Friday, April 14, 2006

DR: Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Reviews




One of the hard things a published writer must learn is to toughen up where reviews are concerned. I hate bad reviews, whether from professional critics or ordinary readers on amazon.com. I especially hate them when they aren’t as much about the book, as they are about demeaning an author’s beliefs, religion, ethnicity, or personality. But bad reviews are a fact of the writing life, and there aren’t many multi-published authors who haven’t had at least one or two.

I’ll never forget my first scathing reader review (for Beneath a Southern Sky...and it’s still up on amazon.com if you want to weep along with me! LOL!) That review almost paralyzed me for a few days. It truly did. It didn’t hurt so much that someone didn’t like my book (okay HATED my book). I’m well aware that the type of book I write isn’t for everyone, and there are many different tastes in genre and style. What hurt was that it sounded like the reviewer didn’t much like me as a person either!

When I go back and read that review now, I can be much more objective. I realize now that the reviewer probably has never met me. I don’t think he/she really meant their words as a personal affront. But I can also still, after more than four years, remember the deep pain I experienced when I first discovered that review. I actually broke out in a sweat and started shaking—and I’m not usually an excitable person. I shed some tears over that person’s words, and I have a feeling he/she would be surprised to know that.

But I did something else after receiving that review. I removed an amazon.com review I had written months earlier for a book that really made me angry. No, it wasn’t wrong of me to post a review respectfully outlining why I disliked this book. But I had made the same mistake I think my reviewer made—I made my review personal, commenting on the author’s personality, not just his writing. I didn’t even know the man! But like my reviewer, I failed to acknowledge that this author was human and had feelings.

My terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad review (and there have been plenty of others since) gave me two important things: a thicker skin for the inevitable bad reviews to come in my future; and a softer heart for other writers, who are real people just like me.

And wouldn’t you know it, I’ve discovered a brand new way to develop a tougher skin: amazon.com’s AmazonConnect feature which lets people vote on whether or not they like an author’s AmazonConnect blog post. I gotta tell ya, it stings just a little to see that out of twenty-some people who voted for my first post, five of them said they didn’t like me—er, I mean my post. Sigh.


Deborah Raney is the author of A Vow to Cherish (Steeple Hill, June 2006). Work in progress: Remember to Forget for Howard Publishing/Simon & Schuster. http://www.deborahraney.com

4 Comments:

At 6:59 AM, Blogger Gina Holmes said...

Deb, I like you, your writing, and your plog? posts. Good grief if there are people who don't like you, someone like me (who sometimes talks before thinking) ought to get some real doozies.

Writers are sensitive and here we are having to deal with countless rejections and criticisms coming from all direction.

Thanks for sharing that.

 
At 7:53 PM, Blogger Ane Mulligan said...

I have the hardest time comprehending someone NOT liking Beneath a Southern Sky! But to write a mean-spirited review is beyond bad.

I've reviewed some books I found lacking, but I always try to mention what I did like. There's no excuse for rude behavior or writing.

Guess I'd better prepare myself for those future naysayers. :o)

 
At 11:09 AM, Blogger Tricia Goyer said...

Deb, What were we thinking . . . choosing a career where EVERYONE has an opinion about us, err, our writing? Maybe we should have been garbage men. Everyone loves those guys--they haul away the trash.

I LOVED Beneath a Southern Sky, too. Just know that for every bad review there are 100 more people out there who love our writing. (At least that's what I tell myself!)

 
At 7:16 AM, Blogger Deborah Raney said...

We had a busy Easter weekend and I'm late in responding, so hope you all come back to check this out. Thank you so much, Gina, Ane and Tricia, for your encouraging words and insight. And yeah, I'm going with Tricia's estimate that for every one bad review there are 100 who loved us but just didn't take the time to let us know. ; )

 

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