I almost never blog about reviews (especially poor ones). Truth is, I try not to read reviews very often. Every once in a while a top reviewer who requested a book copy will let me know they posted a review and I will go out and read it. But while I’m there, I can’t help myself from looking at the 5-10 new ones that have piled up. Most, whether favorable or not, are fair. And I’ve learned (at times, the hard way), to shine the nasty ones on. I mean, if we’re going to have a review system that allows anyone from the most deranged to the most lucid, the least educated to the most scholarly, the most dishonest to the pure of heart and mind, to post reviews (anonymously, if they so choose), we just have to accept the good with the bad.
But every once in a while there is a review that just doesn’t make any sense, particularly when they don’t really match up with the rating or “number of stars”. Sometimes you’ll read the review and think they really liked the book but they gave it one or two stars; then you’ll read a review and think wow, this person despised this book—three or four stars.
The one thing I seem to find in common with all weird reviews (especially those who really make me think the reviewer is one click from bat-shit crazy) is that they are almost always very, very short. We’re talking two, maybe three, sentences. Whatever the minimum. And many define vagueness.
Too slow in the beginning.
Hard to like the character.
I saw a one-star review the other day where the reviewer admitted she only gave the book a bad review because she was reading it on a Kindle and hated e-readers. No, not that the book was poorly-formatted for the e-reader; simply that she preferred real books.
I’ve theorized that some short reviews are written by people who are striving to be “top reviewers” as much as we authors are aspiring to become well-known writers (i.e. they want to reach the top of whatever numbering system measures them). In some cases I believe that’s why they write a quick review, click on however many stars, and move along to the next one. Who’s to say they ever read half (or any) of the books they review? A good synopsis can easily be turned into a review, good or bad (though not very in-depth). Amazon does enhance some part of their score by how many “helpful” ratings a review receives. But that system seems to have its flaws: people who read reviews to see if they want to buy a book can be just as squirrelly as reviewers—I’ve seen two sentence reviews with 40-50 “helpfuls”.
Where am I going with this?
I’m here to assuage your stress and pain.
Don’t sweat the reviews. And definitely don’t sweat like Robert Hays in Airplane! Don’t get me wrong; that was a classic scene, and well worth watching (more than once). But few circumstances warrant your salt-watery concern, and poor reviews are not one of them
Anyone with a computer (or tablet, or smartphone, or library access) can write a review on any of the major book sale sites. Many are fair, well-thought, and offer their honest opinion of your book. Some don’t. You’ll read the words of some writers, raging and belittling the one-star review they just received—some even begging their friends to go out and immediately mark the review as “unhelpful” so that it never sees the light of day. It’s been my experience that real readers—those who simply want to find a great book and/or a talented author—will see through a mean-spirited, unhelpful review.
I’m not saying it’s easy to swallow those first few ill-forged “critiques”. It’s never easy to put down a horse-pill of bad commentary. But ask yourself these three questions:
1. Is there something in the review I can use?
(Many times, even an acerbic review, written in spiteful haste, has a hidden truth at its core. If not, no worries—move along.)
2. Is there anything I can do about it?
(Hint: there isn’t.)
3. Who had the wherewithal and the courage to write a book and present it for the world to read (and criticize)?
(Another hint: you.)
So take from each review you read any constructive criticism you can and get back to doing what YOU do. Write. And don’t ever, under any circumstances, comment on someone’s review (especially if it’s to defend your book, your honor, or your ego). Move along. Be an author.
Here’s the one thing I can guarantee you: letting it get to you, and worse, showing publicly that it got to you, will not just make things worse—it will create a tsunami of bad juju. And you’ll be doing the one thing you never intended:
You’ll be feeding the monster.
Never feed the monster. In fact, if I could leave only one piece of advice for anyone—not just writers, but anyone who has been assaulted by those poison pens, tongues, fonts, and minds—it would be, simply, to starve the monster.
Everything needs sustenance. Ergo, if no one feeds the monster, the monster dies.
And regardless of what you might think (or what you were taught in grammar school), when a monster dies, an angel may not get its wings, but the world does breathe a sigh of contentment.
Or takes a leak on the monster’s grave; I can never remember which.
The blank page is dead…long live the blank page.
Author known to use spontaneous satire, sarcasm, and unannounced injections of pith or witticisms which may not be suitable for humorless or otherwise jest-challenged individuals. (Witticisms not guaranteed to be witty, funny, comical, hilarious, clever, scintillating, whimsical, wise, endearing, keen, savvy, sagacious, penetrating, fanciful, or otherwise enjoyable. The Surgeon General has determined through laboratory testing that sarcasm can be dangerous, even in small amounts, and should not be ingested by those who are serious, somber, pensive, weighty, funereal, unsmiling, poker-faced, sober, or pregnant.) For those who enjoy and/or revel in the utterance of profanity, the author reserves the right to substitute “fish” for “fuck” without fear of repercussion, mental reservation, or purpose of evasion.