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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Matchmaking Readers and Authors


Last week I followed an interesting discussion started on Facebook by reviewer Becky Condit of Mrs. Condit & Friends Read. The most thought-provoking part of the conversation for me began with the questions “So, do we write reviews for readers or writers? If for readers, are we part of the marketing team? If for writers, are we part of the editing team? Or are we some half-breed entity and does anyone really pay any attention to reviews?”

I’ve been mulling over the relationship between reviewers/readers and authors for the past few days, and the truth is we have a unique relationship built on mutual dependence and equality. Readers love to read. (I know that’s a no-brainer.) Books provide a much needed respite from life. They build hope. They boost the spirits. They are there to serve the reader.

Authors, on the other hand, have a burning need to tell stories. I say it’s a burning need, because it's not logical to work in isolation for months for very little financial reward in most cases, and then open oneself up to public criticism. That takes passion. We write because we love it. But telling the story isn’t enough. We need someone to read our books and hopefully love our stories as much as we do.

We need readers. Readers need us. It’s the circle of literary life, and it is beautiful.




I’m not a reviewer and I know these questions were posed to reviewers, but I have some thoughts. Are reviews written for readers or authors? I say BOTH.

A well-written review can help a reader find books she will love, and it can help an author find her audience. This is true whether the reviewer liked the book or not as long as the review has substance. If it’s filled with inflammatory language like “worst book ever” or “TSTL” or “all the other reviewers must be the author’s family because no one could like this book”, there is very little—if any—useful information readers can take from it. (Does anyone else see putting down a reader's review and trying to discredit her through name-calling a form of cyber-bullying?) *edited to clarify the original intent of this question.  

Here are some of the things readers can expect from my books based on both positive and negative reviews: 

  1. My work has been described as historical chick-lit. My characters are nonconventional and they don’t always follow the rules of polite society. Lovers of traditional Regency probably won’t enjoy my books.
  2. My stories are humorous, light, and a fun romp. If a reader is looking for an angsty drama or heart-pounding thriller, she won’t find it in one of my books.
  3. My books have sex. Some people say too much. Some say not enough. But there is definitely sex.  
  4. Sometimes people want to strangle a character and sometimes they want to weep with them. Sometimes they love them and sometimes they hate them. Therefore, readers can feel reasonably certain they will have some emotional experience, although that’s not always the case.
  5. My stories don’t center on a big misunderstanding. Characters talk to each other, like each other, and often deal with an outer source of conflict together toward the end of the story, because falling in love is just the beginning in real life.        
  6. My work is “pretty much free of poor grammar and typos”, thanks to my critique partners, editor, copyeditor, and proofreader. If one slips through, I feel like it must be destiny. LOL


Does anyone pay any attention to reviews? I do! I do! (Raising hand and waving it madly) I was a reader long before I became a writer. Sometimes I check out reviews to help me decide what to read, although I’m most likely to read books friends have recommended. 

Rules I apply when reading reviews: 


  • I don’t pay attention to the mean-spirited reviews that attack the author or try to discredit the other readers. Those reviews only discredit the person writing it, IMO. A professional knows how to provide a critical analysis of a book without being condescending and resorting to name-calling when someone has a different opinion.
  • I automatically discount any reviews that use the word boring. I always picture a young reader, and I don’t think we would have similar reading likes.
  • I don’t factor into my decision reviews where the reader DNF. As one commenter in Mrs. Condit’s FB discussion said, where did the person stop reading? The first page? The first chapter? I don't feel I can base a decision on a reader’s opinion when she already admitted she didn’t read it. I might miss out on a book I might think is great.     
  • I’m less likely to buy a book that has several readers saying the work has typos and grammar mistakes. I figure if several people notice, it must be more than a couple. Lots of typos, missing words, and wrong words begin to distract me from the story.
  • I’m more likely to buy a book that has elements I enjoy, regardless of the rating.


