Two versions of the same song (Aintree Book 2) has just come to the end of a 'read for review' (R4R) on Goodreads. For those of you who aren't familiar with it R4R is when an author offers copies of their book to readers in exchange for an honest review to be posted on Goodreads and hopefully e-book selling sites such as Amazon.
I must admit the book did take a bit of a battering but that's okay - it actually did better than I thought. It is deliberately provocative and it is certainly not a sweet romance. I studied all the reviews to identify commonalities. In this way I could learn from my mistakes - which is a significant part of the process for me.
I knew there were structural problems with the novel and if I were to do it again I would structure it differently. This did come through in the reviews. The readers made a valid point in this regard. Lesson learned.
I took note of the criticisms about background information overload. Both protagonists do give a bio of themselves and tell the reader about the people closest to them when they are introduced. Perhaps I could spread the detail more evenly throughout next time, rather than have it all at the beginning - something to think about ...
Repetition - I was concerned about this as I know that it can be tedious reading the same info more than once in a novel. It is deliberate; basically, as part of the narrative, both protagonists give their version of the same event - what differs is their interpretation. It is only done if and when it is significant to the main plot.
Several readers remarked that they liked the diversity of characters (I take this to mean in relation to ethnicity and social class). I found that interesting. Admittedly 10 copies were offered for R4R and, to date, 7 have reviewed it, but the general impression that publishers give is that readers are put off by diversity, so I did not expect to find this to be a common plus-point. It's refreshing to discover this.
Realistic is a word that came up quite a lot. This is true for reviews of my first novel, also. So it would seem that readers believe I portray teenagers realistically and I write realistic romance. I'm happy with that.
Both sides of the story. Almost all of the reviewers commented on liking this aspect of the novel.
Taking part in R4R is risky because you never know what sort of feedback you are going to get and you could end up with a less favourable rating on Amazon as a result. As I have discovered, some readers make helpful constructive criticisms that can be invaluable, while others just won't get the book. (Let's face it, it is down to personal taste.)
I'm glad I took part and I am satisfied with all the reviews - good and not-so-good. There were no trolls - all the readers were honest but kind in their delivery - which is much appreciated.
Have you ever had an author send you an ARC for read-and-review, only to discover that much in it has been pilfered from your own published work? That you have helped said author previously to promote their first novel and they haven't even acknowledged that they have read your work, much less rated it. Then they have the audacity to send you a sequel presumably so you write a positive review that will help them promote it. As you read said sequel it's really familiar and you find yourself saying, 'I know why it's familiar, I wrote about that in my book... and that...and that...that too!' I am not talking coincidental commonalities here, I'm talking bold-faced pilfering of characterisation and plot. You have? Well, me too. Should you be flattered? If the book is done well then maybe you can take your hat off to the author. You might think, that was sneaky, but at least it's good. (I would in any case.) But what if it's the sequel from hell? What if you wrote a 5 star review for the first one and the sequel reads not so much like a sequel to the first one but poorly executed fan fiction of your work. (How is such regression even possible?) It would appear that while I saw this author as a peer, said author saw me as a competitor. Perhaps I am naive (clearly I am, but for me writing is not a business but a labour of love). I have had wonderful feedback about my books but I don't apply ratings to my own work and self-promotion is a chore. I believe I have potential as a writer but I strive for perfection. It's a surprise to discover someone would want to pilfer my work. Warped as it may be, it is a massive compliment. Karma?
If I am right and it is the sequel from hell (in this case, more likely to alienate it's target readers than not), and assuming said author ignored my feedback and left the reader-alienating gaffes in (yes, foolishly I did try to help fix it), this is bound to be reflected in the reviews. Time will tell. C'est la vie! I won't be put off by this experience. I will continue to support my peers (although not that particular one).