Collecting Stars

Posted On Feb 27 2013 by

Writerbud Gina Conroy asked on facebook–why do people post negative reviews?

Now, I haven’t had a novel published yet, but I’ve had enough published in print and online to know that the negative reviews will come. I checked Gina’s debut novel, Digging up Death, on Amazon, and found that, indeed, there were a few less-than-stellar reviews, but some good ones as well. I finished Gina’s book, which doesn’t happen too often with me any more, so I gave it a good review. For every five new novels I start, I probably give up on three after one or two chapters. So to finish means I enjoyed the story.

All that aside, the internet has opened doors for a mudslide of disinformation and armchair critics, but I still believe most of them have something valuable to offer. I hope I can take my own advice soon and read the bad reviews, take what I can from them, learn, and improve on the next book. True, I’ve probably lost those readers, but chances are I’ll pick up a few more.

There are a smaller percentage of bad reviews that fall into two categories: just plain mean spirited, as if written by someone who’s watched too many political debates, and just plain nuts.

I know there are people who are just plain nuts because I can look up Moby Dick and find 49 one-star reviews. Man, if Herman can’t make everyone happy, I need a new hobby. Go ahead, look up your favorite. Then ask how important those ratings really are.

My shocker came last night when I looked up Sue Henry. Her Maxie & Stretch mysteries are among my favorites. Good grief, I’m glad I didn’t read the reviews when deciding whether or not to give Sue a try, I never would have read one of her books.

It’s an important lesson for the reader as well as the writer. For the reader it means that both good and bad reviews need to be taken with a grain of salt. If there are mixed reviews, you’ll have to base the decision on your gut, or download the sample and get a better feel for it (in Sue Henry’s case, that might not have worked well either, she starts with a lot of back story).

For the writer, it means not taking the bad reviews to heart. We really really sucked the first time we tried to write a book. Did you really expect to be a Herman Melville with publication number one? I hope not, the 49 bad reviews would have crushed me.

We work way too hard just to get that first book past the acquisitions editor. We can’t let something like a C- grade on our first book end our careers. I know Gina is plowing forward with the next book, and I expect she’ll improve, as most writers do after that initial publication. I certainly hope she sells enough books and reads her 49 one-star reviews from a beach chair in the Bahamas.

Go get those stars. We’ve worked hard for ’em.


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Last Updated on: February 27th, 2013 at 7:23 am, by Ron

Written by Ron

Just about everything I believe has been shaped by the written word. But books don't force a belief; they stir the imagination so that you, the reader, eventually draw your own conclusions. We grow richer in spirit when we read, deeper in our understanding of the universe and our role in it. That's why I read. That's why I write. To offer you a bit of myself. Come along on my journey, won't you? There's plenty of room.

3 responses to “Collecting Stars

  1. Great thoughts! Glad I could inspire this post :p and I did look up a bunch of popular books! You should see how many one star reviews The Hobbit, Harry Potter and some other books got. 🙂

  2. Nice post! Thank you.

    I do write negative reviews, but not often and always for a reason. If someone (publisher, author or PR rep) sends me a book and asks for an honest review, I’m going to be honest. Not harsh or cruel, but honest. The main reason I’ll post negative reviews, however, is to warn other readers of unmet expectations. If, for example, the cover and item description advertise one thing, but the content doesn’t deliver, I think people should know that. These aren’t negative reviews for the author as much as for the publisher. Sometimes they hurt the author with poor packaging and marketing. And I always make that clear in the reviews … that the book isn’t bad, but that it wasn’t what I expected.

    Here are my rules for writing negative reviews:

    1 — If it doesn’t need to be said, don’t say it. I read lots of really bad books. (I work for a book review site and they just keep coming my way!) If required, I will post the review where promised (on my site), but I won’t broadcast it to the world (via amazon or other avenues).

    2 — Be succinct. If there really is a problem with the book, state it as briefly as possible so as not to twist the knife or labor your point.

    3 — Try to separate the author from the book. Don’t post anything that is overly emotional or even hints at a personal attack. I know, I know, as writers every review is personal! 🙂 But sometimes criticisms need to be provided.

    4 — Don’t initiate comment wars. Everyone has a right to disagree. Arguing with strangers over conflicting (and often irrelevant) opinions is a waste of time and energy.

    THANKS, again, for the post!