Friday, July 27, 2012

About Negative Reviews

Okay, let's talk about this. I've been watching people run rampant across the web, in various writers groups, talking about negative reviews.

 Yes, they are devastating to writers.

 Yes, they can make you mad and crave to strike back.

 "... people have a right to leave a review."

 You will never please every reader. Someone will eventually think you are absolutely stupid for what you wrote. Your characters were two-dimensional. The plot never made a valid point. The setting was mundane. The red herrings were too obvious. The romance too cheezy. Predictable, shallow, poorly written, etc.

 And yes, these people have a right to leave a review. You chose to present your work to the public. Do you think nobody will have an opinion on it? Of course you want four- and five-star reviews. Some, however, feel the need for two and three stars. That's the reason there are one, two, three, four, and five stars... to give choices.

 Maybe they made a mistake in the review, like saying your setting was New Hampshire instead of Vermont. Maybe they thought it was a mystery when it was a romance. Maybe they prefer literary and got a commercial sci-fi, and are frustrated they wasted their time. They might have confused the title to mean one topic, then the book took off in another direction.

 But even if they did not read the entire book, they are entitled to an opinion.

"...we should treat each other with respect.

 There are horror stories abounding these days, where naysaying groups are banding together to bash bad writing by authors. Others unite to bash bad reviewers. Both sides descend upon the web to search and destroy. Authors get hurt. Reviewers get hurt.

 Let's just stop here and say that we should treat each other with respect. I have a few iffy reviews. No, I did not chastise them, just as I'd hope nobody would chastise me for any review I left.

 Let's try to be professional. Let's try not to toss comments out there anonymously. Let's struggle to post our best work and leave our best reviews. And let's hold our tongues if we don't like what someone else has said. It's so tempting to throw out too-quick remarks on the Web.

 Publishing and writing is difficult enough as it is without us fueling the fire.

 But . . . we do owe authors the courtesy of a review. No, I'm not pandering for reviews. I've been as negligent as anyone  in reading a book and moving on. Now, I try to make a point to pick my stars and leave comments at Amazon or Goodreads, if for no other reason than to thank the author for spending so much time and effort to put yet another book out there for the reading public.

"Publishing and writing is difficult enough as it is."


Sioux Roslawski said...

Writers have to develop thick skins. It's crucial if you're going to continue writing.

Some people are NEVER going to be happy. They are only going to get satisfaction from grumbling and complaining and criticizing. So some of those less-than-stellar reviews can be discounted.

And yes, a comment is validation. I feel sorry when I check out a book on Amazon and see no reviews. I'm sure the author wonders, 'What's up? What do people think about my book?'

Wonderful post, as usual, Hope.

Civil War Horror (Sean McLachlan) said...

I occasionally get bad reviews. What can you do? An author looks like a fool if he whines about it or bashes the review. Remember when Anne Rice got in a flame war on Amazon with her detractors? Everyone laughed at her.

Authors shouldn't worry so much. On Amazon UK I got a one-star review for my short story collection. It didn't affect my (modest) sales, and so far nobody has voted the review as "helpful". That gave me some smug satisfaction.

We shouldn't pay that much attention to positive reviews either. Authors spend too much time and effort trying to get external validation for what is essentially an internal creative process.

Mari Collier said...

So far any reader that left a review on my two novels have all been positive.

Lorelei Bell said...

I've had no negative reviews. But I think that everyone does have a right to post whatever review they like. I think there is a saying by someone that we should just ignore all reviews and go on about our writing as best we can.

Lyn Fairchild Hawks said...

Hi, Hope,

I'm trying to spread good karma with positive reviews of books I've loved, including yours. :-) Just read 3 other excellent ones this past week, and have begun the review process with those. I just received a negative review of a book I put a lot of love into, and I feel it was unjust, considering how thoughtful my work is...but that's my opinion. Beauty and usefulness is in the eye of the beholder, right? As Sioux said, we have to build a thick skin...and I emphasize "build" for myself as what makes me a good writer is my sensitivity, among other things. Awareness, sensitivity, connectedness. So while I care deeply about others, I can't care so much what they think after I've tried my best.