It has been another week of coincidences for me. Whilst I had two wonderful reviews on Susi Holliday’s and Dionne Lister’s blogs (can’t thank them enough), I also got the first negative feedback on my book.

I noticed the review (on Goodreads) quite by accident. It wasn’t actually bad, finishing up with, ‘A good murder mystery’, and gave me 3 stars. It didn’t bother me (well, OK, it stung a bit!), and I put my business head on to see where the criticism was and if there was anything I could improve on, or address, in the sequel. It said, “A little slow to start, but picks up eventually…” Hmmm. I took a further look at what other readers have said: “…page turner from the very first page…”, “…hooked from the first line…”

I sat back and considered this for a while. I’ll admit, I’d never even reviewed a book myself until I joined the social media networks recently. And, as a debut author, this is my first criticism. I naively thought less favourable remarks might act like a writing critique group, giving you constructive criticism that you can take forward into future prose. But this clearly isn’t the case. They are merely someone’s individual opinion. So, back to the old adage: some will like it, others won’t, and, unless there is a similar thread running through, perhaps it’s not worth getting entangled into the reasons why.

The other coincidence I experienced was a guy on Twitter saying, “You haven’t got many reviews!” If he’d been standing in front of me I’d have gasped, stood back and blinked at him. In truth, I didn’t know how many I had, so I went and counted. With 10 on Amazon UK and 8 on Amazon Com (and all wonderful – thank you so much to those who took the time to write them), I thought that was pretty good. The book has only been out a short time, after all. Yet clearly the number of reviews you have matters too?

My experience made me think back to an autobiography I read recently by English comedian, Frank Skinner, where he said that he never reads any of his reviews, the good or the bad. I presume he relies on audience feedback during the performance. I’ll admit that I hadn’t even seen some of mine. I’m certainly not ungrateful, but unless you check religiously, I guess that does happen.

I consider myself fortunate to have received so many notes through Twitter, Face Book etc. from people who have enjoyed the book. Every time I hear a positive comment, I thank the reader and it literally makes my day that somebody has enjoyed my work and taken the time to let me know. I wrote a book that I would like to read myself and if a few people enjoy it, then I’ve done my job. But whilst I might consider asking some of my writerly friends to pen some words, I certainly wouldn’t be comfortable asking other readers to leave a proper review.

So, why are we so caught up with them? I realise that they help readers, as an indication of whether or not people are enjoying your book, but they are also completely subjective. I also see that, as Indie authors, we need all the help we can get in the marketing department. But are they as important as my recent experiences indicate? Surely, a small number of good reviews are sufficient? I welcome your thoughts.

Jane Isaac’s first novel, An Unfamiliar Murder, is out on, and Kindle worldwide now. Jane is still very much a Newbie and with a day job, a family and a very demanding black Labrador, she squeezes her writing into every spare moment she gets. You can catch up with her at


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  • Damien
    Posted on March 6, 2012 at 8:42 am

    I am yet to read your book as it’s probably on your coffee table still! lol I am sure it’s good.

    Don’t underestimate the power of trolls on the internet. Some will leave a crap review simply because there aren’t any bad reviews for you yet.

    Just don’t get caught up in feeling like you need to respond to every single one, I know I have that problem. My response would’ve been: “well read faster”


  • Justin Bogdanovitch
    Posted on March 6, 2012 at 8:44 am

    Jane, a good thoughtfulness here on the issue of reviews and reviewing too. In this “blogging” age, so many people have a platform to pontificate from. I like the guy who doesn’t listen to the bad or the good . . . you have faith in your book (I do too btw – still reading) and that’s the best thing. No one’s subjective opinion should matter much either way. A reader and fan.

  • Jane Isaac
    Posted on March 6, 2012 at 9:17 am

    TY, Damien. That is sound advice. Perhaps I should just take no notice. (Pssst – it’s on the kitchen table btw. Will send it this week. Promise.)

  • Jane Isaac
    Posted on March 6, 2012 at 9:23 am

    Hey, Justin! Thanks for your kind words. They mean a lot. I guess it’s all part of the learning curve of sharing our work. Thanks again:)

  • Tammy Maas
    Posted on March 6, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    Hi Jane! I believe we have now crossed the line from readers to writers. To some people, it’s just a book, but to us it’s our world. The reviews are like they are talking about our child, we take what they say to heart and I don’t think that will ever change. I thought your book was fantastic, you have nothing to worry about my friend.

