Saturday, 25 April 2015

Suck it Up! Dealing With Bad Reviews


Last week I wrote a blog about not responding to the difficult people you will inevitably encounter on Twitter. It has proved enormously popular, though I have been amazed at the number of people who didn't realise they had quite as many options. You can reread it/read it for the first time here.

A quick recap: Twitter is a very fast moving medium. A tweet has about a four second life, before it is replaced by others. Ignoring a nasty comment means that is is gone in an instant. As soon as you engage with the remark, you and the sender and the ensuing exchanges become visible to everyone. Whether you ''win'' or not, you will be seen by thousands of people. Will it enhance your ''brand'' for this to happen?

The same could be said for one star reviews. Most readers know what sort of person writes a one star review: either they got hold of the wrong book; didn't understand the book; didn't like the book (fair enough), or are another writer with a new book out, trying to diss the book - this actually happened to me when my teen crime Spy Girl series came out. After the 5th review comparing me unfavourably to another writer in the same genre, Usborne stepped in. Ignoring the naff reviewers and their comments gives the impression that you are a bigger person with a wider vision.

Recently, I witnessed a couple of writers receiving bad reviews and dealing with them by complaining vociferously on social media sites. Ok, their choice: they were clearly upset and it was important to them to say so. But the result? Everyone instantly hopped over to Amazon to read them. Yes, maybe their good friends piled in with supportive digital shoulders, but I'm not sure this was a professional way of dealing with it. Nor is complaining to Amazon. You may disagree.

As soon as we have published a book, we become less important than the readers' experience. In fact I don't think we, the sensitive tortured artistic little souls, figure at all. Witness the friend who rang up after my cancer op to see how I was, then went on to tell me at some length that they liked books written in chapters - which I had failed to do in Diamonds & Dust and Honour & Obey.

I may well get another call as I am doing it again with Death & Dominion. And will do with Murder & Mayhem if I ever get the time to write it. (For future reference: I write in episodes, not chapters. Episodes. Got that? And I intend to continue to write in episodes too. Pretentious? Moi?)

Suck it up, people. I have reviews of all starry hues. I have friends on Twitter and in that thing called ''real life'' who listen open-mouthed and entranced when I burble on about plot holes and Victorian sexual practices. I have some who seem completely unaware that I have a dark side involving a laptop and a pile of overdue library books.

It is always tempting to think less of ourselves - after all, lives are not saved and wars are not stopped by reading our novels, and we will never achieve world-saveage. But it is also not healthy to think we are more important than we are. And as someone who is just going through the rigours of a first professional edit, I can certainly vouch for that!

19 comments:

  1. Well, being the mature adult that I am, I am already preparing myself for any bad reviews I may/will! receive, come the launch of my book next month.

    I am doing this by harvesting a lock of hair from all those making a purchase which will be used in conjunction with the pins and the voodoo doll I'll have shaped in their likeness. Bitter? Moi?

    Good post Hedges! Hit the nail on the head!...(some critics should be hit with equal force!)

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  2. "But it is also not healthy to think we are more important than we are."

    Oh yes - as someone once said to me, no one should behave as if their sh*t doesn't stink!

    And it doesn't only apply to writers. Our re-standing (Conservative) MP needs reminding that she's not a goddess just because she has a huge majority - she didn't turn up for a pre-election hustings on environmental issues. Am afraid, if I did the star-thing, I'd only give her one for that!!

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  3. Excellent article. Criticism obviously hurts but every creative work, be it art or literature, is subjective: What appeals to one person may be total rubbish to another! In a more personal way, not everyone we meet is going to like us. We just have to suck it up, shrug it off & remember the people who think we're great!!

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  4. ...magnificent post 1.000,000-stars, m’Lady, Carol !!!! :):)

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  5. Excellent advice as always, CarolStar. The one and two stars give a bit of a jolt, but as you say, we don't really figure in the reader's eyes. I did ask Amazon to delete one 1 star review which simply said "didn't read it", and they did, as they got the point, but for the rest, it's best to roll with the punches.

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    1. I agree. It is pretty clear from reading mine that they readers got hold of the wrong book for them. Surprising as they can now download a sample.

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  6. Great post!
    You know, I never noticed 'episodes not chapters' when I read Diamonds and dust, I just enjoyed it, immensely!

