Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Bumps and Bruises


It's been about 1 month since Darkspell released--2 weeks since I've had my print copies!

Is life suddenly rainbows and pink clouds? Nope. The book dream doesn't stop here.

I had to wait a week before my printed versions arrived at my doorstep so that I could mail my signed and numbered beauties to awaiting fans. It was the very next work day, my entire family came down with the severe flu--including myself!

I've just shipped off over 30 books this past week, and I'm barely feeling better.

Okay, so here's the bomb: I had my first 4 "rejections" within a 2 week period before my books arrived. They are all from people I know! What I mean by rejection is that they didn't like Darkspell. These people are my close friends and family. Wait, don't go, I have something important to tie in with this lesson.

I've read somewhere--and I wish I could remember where--that if someone gives your book a bad review, it's because you've reached outside your marketing range. It's like submitting a query letter to an agent that loves horror and yours is a picture book.

Can you see what I'm saying?

I'd have to say that I am VERY grateful for these 4 people because it knocked the shock factor into me right off the bat, but now it's not so shocking anymore when I got a 2 star review--amid a sea of 5 stars--saying that it wasn't what she thought.

She's right. My book isn't her cup of tea. Just because it isn't, doesn't mean it's a BAD book. Like when you get rejected by an agent or publisher. It's NOT a bad book, it just doesn't appeal to their tastes--whatever they are at the moment.

One thing is for sure, this 2 star reviewer has made me realize something about "real life". She's honest and upfront. That's more than what I get when I'm stuck in a crowd of smiling people who know me and won't give me the time of day to say hi or at least say WHY they don't 'like' me. (Actions are louder than words, you know...)

What do you think?

For aspiring authors, it's pretty much the same type of rejection when you get your edits back, those nasty rejection letters and such, but being "public" now means that people have permission to make their thoughts public. Be ready!

Those who are published, how do you handle the bad reviews? 


  1. I haven't published a novel yet, but I have shared my work with readers who didn't like it. Some of my critique partners are really harsh, and when I get a review back from them I want to scream, kick, cry, and quit. But then I take a deep breath and take a hard look and realize they have some valid things to say. And it helps me make my work better. Really. Or I wouldn't keep sending those people my work.

    Another thing, I have to admit I'm guilty of posting negative reviews on Amazon that were more motivated by jealousy than any actual interest in literary merit. That was long, long ago before I realized that authors have feelings, and that what I think is a mistake might have been a very conscious style choice. Writers already know their flaws, and it is not the job of a critic to point them out.

    My favorite quote on critics comes from the movie "Ratatouille"

    "In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that in the grand scheme of things,the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so."

    So what are critics for? If we go on with the quote it offers a good theory:

    "But there are times when a critic truly risks something and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind
    to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends."

  2. Negative reviews are helpful because they help with targetting. You want to deflect certain readers and cultivate the ones who are right for you. If all your friends give you 5 stars, they are lying. (i.e. my male friends aren't all that into my Mormon chick lit :-) Better to have one 1 star review than have someone who loves gory splatterpunk give you a false five star review and then endure a bunch of 1 stars from their outraged friends who were expecting something different.

    But having said that, we need to be careful about posting negative reviews ourselves. Consider that many authors are living hand to mouth and before you ding their rating, ask yourself, was it just not your thing or does the book contain something that you want to warn people off of? I.e. I might post a negative review if I think a book contains gratuitous violence against children or excessive description of a rape scene, etc. The sort of thing my friends would be very upset to read, knowing I could have clued them in. Otherwise, a negative review is like dinging someone's reputation with any other ratings agency. It affects their ability to qualify for certain review venues and may knock them out of contention for promotion by Amazon or B&N. Better to not review than post a negative review.

    I always make sure, once I get around to reading the book (sorry to be slow guys!), to take extra time to Amazon review indie authors. I know how much this matters, and if I'm on the fence between a 4 or 5 star rating, I go with 5. We may not all work in the same building, but we are all members of a collective firm and we should look out for each other.

  3. The way I look at it, any review, good or bad is publicity. It has people talking about the book. If someone says, "Oh I read that, it was horrible," another person will invariably say, "I read it too and I thought it was great."

    People are people with their own opinions, just like agents and editors. Not everyone will like it, not everyone will hate it. And if you average out all the reviews, it still ends up being pretty good.

  4. I'd like it if everyone loved everything I wrote, but it ain't gonna happen. The first thing I published was a poem, and when I got the magazine in the mail I was so proud I called up my mom and read it to her. She was nice about it, but I could tell she wasn't thrilled. She didn't understand the poem at all. Yeah, that was one of those moments of revelation.

  5. Okay, I was annoyed when someone who got a free copy (not a review copy, just a free one because they knew me) went and posted a negative review. That did strike me as ungrateful. I don't mind them not liking it, though. There's no point trying to please everyone, because you won't. Focus on the people you can please and put your energies towards finding them.

  6. It's always a risk, putting your heart and soul's work for who knows how long, out there for anyone to see. It takes a lot of guts. It also takes more than a little courage to face the negative reviews. Kudos to you, Elizabeth, not only for getting a proper perspective, but also for handling it with grace!

  7. Congrats Elizabeth! Darkspell is added to my goodreads TBR list =) I appreciate most the critiques that identify specific weaknesses - things that I can start to work on.

  8. Reviews are for readers, to help them find books the like (or not), not for writers. And my new favorite quip about reviews? Reviews are like Fight Club (i.e. you don't talk about Fight Club). I don't mean talk about it here in the Cove - I mean you don't talk BACK to people who are leaving reviews, or try to combat them in public (Exhibit A: the recent immolation of a HarperTeen writer on Goodreads).

  9. That's a great point, Sue! I used to think reviews were supposed to help writers improve their work, but you're right, reviews are more for readers to identify books they would likely enjoy. Once the thing is published there's no use making suggestions anymore. All you can do is help find that target audience.

  10. Rebecca, well said! I do enjoy that movie! :)

    Emily, love how you said we are members of a collective firm, that we should look out for each other. I love my writerly brothers and sisters!

    Anne, so true. Every one will inevitably state their opinions--even if negative, there's not much we can do about it but realize that we, as writers, have realized a dream that not just anyone can! ;)

    Anonymous, it was pretty much like that for me too. *sigh*

    Emily, I know how you feel--I hope that that reviewer was at least constructive with their post. I've read reviews that attacked the author and criticized her for maybe using English as a second language and shouldn't be publishing if she can't get it right. *gasp*!

    Jonene, thank you so much for that! I just had a thought strike me--if you came across a review that was written on a personal level to attack the author, would you ignore it, or defend the author? I'm wondering if I should defend her in a diplomatic way...

    Sierra, thank you! I appreciate critiques that point out weaknesses too--I had written a novel that was so dry, that it was only 120 pages long and I had even killed off the two main characters. I had just finished reading a self-help book and was feeling extra-sensitive about applying the new techniques. My critique partner hated the book. She said she hurled it across the room and told me that I've GOT to make them live at the end. Guess what? My book is SO much better for it--no, this isn't Darkspell. LOL...

    Susan, you're right, I guess that addresses my question to Jonene. You just let the person throw the punch and watch it happen, hu? *sigh* I love to stand up for the little guys. Hold me back, please!!!!


What be on yer mind?