Friday, July 3, 2009

My Best WORST Review (to date)

Friday, July 3, 2009
A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about the sting of rejection. Ironic, considering what happened a few days after…

On a whim, I skipped over to Amazon.com to check on the sales ranking for Evie Ever After. I don’t do that very often anymore.

A) It doesn’t tell you much. (Sales numbers. A post unto itself.)

B) It can prove depressing. (Who needs that?)

Even so, I confess to a small thrill when I see a jump in my ranking. Fortunately, I got that thrill. A big jump. Which (in zany Amazon-land) could mean the sale of three books. Still . . . Yay!

Unfortunately, I scrolled down and saw I had a new review. A dreadful review. It was so awful (to me anyway), that instead of feeling crushed, I was stunned. I read it again, then again. I focused on the reader/reviewer’s last paragraph where he/she suggested you read a certain non-fiction book about a sort of similar subject—although that author’s writing, according to this reader, was merely serviceable.

Huh.

I reread the first paragraph where he/she trashed my characters, plot, sense of humor, and style. Not to be arrogant, but I disagreed. Also, it was an insult to the readers who’ve applauded my work as well as professional reviewers from Romantic Times BOOKreviews, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly.

What the heck?

So… I clicked over to where you can read all of this reader’s reviews.

Whoa.

He/She also trashed Janet Evanovich, Kelley Armstrong, Stephanie Laurens, Sherrilyn Kenyon, and Christine Feehan—whose book was so bad, according to this reader, they couldn’t be bothered to skim it.

Although, they had the gall to review it.

Wow.

For a second, I thought this person must have something against romantic fiction. But thriller writers, Tanenbaum and Dickey, got slashed as well. All of our plots are far-fetched and the writing is either passable, serviceable, or drek.

Considering the amazing talents I’m shredded alongside, I now consider this my best WORST review ever! Thank you very much.

I share this, not because I want to draw attention to a bad review (especially one that could hurt sales), but to beg you fellow creative souls to take harsh criticism with a grain of salt. Consider the source. If you don’t know the source, maybe dig a little deeper and see how other artists in your genre fare with this person.

Or, put it in perspective and remember the praise you've received from other readers and reviewers.

Then shrug it off and never think of it again. Because, really, it’s just one person’s opinion.

As hard as it was to land a publishing contract, in some ways it’s even harder to stay the course once you’re ‘living the dream’. There are new and many obligations, pressures, and obstacles. Surviving bad reviews, and by that I mean not allowing your confidence to dip so greatly that you’re paralyzed as a writer, is just one hurdle. One you must conquer time and again.

A dear friend of mine told me once that she never reads her reviews. She’s a NYT bestselling author. She gets many great reviews. But she also receives her share of mediocre to poor reviews. No matter who the reviewer is, every reader has their own distinct taste. Even though she knows that, my friend shields her confidence (and feelings) by not reading her reviews. It’s certainly one way to cope.

By the way, for those of you who can’t help yourselves and have to head over to Amazon to see what this person said about my book (I get it. The rubbernecking at an accident thing. No problem.), it’s not the first review (which is unflattering, but that person’s honest, un-snarky opinion—what can I say?). It's the one dated June 20. That’s the one that made my head hurt. Although. . . I’m over it now.

Honest.

Questions of the day: Readers…are you influenced heavily by reviews? Writers… how do you handle reviews?

32 comments:

Sisters-in-Sync said...

Great question Beth,

I, too, was recently on Amazon and decided to read a review of my favorite author's newest release. It was not very flattering and at first I thought..."Now that's disappointing." But then I scolded myself and was reminded of that good ol' phrase..."Opinions are like arse holes. everybody has one!"

So, I will read that authors latest release and I am sure I will love it as much as I have all the others.

And as far as reviews go in general...At least their talking about the book!

SIS Barb

Mary Stella said...

I don't pay much attention to bad reviews -- unless someone pans a book by a friend of mine, in which case I am outraged!

The exception is if it's a truly awful review where the writer makes the book sound as if it's the worst book ever written. That will spur me to look for other reviews. Sometimes I've actually bought a book that someone totally trashed just to see if I agree.

