Wednesday, September 24, 2008

About Bad Reviews

Kay Byer had a great blog post recently suggesting that one way to deal with bad reviews was to do a flamenco dance. She accompanied the post with wonderful dramatic pictures of herself swathed in red and black, ready to stomp those reviews (or possibly those reviewers) into the mud. A great idea!

Some writers say they never read reviews - good or bad. Probably that's wise. But I have a real feeling that most of us are compelled to -- even when we see the vultures circling and landing on the carcass, we still have to go look to see how bad the damage is.

The first really awful review I got was on Amazon by someone who called her or himself a 'mystery author (though I couldn't find any books written under this name.) He or she fumed: I picked this paperback up at the library because I thought it sounded interesting - well, I couldn't read it! The narration goes backward and forwards in time. Some of it is all interior thoughts in italitcs, no delination as to who's talking, no quotation marks! Oy - I gave up after about 30 pages. Once again, the author ASSUMES one has read the previous book and refers to things that the reader has no clue about! Does ANYONE edits these things??????

I loved the "Does ANYONE edits these things" as well as the misspelled "italitcs" and "delination" But aside from that, the review made me feel really bad.

It would be wonderful to cultivate a bovine indifference. I can't do it. I kept going back and re-reading, like picking at a scab. Then I noticed that this reviewer had written well over a hundred reviews -- almost all equally vitriolic, only one positive. And in most cases, the "reviewer" hadn't finished the book.

I still felt kind of bad so I wrote a little fantasy where I was having coffee with Karin Slaughter, Laura Lippman, and Jodi Picoult -- all big name writers who had been savaged by this reviewer. I remember Jodi crying on my shoulder, 'This person is just so angry! Why do they have to be so mean?"

Karin and Laura didn't cry; Laura just kept ordering one skinny latte after another and Karin scowled and tore her napkin to bits.

This fictional bonding was fun and made me feel better. But when the second awful Amazon review showed up -- for a different book and from another person who not only called my book "absolutely dismal" but also gave away part of the plot, I tried something else.

There's a very unpleasant character in In a Dark Season who shares a name with this reviewer. And, oh my goodness, did I have fun making her unpleasant.

Yes, I can be petty.

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Susan M. Bell said...

That's not being petty. That's being a writer. (Don't they say to write what and who you know?)

My friend Chrissy McVay recently had a brush with a bad/mean review of her book on Amazon. She understood if the person didn't like the book, but what upset her was that they gave away the ending. After complaints from other friends who saw that, the review was removed by Amazon.

You can't please everyone, but it's just plain mean for someone to give away key plot points...espeically the ending.

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Hey Vicki, I'm back from my trip down south to see my mother, and I agree with Susan----a writer can't be anything but what she is.
We put ourselves out there as writers, so why shouldn't be be "petty" sometime or other , if reviewers are being petty about what we write? I think we should form a flamenco dancer club. Wouldn't that be fun? I wouldn't mess with a tough flamenco dancer, would you? K.

Vicki Lane said...

Chrissy was smart to get that spoiler review removed -- I thought about doing that with mine but at least it wasn't the ending so I just let it go.

Welcome back, Kay! How about flamenco dancers in the Skinhead's 'bovver boots,' big old Doc Martins?