Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Middling Reviews

Middling Reviews

Let’s be honest: fair to middling reviews are harder to write than either positive or negative ones. Why? Because there is definitely a skill involved. But you are probably going to write more of them than any other type of review. Why is that? Because truly superlative works are uncommon. At least, they should be.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Middling Reviews

You can help authors when you give out middling reviews.

As always, kindness should be your guide. The work isn’t out and out awful. It just needs some help. Mid-level reviews can be extremely helpful. They can provide valuable feedback for a new author. Because it is sweetened with praise and other positives, it is more palatable.

Consider the Audience

But who is most likely to read your review? If you review on Amazon, then anything you write is going to rather directly affect someone’s sales and potential sales. If you review on an obscure book blog read by only a few people, then the impact will not be as great.

So what happens if you post your middle of the road review only on the obscure book blog? Once the writer sees the review, he or she might not want to push for you to share it on Amazon, GoodReads, CreateSpace, Barnes & Noble, or iBooks. Or maybe the author will want to see your review spread all over the internet. It’s hard to say. Your mid-level review may be the best one they get.

And consider that the sheer number of reviews an author gets on Amazon will help with sales. A book with 500 reviews of varying stars and enthusiasm levels will have a link in at least 500 places (each reviewer has a page—wait, you didn’t know that?). If you click on the name of a reviewer, it lists all of their reviews.  But a book with 5 stellar reviews? It’s only listed on the pages of 5 reviewers.

Now, both are important. But you can see that a volume of reviews will help an author. And if the best you can muster up is a fair to middle review, then go for it.

The Value of Middling Reviews

For a new author, potential buyers are often suspicious of 100% stellar reviews. Hence if the 5-star reviews are peppered with some 3-stars, then potential buyers tend to feel more comfortable that they are seeing accurate reviews that were not bought and paid for. Furthermore, if the author has enough reviews (the number seems to be ten or more), Amazon will sort them by most helpful positive and most helpful negative. If your middling reviews are the most helpful negative reviews, that can actually help writers.

So, how do you get started?

The Shit Sandwich

Yeah, you read that right. Since this is not going to be a wholly negative review, you can split it into thirds. This makes it feel less unremittingly negative. The first third should be the smallest or smaller positive thing you have to say. In the middle is the negative thing you need to say. Finally, end with your strongest positive.

But why am I suggesting this particular order? Let’s look at some examples.

Consider These Examples of Middling Reviews

  1. The Cowardly Lion character was fantastic and very credible. The Tin Woodsman was dull. Dorothy was okay.
  2. The Dorothy character was all right but could have used some work. The Tin Woodsman was hard to take at times. My favorite character was the Cowardly Lion.
  3. The Tin Woodsman was terrible. Dorothy was passable. The Cowardly Lion was amazing.

In the first example, you might think it’s a purely positive review. It’s easy to forget the negative in the middle when the positive starts off so strongly. In the third example, the writer is put on the defensive nearly immediately. The review feels negative, even though the end is positive.

Further, in the second instance, the first part is generally positive albeit with constructive criticism. The middle part is negative. But it gives a specific reason for the reviewer’s negative reaction. This is also something the writer could potentially build on and fix in later works. And the final part adds a positive personal touch.

Of course you would never write such a simplistic review. Plus you are reading this blog but you are not the author of The Wizard of Oz. So, these quickie reviews are not personal to you. Therefore, substitute your own work, and consider how each review would make you feel.

Length

Because this is not a negative review, you can add some length to it. But because it’s not unremittingly positive, it does not have to be lengthy. The ideal length is probably about 50 to 100 words. If you want to say more, contact the writer in private. For self-published works, editing and republishing are usually pretty easy. Hence if you find a glaring translation error, the writer can fix it. You can save the day with your review.

Ending on a High Note

End with a positive. Seriously. Don’t lie, but there is no reason to be nasty. Be encouraging; so many indies suffer self-doubt. This is your opportunity to be kind. After all, next time, you may be in the hot seat.

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