Good reviews might influence me but I find the biggest impact usually comes from readers who discuss a book online. A lot of good buzz is powerful motivation to buy a book.

Beth Ciotta said...

Barb said... "And as far as reviews go in general...At least their talking about the book!"

Right-O. What's that saying? There is no such thing as bad press? If someone hears or reads something horrible about a book, movie, play-- whatever--they may be intrigued to check it out for themselves. At the very best, perhaps they'll like it and the artist will have gained a new fan. Lookin' on the bright side!

SIS Beth

Sherry Tew said...

I have learned over the years that even your best friend's opinion can differ greatly from your own where it comes to anything creative, including books, movies and music. Appreciation of all things creative is so subjective that I don't give much credit at all to reviews overall. I am inclined to be intrigued by a good review, but am less inclined to be influenced by a bad one, especially if the critic is supposedly someone who does it for a living. Often those critics review from a completely different perspective than us average folks and it rarely translates to me. Word of mouth will offer some direction for me, but really, the best way for me to determine if I am going to read a book is to read the first few paragraphs online or in the bookstore. As for the bad reviewer of Evie Ever After, it sounds like that person likes to make themselves feel superior by posting such negative drivel online. Honestly, don't you think so? I mean, it isn't like they are doing some tremendous public service!!! I, for one, will keep reading your published works. Have a great one!

Olga said...

Beth, hugs on that review, but I like your attitude. Obviously, the reviewer chooses to criticize - um, review - only the best authors, so you're in a great company there. If after reading Janet Evanovich and Sherrilyn Kenyon she picked up your book - that must be some kind of flattery! That said, I read reviews sometimes, but not that often, and the decision whether to buy the book I normally base on a) if I like the author (btw, you fall into this category); b) if I like the cover blurb.

Also, I heard about the promo trick when the author posted horrifying reviews of his own book everywhere possible, and his sales skyrocketed because everybody wanted to know if the book wwas really that bad.

Beth Ciotta said...

I agree, Mary. On-line buzz is a huge motivator. It's something I wish I was better at... generating that kind buzz for one of my new releases. Or even current releases and backlist for that matter. Definitely something I need to devote more time/thought to. Unless I win the lottery. Then I'll hire a publicist to that that for me!

SIS Beth

nicola said...

They say that you've made it when you get bad reviews as well as good! It means you out there for people to like/dislike. And as for the 'There is no such thing as bad press' quote. As hard as it to be personally attacked it means you are important enough for people to read about. So now everyone will want to buy the book to see for themselves and your Amazon ranking will rocket, all thanks to the bad review. And when it does, I think a little note of thanks to the reviewer would be nice... ;)

Taylor said...

For me, I only read reviews of books and movies. Music is something that can't be summarized appropriately in print. I've been finding more often than not that I only read a review of something once I've read/seen it. I double-back on a review to see if someone shared the same feelings I had for the experience, or maybe I can gain new insight to something I missed the first time.

But when it comes to your own personal reviews I feel that if you're honest without being offensive then you can give a very helpful and informative review. Sadly, when people don't like a book they tend not to be so nice. I'd be a liar if I haven't written a mediocre review of a book online once or twice, but for the most part I tend to enjoy all the books I read (and review). But even then, I only write reviews for the authors who deserve the praise. :) That includes you Beth!!

Beth Ciotta said...

Sherry, you made some very interesting points and I enjoyed reading them. Thank you for taking the time to share. Regarding books, as for whether reviews influence my buying preference, I'm like you. The back cover blurb gives me an idea of the overall plot. The first few paragraphs of the story give me an idea of the writer's style. If the style/voice hooks me, then I'm sold.

Beth Ciotta said...

Sherry... I also meant to say, your comments re that particular 'reviewer' made me snicker. So true. On another note, than you for being such a grand supporter of my work!

SIS Beth

Beth Ciotta said...

Olga, I had that same thought. Boy, am I in GREAT company! ;)

As for what influences me to buy a book, as I mentioned to Sherry, blurb and 1st few paragraphs are the biggees. But also, like you, I have auto-buy authors. Authors who I've read before and who entertained me everytime. I usually trust that they're next book will, at least, have the same 'voice', so I don't even need to read an excerpt.

