Reviewers: Part of the Team

At first the argument suggesting authors should not read their reviews was compelling. Justified from an emotional point of view, this sage advice was intended to protect authors from ultimately meaningless harshness and even cruelty – after all, there are a lot of nutcases out there – or so the reasoning went.

Indeed, a few early reviews on Amazon sent me reeling. What planet are these people from, I wondered? How could this person possibly think that? Or, is that person simply being vindictive?

While it is true a minuscule number of reviewers write with less than pure intent, their numbers are fading, particularly on Amazon where the giant company has taken strong measures to prevent them. In retrospect, I have been subjected to such “reviewer attacks” in the past, but none recently.

Every author comes to realize sooner or later just how varied and diverse the minds of readers can be. A growing author learns from this potpourri of viewpoints. This author has on occasion been swayed by a well stated review, even to the extent of making some changes. And when a well expressed review aligns perfectly with my intent, there is no better reward for my effort.

Some reviewers write so well they shame me. They are able in a few empathetic words to present the essence of my intent, something I have struggled to do when describing my books to others. They become tools for my marketing, spokespersons for my work.

Here is one: “…This book however was the best so far. Knowing the area, understanding the political implications of the sub plots added to my enjoyment of this story. R. L. Gamble has spent time in this place. The boots on the ground vibe helps tell an interesting and memorable story.” (Eva Belliston)

This review resonated with me particularly for the writer’s understanding of my intent to learn the topography of a location, explore its unique beauty, and understand to some degree the culture and history of its people.

Another: “I spent my elementary school years in Santa Maria and have gone back several times since. It was a very pleasant surprise to discover that the book was about happenings in the Santa Maria area. Brought back many wonderful memories of the area. The story was wonderful as well, with just enough of a different take on the “others” who live among us that I really enjoyed it.” (Paul Sobieski)

Speaking of the “others”, I appreciate those reviewers who recognize and appreciate my intent to suggest that the spiritual element of our lives may encompass more than we realize…for instance:

“Love books that go beyond what we know. This series of books allows one to imagine that there is more to this world than what can be proven. His respect for other cultures makes this series outstanding.” (Dianne)

Sometimes a reader is able to discover and articulate all aspects of the work and in so doing helps me remain true to my thematic intent in future projects.

“A very interesting story blending tribal lore, behavioral science, adventure and a hint of romance. I found it hard to put down. I live in Arizona and have an interest in all things Native American, but my tv choices run to criminal investigations. This book was an extraordinary blend of the two. I do not think this book is for everyone, but fans of unusual detective stories will enjoy it. I sure did.” (Sadie McC.)

I have mentioned in previous posts the helpfulness of many reviewers who partner with the author to make the work better. The best of them:

“I have enjoyed reading the first three Tolliver novels, and look forward to reading the others. That being said, as a veteran of 30+ years in Santa Barbara County law enforcement it was confusing to me that Barnard changed from Police Chief to a member of the Sheriff’s Department as the story progressed. In addition the ‘State Police’ do not function in a criminal investigation role in California. The DOJ lab could well have been on the scene though. Obviously most readers of fiction would not have noticed this. I myself enjoyed the read and offer my kudos.” (Donald McCormick)

I owe a debt to my readers and reviewers. The best relationship between authors and readers is a partnership in which each stimulates the other to greater levels of creativity and higher standards. Thank you, readers.

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