  • Jane Isaac
    Posted on March 6, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    Hi Tammy! Thanks very much for your kind comments. I think I’m learning this is all part of the process. Time to toughen up. Thanks again:)

  • Susi Holliday
    Posted on March 6, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    Hey Jane, all I can say is this – reviews are completely subjective. Even if the reviewer is a well respected one from a newspaper or some other ‘organised’ place, their views are still their own. I used to like reading the film reviews in one of the Sunday papers where they featured two reviewers and more often than not, they completely disagreed. Readers would naturally follow the one they agreed with most as it meant they probably had most in common with that one and therefore over time would trust their opinion more. But just because of that, it didn’t mean you HAD to agree with them – there would always be a time when the reviewer ‘got it wrong’. In the digital age, every Tom, Dick & Harry can say whatever they like about anything, and the less intelligent among us will be nasty rather than constructive. A good critical review should be helpful, even if they downright hate it, a good reviewer should at least be able to explain why in a way that makes you think (a way that doesn’t just make you cry). If someone is nasty, ignore them. Their opinion is not worth shit! Just a final note – no book is perfect. I have read 1000s of books, a high proportion of them crime novels, and if you asked me I could go and find something wrong with every single one, even if I ‘loved’ the book. We are all fallible. There is nothing wrong with an honest ‘bad’ review, but if it is bad for bad’s sake, I’d go with Frank Skinner on that one. Keep your chin up, honey – you’ve done a wonderful thing getting to where you are now, and you will go further – remember, I am her if you ever want me to read anything for you and give you a critique – I can’t yet call myself an expert writer, but I think I know what I am talking about as a reader 🙂 xx

  • Susi Holliday
    Posted on March 6, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    Btw, I am ‘here’… not ‘her’… that makes me sound like the female God of Critiquing… Lol

  • EditorProofer
    Posted on March 7, 2012 at 12:09 am

    Susi – I read your comment while trying to rock my unsettled 11-month-old baby to sleep and my attempts to stifle a very loud giggle at “female God of Critiquing” startled her. She’s now wide awake so I’m off to try putting her to bed again 🙂

    Jane – I think if it were me I’d have to avoid reading any reviews. I’d either get a huge ego or be horribly crushed!
    Congratulations on your novel (again!).


  • Jane Isaac
    Posted on March 7, 2012 at 6:04 am

    Hi Susi!

    Thank you for your thorough and helpful response. I totally agree with you that no book is perfect. An avid reader for many years, my experience of reviews, prior to social media, was limited to those you read in newspapers. Thus I was expecting criticism that could help my writing overall.

    As a newbie online, I am now discovering that this is not the case. Some see it as the opportunity to express their opinion which they don’t always explain or qualify. Perhaps I should save these expectations for a writers group:)

    Thanks again for your kind support, which is much appreciated. I may take you up on that offer to be ‘God of Critiquing’ on book 2 – LOL:))

  • Jane Isaac
    Posted on March 7, 2012 at 6:07 am

    Hey Emma!

    Thanks for your kind comments. With this book being my first fiction to be shared with the world I have really leapt in at the deep end, so to speak, LOL. Dealing with reviews and people’s perceptions of them are just a part of the process, I guess.

    Thanks again:)

  • James Garcia Jr
    Posted on March 7, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    Jane, my dear friend, you created something out of nothing. As you rightly put it, it was something that you felt that you would want to read. For the most part, readers are agreeing with you. ’nuff said, I’d say!
    Oh, and by the way, I’ll probably need you to give me that same speech at some time in the future. 😉


  • Jane Isaac
    Posted on March 7, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    Hey James! Thanks for your lovely comment & kind support. Happy to return the favour anytime, LOL:)

  • Amberr Meadows
    Posted on March 10, 2012 at 7:42 am

    Jane, I posted this on your blog, too, but thought I’d also share it here:

    Jane, some people you will never please, because the world is full of -holes. Take a fine restaurant for example: on Yelp they might have 50 5-star reviews, but there is always the one penis-head that gives it a one star and bitches and moans about every little detail.

    P.S. YOU are a 5-star author, and I <3 you.

  • Jane Isaac
    Posted on March 11, 2012 at 11:41 pm

    Thanks, Amberr. You are a star and always make a good point. Many thanks:)

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