harsh words, mockery and flat statements of dislike as unfair, but it's harder to argue that about a tepid review.

    Very well put.

  62. TracyS
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 12:31:20

    I think Nora hit on something that every author needs to remember:

    What is a C book for one reader is an A for another, and a big honking F for yet another-and maybe for some sweet someone that unparelled excellence

    One C review can make you wince, absolutely, but for some of these authors that seem to go off the deep end? Why? Someone else may see it as an A++ and another an F or a DNF. I have a quote that I use as my signature on a book review board I frequent:

    “No two persons ever read the same book.” ~Edmund Wilson

  63. Seeley deBorn
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 12:38:39

    When I reviewed, the site insisted that nothing under 3 out of 5 ever be awarded to a book. Following that scale, I gave crappy books 3, or C in letter grades. Granted Amazon doesn’t insist on the same bell curve, but some people might read it that way.

  64. Chicklet
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 12:41:11

    A C review doesn’t keep me from reading a book, if the review mentions elements of the book that I like. Maybe I got into this from my years of reading fanfiction, where I’ll put up with clunky syntax or Britishisms in the mouths of American characters if the story uses one of my favorite tropes (for the record, they are “Oh noes! We have to cuddle for warmth!”, “Oh noes! We have to share a bed/apartment/hotel room!”, “Oh noes! We have to enter into a marriage of convenience!” and “Oh noes! We have to pretend to be dating even though we’re just friends!”).

    So if I read a C review, I may pick up the book “anyway” if the heroine is sufficiently kick-ass or the dialogue is sparky or something else that catches my interest, and ignore the negative elements, because I’m getting my fix of Element X. It’s what SB Candy calls reading pornographically.

  65. TracyS
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 12:42:13

    oops. Forgot to add above:

    This quote too from Nora:

    Whining or raging about it in public? Big no. Snarking on the reader who so deemed? Enormous no-plus wildly stupid. Sulking (privately or in the company of pals) for a little bit until you remember this is someone's opinion seems fairly natural and human.

    Of course, I’m not saying the author cannot have feelings regarding the review, but it’s all in how they deal with it. Nora’s response is the sane one :o)

  66. Christine McKay
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 12:48:03

    I’d rather have an F than a C. (Of course, an A would be the goal) Hate it. Love it. Whatever. But do it with passion. C to me is kind of like a packet of Ramon noodles, of questionable sustenance. Like horribly raunchy service or a poor meal, people talk about F’s. No one mentions (or remembers to mention) the taste of stale hamburger from the drive-thru burger joint.

  67. Robin
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 12:52:14

    But as a writer, the C range means that there is some that is good, and some that is bad, but overall … meh.

    Which suggests to me that one of the issues here is that everyone has a different view of what the C grade means, and that if my view and your view don’t mesh, I will intend one thing when I give a C, and you will see another in that grade (and I’m speaking generally here with my “I” and “you”).

    I’m sure people have noted that the New York Times doesn’t give grades in its book reviews, which forces people to actually read the review and take in the complexity that most books present for the reviewer. When I read a book for review, I am constantly tallying the things that worked for me and the things that didn’t. A balance of the two generally means a C.

    IMO authors really shouldn’t be concerned with a grade unless it dips into the D and F range, where the problems outweigh the strengths to varying degrees. If I could, I’d leave out grades altogether, but then probably even fewer people who read my long-ass reviews now would read them without a grade. And yet I always worry that the grade moots all of the effort I put into trying to articulate what I found as the book’s central strengths and weaknesses. And often, for me, at least, a C book takes the longest to review because there is much to say on both sides.

    As to the issue of “averageness,” most of us don’t strive for average in our chosen area of work, but we all do average work sometimes. And I wish that more people would see average in its core definition: as the median or the mean, arrived at when one tallies up all relevant pluses and minuses.

    Also, I believe there is a lot of grade inflation in Romance reviewing, which has conditioned all of us to see anything lower than a B as failure.

    And my final pet peeve is the grading of books based on whether the reader liked the hero or heroine or could relate to the book’s theme or central romance. Not that those things don’t and shouldn’t play a role in reviewing — they should, absolutely. But I personally get nothing out of reading reviews based on the reviewer’s likes and dislikes in books. I want to know about other things, too, like the consistency of characters, the organization and pacing of plot, the craftsmanship and writing level, and the way the book relates to the genre as a whole. Not that every review has to address every one of those issues, but I need something more than “I hated the hero — D” for a review to be meaningful to me as a reader.

    I wonder if we need some kind of reviewer disclosure to make this system work better, a basic statement on the part of each reviewer as to how s/he grades and what the grades mean. Although that makes me tired just thinking about it, lol. Mostly I wish we could get less hung up on the grades themselves (which are merely a derivative measure, after all) and focus on the content of the review, which, as a reader, is what I rely on. And let’s face it: those one heart reviews on TRR can be some of the funniest things in Romance reviewing, IMO, and they often help me remember that reviewing can be an art in and of itself. Maybe authors should only be concerned when a review’s appeal exceeds that of the book itself, lol.

  68. Lissa
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 13:18:53

    Believe it or not, I never rely on reviews to choose which book I will or will not read. I have found through the years that my taste in books, movies, tv shows, etc. are mine and don’t necessarily match with anyone elses. I tend to choose a book on several criteria:
    1. The author – have I read this author before? Did I like/love/loath this author before?
    2. The blurb on the book – is this a subject that interests me? Does the plot sound plausible? Are the character names not stupid or impossible to prounounce?
    3. Is this an on-going series, that I must continue reading?
    4. Is this a new author and if so – does the plot/subject interest me enough to spend the money?

    I choose my reading material based on what I am looking for in a book – not on what someone else has gotten out of it.

    Now having said that – I enjoy reading reviews after I have read the book to see how my opinion stacks up to someone else’s. I especially like sites like this one, where the reviews are generally unbiased, well-written and articulate. Sites like Amazon where reviewers say things like “this book was stoopid” don’t really interest me. I want to know why you thought the book was “stoopid”, give me a reason, give me an example, put some thought into the review, so I can then review my experience with the book and compare, don’t just put out a generalized statement without anything to back it up with. And never, ever attack the author personally. A lot of times after reading a review, I see things from a different perspective, which generally doesn’t change my opinion of a particular book or scene, but does make me reasess my take.

    A well-written review, whether good or bad can spark some interesting discussions, or perhaps make a reader adjust their initial take on a particular book, IMO it will not make a reader choose to read or not to read your work. An author attacking a reader for their opinion? That just leads me to believe that the author and his/her works are not worth my time or money.

  69. Meljean
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 13:19:49

    Which suggests to me that one of the issues here is that everyone has a different view of what the C grade means, and that if my view and your view don't mesh, I will intend one thing when I give a C, and you will see another in that grade

    Oh, definitely. And even for my reading self, a C can mean two different things: it was competently written but didn’t emotionally engage me (the “meh”), or I was hooked, but there were some real issues with plotting/pacing. (As both reader and author, I prefer the “I’m hooked but see problems” book/review.) It’s only in the review itself that the difference is made apparent, though … so C-grades, I do find myself reading more closely to find out which it is.

    And for my writing self, C is still a *headdesk*. Because either way, something didn’t work. :-D

  70. cecilia
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 13:25:38

    I wonder if we need some kind of reviewer disclosure to make this system work better, a basic statement on the part of each reviewer as to how s/he grades and what the grades mean.

    You mean like a rubric? You could “mark” the books like we mark our Provincial English exams – Ideas, Organizational Structures, Techniques and Transitions, Language Use and Arrangement, and Grammar, Spelling, Punctuation and Capitalization. Then you could share the joy of pointing to the rubric and explaining why it’s a 4,3,4,4 and not a 5,5,5,5.

  71. Robin
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 13:40:34

    You mean like a rubric?

    I was actually thinking of something more basic — something like “I’m reviewer robin and for me an A book is . . . ” but even those types of statements have their inherent problems, not the least of which is that the reviewer can then feel boxed in when the process of reviewing tends to be more dynamic and subtle.