I never heard that 'promo trick' story before. What a hoot! Now, of course, I have to find out who that was!

SIS Beth

Beth Ciotta said...

Nicola, as in my sister-in-law? *g* Or is this another Nicola? Regardless, I got a kick out of your comments. Great viewpoint. Great attitude! Thank you note. *snicker*

SIS Beth

Beth Ciotta said...

"...I double-back on a review to see if someone shared the same feelings I had for the experience, or maybe I can gain new insight to something I missed the first time."

Taylor, that's an interesting approach to reviews. Very interesting.

As to writing reviews, knowing you, I'm sure you are always fair and diplomatic. Not every mediocre or bad review is 'hurtful'. It's all in the delivery.

SIS Beth

Richard said...

Great post, Beth; and anyone in any field of entertainment can certainly relate to the "bad reviewer," also known as "The Heckler." I actually had things THROWN at me during a solo way back in my musical career! Immediately devastating; long-term effect -- I learned what the term "self-indulgent" truly meant and I started paring down my solos;)!
My disdain for critics overall (variation on a quote: Those that can, do; those that can't, criticize) came to a head with a magazine I had had a subscription to for years, Entertainment Weekly. Being a movie nut, I always enjoyed the rag for their "behind the scenes" stories, previews, etc. I cancelled my subscription because of the movie critics. When they, pretty much as one, began to consistently review total fantasies (be they "Star Trek" or "Enchanted") and trashed perfectly good straight-up entertainment with observations about this and that being "unbelievable" (i.e., disparaging the use of the transporter as "ridiculous impossible cartoonish, etc."); and in turn gave glowing reviews to pretty much ANY movie, good or bad, whose title had an accent over a vowel and needed to be translated into English, I knew I'd had enough. As Sherry noted, they were basically trying to bolster their own credibility and "superior" taste and knowledge (and don't you just LOVE critics who compare, usually disparagingly, a work with some reference to some obscure foreign item that no one but they have read/seen?) and make the reader feel like a cretin for having even a THOUGHT of enjoying such drivel.
Critic, schmitic! Gee, imagine what a wonderful world it could be if folks actually thought for themselves *sigh*;)!

Cathy P said...

I also don't pay attention to bad reviews on books.

If I like the author, suggestions from friends, or see a book from an unknown author that catches my eye, I buy it. I have found a lot of my favorite authors that way.

Richard said...

Oh, and TOTALLY off the subject, but I had a thought -- if y'all are working on the holiday, you have your Movie Cafe, followed Tuesday by the Music thing. So, I'm watching some random movie and started being intrigued (read: I'm a musician -- DISTRACTED!) by the background music. As much so, I at times get annoyed with a perfectly good movie because of a HORRID soundtrack (i.e., "Starman"). So maybe a two-part combined Cafe Chaos -- great movies with great soundtracks?

Sisters-in-Sync said...

Well, shoot! I wrote a thoughtful comment to your post on critics, Richard, and blogger ate it! *grrr* I'll be back later to retype it.

Meanwhile... love your suggestion about the combo Cafe Chaos. Great Movies with Great Soundtracks. Awesome! We'll definitely do that!

On the flipside, awhile back I tried to re-watch 'Jewel of the Nile' (the sequel to 'Romancing the Stone'), but I couldn't get through it becuae of the cheesy 80s intrumental sound track! Can you say DATED? It really grated. So I know exactly what you mean.

SIS Beth

Sisters-in-Sync said...

Cathy, thank you for offering your thoughts. It's not only interesting to know what influences a reader to buy a book, but helpful. Much appreciated!

SIS Beth

B.J. said...

Hi Beth. I don't let reviews influence me. I like to decide for myself if a book or movie is good or bad. We all have different tastes. That being said, I like to read the reviews and comments about certain books because they give me better insight into what they are about.

Sisters-in-Sync said...

Hiya, BJ!

Reviews don't influence me all that much either. Like you and others have mentioned, everyone has their own taste. One person's trash is another person's treasure and all that. However, a well written review, as you and Taylor point out) can offer more than a thumb's up or down. It can provide thought provoking insight. Now THAT, I can appreciate!