I feel pretty lucky to have gotten several helpful reviews for my books, and I'd like to say thank you to reviewers for reading my books and taking time to write a thoughtful review. Even if it turns out I’m not your cup of tea, I am someone’s, and your reviews have gotten us one step closer to discovering each other. I guess that kind of makes you matchmakers. Happy reading, everyone!

Who do you think reviewers write for: readers, authors, or both? Do you pay attention to reviews? If so, do you have a set of rules you apply when reading reviews? How do you discover new authors?

If you haven’t tried one of my books and would like to, leave your email address along with your comment. I’ll draw one winner to receive their choice of book from my Beau Monde Bachelors series. (Open internationally.) 






46 comments:

  1. I tend write my reviews for myself. Funny you should bring this up, but I have been thinking about this. When I notice when a person marked my review as not helpful. I'm like why. So, I started ignoring those, because I'm not writing them for that person. I find that I like writing my reviews. It gives me joy and that's all that matters. If it helps someone find a book, then it's bonus.
    countessofmar(at)yahoo(dot)com

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    1. Melody,
      I find your reviews very helpful. I can't believe anyone would mark them otherwise. I love reading your blog and seeing what you think of different books. I'm glad you're ignoring the naysayers. Do you think there is competition among some reviewers to be voted as the most helpful, so they vote other reviewers down?

      I totally understand writing them for yourself. I feel the same about my books, but it's still a thrill when a reader likes my work. Thanks for sharing your reviews with those of us who love you. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there and I ALWAYS smile when I read one of your blogs. You have a very engaging way about you. :)

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    2. I love Melody's reviews. :) (And so do my characters...though Russell was a little nervous about doing an interview. LOL)

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    3. Daniel and Jake are really nervous about their upcoming interview too! :)

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  2. I write reviews for readers, and potential book buyers. When I write them I do take an author’s feelings into account, but I will spell out what I did or did not like in any given book. I try not to dish out five star ratings as I feel when I am reading them that they typically are penned to butter up to an author. Three and Four stars seem to be the fair way of handling a book. If I don’t like a book I normally go with a three, as one and two’s are just cruel. That said I have given a book a one starred review. The editing and the lack of simple clean up had been so lacking that it was almost painful to read. It was also a major market author/publisher who should have known better than to release a book in that condition. My goal is to sell books and reviews for me are the best way to get my opinion to do such.

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    1. Authors don't mind being buttered up. ;) LOL

      I think you give very fair reviews, Misty, and I appreciate your dedication to helping readers find the right books for them. I've bought books based on your recommendations, so I take what you have to say seriously. I also think you are respectful with your feedback and you are genuinely trying to help the author too. Thanks so much for stopping by today and sharing your thoughts with us.

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    2. Misty - I tend to think of the 5 star ratings as school grades:
      5 = A, 4 = B, 3 = C, 2 = D, 1 = F

      Is that how you think of them? I know a ton of authors who cringe over a 3 star because we tend to think of them as Cs.

      I don't think of 5 stars as perfect, but as As. Sometimes they're A-s but still better than a B.

      Am I off?

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    3. Ava I've found more books that I enjoyed from a three star review versus a five star. I think of three stars as average if that makes sense

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  3. I write reviews for readers and authors. I have been very lucky to have the opportunity to receive books that I really want to read!
    The most gratify moment, is when an author replies that my review touched her or a reader is thanks me for a suggestion. Also, on my Goodreads profile, I have a list of my reviews that I keep for future references. I have one rule, only read books that I think will interest me. Also, I love writing a review, it has become a necessity! I discover new-to-me authors on blogs, Facebook and Goodreads. I have discovered some little gems! thank you for offering one of your books!

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    1. Hi Nicole!

      It sounds like you have the same passion as many authors of books, which is so fantastic to hear. There really is nothing better than hearing from a reader that something I've written has touched them. I can related well to what you're saying.

