Some authors never read their reviews. I am not one of those people. I don’t read reviews often, but I like to go in every now and then and see what’s going on. If I get several people giving the same criticism in their reviews, I check it out. Unless they’ve written I’m terrific. Then I leave it alone. But I have found when the same thing is said, like comments about editing or misspelling, it probably has validity. It doesn’t matter how many eyes have seen the manuscript, one or two things are bound to get by. And they are bound to catch the eye of a reader. Fortunately, these errors are easily correctable. And I correct them as soon as I can.
It’s the other stuff. The comments on research or incorrect details. This always sends me running to an encyclopedia, either online or from my bookshelf. I try to get things right, honestly. Nine times out of ten — and I have to say this — the reader is misinformed. For instance, in The Dagger Before Me, book one of the Persephone Cole Vintage Mysteries, I mention a small refrigerator. Mini-refrigerators have been around since the 1920’s, mostly for the rich, but there. So an affluent, Broadway producer having one in his office in 1942 is not out of line. There are a few other reviews where people simply cannot believe some things were invented way back when. Everything old is new again.
The criticism about the mini-fridge is one I came across only a few days ago and prompted this article. I had done my research at the time of writing the novel, but looked it up again to be sure I was right. I was. When the reader is wrong, I chalk it up to human nature. If they are right –which has happened upon occasion — I correct the error and silently thank the person for letting me know. Speaking of being wrong, one time in another book of the Percy Cole series, I mentioned the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade taking place in 1942. It didn’t. True, the parade has been around since 1924, but when the USA entered WWII, the parade was cancelled from 1942 to 1944. I had neglected to catch that. As it was only once sentence in the story, I simply eliminated the sentence altogether. And once again, silently thanked the reader for catching my error.
Recently, I got criticism in Casting Call for a Corpse, book seven of the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, because I .had called a Scottish policewoman’s hat a bowler. I’m just going to say that in pictures of their uniforms, one of the hat styles looked like a bowler to me. And still does. But not being a hatter, I bow to the reader’s knowledge. And because I had written the word ‘bowler’, the reader gave me only 3 stars and stated that was the reason. As I used the word only one time in the entire novel, I went in and changed ‘bowler’ to ‘hat’. Why? Because it makes no different to the story. Really, truly. If it had been integral in any way, I would have left it alone.
I have my standards. They may be low, but I have them. Deciding what to change, what not to change, when to capitulate, when not to, becomes something most of us writers get used to. For me, it’s just part of the game.
6 thoughts on “On Reading Reviews by Heather Haven”
I read a few reviews–some make me laugh. People have so many different opinions about things, and sometimes thing they know something and are wrong. Good post, kind of hits a nerve for all of us writers.
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Yes, many readers are highly opinionated. It’s amazing how self-righteous a very few can be, especially when what they believe to be correct is provably wrong. Human nature. What can you do?
I only read reviews now and then. But when I receive emails from readers, I dig in to see if the comments they make are justified. And like you, it could be something that I had researched and they don’t believe it is so. In my books I reference the Cayuse Tribe because they were indigenous to the area most of my books are set. I had someone tell me there was no such thing as this tribe. I sent them the titles of books that were devoted to the tribe. They are a small tribe and few true descendants still remain but they are a tribe.
What a great idea, to send the titles of the books. Thanks for the tip!
Glad you agree, Susan! I learn a lot from my readers and reviewers.
Heather, I too read reviews and pick up on comments that are made repeatedly. Sometimes a reader doesn’t understand how something works in a particular part of the country and I accept I haven’t made that practice clear, which is another lesson. Whatever the reviewer says, I try to learn something. Good post.
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