    As people talk about Amazon, I have to say that it always strikes me as a bit odd that books are rated on the same basis as toasters and toilet brushes — as commodities, basically. Not that readers don’t think in terms of a good buy for the money, but IMO books are essentially different than other “products” in that they aren’t really performance-based. So part of what I think makes the grading issue difficult is that there’s not only the school essay aspect of the grading process but also the commodity value aspect, both of which don’t, IMO, capture the relationship between book and reader, nor the way in which a book’s value is and can be measured relative to other “products.”

  72. MB
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 13:41:53

    Interesting topic!

    I tend to give mostly B grades. Sometimes I’ll give A’s for the rare and wonderful books–those I want to keep and re-read. Sometimes I’ll give D’s for the books I didn’t like (usually TSTL and/or weak heroines and implausable situations or plots). I rarely give F’s just because I don’t want to waste my time on the books any more than I already have, and because (deep down) I am a nice person. Like my Mom always said to us…”if you can’t say anything nice, say nothing at all.”

    But, the reminder that C is AVERAGE is an interesting one! I think maybe I need to start using C more often. There are certainly a lot of C books out there. And to me, C means that improvements are possible, not that this author is beyond hope.

    I agree with those commentors above that say they always read the reviews that explain WHY the book did or didn’t work. I always read the wordy & harsh reviews first because that is how I can tell most accurately whether the book is worth spending my time reading. I hate the reviews that gush and say nothing more than that this is the most wonderful book blah, blah, blah. To me that just says that either the reviewer is a friend or relative of the author OR that they rarely read anything at all.

    I like DearReader’s reviews because the reviewers state why they did or did not like the books. I may not always agree with them and frequently have given the books a different “grade” myself, but I learn more about the book by the insightful way the reviewer has explained their reasoning. Please continue to do what you do so well. And give those C grades if the books deserve them.

  73. Heather Holland
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 13:46:49

    As a reader, I do not read reviews. As previously stated, a review is just one person’s opinion and I prefer to form my own on the books I intend to read. I have strange tastes and odd likes and dislikes. What one person hates, I might love. (had that happen with a friend that hated a book and yet I absolutely adored it) I’m the same way with movies or TV shows or video games. I pay no attention to the reviews, because more often than not, I am totally at odds with them–so why waste my time reading them and possibly encountering spoilers? I read what catches my interested, just as I play the games that grab me and get my imagination to stirring. (yes, video games CAN inspire)

    As a writer, I do my best to thank the reviewer for taking the time to read and share his/her thoughts on what I have written, if I know the review was written. I don’t always catch every review that is posted because I don’t think to do a Google search for them very often. An honest review about the content of the book–meaning the words I have written–can be useful. A review complaining about the format or length of the story doesn’t do me any good and I feel is kind of pointless to be honest about it. A story is as long or short as a story is. If shorts don’t agree with you, then avoid them the way I avoid first person novels.

    I can take a “bad” review. Yes, it might sting for a bit and I might grumbled about it to my husband, but I don’t let it get me down. If I can, I will still pull whatever I can that’s useful from the review (IMO) and post a quote and link to the full review on my website. If a review isn’t linked to, then I probably don’t know it exists. Reviews aren’t dirty laundry to be hidden under the bed because one is too lazy to put them in the washer. I air them all, both the “good” and the “bad”, which is totally subjective. A review is what it is…a reviewing of a story in one person’s interpretation and perspective.

  74. LauraB
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 14:11:32

    A C book for me is one I don’t read straight through, not because it was terrible or painful to read, but because it couldn’t hold my interest sufficiently. Instead, these are the books where I grab immediate gratification by reading the ending and some of the middle before putting it in the to be sold pile. This IMHO doesn’t even signify a bad book or one that others don’t like, rather it reflects my own personal likes and dislikes. If a book doesn’t persuade me to want to read all of it, but doesn’t have me sighing in disgust with it, then it’s a C.

    If a book is a D, then likely, I don’t even care enough about it to cheat and read the end. An F is literally a train wreck, and I find myself reading it like a person rubber-necking at an accident.

    The best books are those where the world it creates lives forward in my imagination, and where I am drawn to reading the book again. The characters are people to me, and I’m engaged by them. Books to which I would give a B are close to this mark, but don’t find immortality in my imagination. I’m satisfied and engage by them.

    Imagine this:

    An A is like the perfect chocolate brownie rich, rewarding but not cloying.

    A B is like a slice of NY-style pizza, wonderful but not life-altering.

    A C is like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Good, sustaining, but nothing to remember.

    A D is like canned peas. Mushy and not good.

    An F is like liver.

    Finally reviews are so useful for me if they provide enough detail and reasoning to support them. I can often see from what a reviewer has to say whether or not I’ll want to read a book. It’s not just the grade but the thinking given to support it that sways me. A good review will give enough detail that a reader might still be interested in a book even if it was given a C grade.

  75. HelenKay Dimon
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 14:18:14

    I think the disconnect between reviewers and authors on this issue is that a C grade has a meaning beyond just being average, which is already not that great. It carries with it the underlying sense of “this is a book you can/should skip.” Right or wrong, that’s how many authors take it. That doesn’t mean the reviewer is wrong in her views. The reviewer expressed an honest opinion and has a right to do so. Some will agree and some won’t. That’s all fine. But no author wants to have her book viewed as forgettable or one you can miss. Reading a review that suggests that causes a wince. It’s a very human response, one based both on emotion and the very practical fact that authors need sales.

    Of course, while being human the author should refrain from acting like an ass, even if only for the sake of her own career. The key is in behaving with respect and dignity. For some authors, that appears to be an impossible task. Even more scary is that some authors seem oblivious to the fact they act like idiots when they get bad reviews. They go wacky and then insist other authors – never them – act inappropriately. It’s a very odd thing to watch.

  76. MoJo
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 14:21:35

    I’ve reviewed a couple of books on my site and didn’t give grades. I decided I don’t really want to review books I don’t like because I don’t want to waste my time. Plus, I found out one very important thing about the way I read. I only have 3 criteria: Like, didn’t like, didn’t want to finish. I mean, what do you do with that if you don’t want to sit down and figure it all out? Nothing. So I decided not to do any at all unless something just grabs me.

    I liked a series of books my internal lit critter nagged at the entire time. I couldn’t finish a book that my internal lit critter told me was well written. Which one got the job done? The not very well written ones.

    I would prefer not to see grades, especially when one doesn’t know the “rubric” of the reviewer. I guess that’s my only real point.

  77. Monica Burns
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 14:23:46

    An A is like the perfect chocolate brownie rich, rewarding but not cloying.

    A B is like a slice of NY-style pizza, wonderful but not life-altering.

    A C is like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Good, sustaining, but nothing to remember.

    A D is like canned peas. Mushy and not good.

    An F is like liver.

    Now there you have it! I happen to LOVE calf liver with onions. So could we switch PB&J to the F slot please? ROFL

    Great illustration of how it’s all about personal opinion and preference.

  78. Nora Roberts
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 14:27:19

    ~A B is like a slice of NY-style pizza, wonderful but not life-altering.~

    You’re eating the wrong pizza!

    About thanking reviewers. First I have no idea how many sites/readers review my books. I don’t go to that many sites. But I wouldn’t thank a reviewer for a sucky review. This is just me–not law or even a suggestion–just me personally. I wouldn’t mean thank you, and I’d feel like I was pandering to pretend otherwise.

    So I’d say nothing at all unless it felt appropriate to post and say something like sorry the book didn’t work for you. Because that would be true.

    Certainly if I frequent a site and happen to get a good review, I’ll thank the reviewer. And I’ll mean it.

  79. Kathy
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 14:32:52

    As a reader, the grade is as good as the review and the taste of the reviewer. It’s difficult to separate your personal preferences during a critical review. Once I get to know a reviewer, and have a basis of comparison, I can make use of the score as a stand-alone objective assessment. Until then it is just a piece of information and rarely influences me unless it’s an D or F or DNF. My scoring system is Did Not Finish; Better Than TV, Hard to Put Down, and All-Nighter!