      I've read reviews of my books that have brought tears to my eyes in such a good way. Sometimes the reviewer has sent them directly to me and I've promptly thanked them. As I read your comment, it makes me think I should start thanking reviewers when I accidentally stumble across those types of reviews too. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. :)

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    2. Hi Samantha! When a story really touched me, I send a copy to the author, to make sure she sees it. Sometimes, I see a review with only one star and it makes me sad for the author. Would love to review one of you books!

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  4. Samantha,

    What a great post! I have a love/hate relationship with reviews. But your perspective of looking at them as Matchmakers is awesome. Whether the review is good or bad, it helps us hone our audience. LOVE that!

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    1. Thanks, Jerrica!

      Matchmaking is up your alley. Can't wait to read The Matchbaker!!! I have to credit Valerie Bowman for my outlook. I bought a marketing book she wrote and it made a lot of sense. With so many books and readers out there, we all need a little help finding each other. :)

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  5. I generally have a different view from other authors on reviews and reader reactions to books (which I credit to being a public librarian, though that may not be where it comes from), but I think the reviewer gets to determine why they are writing the review. Maybe they write it just for themselves. Maybe for other readers. Maybe to help sell books. But the reviewer has their own purpose and their reviews are going to reflect that purpose. As an author (and as a reader), I don't get to define the purpose for the reviewer or who the reviewer is writing the review for.

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    1. Interesting point, Jennifer. All we can do is decide how we interpret the meaning of a review to us. Perhaps the motivation isn't the most important factor? I just found it to be a very interesting and thoughtful discussion started by Mrs. Condit.

      I'm also very appreciative of the input from reviewers today. It's great to hear what they have to say, isn't it? :)

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  6. I think I'm the odd man out, Samantha.

    When I was just a reader, I never paid any attention to reviews at all. (You know me, I like to make up my own mind and don't really let others influence me. I'm stubborn that way.) If I liked an author, I bought her next book. I wouldn't let someone (I don't even know's) opinion sway my purchase one way or the other.

    Since being an author...I only read good reviews. Bad ones can get stuck in my head and make me second guess myself, and there's no need for that. So I'll read good reviews...because clearly THOSE have something intellient to say. ;)

    Reviews are subjective. What you like, I may not. While I may get a deeper meaning out of this, you might not. Some things work for some people and don't for others. I'm more likely to listen to someone I personally know and whose opinion I have knowledge of than not, be it for the good or bad...

    WAY back when in our critique group, there was an author who HATED - and I mean H A T E D - one of my characters that everyone else loved. I knew that if she hated something he'd done or said, I was on the right track. ;)

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    1. Ava,
      You are often the odd man out and I love that about you! LOL

      I agree that the opinions of people I know who have similar likes factor more heavily into my reading, TV, & movie selections. BTW, I blame YOU for my Breaking Bad obsession. AMAZING characterization!!! I had no idea what a fantastic actor Bryan Cranston was, but I should have been able to tell from his comedy work. Everyone says comedy is harder. But I'm totally off subject, aren't I?

      I would say reviews factor more heavily into my decision to buy products. I love that Amazon allows reviews for workout videos, shampoo, face creams, etc. I've definitely skipped buying certain toys for Christmas based on parent reviews. :)

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  7. "(Does anyone else see this as a form of cyber-bullying?)"

    No, just, no. This is a flagrant false equivalence that minimizes the true harm caused by bullying. Unless the bad reviews post your real name, picture and address before going on to threaten to harm you or your family, they are not cyber-bullying you. This is a horrible comparison to make.

    While I'm sure it hurts to have your character, who you felt was well fleshed out and fully actualized, called TSTL in a review, it doesn't jeopardize your safety or invade your privacy in any way.

