Bad Reviews & Writing Mojo

Monday, October 22, 2012


Remember how I said the other day that I’d read this article that talked about not constantly checking numbers on Amazon? Well apart from that bad habit which I’ve cut back on, I do like to look at reviews of my books. Last week I had a look-see and found a review from someone who obviously took delight in shredding the book.  

Of course, I got that feeling.

If you’ve ever gotten a negative review, you know the feeling I’m talking about. I can’t quite describe it, other than to say that I would feel this way if someone abused my son. The review rested on my mind for half a day, but as with other challenges, what matters so much right now, is not important in the general scheme of things.

It did help that two positive reviews came after that bad one. Ever wonder why the bad ones go on and go on and the good ones only take up two lines?

Anyway, as though to soothe my ruffled feathers, the writing tips widget on my sidebar came up with the following reminder - Whether you write an email, a manuscript, a query letter or a book proposal, never forget the positive or negative impact of your words.

I may be na├»ve, but I’ve never understood mean people. Not to say that I don’t have the capacity to be mean. I do, boy how I do! However, I think about whether I want to say the first thing that comes to mind and the impact it will have. Also, I do care what people think of me. 

I realise that the anonymity of the internet gives many of us the leeway of being unkind with the security that comes from hiding behind an assumed name. I’ve also noticed that on B&N, where people are allowed to post reviews under an anonymous handle. I do get suspicious when someone has only one review under their profile, that being mine, but excuse me for being a conspiracy theorist. I’m a writer, I’m allowed. :D

I’m don’t dwell on the negative for long, so I use positive reviews to pull me out of a slump. The fact that people think I have a clue about writing gives me the energy to continue telling stories. One of my stories was floundering before I got that review and I lost energy after the negative review, but I muddled through and finished it up last weekend, knowing I’d have to revisit the tale to give it more life. Fact is, once writing is in your blood, there’s no choice but to finish what you start.

That said, these past few weeks, I’ve been reading a lot of material on the Kindle Select Programme. Yes, it has its advantages, but many writers now agree that the visibility that comes from the free days isn’t so strong anymore because everybody’s doing it and on any given day there are hundreds of free downloads. In essence, readers have no need to buy books unless they’re fans of our writing or they’ve heard good words about the book. Also, there’s the fact that books in the Select programme can only be bought in one venue, which locks out people with other e-readers.

On a personal level, the thing I’m finding out with FREE is that there is little no perceived value. I’ve also found, by looking through free books by authors big and small, that there are some terrible ratings, all by people who got the books free. Other than what I’m giving away right now, I don’t think I’ll be doing free again. Chalk that up to me also having some inner resistance to giving away stories I’ve sweated over.

I’m on the wagon that says slow and steady. I’m a good writer and no, that’s not self-praise. I’m going off what I’ve been told by people who have read my books.

Like many other writers, I’m extremely sensitive to criticism, however, it’s part of the publishing landscape since reading is subjective and we’ll never have the same taste – one man’s junk is another man’s treasure and all that.

I believe that what separates writers who stay the distance from those who give up is the knowledge that what they’re doing is worth the time and effort, even if the results don’t immediately support their expectation. I tell myself that for the successful author, writing is not a sprint, but a marathon. A slow burn, not a flash fire.

Despite the number of times we lose the urge to write, what’s important is getting our butts back into position and finishing what we start. And remember, the more books you have to your credit, the more you have to offer your readership. 

I aim to have a productive week, what say you?

65 comments:

  1. I'm trying some weird marketing. I wrote a short story that leads into my book that's gotten some five star reviews and offering it as a free download. It seems to have generated some sales. I'm about to put an ad campaign behind it in November on Lamda Literary which gets a decent amount of traffic. With it being free, I hope it gets a lot of downloads, and it honestly takes 10 minutes to read so there's no huge investment on a reader's part. It will be interesting to see where it goes.

    Sorry you had the bad review. I like your writing, even if your characters really make me want to preach them a sermon on what awful liars and cheats they are. The fact that you made such a strong emotional connection with me is a signal that your writing is amazing.

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    1. Everything is worth trying at least once and if something is working for you, by all means go for it.

      I'll take it as a compliment that you wanted to preach to that lot. :D

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  2. Oh I feel your pain. I have been trying to break into the world of fiction with zip success thus far. It's so hard to not take all the rejections as a "sign" I'm on the wrong path, instead of a sign that I need to keep trying. It feels like a kick in the solar plexus!

    Read this article, "50 Iconic Writers Who Were Consistently Rejected" (http://tinyurl.com/26uuz7b). You'll feel so much better!

    Remember, nobody writes a book (or article or poem or ...) that appeals to everyone. Keep your eyes on the audience that loves your stories.

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    1. Julie, it is def. hard not to look at rejections as though they're the be all and end all of your writing career. I believe that to be successful as writers, we MUST keep trying. We've been defeated once we give in and stop writing.

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  3. Thanks for sharing. I keep telling myself that I won't stalk those review sites. Who am I kidding? Mindset is important and I have to remember to keep writing. Thanks for the reminder.