  80. MoJo
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 14:40:35

    My scoring system is Did Not Finish; Better Than TV, Hard to Put Down, and All-Nighter!

    Excellent!

  81. Lynne
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 14:52:44

    JulieLeto said:

    First, there is NO excuse for an author attacking a reviewer for their opinion. They are entitled to it.

    Y’know, I think it took the controversies this year — MacGillivray, Laurie, etc. — to finally get people to come out and say unequivocally that it’s wrong to attack reviewers. The RebaBelle incident was definitely not the first time an Amazon reviewer has been stalked and threatened, and it probably won’t be the last, unfortunately. I’m glad to see people taking a stand on this.

  82. Jessica
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 14:53:11

    Damn, I can’t believe I had an early meeting and missed this thread!!!

    First, as a baby blogger, one of my first posts was a comment on the many “nice nice” review sites. I don’t think there are enough careful, honest reviewers out there like Jane and the folks here (note, I said “careful”. I don’t encourage flippant negative reviews either.)If you’re just summarizing the book and basically providing free ad space for the author, please don’t call it a “review”.

    Second, as a professor, the “C” question hits VERY close to home. When I started in this profession, as a TA, my advisor told me that a “C” meant “clearly PASSING”. A “B” was GOOD, and an “A” EXCELLENT. Students seemed to get this 12 years ago way more than they do now. Now, they view the “C” grade as a failure. Grade inflation driven by student expectations is a huge topic in academia (and it is worse in Ivy League schools than any place else), and I’m not surprised it goes on on other areas where measuring and evaluating takes place.

    Third, as a consumer, a “C” grade will not stop me from buying a book if I know the author or if the premise really intrigues me. Reviewers tend not to be in lockstep, even on one review site, anyway, so the “”C” has to be taken in context with other comments and reviews.

  83. Jessa Slade
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 15:07:42

    Did Not Finish; Better Than TV, Hard to Put Down, and All-Nighter!

    Perfect! This leaves no confusion in the mind of the review reader or the nail-biting author.

  84. SonomaLass
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 15:11:53

    I wish that more people would see average in its core definition: as the median or the mean, arrived at when one tallies up all relevant pluses and minuses.

    Yes, what Robin said! Average is “in the middle” — I read a LOT, and most of what I pick up is average. If it’s worse than average, I probably don’t finish it; if it’s better than average, I recommend it to others. Sometimes a book that doesn’t work for me still gets recommended, if I know someone whose taste is different in that particular way.

    I’m a college professor, so I can tell you that a C grade means different things to different people in ANY context. A C is a passing grade at my institution — you get credit for the class. A D is not. Many students are quite happy to get a C in my (required) course. Over-achievers, students on grade-dependent scholarships, and students who thought my class would be easy and are counting on it to balance a poor grade elsewhere, however, can get very upset about a C. Even when that’s what they earned — they got between 70 and 79 percent of the possible points. Which is not bad!

    One big difference in publishing, I think, is that a writer already got an excellent grade from someone (and a huge amount of validation of his or her work, I hope) by being published. That puts you in the manuscript stratosphere, vis-a-vis those who are still without a publisher, editor or agent. To return to the academic comparison, it’s like you passed one class or test and now get to be in the honors section, and maybe to be average among that group isn’t such a bad thing.

    I don’t know of any reviewer who uses a C review to mean “this should not have been published.” It usually means that the book is neither among the best nor the worst that he or she has read, which is of course subjective.

  85. Janine
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 15:18:41

    I haven’t caught up on the posts here yet, so I’m almost certainly about to repeat something someone else has said. But I want to reinforce what Jane said about how any author can write a book that will be a C for me. Even my very favorite authors have done so.

    I’m coming over here from the “If You Like Laura Kinsale” discussion. Laura Kinsale is probably my favorite romance author. No one else has written more books that I adore — but that’s still only four of her books. I have my Kinsale favorites (The Shadow and the Star, For My Lady’s Heart, The Dream Hunter and to a lesser degree, Flowers from the Storm), and I also have some that didn’t inspire me to read them more than once. Uncertain Magic is my least favorite. I know many people love it, but I barely finished it. I wouldn’t grade it above a C.

    Patricia Gaffney wrote my favorite book in the romance genre, To Have and to Hold — an A+ for me. And also the wonderful Wild at Heart, which is easily an A. But some of her earlier books? Not so great, IMO. I barely finished Sweet Treason and didn’t care for Fortune’s Lady. Lily was a very mixed bag.

    Judith Ivory is another author I adore. If there is a better wordsmith in this genre I can’t think of who it is. I love Black Silk, Dance, Beast and The Proposition. Bliss is good too. But Starlit Surrender? I didn’t finish it. And Sleeping Beauty, though adored by many, didn’t work for me because I didn’t find the heroine authentic enough. The Indiscretion disappointed me too.

    In my humble opinion, these authors are the best of the best, incredible talents. Just because they’ve all written some books that didn’t work for me doesn’t mean that I’m not immensely grateful for some of their other books. I think they are brilliant — but that wouldn’t stop me from rating some of their books as Cs or lower.

  86. Janine
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 15:32:11

    Another point I want to make is that one person’s C is another’s keeper. Recently I purchased a book that Jayne reviewed here and rated as a B+. The review got me very excited about it.

    I’m two chapters in, and I doubt I will finish it. The plot is very fresh and original, so I can see why Jayne and others would really enjoy it. But the writing itself isn’t pulling me in and I’m finding the characters rather boring. I wouldn’t grade what I’ve read so far any higher than C.

    I’m only two chapters in, but I’ve started another book that I’m also only two or three chapters into, and that one is sucking me in much more.

    My point here is that Jayne and I are different readers with different priorites in terms of what makes a book work for us. Is her opinion wrong? No. Is my opinion wrong? No. They’re just different opinions. Different readers have different tastes, that’s all.

    No matter how great a book is to me, there is bound to be someone out there who doesn’t care for it. I know people who don’t like Lord of Scoundrels or Flowers from the Storm. I know people who don’t like Hamlet!

    A review is just one person’s opinion. That’s it.

  87. Daisy Dexter Dobbs
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 15:32:58

    Though I've been writing for years, it wasn't until a few years ago that I wrote my first erotic romance. Polly's Perilous Pleasures (Ellora's Cave), an erotic romantic comedy, was released in August of 2005. I Googled myself every damn day until-‘voila! I found my first review. It was on a reader's blog, a woman I hadn't heard of before.

    I was SO excited! I hoped PPP made the reader/reviewer smile and laugh and feel all warm and cozy and left her yearning for more. Maybe she'd become my biggest fan. Maybe we'd meet one day and bond and become BFF!

    The blogger's name was Karen Scott.

    I read the review. My heart leapt into my throat, out of my mouth and landed somewhere across the room where it flipped around, choking out strangled sobs the rest of the day.

    Oh. My. God. My life as an erotic romance writer was over. Kaput. PPP, my happy little heartfelt erotic creation, totally sucked. My humor skills were nil, zilch, zero. My eroticism quotient was even worse. I left the house, bought enough chocolate to drown an elephant, and anesthetized myself into a chocolate stupor.

    Once I'd revived, I hiked up my big girl panties and sent Karen a note, thanking her for taking the time to read and review my book. I told her I appreciated learning what readers may find objectionable because reviewers don't always include specifics in their reviews. She sent a nice note in return. (I won't go into what happened the next time she reviewed another of my books, Just Like a Dame. Oy! Just Google it and you'll see.)

    I was nervous as hell a day later when JERR's (Just Erotic Romance Reviews) review of PPP came out. Maybe my writing would be redeemed. Maybe PPP would be awarded the gold star! A squeaky little whimper emerged when I spied the 3-star review. 3 measly stars…that meant it was like a C. Mediocre, ordinary, so-so, take it-or-leave-it. Meh. Blech. Yawn. Snore.