    I can only speak for myself, but I write reviews to spark a discussion about a book. I'm not providing feedback for the author and I'm not encouraging or discouraging other readers to buy and read it. I'm engaging the content and discussing what it says. I don't consider the author's feelings or other readers' checkbooks when I write a review. It's a conversation between me and a text and a report about what I found.

    Your argument is facile, and overlooks the complexities of the book blogging community. There's a multitude of motives for book reviews. The only common thread is that authors do not set the rules for a review's legitimacy. Only readers can.

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    1. All great points, Ridley.

      I was actually referring to people who put down reviewers when they don't agree with their opinion when I referenced cyber-bullying. I've seen some fairly hostile comments made toward some reviewers, including comments by the author, which I don't support at all. I should have made the connection clearer in the blog. I expect some vehement responses to my books. It comes with the territory. I don't feel cyber-bullied by those responses. :)

      It wasn't my intention to minimize the true harm of bullying, but I do think there can be harm without an overt threat to the reader or her family, some of which use their true names. It can make the reader afraid to share her opinion or feel attacked, which doesn't further a discussion. Every reader's opinion has value, and it should feel safe for them to share it. This is only my opinion, of course.

      As I said, I'm also a reader and what I look for in reviews when deciding what to read are strictly my guidelines. I don't expect anyone else to follow them or even agree with them.

      Thanks so much for stopping by. It's always interesting to get other's viewpoints.

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    2. I tried and tried to post earlier, but internet connection problems.

      Reviewers are like authors--they have fans. Not all will love my books, just like I don't love all books I read. Great reviews help me to write my next book. Negative reviews can hinder the creative writing process. Point above--not all readers will love the books, and trying to please everyone will never happen. Guaranteed. Because it's totally subjective.

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  8. Hi Samantha! The reviews I read are usually from blogs by people who have a similar taste in books, almost exclusively historical & contemporary romance. When I write a review on GR or Amazon, I will only write a positive review. If I don't like a book, I will usually stop reading it, but I would never bother to write a negative review. I guess it is primarily to help the author, but I have gotten some emails indicating my GR or Amazon review helped a reader.

    sharlenewegner@hotmail.com

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    1. Hi Sharlene!

      I'm a lot like you when it comes to reading. If I don't like a book, I stop reading it. I used to force myself to finish books, but time is too precious to waste it doing things I don't like in my free time. :)

      I only write reviews for books I like that aren't in my sub genre. Even though I'm a reader, it feels weird to review another author's work, but if I really love something, I want to share it with my friends.

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    2. I can see how that would be awkward, reviewing your peers. And I agree, life is too short to read something you don't like. My husband & I are like that watching DVD's, too. If we don't like it after 15-20 min, we turn it off!

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  9. A very interesting topic. I write reviews for myself so I can remember what I read, did or didn't like, etc. I give out the full range of stars. I give 1's for stuff I truly didn't like, and I give 5's for stuff that had me spellbound at every page. As for DNF's, I do those because that book wasn't to my taste. As a reader, I'm not going to waste my life finishing a book I hate. There are some books that the rest of the world loves, my not so much for me. That's ok. It is ok for you to skip reading those reviews, and it is ok for someone to move on to the next read. I just think that is what makes us part of a diverse group.

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    1. Thank you, Amanda. :)

      I agree 10%. I think that's one of the best things about the reading community. There is such diversity. I hope people don't think I'm saying no one should write a review that says DNF. Readers should write whatever they want, and their intention for writing a DNF review could be for many different reasons. How other readers use that info is probably going to be different too. I'm happy there are forums to have those discussions.

      I should say if there are details involved with the reason a person stopped, that could make a difference for me. I don't skip every review that is a DNF. For example, I started reading a very popular book recommended to me by several friends, but I couldn't read past a rape scene. It was too upsetting to me. I would definitely take notice if someone made a similar comment and DNF.

