Reviews in the world of fan fiction are insanely important. And not just for blowing up the egos of authors like moi. 🙂

Many authors say that reviews are the “payment” that fan fic authors get for the hard work they put in to writing and posting a story, and that is true. But there are other impacts that reviews can have.

The number of reviews a story gets can have a lasting effect on the readership of that story. As a general rule, the more reviews you get, the more readers you get, and therefore the more reviews you get. It’s a snowball thing.

I know I often use the number of reviews as a guide to judge the quality of a story before I click on it to read. I’m sure lots of readers do. It’s not always a surefire technique. Sometimes, perhaps because a particular “ship” is popular, an average fic might get a lot of reviews, where a truly excellent fic might get less because it is about a less popular pairing. (As an OC writer, that is the bain of my life.)

Some readers (again, like me) might visit the reviews page before they start to read a story to get an idea of what people think about it. When you’ve been hanging around the site as long as I have, you also start to recognise the usernames and have “favourite” reviewers –“if ‘x’ likes this story, then I probably will too”.

So reviewers hold a lot of power in their hands.

And not just for crushing the egos of authors like moi. 🙂

What makes a good review? When you click to leave a review on the site, it urges reviewers:

A well rounded critique is often the most rewarding gift a reader can give . Please use this golden opportunity to offer a well deserved praise and/or tips for improvement.

Okay, my rule — and it’s only my rule — is that I NEVER leave any kind of constructive criticism as a review. Knowing that in effect, reviews can be a deciding factor as to whether or not people read, I don’t think it is fair to provide “tips for improvement” in a permanent record like the reviews page. Occasionally, when I am moved to give someone some advice (which doesn’t happen very often, I only give comments to people I really like or who I think are already great and just need a little nudge) I do it via email or private message. I think this is much fairer to the author. It also allows them to ignore me (as they have every right to do) or to take the criticism on board and fix things. If that happens, then anyone reading the reviews where I say “You need to fix ‘x'” is going to be thinking, “What? Why?”

Reviews are forever people!

Which is not to say that “Great stuff, update soon” is the only kind of review you should leave (or I want to receive). I’ve already said that the business of reviewing is a numbers game, so those short, uninformative reviews are still important. And, lets face it, we’re not all gasping for breath in our eagerness to write an essay for each and every chapter of a fic we read. So when I get those reviews, I’m still thankful, and appreciate the time people have taken to leave it. So very many people read everything I write and never take the time.

But the reviews that really make me smile, the ones that leave me with a spring in my step for the rest of the day? They have usually been the result of a little more effort on the behalf of the reviewer. They’ve taken serious time to comment on the plot, to wonder what might happen next, and to (sometimes) say nice things about the writing. They’re the ones I do this for.

And they’re the ones that have helped me build up the courage to find out if my writing can make it in the “real world”.

The last thing I’ll say on the subject of reviews is the one thing I’d love to know. Why is it, that when people read old stories, they never leave a review? From the detailed and fascinating statistics provides me on the readership of my stories, I can see that lots of them (all of them, in fact) are read by someone, all the time. And yet I only ever receive reviews for the current WIP. I’d so love to hear from the people who are reading old stories. They don’t have to review every chapter, just one at the end would be nice. It happens occasionally, but so rarely as to be a big surprise when it does. Perhaps I’m being unrealistic? Or perhaps those statistics are just people who’ve already read and reviewed going back to read again? *shrugs* Don’t know!

Anyway, whether you’re an author or a reader, let me know your thoughts on the topic of reviewing. I have a feeling this is a subject we might come back to again and again — there’s certain a lot to think about.