Writers & Reviewers, Love & Hate, by Matt Cost

The relationship between writers and reviewers is without a doubt one of love and hate. As I see it, there are four basic types of book reviewers: friends, haters, lovers, and professionals.

The friend is probably the most complicated reviewer of all. It is absolutely mandatory that they write you a good review. Hence, the word friend. But following having done that, a good friend might shoot you an email and suggest some critiques, or even perhaps that the story wasn’t particularly for them.

And not every book is for every person. That is why we painstakingly work on the back-cover copy, inside flap description, as well as online retail wording that not only catches the eye of the reader but gives a glimpse of what the book is about.

This leads us to the second type of reviewer. The hater. Many of these fall into the category of free book getters. It is a fact that authors and publishers must give away many free advanced reading copies (ARC) in order to garner reviews and buzz.

Many of these ARCs fall into hands of haters, readers who grasp onto a book just because it’s free, not because they’re interested in the content. This leads to (gasp) them disliking the book. There are many reasons to dislike a book, too many to count, so it’s imperative that the reader make a sound judgement based on the information shared by the author and publisher.

Then there are the misanthropes. The ones with a chip on their shoulder, perhaps failed writers themselves, who go for the jugular. I had one such person read the first three books of my Mainely Mystery series. One star. Two stars. One star. The cardinal rule of writers is to not engage with bad reviews. In this case, I thought it necessary to message them asking them to please STOP READING MY BOOKS.

But the haters, luckily, are cast into their own shadows by the lovers. The stranger in the wild who comes across your book and gives a glowing review, and you feel that warmth generated by this appreciation of the pages that you have labored over and brought into the world to be shared. Many of these strangers become almost friends as they begin to pop up with reviews on other books written by the author.

And then there are the professionals. People who do reviews for a living. Women and men who choose a book because they believe they will like the topic. That it looks interesting. That the byline engages their intellect. They more often then not judge the book not by its cover, but by the contents of its pages. A well written review complimenting one of my books is a wonderful sensation to experience.

One of my early reviewers is Grace J. Reviewerlady from the U.K. How can I not be happy when she calls MAINELY POWER ‘a cracking good read’? Grace has continued in reviewing my last seven books and makes me smile with every review. She enjoys my plot, characters, and writing. I enjoy reading her reviews.

Diane Donovan of the Midwest Book Review did her first review for me on LOVE IN A TIME OF HATE, in which she said: “Love in a Time of Hate‘s ability to juxtapose different forces, special interests, and perspectives against the backdrop of both endings and new beginnings will intrigue and delight historical fiction readers—especially those with a particular affection for Louisiana culture.” How could I feel anything but an affinity and closeness with this woman?

And then there is Terri of BooklyMatters who grasps the innards of my books better than any other reader out there. I’ve pondered getting her to write my back-cover copy for me as she’d probably do a better job. “Clay Wolfe, the nattily-dressed, roguishly-charming, ex-Boston-homicide-cop-turned-PI, is unfurling – expanding his reach (both emotionally and professionally) into thornier, darker, and more challenging arenas – a fascinating budding shift for this already top-notch PI crime series.”

The takeaway is that there are always going to be haters out there. Luckily, they are mostly banished by the warmth of the friends, lovers, and professionals.


Write on.



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10 Responses to Writers & Reviewers, Love & Hate, by Matt Cost

  1. John Clark says:

    I fall into the semi-professional category. I read in excess of 200 books a year and leave reviews for each on Amazon, Goodreads, and Librarything. Most of what I read is young adult because much of what I write falls into that category. I share the best books with subscribers on the Maine library listserv so they can decide if it fits with their collection. Frankly, there are so many books I’m interested in that I quit reading around 25 pages in if I’m not hooked, hence most of my reviews being four, or five star ratings. I’ve been reviewing for more than 25 years and feel like I’m giving back to the writing world by doing so.

    • matthewcost says:

      There are so many ways to be involved in the writing community. It seems that you check most of the bases as a writer, reader, and reviewer! Write on.

  2. jselbo says:

    Great read and reminders! And John’s response – wow. I thought I read a lot – but nothing compared to that!

  3. Tom Burns says:

    I hate to sound jaded, but at least on Amazon, I consider reviews a numbers game. That is, a one star counts as much as a five star. That is not to say that I do not take some some reviews to heart – both those that inform me that I’ve brought enjoyment to someone as well as those that offer well-intentioned constructive criticism, although one must consider the source in the latter case. I’ve had a couple malicious reviews, and one that even qualifies as hate speech, though I can’t get Amazon to take it down.

    • matthewcost says:

      We certainly need to have tough skin to write and put our work out there for public consumption. There are most definitely haters in the world.

  4. Quite took my breath away to find myself in here! Thanks Matt. Most bloggers, like myself, don’t make any money from sharing our review – we do it for the love of books and reading and shouting out about authors worth reading. Those who make the money are the blog tour hosts; take my advice and run them yourself and save the cash!

    • matthewcost says:

      Yeah, the writers aren’t making much more than the bloggers. But we’re both having more fun!

  5. Shelley Burbank says:

    I’ve heard some writes don’t read their reviews, especially on Amazon, where it seems some people genuinely get a thrill out of tearing a book to pieces just out of pure nastiness–the misanthropes, as you call them. Not having that kind of self-control, I read the reviews for the memoir I ghosted (THE LAST TEN DAYS by Martha Brosio) and discovered two such haters. Ouch! Do I think about all the GOOD reviews? No. Of course I ruminate on the bad ones. I imagine when my mystery comes out in March, I’ll have to steel myself. Or else avoid Amazon like the dengue fever.

    Anyway, nice job on this blog post! I liked seeing all the covers.

    • matthewcost says:

      You just have to look at the haters as comical. I enjoy laughing at them most of the time as much as I enjoy reading a good review. Now I have to go look up dengue fever.

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