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    2. Doh!!! I meant to type 100%! Completely changes the meaning. (Typos matter!) :D

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    3. LOL. I saw that and wondered about the other 90%

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  10. I wrote review to appreciate author and for my friend, no rules for writing review but usually I'm prefer to write review for the book I like rather then the book I don't like, just couldn't make a bad review because I think all author is great and have a an amazing tallent that's why they can write a abook.

    I love your book Samantha :)

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    1. Thank you, Eli. :)
      It's great to see you here today. And what a sweet thing to say about all authors being great. You definitely lift our spirits and keep us motivated to keep writing.

      All the best,
      Sam

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  11. I think reviewers write for both - for readers so that we get an idea of the style of the writer and story (whether good or bad) and also for authors to either praise or point out issues the reviewer perceives. I take them all with a grain of salt because it is still all personal opinion. But if I read multiple reviews with similar opinions I will pay attention to that.

    I haven't read your books yet Samantha (which I find hard to believe myself cause I love historical romance) so I'd love to read 'Miss Hillary Schools a Scoundrel' since I prefer starting a series at the beginning.

    sallans d at yahoo dot com

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    1. Hi Di!

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I couldn't agree more about the value of reviews for readers and authors alike, and the point that everything is personal opinion.

      I have a great example of lots of negative talk about a book making me take notice of it. When Fifty Shades of Gray became popular, there was a lot of negative backlash, and my curiosity was piqued. I ended up buying the book because I had to see what all the commotion was about. It hooked me and I was glad I gave in to my curiosity.

      I have you down for the drawing, and I'll pick a winner tomorrow morning. :)

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  12. I think reviewers write for readers, or at least I hope so. I pay attention to reviews just as a way to find out more about the book, but then I usually make up my own mind whether I want to read it or not. I discover new authors on book blogs, Goodreads, Amazon, other author's blogs, and publishers websites.

    Barbed1951 at aol dot com

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    1. Hi Barbara!

      I discover a lot of new authors at Lady Scribes. It's always fun to have guests, and I'm glad our blog can be a means of connecting readers and authors. :)

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  13. I write reviews for other potential buyers of the book and, most importantly, to thank the authors whose books I like. I only write reviews on the books that I can rate at least 3 stars out of 5. IF I can't rate a book at least 3 stars, I don't rate or review it. I pay attn to reviews when I'm shopping for a book.

    I agreed with your comments except as concerns a reviewer who DNF a book. IF multiple reviewers have commented that they read at least a third into it before quitting, I may hesitate to pick up the book myself if those reviewers make up a substantial portion of the total reviews of the book.

    I've never read any of your books and would love to win one. TU for the giveaway.

    lindalou (at) cfl (dot) rr (dot) com

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    1. You're welcome, Linda. I'm very happy to give away a copy. It's very kind of you to support the authors you like. I know that means a lot to them. :)

      You've given me something to think about on the DNFs. I guess it would depend on the details included in a DNF review for me. Most of the ones I see say the reader couldn't get into the story, which isn't very helpful to me personally since I don't know the reviewer's likes and dislikes. But if they say they stopped reading because the hero acted like the heroine's dad and ordered her to the "marriage bed to fulfill her wifely duties" (I'm not kidding. He really said that and it turned me off big time), that would let me know it's not my kind of book.

      I suppose several reviewers saying they couldn't get into the book would make me cautious, but it wouldn't necessarily deter me. That's the kind of book I would get a sample of before making a decision. If it grabs me in the first page, that's usually a good sign, but stories can unravel. That might be a book I check out from the library instead.

      Thanks again for your thought-provoking comment. I've really enjoyed hearing what other people think today. :)

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  14. I don't have rules for reading reviews, but I do have some for writing them. I review books that I have received for that purpose or books that I truly have something meaningful to say.

    I hate when I'm trying to find out if a book is part of a series, and I cannot find it anywhere. So I put that as the first sentence of my reviews. (Ex. This is Book One in the Beau Monde Bachelors series. or This is a Stand-alone book.)