    The verdict was in. I was a big fat failure. A living, breathing talentless vegetable. A pitiful lump of a woman who had the audacity to call herself a writer.

    And then a funny thing happened. Reviews came in, fast. And they were great! Emails from readers AND reviewers arrived telling me how much they loved PPP and asking about a sequel. What?! They actually wanted more?

    I got so fired up working on the sequel I barely noticed that a few of the new PPP reviews were of the dreaded mid-level C ilk. What mattered was that SOME of the readers really LOVED my book. And those were the people I wrote for.

    The most surprising part of all is that since those first disappointing reviews, JERR and other reviewers later referred to PPP as “the fabulous Polly's Perilous Pleasures” and “a brilliant reader and reviewer favorite” and “an erotic comedy classic”. Go figure. PPP and its sequel, Accidental Foursome, remain two of my bestselling books.

    So now when one of my books gets a C review I try to remember what I learned from my PPP experience. I keep repeating my mantra, “It's all subjective…it's all subjective…it's all subjective” until my logical, rational self and my whimpering, blithering emotional self find a comfortable, relatively sane meeting of the minds.

    Then I get back to my writing.

    As for berating readers or reviewers when one of my books gets a less than glowing review – nope, uh-uh. Ain't gonna happen. Even though I might be firmly entrenched in an unattractive private pity party, I always remember to be gracious. To be thankful for each of the people who took the time to read my book, whether they liked it or not. No matter what negative aspects they may have mentioned about my writing. I'm wise enough to know that constructive criticism helps me grow as a writer.

    I'm a fulltime writer. I'm truly living my dream. May God strike a mighty whack over my deserving head with his What-in-the-Hell-were-you-Thinking-you-Stupid-Ungrateful-Jerk hammer if I ever publicly whine or complain or bitch or moan about a less than stellar review.

  88. MCHalliday
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 15:34:52

    I read all reviews with my heart leaping at A’s and B’s, and cringing in empathy for any book graded D or F. If there is a mention of the subgenre or subject matter not appealing to the reviewer, the low grade becomes purely subjective. When a reviewer does not enjoy particular subgenre or, as SB Sarah terms it, ‘hybrid romance’, I wonder, why not decline a review?

    Keishon wrote: Every book…starts off with an A but as you read, the letter grade either remains the same or it drops. IMHO, a book outside the reviewer’s preferences is essentially starting with a D grade. Not saying that reviewing must be restricted to genres of absolute interest! Simply, it helps a reader make objective conclusions if this information is provided.

  89. MaryK
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 15:36:48

    On “nice” review sites . . .

    I think it’s one thing for individuals to blog about books they like and not waste time addressing books they don’t and a completely other thing for a website billing itself as a review site to never post bad or meh reviews. As someone said earlier, a review site that doesn’t post low grades lacks legitimacy as a guide for readers. Any guide that doesn’t warn of pitfalls and shady areas (even if they’re subjective) has very limited uses. I personally view those types of review sites as author promoters. The point of a book review is to evaluate the book. If all a site gives is positive evaluations, I’m going to wonder what’s being glossed over and, ultimately, why.

  90. shirley
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 15:42:56

    Whining or raging about it in public? Big no. Snarking on the reader who so deemed? Enormous no-plus wildly stupid. Sulking (privately or in the company of pals) for a little bit until you remember this is someone's opinion seems fairly natural and human.

    All of those reactions are ‘normal’, and come on, sometimes the ‘big no’ versions are funny as all get out.

    As a reader, I have to say I wish review ratings and reviews would match up more often. I can’t tell you how many times I read a negative review then get to the rating and it’s like a three or four. Huh? When the whole review is filled with ‘this was bad’ or ‘I hated *blank*’, it’s a bit confusing to see it get a ‘high’ review. Worse is when I read what comes off as a ‘good’ review, but with a crappy rating attached. Again, I’m wondering if some one messed something up.

    Kind of like the book that was just reviewed here. The regency one. Overall, I thought it was a ‘good’ review with a couple of points made about detractions. It read to me like a solid B read, but at the bottom it’s a B-. Again, it’s all subjective, but there’s a big difference *to me* as a reader between a B- and a B. A B- means almost a C (which makes me feel ‘take it or leave it’ or ‘I enjoyed the book, but I wouldn’t want to pay full price for it’), where as a B could mean ‘pick it up for sure. Great if you get it at the resale’ or ‘really enjoyed the book, will share with a friend’.

    Then again, that’s from a reader POV. Author’s surely assign different and maybe more negative emotions to C ratings.

  91. Kalen Hughes
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 15:59:11

    As a reader, I have to say I wish review ratings and reviews would match up more often. I can't tell you how many times I read a negative review then get to the rating and it's like a three or four . . . Worse is when I read what comes off as a ‘good' review, but with a crappy rating attached. Again, I'm wondering if some one messed something up.

    I was recently reviewed on another website (SmartBitches) and there was a bit of this expressed in the comments (and in emails sent to me). I got a B- (fair enough IMO, esp on SB), but Sarah raved about how much she loved my debut (note she was reviewing my first two books at the same time, and she didn't like the heroine of book two as much as the one in my debut so I think that brought the “overall score” down). Readers were a bit confused, and they said so. I never quibbled about it though. That would be rude, esp when the review itself rocks.

  92. Gail Dayton
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 16:04:11

    We don't do ‘C' reviews at Enduring Romance. I can't force myself to read a book which isn't my cup of tea. Besides, what's the point of posting a review of a book I don't really like?

    See, I don’t think a C grade should mean “a book you don’t really like.” At Shelfari (which I know a lot of people don’t like, but I went there first, so…) in their stars system, 3 stars (a C) means “I liked it.” 2 stars is “I didn’t like it” and 4 stars is “I liked it a lot.” (5 is “loved”, 1 is “hated.”)

    You can like a book without liking it a lot, and there’s a big difference between liking a book but not loving it, and bigger one between liking it and not liking it. When I give a book 3 stars, it’s because I liked it. I honestly liked it, and I enjoyed reading it. It’s still a “C”, but I liked the book.

    That said, however, I–well, actually, I don’t read reviews if I can help it. I got a lot of bad ones at Amazon for my Rose books, and I decided it was counter-productive to read them. If people send me a good one, then I’ll read it. And put it on my book marks and my website and stuff. Otherwise, I don’t go out of my way to search them out.

    When it comes to reading reviews of other books that I might like to read myself–I just read the review. A “grade,” or stars, or whatever, don’t really indicate a whole lot unless you know the scale. Reading the review should tell you what a person did or didn’t like about the book. I don’t like slow-paced books, so I’ll watch for that in a review. I want a romantic relationship. I don’t like really scary suspense (but I can handle really scary fantasy–if the bad guys are obviously not real, they don’t scare me like serial killers do). (Yes, I am a wimp. I have looked psychopaths in the eye in a courtroom. Brrr.) You can’t get that kind of thing from a “grade.”

    Authors are better off–emotionally, mentally and even financially–by just avoiding reviews. You just avoid all those negative vibes, you’re not tempted to lash out in reaction (or correct the reviewer where they got stuff wrong) which will avoid any reader backlash, and it’s easier to keep your head in the right place to keep writing the next book. Of course, that’s easier said than done–but keeping one’s mouth/keyboard shut? That’s the thing to do.

  93. KMont
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 16:06:07

    Daisy Dexter Dobbs, not only do I love your name *g* but your post was great as well.

  94. Robin
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 16:25:33

    A B- means almost a C (which makes me feel ‘take it or leave it' or ‘I enjoyed the book, but I wouldn't want to pay full price for it'), where as a B could mean ‘pick it up for sure.

    For me, a B- is a good grade. When I was a baby TA, learning to grade papers, someone told me that the difference between a C+ and a B- was the amount of flair in the work. I have taken that to heart when I face that dilemma grading. The more that stands out on the good side, the more likely the book is to earn the B-. And I consider B- a relatively high grade, all things considered. But then, I’ve read many a C book that has enough I like in it to pursue an author’s other work.