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    1. Elizabeth, yeah, I do look when I remember. :) Focus is what helps us stay on track.

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  4. I think all reviews are important. I'm someone who if my book sucks. I want people to tell me, and if your book sucks...well I hope you'd like my kind honesty about your book not being 'my cup of tea.' Thanks for posting this and giving us all a look into published author's feeling about reviews and writing.

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    1. Sheena,
      Nothing wrong with a book not being someone's cup of tea. We all have way different tastes, so that's understood. I think a good book will stand on its own and speak for itself.

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  5. J. L., you hit the nail on the head. And your reaction to a bad review is just what the situation demanded. It spurred you to write more. That's the road to success. Keep that keyboard hot and don't worry about somebody that didn't like your book. I love your attitude.

    Regards,

    Stephen Woodfin

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    1. Thanks, Stephen. If I was overly worried about what people think of my sometimes weird stories, I'd have given up writing a long time ago.

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  6. I love to check out the bad reviews for books I love. Every book gets a percentage of bad reviews. By reading the bad reviews of really good books, it reminds me that not everyone will love my book...and that's okay. It's normal :)

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    1. True that. I always say this world is such an interesting place because all of us are so different.

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  7. I could comment on every single point you made here, but I think I'll stick to getting back on the horse after you've fallen off. That's the single most important thing we can do as writers. And remount that beast with more class than it had when it kicked you off.

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    1. Good words, Carol, and you made me laugh too.

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  8. Wow. I am learning so much from your experience and from all the writers who are commenting here. Thanks for sharing this.

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    1. Hey, Julia, it's wise to expect the good with the bad.

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  9. I know exactly how you feel when anyone says negative things about your writing. It is almost as if they are attacking your child - one you have put blood, sweat and tears into bringing to fruition.

    However, I keep reminding myself that even the 'greats' get criticism. How many people have mocked JK Rowling? Heck, she was banned from a number of libraries and has been called everything from a witch to a satanist to someone corrupting our youth.

    Every man and their dog has had a go at EL James for her Fifty Shades trilogy - including me - and it is true that they aren't the best written. But at the end of the day, as she counts her millions, I'm sure she doesn't give a toss who hates her work. There is more than enough of them that love her to death to compensate for the haters.

    Even Stephanie Meyer is consistently reviled by a large portion of the general public.

    What do these three women have in common? They have all been universally savaged by reviewers and the general public but they have all made squillions from their writing.

    You can please some of the people all of the time but you cannot please all of the people even some of the time. We all have people who love us and hate us. Take the good with the bad and ignore the haters. When you're as successful as Rowling, James or Meyer, you won't even care what they are saying about you anymore.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Riley. It's always good to put things in perspective. Gives a different view of things.

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  10. One doesn't need to be cruel if one doesn't like a book. And thanks for passing on your experiences. Hey, I just saw you have YA book out, Christine's Odyssey. Good for you!

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    1. Bish, that's the one thing I can't wrap my head around. I've read and reviewed books I didn't like however, I didn't see a need to be unkind about the book or the writer.

      CO is not on the market as yet, but soon.

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  11. I know about the ill feeling when reading a bad review. I don't feel the sting as much. I remember with the first few I took them real bad.

    I can see how some copies need to be given free for reviews, but other than that I wouldn't be comfortable giving away my work for free. We do indeed sweat over our book babies.

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    1. Medeia, thanks for dropping in. Time does make things better. Other than writing something for a worthy cause, along with what I've done already, free is over for me.

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  12. I've never understood mean reviews. There's no need for it. If you didn't like a book, you only have to say it once, then back up why you didn't like it with facts from the book. When people take things personally and get nasty in their post, it just weakens their review and credibility. Glad you didn't let it get you down for too long. I know I'm going to get bad reviews if I ever publish, and I've been trying to mentally prepare for it but I know the first one is going to crush me. I just need to learn to shake it off and move on from there, just like you. (:

    And I wish authors would stop giving their work for free. Too much time and work goes into writing a book, giving it away for free negates all that effort and I'm not okay with that.

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    1. Elise, my point exactly. It's fine to say you didn't like it and to say why, but as you pointed out, it takes something away from the reader's credibility when they get nasty. I feel strongly about this because I've known people who just stopped writing because of snide comments made to them. Thankfully, I'm one of those writers who doesn't know when to quit. :D

      Shorts are cool to give away. They do give exposure to our writing, but a novel is a whole other thing. Still if you have a dozen novels out...

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  13. A follower here...I don't usually let reviews influence my decision to read a book. That said, on certain occasions, bad reviews may help me notice a book and perhaps even entice me to want to know more about it.

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    1. Cynthia, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Before I buy a book, I do look at the reviews. Even the bad ones help me decide too. If they don't carry much weight, I'll take a chance on the book. A well-thought-out review - even if negative - will also help me decide whether to buy

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  14. Bad reviews go with the territory. Sometimes it's done deliberately, to send a book down the ratings, sometimes they're vindictive people, some might just have PMT. Who's to know? Yes, it's happened to me - the reviewer would have given it zero if he/she could have. But then other total strangers love your work. You can't please everybody. And I agree with you on giveaways and Kindle Select. They're crossed off the list.

