“Reviews” Versus “Critiques”

I am being driven crazy, and the ones doing it are so-called friends: people that I ask to read my novel Bits of String Too Small to Save and leave an Amazon Review. Ahem … people don’t seem to know the difference between a critique and a review. This fact may finally be my undoing. Look for me in an insane asylum near you.

Amazon Reviews Help Sell Books

You have to get reviews to sell books online. I’m not going to start my marketing campaign until I have reviews because people don’t buy books unless they have reviews. (Here‘s how to leave a review on Amazon.)

Yet, people don’t leave reviews until they’ve bought books: it’s the old catch-22. So authors have to give away the book ahead of time and ask people to please leave honest Amazon Reviews.

I am specific in asking for “honest reviews” because it would be pretty disgusting to ask everyone to leave a good review. Frankly, I believe my work is good. I’m sure a lot of people will like it. I don’t have to ask for “good reviews.” But I guess non-writers get confused by the expression “honest review.” They don’t know the difference between a critique and a review.

Critiques are Not Reviews

I guess readers have seen writer’s critique groups on TV or something; so, when they hear “reviews,” they actually think that I’m asking for a “critique.” As if I would ask for a serious literary critique from someone I’ve never worked with before, after the book is scheduled to be published? Ahh! Madness!

Is that how readers think writers operate? I guess they do. So let me make it clear to folks out there: an Amazon Review is where you go on Amazon and click where it says “leave a review” and you write about whether you liked the book or didn’t.

A critique is something professional writers get from trusted inside sources, published professionals, and highly regarded people in relevant fields. That’s the difference between a critique and a review.

Critiques help writers improve their work, but they’re something done on the inside, behind the scenes. Professionals do not distribute their work to amateurs and strangers and relatives asking for “critiques.” But they do ask their friends and relatives for “Amazon Reviews” after the book is published. As I mentioned, these are very different things.

I Despise Amateur Critique Groups

Personally I’m not only against asking friends for critiques, I’m against the very idea of the writer’s critique group itself: yes, the bedrock upon which writers workshops are founded. The simple reason for this is that the people in the class do not necessarily know their asses from their elbows.

In their sometimes well meaning (and sometimes not) efforts to critique, they will often bash all the wrong things about a writer’s work. This can result in the writer removing the best parts from the work and becoming insecure about something that’s perfectly fine, for years to come.

Yeah, one hater’s bad critique can really mess with the mind of a sensitive artist. I’ve seen it happen so many times. And where’s the “creative writing teacher” when this happens? Sitting in the circle claiming everyone’s opinion is valid, which is definitely not true.

In these groups you seek approval from fellow writers who are, at base, jealous little bitches. We all are.

No critique group participant is just going to say: this is great! Keep going! They’re always going to find fault with your work, and the criticism is going to hit the writer hard, even though the critiquer is typically not qualified IN ANY WAY to cast judgement.

How to Get a Useful Critique (Not an Amazon Review)

Personally, I hire qualified professionals to edit/critique my work. That’s how I got good at this. One qualified editor at a time. One book at a time. Not by throwing my work to the wolves and listening to a bunch of amateurs squawk.

Know the Difference Between a Critique and a Review

So, to summarize, if I ask for an Amazon review, leave one if you feel like being helpful. But whoever you are, unless you’re much more experienced than me and being hired specifically for the job, you can rest assured, I am not asking for your critique of my novel. Nor, if you’re a writer, should you ever solicit the opinions of random people on your work.

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Ruby Peru