  95. LauraB
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 16:27:02

    Now there you have it! I happen to LOVE calf liver with onions. So could we switch PB&J to the F slot please?

    Of course, Ms. Monica Burns! It’s your menu not mine.

    Ah, Ms. Nora Roberts: I live in Texas and good pizza is hard to find. I’m working on what my taste buds remember from 15 years ago. ; )

  96. Lynne Connolly
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 16:27:42

    It depends. If the review is well written and explains why the reviewer didn’t like the book in detail, avoiding generalisations, it might give me an idea as to whether I’d like it. Sometimes themes are the reason and when the reviewer is honest enough to say she doesn’t like secret baby books, or revenge books, then that might be okay for me (although I don’t like revenge books, or books with cute kids in them, however well done they are).
    If a book contains a theme I don’t like, it has to be an A and by a favorite author before I’ll give it a go. A good review gives an outline of what the book is about, without spoilers, and how the reviewer felt about the book.
    So I suppose I’m saying that I don’t take too much notice of the grade, as long as it falls between B and D, but the theme, the author and what the reviewer thinks.

  97. Michelle Rowen
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 16:35:46

    C grades cut closer to the bone. Those reviews have good points and bad points, so they’re much harder to ignore than all bad or all good reviews. When I was a newbie, I was convinced that bad reviews meant the end of my writing career and were the embodiment of my self-doubt that I battled with every day. Bad or middling reviews poke viciously at one’s already shaky self-esteem. My very first Amazon review was a one-star — not on the US site — so I got educated pretty quick of how to suck it up and deal. And I have wanted to comment a couple of times to reviewers, but I strap myself down and move on. The sting wears off pretty quick, actually. ;-) Honestly, just the fact that something I wrote makes somebody somewhere want to put fingers to keyboard to discuss it on any level is great. The only worse review than a bad review is no review.

  98. K. Z. Snow
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 17:28:08

    As embarrassed as I am to admit it, I understand the aversion to a judgment of mediocrity . . . which invariably makes me think of F. Murray Abraham’s–or Salieri’s–“salutation” near the end of the movie Amadeus.

    I’ve felt this way since college. Performing in a merely passable way can make you feel like a talentless, unimaginative, lackluster hack. I’d rather fail miserably, since there is a kind of distinction in being egregiously crappy, or well and truly succeed.

    Badness, let’s face it, at least piques strong reactions in people and can lead to buzz and increased sales. Mediocrity? The only reaction is going to be Meh, so big deal and a pass-by.

  99. shirley
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 17:55:20

    If the review is well written

    There’s another of my pet peeves as a reader. A poorly written review. Ug, it’s worse when it’s a badly put together poor review, but a sloppily constructed good review doesn’t help an author – or reviewer/site – out either, IMO.

    All that said, I don’t know that a review actually moves me for or against a book. I don’t actively seek out reviews to read, but I do read them when they are where I’m looking or used in conjunction with a book I’m interested in. Still, like I said, reviews don’t really carry a whole lot of weight in my buying mind, other than my immediate reaction to what’s written, which tends to last about as long as it takes me to read the book’s blurb, LOL. What I’m saying is I don’t buy based on reviews.

    Don’t watch movies that way either, though. LOL, which when I think about it makes me ask why? Reviews of non-artistic things can and often do weigh in my mind. I wouldn’t buy a car from a dealership that has a really crappy customer service record. I wouldn’t go to a doctor who’d been sued a zillion times for misconduct.

    Maybe because art is subjective, I’m not the only one who doesn’t find other people’s opinions of art influencing my own?

  100. Janine
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 18:54:28

    One thought though-if Dear Author itself was getting reviewed, and received a “C”-meaning, okay, not great, not horrid-how would you feel?

    If someone were grading Dear Author and gave it a C, I would look at the reasons why and hope I could improve on it because I know that DA is far from a perfect site. I'm always looking for ways to better it, but I don't think I have the same attachment to DA (as much as I love it) as authors seem to attach themselves to their books.

    I agree with Jane. Maybe it’s because Dear Author is a collaborative effort or because we have very tight deadlines, that, even though I love the site, I’m not as attached to my posts here as I am to my fiction writing. Another factor is that DA has had a lot of quantifiable success in terms of the traffic we get here. We get positive as well as negative feedback in the comments as well, and it comes very quickly after we write our posts.

    For all those reasons, I think if I read a C review of DA, yeah, I would try and see if there was anything to take away from it that could improve my contributions to the blog, but I also have enough confidence in the quality and variety of what we offer here that I don’t think it would dent that confidence too much.

    A tough critique of my fiction works in progress though? Depending on the source, those can affect my confidence more. If it’s someone who just doesn’t get anything I write, I can dismiss that, but if it’s someone who likes some parts of it, but still finds some major problems, and whose opinion I respect, then yes, it’s more affecting than anything that could be said about Dear Author.

    I’m not sure why there’s a difference. Maybe because fiction writing is harder for me, maybe because I haven’t had the same level of success in that form yet, maybe because writing a novel takes so long and is so solitary.

    Also, I think sometimes in the process of writing fiction, one comes against the limits of one’s talents. I know it could be better — but I don’t know how to make it better. I can see the change that needs to be made, but I don’t know if I have it within me to make that change. Or maybe I do, but I don’t have much hope in that possibility.

    So yeah, in the midst of all that self-doubt, a tough critique (which is not even the same thing as a review, just the closest I have experienced) can be very discouraging. And writers already face so much discouragement from the world at large, where everyone and their grandmother tells you to go into some other profession.

    Nonetheless, I think that honest opinions are vital. Honest critiques are vital to writers’ growth and improvement, and honest reviews are vital to readers to finding good books, and to the genre itself to keep the conversation about what makes a good book good going.

    I think it’s important for readers to demand quality because if they don’t, if they spend their hard earned dollars on weaker books, then weaker books is what they’ll keep getting.

  101. azteclady
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 19:07:03

    Totally unrelated to the thread, but Nora said,

    Certainly if I frequent a site and happen to get a good review, I'll thank the reviewer. And I'll mean it.

    She does and she did, and yesterday I spent entirely too much time quoting Sally Fields: “Nora likes me/us! she really likes me/us!”

    On topic: I grade on a scale of one to ten, often with fractions. What can I say? Five letters/stars/hearts/whatever are just too few to represent all the nuances of any given book, IMneverHO.

  102. cc
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 20:19:18

    As a reader I LIKE C reviews- the reviewer usually goes into more depth and does a better job of giving the pros and cons of the book. I have more information available to me and can decide if it is worth it to me to special order a book out here in the back of beyond. Also, A and even B books are often carried by the library, or at least available for ILL. C books can be harder to find at the library, so if I decide a C review sounds like a book I’d like to read the odds are I’m going to be spending my money to do so.

  103. Leah
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 20:27:36

    When a reviewer does not enjoy particular subgenre or, as SB Sarah terms it, ‘hybrid romance', I wonder, why not decline a review?

    That makes so much sense. For example, I read tons and tons of chick lit and mom lit. I do not read erotica or romantica. I would like to think that I could recognize bad writing in the former and good writing in the latter, but the fact is, I would still be biased, and I would also lack the knowledge of the subgenre’s “canon,” which would make it hard to judge a book in relation to others like it.

