It seems that all authors treat reviews differently. Some read each one and take them to heart and others refuse to even look at them. It’s difficult to take something you’ve loved, nurtured, and sent into the world and allow others to cast their opinions on it. For those who don’t write, I would compare it to someone criticizing your child.
At least once a week, I see the following post on Facebook, “I received a one star review, and I’m crushed”. Well there’s hope! There are some things you should know about negative reviews and I hope this helps you put them in perspective.
First, I’ll start by telling you that I’ve had my share of bad reviews and most of them were caused by something completely out of my control. When my first book The Keepers was published, we worked tirelessly on editing it and then the worst of the worst happened. Somehow, between here and there the wrong document was uploaded and the unedited version was sent out to the masses. Being so excited and green, I didn’t even check my copy. (Yes, I know, I know.) So for over a month I was sending it out for reviews oblivious to the problem.
The first time I got a review back that said something to the effect of, “I couldn’t even finish this book it was so error-ridden” I almost died. No, not literally, but you know what I mean. I knew we had spent hours editing it, and for me this was a huge slap in the face. I thought it was a fluke, until a few more came in with the same comments. In tears, I pulled it from the shelf and my publisher graciously sent it back through editing. So you see, I’ve had my bout with horrid, nasty reviews and those reviews can still be seen on my Amazon and Goodreads pages.
I can’t lie, I was defeated at first. I thought there was no way to overcome the damage that had been done, and I wanted to just give up. Lucky for me, I can’t ever let anything go. I put the new copy up, went plugging along, and have since released another book.
So what’s the good news? One thing I did when I was distraught over the mark on my name, was I went to other author’s Amazon pages. I picked authors who were at the top of their genre rankings and studied their reviews. There was a very small percentage who had never received less than three stars, but for the most part, every author had at a few low scores, and even those who didn’t, had some nasty remarks made by readers and reviewers. What does this mean for you? If people selling 500 plus books a month aren’t losing momentum because of a couple of less than stellar reviews, neither will you.
Another thing I noticed about reviews that were less than complimentary, was that most of the time, the reader couldn’t pinpoint why they didn’t like the book. Maybe they didn’t connect with the characters, or the story moved too slow for them or two fast, but even they had a hard time putting into words why they didn’t like the story. (Imagine that this is better than – the story was so riddled with errors I couldn’t finish it!). Once long ago, when I first started my regular JOB a friend told me, “Not everyone will like you. Get over it.” I’ve taken this attitude with me into my writing. No matter how hard you try, not everyone is going to get you.
Yes, I know you are thinking – But I want everyone to get me! – No you don’t. I’m sure when you were writing one of the things you hoped for was a unique voice and to bring something new and different to the table. Some people just like cookie-cutter. They want romance to be boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, and they live happily ever after. They want your hero to be the kind of guy that has no flaws that everyone just falls for from the beginning. They want the same thing they’ve been reading for years, because they find it comfortable.
Since you were striving so hard to make your voice unique, I know that there are things in your books that not everyone will connect with and as writers we have to set our delicate egos aside and understand that it is OKAY! I’ve found that when you have stepped outside of the box you will no doubt get those nasty little reviews, but you will also develop a following of rabid fans that DID connect with what you were trying to say and the message you wanted your work to put out there. Wouldn’t you rather have those die-hard fans who yell your name from the roof, than just another reader that felt comfortable reading your work?
Finally, I’ll leave you with this. I get nervous when I have all five-star reviews. Yes, I said nervous. Right now on Amazon, Jamais Vu has all five-star write ups! I’m thrilled, because each one of those readers is passionate about how much they love the story. However, everything I’ve read says that when you do have a couple of lower marks, it lends credibility to your great reviews, because then it doesn’t look like you just rounded up your closest friends to tell the world how super you are!
I really hope that each of us can put aside any hurt and learn anything we can from constructive criticism. We learn from each other and our editors, why can’t we learn from those that didn’t exactly connect with our work?
Here’s to a future full of five-star reviews!
Monique O’Connor James
Author of: The Keepers, Jamais Vu & The Mulligan Man
all from Astraea Press.