    Next I give an overview in my own words - a mini blurb, if you will.

    Lastly I give a short recommendation for readers (Ex. If you're looking for a short, steamy Regency, this is the book for you!).

    AquarianDancer at gmail dot com

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    1. Aquarian Dancer,
      I find it totally frustrating trying to figure out if a book is part of a series. I know some publishers won't include the info on the book cover and it doesn't go in the blurb they write for Amazon. I tried to make it clear on my website, and Goodreads is pretty good about identifying books in a series, but having it right in the review would be very helpful.

      I love that you have your own set of rules for how you write a review. :)

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  15. Thanks for the fun post and congrats to Samantha on her books! I read reviews to get a feel if it's a book that I want right away or can wait for sales. I read at least one gusher an one boo'er to balance it out and I usually get a pretty good feel. I hate spoilers though and it's a fine line between a reviewer discussing what they did or didn't like and just posting a synopsis of the story. I think that reviewers post mainly for themselves and other readers.

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    1. Thank you, Erin!

      I don't like spoilers or a run down of the whole story either. I like your method of the gusher and boo'er. :)

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  16. Great discussion! Like your characters, I believe in talking about problems, not assuming, jumping to conclusions, or sweeping them under the rug. I've had useful feedback from reviewers that made a rewrite better.

    Now, don't all look for problems in my books! I've grown a lot since then, and I don't have that many early books to rewrite anymore.

    I usually buy books based on the blurb. If there's an excerpt, I might read it first to see if I like an unfamiliar voice. Do I read reviews? Sometimes. If it comes down to spending my heard-earned money on either this or that, I'll purchase the 5 star book vs. the 3 star book. I know they say, "There's no such thing as bad publicity." Well...maybe not, but I'd rather get good publicity every time!

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    1. LOL! Don't we all want the good publicity? ;D

      The delay between when you write a book and when it actually comes out is significant. I know I grew a lot from my first book to now. I'm writing my sixth for publication as we speak. Well, not LITERALLY. I'm not that good at multitasking. I've definitely taken feedback I've felt was useful and filed it away for future books.

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  17. I write my reviews for readers. I write what I think about a book, good or bad. While generally, my rule of thumb is that I ought be prepared to say what I think directly to the author, I don't deliberately share my reviews with authors unless they specifically ask me too. I'm not writing the review for them, I do it because I want to participate in the romance reading community.

    But I think Ridley is right. Reviewers write for many different reasons. Some actually do it for money, some do it out of fandom and/or to promote the author, some do it to have a discussion, some do it to help other readers make decisions about whether to try a book or not (or a mix of some of those things). I don't think one rule fits all and there's room enough in the community for all types. People will tend to gravitate to those reviewers they like/find helpful or interesting - same as with authors/books I think.

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    1. I think you're right, Kaetrin. Variety is a great thing, isn't it? It can make it difficult to narrow it down to what I am going to like as a reader, so I appreciate reviews.

      The world of reviewing is very interesting. I was never exposed to it until a little over a year ago when my first book came out. When I was only a reader, I picked books based on friends' recommendations or from browsing the bookstore. I never knew about the blogging world or any of the wonderful sites where you can see how others felt about books or what they liked/disliked. I think it's a great service for the romance community. Thanks for sharing your experience. :)

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  18. What a thoughtful, and open, discussion. As a debut author whose book is poking its toe (cliché alert :))into the marketplace, I will admit to a certain trepidation when I read of the negative experiences authors are having with reviews. On the other hand, I, too, have written a few reviews, and I always try to be objective but positive, so readers will have an idea of what to expect when they read a book. Way back when I was in school, a professor insisted that if we couldn't say at least one good thing, don't bother with the review. And that has stuck. So if I absolutely don't care for a book, I won't review it. Thanks for sharing great ideas, all of you.

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  19. Congratulations to Di, winner of the Beau Monde Bachelor book of choice. :)

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