    As embarrassed as I am to admit it, I understand the aversion to a judgment of mediocrity . . . which invariably makes me think of F. Murray Abraham's-or Salieri's-”salutation” near the end of the movie Amadeus

    I just love that movie! And it’s true that, judged against Mozart, Salieri is kind of boring, and, well, mediocre. But I don’t see that as something horrible. I’m sure that he derived pleasure from composing, and he was able to earn a living at it. Others enjoy his work–and it’s still being recorded, at least once in awhile. But even if it wasn’t, I don’t feel that that would negate his music’s value. Hopefully, I’ll finish my first book in a few weeks. I pray it will get published, and that I’ll be able to publish more. I’ll do the best I can, and work to improve, but I have no illusions that I will ever be a Nora Roberts, or Jennifer Weiner, or Liz Ireland, or a writer like Michael Connelly or the late Michael Shaara, who put so much depth into their work that I am just blown away every time I read them. That’s ok. I have the talent (?) I have, I’ll try to do the best I can with it, and if I can give someone a few laughs and a relaxing, encouraging couple of hours, then I think I’ve done my job. My work won’t be timeless–not much is. But that doesn’t mean it’s without value.

  104. Robin
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 21:40:13

    FWIW, I think of mediocrity as a D. That we see average and mediocre as synonymous is sad, IMO.

    Here’s the difference: the *average* of anything is arrived at by finding the middle position among the members of the set. If all the members are excellent, the average is the middle among those who are excellent. If all the members are crappy, the average is the middle among all the crappy. So the values of the average depends on the quality of the set. By contrast, mediocrity is itself a valued term, and that value is low. So if receiving an average grade plagues some authors, does that mean they believe that the general set of books in circulation is not particularly high?

    I also think we’re doing our kids a terrible disservice by teaching them that average is bad, too, but that’s another subject altogether, lol. No wonder we’re a society of stressed out loons.

  105. Karen Templeton
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 22:32:59

    IMO, the word “average” is tainted — both from an academic and professional standpoint — because we have it drummed into our heads that “average” isn’t “enough” if you want to get ahead. A C student who wants to go to a prestigious college, for example, is probably out of luck, barring extenuating circumstances. An author who receives an “average” grade might feel that her chances of success are also limited, in large part because of our academic conditioning, as well as the hideously competitive nature of this business.

    A C does translate to mediocre, if by mediocre we mean “not good enough.” And judging from the number of readers who won’t read C reviews, or read any book that gets less than a B, that’s not an invalid assumption, whether it’s erroneous or not. We all know not everyone makes it, let alone makes it “big.” So it’s easy to translate what would have been unacceptable to many of us in school into cause for worry in our professional lives.

    The difference is, in the real world of publishing our success as authors has nothing whatsoever to do with grades. And most authors really do know that reviews rarely correlate with sales, or reader preference. No doubt there are plenty of longstanding, successful authors whose work would, or has, earn(ed) them C — or lower — grades here and elsewhere. Not only is “average” (or mediocre) in the eye of the beholder, it’s really is no biggee in the overall scheme of things. It just feels that way when it’s your book being called average, because of all that conditioning, for one thing, and for another they hand you a whopping big jug of paranoia with that first contract, and it usually takes a book or six or twenty before it’s finally used up.

    “C” books hit the bestseller lists all the time. And, as library purchases are based far more on bestseller lists and reader requests than reviews (and it’s rare that any book would get the same grade across the board, anyway), “C” books regularly appear on those shelves, too. As has been said, what’s “eh” to one reader is a wallbanger to another, is beyond brilliant to a third. We do know this…intellectually. But since most of us are people-pleasers, at least to a certain degree, we has a sad (even if it’s only a little one) when somebody doesn’t love our stuff.

    I guess what this boils down to is…few authors are ever going to see a C as a good thing, no matter how often someone says “but there’s nothing wrong with average.” What we do have to accept, however, is how little impact any grade, for any book, has on our career in the long run.

  106. Ann Somerville
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 22:40:16

    IMO, the word “average” is tainted -‘ both from an academic and professional standpoint -‘ because we have it drummed into our heads that “average” isn't “enough” if you want to get ahead.

    In Lake Wobegone, all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.

    In the rest of the world, average just *is*.

  107. Keishon
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 23:37:56

    I never liked the grade in school because passing wasn't good enough. Um, except Organic Chemistry. Passing was good enough that time.

    That made me laugh. Thank you.

  108. Kaetrin
    Aug 20, 2008 @ 00:16:52

    From a reader’s perspective, it doesn’t necessarily matter to me what grade a book is given. I’ll read the actual review and decide for myself if the book interests me.

    Believing just a rating can be dangerous – using movies for example – “No Country for Old Men?” Won an Oscar, my husband loved it, people raved. Me? I just didn’t get it – I mean I understood it – but I didn’t get it.

    Every reviewer has a “style” and I think the trick for readers is picking that style and equating it to your own. If reviewer A loved a book it probably means I’ll think it’s rubbish. If reviewer B loved a book, I will likely love it too. Reviewer C? She’s mean so if she gives a C grade chances are I’ll really enjoy the book. (Note, no actual reviewers referred to here!)

    One of the first things I did when I found DA was to search for reviews on books I had already read and compare the review to my experience, so I could get a handle on the various reviewers’ “styles”.

    And Nora? I read Naked in Death and had a transcendent experience and went out and bought the next 24 in the series – so it does happen sometimes!!!

  109. Sandra Schwab
    Aug 20, 2008 @ 02:37:32

    invoking the “ugly baby” accusation to one Amazon reviewer

    The “my book is my baby” comparison is such an old hat, it always makes me giggle when I come across it. I mean, Thackeray used it in The Newcomes in the 1850s! And I’m sure other authors used it even before him.

    I admit to shouting “Du blöde Kuh!” at my computer whenever I find a bad review of one of my novels. I might even jump around the room in a bad Rumpelstielzchen imitation, or, when things get really bad, call a friend and blubber into the phone for a bit (until she reminds me a bad review isn’t really the end of the world). But lecturing or even harrassing readers and getting reviews removed from places like amazon is just unprofessional.

    What worries me about all this is the increasing number of authors who seem to perceive bad reviews as a personal attack. As in “I can’t believe how mean this person is to me, I’m sure she is just a would-be writer green with envy that my book got published and hers didn’t.” And, of course, “apparently their mommy never told them that if you haven’t anything nice to say you should keep your mouth shut.” For heaven’s sake, readers and reviewers don’t owe an author anything. In most cases they don’t even know the author and have never met her. How then could a review constitute a personal attack?

    If you want to become a professional author you should be aware that the moment you sign a publishing contract, your book becomes a product — to be produced, marketed, distributed, consumed, and reviewed. Nobody is interested in whether you’ve bled your heart’s blood across the pages or not. If you want to be a professional author, you should be able to regard your book as being separate from you. If you can’t do that, don’t sign the contract.

  110. Sheramy
    Aug 20, 2008 @ 09:00:09

    I’m a professor like some of the above posters, and for me a C paper when grading definitely means ‘mediocre.’ So I’d be disappointed to receive a C grade for myself in a review (the only C I ever got in school was in P.E., and I’d like to think my writing is better than my ability to do chin-ups). But I think a lot of it is not simply receiving this grade or that grade, but knowing that others will SEE that grade/review. There’s a big difference in getting a teaching evaluation that is grumpy and snarky, but you’re the only one who’s going to see it, and seeing grumpy and snarky evaluation on ratemyprofessors.com. Nowadays with the internet, people’s opinions are expressed publicly in a way they weren’t before. But one has to suck it up and deal with it. It is definitely inappropriate to chastise a reader/reviewer or argue with them — nobody wins in that scenario, least of all the author. At the very least, author looks insecure and whiny. At most, like a rabid psycho. It takes more pride and honor *not* to stoop to that kind of behavior.

  111. Janine
    Aug 20, 2008 @ 10:10:30

    If you want to become a professional author you should be aware that the moment you sign a publishing contract, your book becomes a product -‘ to be produced, marketed, distributed, consumed, and reviewed. Nobody is interested in whether you've bled your heart's blood across the pages or not. If you want to be a professional author, you should be able to regard your book as being separate from you. If you can't do that, don't sign the contract.

    That’s so true, and moreover, writers should realize that a C review is just the natural outcome of being published. Almost every book gets one from someone, doesn’t it?

  112. LauraB
    Aug 20, 2008 @ 11:28:37

    If you want to be a professional author, you should be able to regard your book as being separate from you. If you can't do that, don't sign the contract.

