FOR THE HELL OF IT – On Reviews and Accolades
By Johnny Heller
I confess that I sometimes check out reviews on Audible of my work. I know the comments aren’t written by learned drama scholars with degrees in theater criticism. They are, for the most part, written by people who have time on their hands and an axe to grind.
They don’t always make sense.
A book that is garnering 5 stars overall may have one comment – by Wilma from Spokane – who writes things like: “I wanted to rip my ears off my head and bleed out over the narrator’s DAW so he could never again destroy an author’s work.”
I checked out reviews of many narrators – from top shelf big names to brand new members of our community and the single common thread is that there is always a horrible, inappropriate, mean-spirited review of each of them. A review far removed from a critique of the work, but instead – zeroed in on a sadistic streak of nasty invective intended to send the narrator into a dipsomaniacal tailspin of depression and poor choices. Choices like drinking Lite Beer or eating CheezWhiz or watching a 2 Broke Girls Marathon.
Of course, there are also some nice reviews. And somehow these reviews get posted on social media as though they have some value; as if they give the work a seal of approval by the listening public. They don’t. Posting a “nice” review from an Audible listener is very much like putting your kids “Participation Award” on the refrigerator. “Hey! Look who showed up for gym class when he was scheduled to show up for gym class! Good boy Tommy!”
If you’re going to post a swell listener review, I think it only fair that you post an awful one – preferably from the same book. The good one and bad one may both be meaningless, but at least the bad one might be funny.
Here. I’ll go. Here’s a great listener review for one of my Nick Pirog Thomas Prescott mysteries: “Johnny Heller is perfect! His narration is excellent!”
Here’s a bad review of the same book (and this is just the title of the review): “Narrator sounds short, effeminate and 70 years old.”
What? How did they get 2 out of 3??
Seriously, I know I’m effeminate, but short? And 70? How do they get “short” from my read? I’m only short in comparison to everyone else. …I wonder if they can also tell my eye color.
NOTE: This reviewer gave me 4 stars for performance. If only I had read taller, I could’ve gotten 5 stars!
I am sharing these with you here, but I wouldn’t share either on social media. Nor should you. The point of the Audible review process is to gauge the audience reaction to the product – that’s why the number of stars is of interest while the opinions of people who have the time to guess my height instead of doing something important is not of interest.
Want to share a good review? Great. Get reviewed by Booklist, Audiofile, Library Journal, any special article in a newspaper or periodical or online that is an actual review written by an author with some reviewing credentials or experience. Reviews by audiobook bloggers are also great – those tend to be insightful reviews. Share those by all means.
But whether you share a review or not, remember this – one opinion does not define you. If you get hired again by the same author or publisher, then you are doing the right thing – you are on a path to success.
NOTE: If all the reviews seem to agree that you narrate too fast and that your habit of doing female voices like you just sucked a helium balloon is irritating to hear – then you can use that information to improve your performance. And that is about the only thing you want to use most reviews for – to become better at your craft.
Sharing an uncredited review written by some numbnut doing a dime in Joliet does not tell your colleagues how good you are. It tells them that you are hungry for praise and attention and ego-stroking; and that is such an unhappy vulnerable place to be. Instead, why not share with us that you have a new title coming out? Share with us how excited you are to listen to so-and-so or how much you’re looking forward to the next APA Speed Dating event or workshop or the arrival of your new interface.
We’ve created a community here and we need to nurture it and it’s easier to maintain if we recognize that everyone of us needs a wee ego boost now and again. Let’s try to give that to each other with honesty and grace – eliminating the need to do it ourselves.