    You get all the stars from me :o)

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  7. The first time my book received a low number of stars (but no review) on Goodreads, I was very upset. I tried to have it removed: The book was only out 2 days when it received the 2 stars. It hadn't sold any ebooks yet and nobody could possibly have received a print copy. This person just didn't like the concept, probably, or hit 2 stars by mistake. Either way, I was very upset for a while. Very upset. As time passed, it mattered less and less. Now it matters not at all. And I know that's it's important to keep focusing on the future and on the positive.

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    1. Actually, well done you. That is HARD! My 1 stars etc were received on the back of a lot of top reviews and so look very sad and lonely sitting down there. One's first reviews are important. I review a LOT for Amazon (mixed genres) but if I seeI am the first person to leave a review, I do try to make it a good one. If I really can'tf finda lot of positives, I wait until there are some other reviews up before posting. OK, I do believe there are a lot of books that shouldn't be published and are badly written, but I am aware that the writer has gone through the same processes as the rest of us, and that effort should be respected.

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  8. I'll just make a note of something I didn't know until my husband discovered it by making the mistake himself; it might be of interest to all. You know when you see a review with 3* that just says 'haven't read it yet', or 'didn't read it'? These aren't actually reviews posted by people. They are the result of Amazon sending an email to ask for feedback for a product. Your response is automatically posted as a review, with a 3* unless otherwise stated, I think (obviously you won't give a star rating if you haven't read the book!). I imagine at some point in the future Amazon will realise that this is not an effective way of encouraging reviews. Or not. Who knows, eh?

    As for the 1* and 2* reviews, anyone who moans about them on social networking sites ought to grow up. What, you mean someone doesn't think what you've done is totally marvellous? As you say, suck it up! I also wish that all writers would distinguish between genuine 'trolls', like the competitors who tried to trash your book, Carol, but those who just... don't like your book. Didn't enjoy it. Thought it was badly written. Boring. Whatever. You will always get the idiots who leave a 1* because they thought they were buying a novel and didn't bother to read the description to see that the book is a short story, for instance, but these are not that common. (ps, hardcore moi!!)

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    1. Haha..yes ideed.One of my less happy reviewers (US) says that they don't like books written in present tense. If they'd read the free download (surely they did?) they MUST have noticed it was present tense. That's actually the sort of thing that does irritate. If someone doesn't like your stuff for taste reasons, fair comment.

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  9. A fabulous post, Carol. There really is no point in getting upset about the odd bad review because there will always be one or two of those lurking about and most people realise when they look at book reviews there will be some people who haven't liked it. Several bad reviews on their own and the author may need a rethink but the odd one really doesn't matter.

    As a book blogger I have had some authors who are a little too big for their boots but I fix them with a beady eyed email and treat everyone equally. I don't tolerate any diva nonsense over on my blog and never flatter egos. It does surprise me what people come out with sometimes though. I had an author make such a list of demands from me the other day I wondered whether to offer her fresh fruit, lillies and room service on top of my free help haha

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    1. Quite! see above for the only time when I think getting upset is OK. If you want o put your work out there, you have to take the flak. And the good stuff.

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    2. That's the main point about it all, Carol - if you can't stand the heat, etc.

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  10. Yes, yes, yes. I agree. I especially agree with the point about the value of ignoring bad remarks. This can be a useful premise for life in general and not just reviews of our written 'babies'. If someone criticises you unfairly in real life (rather than on a site like the Amazon review site) it can be forgotten in minutes if you shrug or quietly defend yourself. But if you start shouting and complaining and threatening to sue then the 'whole world' (I exaggerate for effect!) is likely to hear about it. Great post.

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  11. Absolutely Carol, the best thing to do is ignore those one star reviews. Often they just aren't worth the attention they get. In fact at a recent event in the Cambridge Literary Festival James Dawson quipped that one star reviews were written by people who look at the cover of the book and don't like it. I write reviews on my blog and I have never given anyone a one star review - I know how much effort goes into writing, being a wannabe writer myself. In the majority of cases one star reviews are just mean, and attention grabbing, so the best tactic as you rightly say is not to give them the time of day.

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  12. Thanks. I personally don't - mainly coz I regard them as being mainly for readers. Others, thought, do need to walk away...fast!

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  13. Maybe we should be like the actors who never read the reviews in the papers in case they are bad. I definitely agree, Carol, that negative reviews would be better ignored.

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