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.