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    1. Thanks for dropping in, Greta. So true that we can't please all readers. My strategy is just to keep moving forward.

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  15. Oh, sigh. I know *that* feeling well. I've had some scathing ones - quite personal, too, given the reviewer doesn't know me. They don't seem to be able to separate the material from the author! It sucks but I remind myself that some people do like my novels and those are the ones I'm writing for.

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    1. Good strategy to stay focused on the readers who enjoy your work. Concentrating on anything else def. would dry up that writing flow to a trickle.

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  16. Hello Joy,

    So sorry that someone shredded your book and gave a negative review. Maybe that reader does not read in the genre and dosn't know what he/she is talking about!

    And people can really be mean. I'm encountering one at the moment on Amazon, this person keeps commenting on one of my reviews that there is a spoiler in the review - when I made it a point not to giveaway the plot.

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    1. Hi, Nas,
      I've always said that that the world is an interesting place because we're all so different. It's perfectly okay not to like something and to say so. It's the edge of unkindness I have issues with.

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  17. Great take on this. i have always been writing waste reviews and this injected sum in my brain. http://www.samplelettertemplates.com/agreement-letters/termination-of-lease-agreement.html/

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  18. This is a great post, Joy--very thoughtful stuff. Of course, once you've been a writer for a while, you realize that you need to use only the most constructive reviews possible to push you into becoming a better writer. Meanwhile, ignore the trolls! As for KDP Select, yes, I've had a few weird reviews as a result of people downloading my novel for free, then discovering it's not really for them. But I have also had fantastic reviews from thoughtful readers who say they'd never have bought my book because it wasn't the sort of novel they usually read, but were glad they read it and plan to read more of my writing. I treasure that feedback. It's a mixed bag. But isn't writing always that way? That's why it's so important to just keep writing what you love and working as hard as you can to put the best words on the page.

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    1. Thanks for weighing in, Holly. I've been scarce because of the hurricane. Thanks for your encouragement. You do have it right. Keep working and using constructive criticism to become even better at what I do.

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  19. Thanks for sharing, Joy. I haven't read that review. I'm glad it didn't set you back for long. Keep writing.

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    1. Hi, Peaches,
      I find that the bad reviews come on the stuff that is free and that is at the top of the selling lists. I suppose anything else would have been weird. :)

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  20. I think that it would take more than a bad review to deter me and yet I am the sort of person who worries what people think. I suppose I'll only really know when those moments come (in the future...)
    In the meantime, I'll just keep on writing...
    Have a great weekend, Joy!

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    1. Hi, Michelle, it's good to have a strong mind and determination going into publishing. As I think I said in the post, I've know writers who got so discouraged after a bad critique, they stopped writing for months. Me? I get story ideas all the time, so I'm too busy to stand still.

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  21. Don't worry, Joy. Some people just write mean reviews because they want the attention. Personally, i don't review books unless I absolutely loved them, or unless i have good things to say about them. I think writing negatives reviews of books serves no real purpose. Glad you kept on writing:)

    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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    1. Hi, Nutchsell,
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I can deal with a negative review if there's something constructive in there. Also, those negative reviews do tell me that people sometimes don't 'get' the intent of a story or the choices characters make based on their situation. On the other side, it's good when fictional characters stir reaction in readers.

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  22. I think some people forget that you can be honest without being mean. Sorry about your hard review! You've got a great attitude, though.

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    1. Thanks, Shallee. True words. Didn't get to do a post yesterday due to the hurricane and all that went with it.

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  23. For me the difference is if someone writes constructive versus non-constructive criticism. There are folks who have great ideas on how to make something better. But if someone is just being insulting for the sake of being insulting then that's a problem. It takes a lot of courage to put pen to paper. Most of the people writing the cruel reviews have never had their work displayed publicly and likely never will.

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  24. Oh, I'm sorry, JL. That's just too bad. You've handled the negativity well. You're one strong writer!

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    1. Thanks, Emily. I love writing and have a talent for it, so I guess I'll be continuing. :)

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  25. 'I am a good writer.' These words delighted me. Self belief. Don't let a bad review or two rock your confidence. Your books are lush and fresh. Now I have such a truckload of 'I need to review that book' but honestly Joy, you know that there are just not enough minutes in the day to carry out all these good intentions. Some time over Christmas I'm going to take some time and go on Amazon and Goodreads and review all the awesome books I've read from my blogger friends. :D

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    1. So true, Denise, I also have books I've read that I should review and haven't. I definitely have to get around to those I promised I'd do. I know how important they are, so yeah...gotta get to them sometime.

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    2. I need to repeat Denise's words....God, if only there was more time in a day!

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  26. You gotta roll with the punches just the way you have, J.L. Good job.

    Glad to be back from my blogging break to say hi and wish you a Happy Halloween.

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