    Amen. Since I can’t distinguish what I write from who I am, I shall not be seeking any form of publication. For however much I think it will validate me, the obverse also applies if no one reads or enjoys it.

    My hat’s off to those with the intestinal fortitude to seek publication. If you’ve the confidence and guts to think that someone will and should read what you’ve written, then you should have the backbone to deal with a ‘meh’ review (especially since it may very well result in sales anyway).

  113. RfP
    Aug 20, 2008 @ 11:28:38

    As a reader I LIKE C reviews- the reviewer usually goes into more depth and does a better job of giving the pros and cons of the book.

    That’s backed up by research on Amazon reviews. Among the findings:
    • Three-star reviews were, on average, longer than one- and five-star reviews
    • Consumers don't just rely on a product's average number of stars, but actually read the text of each other's reviews

    When a reviewer does not enjoy particular subgenre or, as SB Sarah terms it, ‘hybrid romance', I wonder, why not decline a review?

    I know I’m not the ideal reviewer of horror–it’s not my fave genre. I do read it on occasion, and even more occasionally review it, for several reasons.
    1. I like to read a variety of genres.
    2. It gives me a different perspective on, say, vampires and violence in romance.
    3. In many cases (though not always) I can enjoy a good story regardless of genre. That said, I have to acknowledge that it’s not “my” genre so the reader knows my bias. (OTOH, I might somehow get lucky and write a review that a “real” reader of that genre finds interesting as an outsider perspective. No idea whether that’s likely, but it’s a nice thought.)
    4. Sometimes I don’t like the usual fare within a subgenre, but would still enjoy an exceptional book. I’m glad I tried Ann Aguirre’s Grimspace even though the last two sci fi romances I’d read were awful. I’m glad I tried Kit Whitfield’s Benighted even though I was tired of werewolves.

  114. Jo Bourne
    Aug 20, 2008 @ 11:43:21

    Bad reviews — and, for me, a C review is saying the book has major flaws — hurt like hell.

    I wish I could take bad reviews with philosophical detachment. Instead I do a lot of wall kicking and whinging to friends and muttering in the kitchen. My dog gets nervous.

    I says to myself, “It’s just one opinion.” And, “I won’t lose many readers because of this.” And, “Suck it up, Kiddo.”

    I indulge in imaginary conversations with the reviewer where I’m articulate and convincing and I explain what I was trying to do and the reviewer TAKES IT ALL BACK.

    Fortunately, this is more satisfying than yelling at the reviewer in real life.

  115. Sherry Thomas
    Aug 20, 2008 @ 14:13:57

    When my first book came out, I googled myself, I read every last link that came up, reviews, blog mentions, whatnot. I studied bookscan numbers, not just my own, but everybody else’s, in enough depth for a dissertation. In short, I drove myself nuts.

    So I quit, cold turkey.

    For Delicious I have not checked my amazon ranking or reviews, have not googled, and have generally stayed away from bookscan except for the one time my agent’s assistant e-mailed me with the actual number. I know C reviews–heck, D and F reviews–must exist for my book, but I haven’t bothered to find and read them.

    And I’m happy to report my mental health is in superlative shape. :-)

  116. amberwitch
    Aug 20, 2008 @ 17:15:14

    I write reviews over at librarything, with a scale from ½ – 5 stars.
    I consider a 3 star above average, and I’d easily read other books by the same author and the same series. If something is ‘meh’ it gets 2½, and anything below that is flawed. ½-1 is reserved for really bad writing.
    I’ve rated about 500 books, and the largest part was 3 starred – with 150.
    I’ve written about 120 reviews, and a quarter to 1/5 are 3 star reviews.
    That seem pretty normal to me. But then sometimes all that keeps me reading is the scathing review I am mentally composing, so there may be more negative reviews than strightly necessary:-)

  117. Robin
    Aug 20, 2008 @ 17:18:06

    For all of you authors who claim that you prefer an F review over a C review: does it matter to know that I am likely to pick up another book by an author to whom I give a C, but I am almost guaranteed not to do so for an author whom I have given a D or F?

  118. Erastes
    Aug 20, 2008 @ 17:20:28

    well said, robin. I agree.

  119. MoJo
    Aug 20, 2008 @ 19:12:59

    For all of you authors who claim that you prefer an F review over a C review: does it matter to know that I am likely to pick up another book by an author to whom I give a C, but I am almost guaranteed not to do so for an author whom I have given a D or F?

    Robin, I think that’s a great question; as a reader, I had to think about that for a while.

    Then, while I was cleaning (!), I found about a dozen novels I’d bought and read some time in the last year and didn’t remember a thing about any one of them except that they must have been pleasant reads (aka “C”). I wouldn’t have bought any of those authors again regardless, except by accident, because I didn’t remember their names.

  120. Shannon H
    Aug 21, 2008 @ 00:37:38

    For me personally, I view the graded reviews the way I would a test grade in school. And being that I am extremely harsh on myself, I probably skew the intent of the review a bit…

    To me, a C book is all around meh. It wasnt full of complete horror and drivel, but it wasnt really that good either. I automatically tend to make an assumption at seeing the C that its average, like most of the other books out there of the same category, with the same characters and plots and twists. So I tend to stay away from the C reviews, just because my own take on what a C grade is is rather harsh.

  121. RfP
    Aug 21, 2008 @ 14:02:30

    I am likely to pick up another book by an author to whom I give a C, but I am almost guaranteed not to do so for an author whom I have given a D or F?

    That’s not always true for me. Perhaps it’s a debut novel, or the flaws are major but fixable, or I like the author’s voice.

    There are also good authors who bomb. Loretta Chase has written a couple of books I can’t rate higher than a D, but I’m reading her latest and much of it works better for me. I loathed The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes, but will read those three authors individually. OTOH I think I gave a Julie Anne Long a C or thereabouts, and I’m not excited to try her again unless she changes period or format.

    while I was cleaning (!), I found about a dozen novels I'd bought and read some time in the last year and didn't remember a thing about any one of them except that they must have been pleasant reads (aka “C”).

    I’m just reading some new research showing that we tend to forget mixed reactions over time. I’ll post on it tonight when I have a minute. So far, what I’m getting from it is that “meh” books and “mixed feelings” books can end up much the same in our memories. So if a C means “meh”, “mixed”, or “average”, and all those categories blur together in our memories, that just reinforces how blunt an approach grading is.

  122. EssieLou
    Aug 21, 2008 @ 14:21:52

    When my first book came out, I googled myself, I read every last link that came up, reviews, blog mentions, whatnot. I studied bookscan numbers, not just my own, but everybody else's, in enough depth for a dissertation. In short, I drove myself nuts.

    So I quit, cold turkey.

    For Delicious I have not checked my amazon ranking or reviews, have not googled, and have generally stayed away from bookscan except for the one time my agent's assistant e-mailed me with the actual number. I know C reviews-heck, D and F reviews-must exist for my book, but I haven't bothered to find and read them.

    And I'm happy to report my mental health is in superlative shape. :-)

    As a reader who has given a F to other’s “A++ Best Book Evah!” and an A to someone else’s “Unreadable Triple F POS” I look at all book reviews as simply what makes that particular reader happy. That is all it is.

    I can see why some books are wonderful and loved, but I still don’t enjoy them, yet the author writes good books….for other people. Another author can get low ratings but she’s the best author in the whole wide world! For me.

    Anyhow, for anyone’s sanity who writes, you have the best solution which is Just don’t read the reviews. I know I wouldn’t. You’ll be in hell forever.

    Listen to your editor, take the advice of your beta readers, ignore the syncophants but otherwise, it’s nothing more than trying to please the universe and failing.

  123. Sandra Schwab
    Aug 21, 2008 @ 17:44:21

    Anyhow, for anyone's sanity who writes, you have the best solution which is Just don't read the reviews.

    You know, reading reviews, especially the bad ones, is a very good exercise and preparation for taking criticism in “real” life. It definitely teaches you to take it on the chin, but at the same time it’s very impersonal — you don’t have to face the person voicing the criticism.