SIS Beth

Tori Lennox said...

Sounds like that reviewer is a writer who can't get the time of day from anybody. ;)

Sisters-in-Sync said...

Wow! Hi everyone! Big waves all around. I step out for cupcake making and a haircut and I come back to find a phenomenal discussion.

Sherry,
I love your comment about the reviewer just trying to feel superior. I believe you may have nailed that one!

Olga,
I,too, pretty much select my book by author and cover blurb. I rarely read reviews at all.

Taylor,
I rarely read reviews but you have me intrigued. I may start reading them AFTER I've finished a book. What an idea. I love it!

Nicola,
I LOVE your idea of sending a thank you note to the "bad" reviewer!

Mary Stella,
I"m with you. I would much rather discuss books amongst people I know or who have a like interest.

Richard,
I completely agree. Those that can't or don't or won't...criticize!

Cathy,
Hi. I don't know if it's the right reason, but a great cover gets me every time and I buy, buy, buy! I hope you stop back by.

BJ,
We all have different tastes indeed!

Tori,
That reviewer is just unhappy in their own world and trying to bring everyone down.

Great discussion everyone.
have a fabulous Independence Day!!!

SIS Barb

Sisters-in-Sync said...

Well, I could sit here and repeat pretty much everything everyone else is saying, but it seems as though we're all on the same page. So just let me say,
SOMEBODY TALKED BAD ABOUT MY SISTER? Who was it? Give me a name and I'll google the jerk and take care of this once and for all. By the time I'm done with the creep, you'll be receiving nothing but high praises from anyone who dares write a review about one of your books. Don't you worry big sister. I'll fix everything!...Mwaahahahaha

SIS Bren

Sisters-in-Sync said...

Bren! You are one stinkin' funny, feisty, red-head! You've had my back on many occasion, so I'll tell Beth she should take you up on this offer.

SIS Barb

Sisters-in-Sync said...

Barb, you prefered making cupcakes over chatting with us? Did you at least make enough to go around? ;)

SIS Beth

Sisters-in-Sync said...

Uh, oh. Now you've gone and done it El Slasho Reviewer. You've made my little sister mad. Be afraid. Be very afraid. Heh, heh, heh.

SIS Beth

flchen1 said...

Beth, hugs on the bad review, but you've got the right attitude (and clearly you're in excellent company!)--as a reader, I totally take reviews with a huge grain of salt! Some reviews are clearly well thought out, and the reviewer states what they liked and didn't like. With others, they're clearly reading a completely different book. Or they clearly haven't read the book at all. With helpful reviews, even if they're negative, they may be articulating something that I would actually enjoy and I might pick up a book because of that. Either way, as everyone's said, it's one person's opinion, and this one person's opinion isn't going to make or break my world!

Besides, Beth, you're the best!! Anyone who says otherwise is going to have to answer to Bren! Please pass the cupcakes, Barb!

Sisters-in-Sync said...

Hi Beth,

There would have been enough...but sadly, I ate them. All of them. MMM.MMM.

Off to see a parade and fireworks! Ya'll have a great night!

SIS Barb

Sisters-in-Sync said...

Seriously though,
I don't listen to critics. I listen to friends about books, but I don't listen to anyone about movies anymore. There have been numerous times that people have raved about a movie and so I rented it and wasn't even able to get through the first 30 minutes.
"El Slasho" huh? Odd name, but I'll google him and see what I come up with.
Thank you to everyone for stopping by. It was great to come home from work and see all of these wonderful comments!
Have a very safe and festive Independence Day!
SIS Bren

Sisters-in-Sync said...

Excellent reasoning, Fedora. We would toast your wisdom with cupcakes, but as you read, Barb ate them all. The nerve. ;)

SIS Beth

Olga said...

Beth, I wish I could remember the name! Btw, I agree with Fedora, you're the best! And, um, no more cupcakes? Oh, man...

Sisters-in-Sync said...

Hi Fedora and Olga,

If by chance you receive a melted, gooey, half-eaten cupcake via mail--remember...it's the thought that counts!


SIS Barb

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