    This past semester a chapter from my PhD thesis was taken apart (no holds barred) by a group of fellow PhD students and two professors in a rather gruelling 90-minute session. This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I don’t think I would have managed quite as well if I hadn’t had the experience of dealing with bad reviews. Even though, I was almost reduced to tears at the end of those 90 minutes. But hey, I’ve survived it. *g*

  124. freecia
    Aug 21, 2008 @ 20:51:57

    I can tell you as a reader of the blog and not an author, if I see a review stating a book has an average score of “C” or 3/5 stars, I won’t pick it up in hardbound or at full price. That’s pretty much what it boils down to when I vote with my dollar. Like other readers I read plenty of so-so books, I just don’t buy them the day they come out and perhaps get it from library/used. It isn’t necessarily a critique on their work as unworthy, just not something I really must read this minute on a weeknight where I have a precious hour to myself.

  125. Jessica
    Aug 22, 2008 @ 07:16:27

    To all the authors on this thread, let me add: at least there is no review site that rates your looks! Everyone in my profession has to put up with it thanks to RateMyProfessor.com. How would you like a scathing critique of your hairstyle and jewelry to go with that C review?

    Just sayin!

  126. Sheramy
    Aug 22, 2008 @ 08:56:36

    Haha, Jessica, so true! I’ve escaped that in my RMP reviews so far, but I do wish someday, somebody would condescend to give me a chili pepper. Just one!

  127. Marta
    Aug 30, 2008 @ 23:50:49

    Referring to Ms. Laurie’s review in Amazon: The sad thing was that she seemed to totally ignore all the good reviews and concentrated on the negative ones. I have to admit, although I like her Psychic Eye series, I am not so found of her Ghost Hunter series. I thought her second series was just flat. But, that would not have prevented me from reading her other series, or even hoping the new ones did eventually improve over time. But, well, now, it is her behavior, not reviews on her books that have made my decision for me.

    I admire the author above who, even when her first review was negative, thanked the reviewer for at least taking the time to read her book. That, my friends, is Class!

  128. REVIEW: Just One of the Guys by Kristan Higgins | Dear Author: Romance Book Reviews, Author Interviews, and Commentary
    Sep 21, 2008 @ 20:10:38

    […] a post titled, “What is Wrong with the C Review?” Jane mentioned that she adored Just One of the Guys so much that she bought copies of the book for […]

  129. Meh. | Moriah Jovan
    Oct 25, 2008 @ 14:24:43

    […] had something rolling around in my head for a while since Dear Author asked, “What’s wrong with a C Review?” More recently, a discussion at Racy Romance Reviews involving a book I must get expanded on the […]

  130. HLS
    Mar 07, 2010 @ 03:07:03

    This post got me thinking about reviews and I had to reply. I’ve written a few book reviews before, nothing professional. I read a lot, and as a result I’ve come across MANY C books, perhaps more than D or F books and (unfortunately) more than A or B books.

    When I read this post, I thought to myself, “Have I ever gone back to an author who has written a C book?” And yes, I immediately thought of an example. In fact, this author had written a book that I placed firmly in D category, but after some thought, I decided to read the next one in the series to see if it would get better (and there were some things I liked). All her books in the series after the first were firmly in C category, although the latest is slipping into B, yet I keep reading the series because while I’d average my feelings at a C (an average feeling of average, lol) there are some things in her series I love and keep going back for more, like one of the male love interests. I really like reading about him.

    So, no, a C is not and should not be the end-all horribleness that some authors seem to take it for. Sure, it’s not as good as an A or a B, but in my case, it doesn’t mean I’ll chuck the book in the trash. It means I may only read it if I can get it at the library, though…

  131. Jane
    Mar 07, 2010 @ 10:18:51

    @HLS: I agree, HLS. A C review will not prevent me from picking up that same author again. A more negative grade will.

  132. Marta Bentley
    Mar 07, 2010 @ 17:31:05

    Here is something interesting, and may or may not exactly fit into this catagory, but last year, a relative of mine had his first book published. It recieved many accolades, was up for some awards, and so forth. I was asked to join a book review website and found one reader, who had not even read the book, making snarky, hateful comments–not only about my uncle’s book, but this reader even suggested that the only people who would enjoy his book were–(drumroll please) his friends and family! I could have attacked the reviewer for being a jerk, but decided it would only hurt my uncle in the long run, and just proove the “reviewer’s” point. However, there were other, many good reviews about his book from other readers.

    I never told him about the review, and don’t know if he read it for himself. But if so, he never mentioned it to friends or family.

  133. Why this Author Loves Her C Grade @ Belinda Kroll, Quirky Victorian Romance
    Sep 21, 2011 @ 12:45:32

    […] a C-range grade from Dear Author isn’t nearly as bad as some authors feel. It translates to “this book is competent, but not for me.” It’s a “good but not great” book. It’s a book that was “fun, but not […]

  134. The Reader Author Paradigm | Dear Author
    Jan 20, 2012 @ 12:03:25

    […] the furor against C reviews here in this blog post or witness the Facebook posting of Jessica Park (self-published author) who can’t imagine why […]

  135. Elyse
    Jul 10, 2013 @ 10:09:46

    First of all, I think I’m a tough grader. I give most books a C but that doesn’t make it lukewarm or a meh review. I enjoy a C book; I am satisfied when I finish it, and I’m likely to recommend if it falls within a person’s preferences (regencies not set in London, contemps with older heroines etc).

    An A book has to be executed flawlessly and make a real connection with me emotionally. That’s a tough nut to crack, and if most books were A’s I’d be unemployed and chronically stinky because I’d forgo working and showering to read all the time.

    I feel bad when I give a D or F because I know that book was someone’s baby and that writing a book is a whole lot harder than writing a review. I won’t upgrade for the sake of friendliness though. Authors and readers should be able to have an honest dialogue with the knowledge that reader experiences are subjective. I recently gave a D review for a debut novel and still preordered the next book in the series because I really liked the author’s voice and have high hopes for her.

    I think nonymous

  136. Elyse
    Jul 10, 2013 @ 10:54:49

    My last comment got wonky…sorry.

    I think anonymous reviews can be harsh because it’s easier to be mean and funny than nice and still interesting to read. Plus there is no chance of being questioned. Any author can find me on Twitter and comment on my review.

  137. Elizabeth McCoy
    Jul 10, 2013 @ 15:41:30

    I got a C review here… And hey, fair enough. It wasn’t a preferred genre, I was relying on “deep fantasy tropes” more than I’d realized, and the review was detailed enough that I think people looking for those tropes would have known to consider the book. (Did know, even; sales definitely did some good things. Thank you again!)

    Yes, I wish I’d been awesome enough to get all that detail and a B or better, but I’d also like a starship and a time machine, while I’m at it.

    (Detailed reviews are nice. If course, the best is when a reader showers one with praise about something you hadn’t realized was in the book, but on re-reading… It totally was. That’s why I can’t stop reading 3+ star reviews. Any lower, though, and I make my spouse read them for me, so he can tell me if it’s got anything I should think about.)

    I will say, I have been leery of submitting anything else to y’all, since I wouldn’t want to waste your time! But that may be a feature for the reviewers, considering how many books are around for you to read. *grin*

    Please forgive any phone autocorrect infelicities.

  138. Lizzy
    Jul 26, 2013 @ 23:06:17

    I rate a lot of books “C” and I don’t see anything wrong with it. Sometimes a “C” means that the books didn’t stand up to the author’s other books. It means that I can understand why people would love it or hate it. I gave a “C” review to a book that I felt was a literary masterpiece, but I didn’t enjoy reading it. I gave a “C” rating to a book that had an amazing story, but there were grammar/formatting errors.

    The difference between a “C” and an “F” is that the “F” means that the reviewer believes that NO ONE will like the book. The “C” means that there was something about the story that kept him/her from liking it, but that it’s not a bad book.

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