January 11, 2012 | By: Tracy

Negative Review Drama -- Oh Noes!!

I'm not gonna lie, much as I cringe every time a situation pops up with an author & reviewer having an unpleasant meeting of the minds for all the internet world to see, I can't look away. Like passing an accident on the side of highway, I want to believe I'm better than slowing to gawk at the carnage as it unfolds . . . but even as I drive by, I can't stop myself from glancing at the wreckage out of the corner of my eye (and maybe snapping a picture with my iPhone).

Quite truthfully, I don't plan on reading reviews of my future books unless someone, be it agent, publisher, friend, family or fan happen to point something out to me (and they best only be pointing out the good stuff) in order to try to avoid stumbling into this trap, myself.

As a fellow writer, I can completely understand how a scathing review can cut, and cut deep. It's hard enough to hear someone didn't like what you wrote, but if the review has a potential ranting or snide feel to it (as unfortunately some are wont to do), it's hard to fight the human nature to stick up for something you love.

"Oh really, Mofo, you wants to take it there?"


But if I should find myself or one of my writerly friends facing down a review that scalds, I'm going to do my best to dissuade the temptation to respond in any way by pointing out... a majority of people read reviews to confirm what they already suspect.

Most of the time, people know what books they're dying to read and which ones they have zero interest in. Personally, the only time I go checking out reviews is if I've never heard of the book before (which means I wasn't bound to pick it up in the first place) or, more likely, I'm on the fence about it.

When I stop to read a book review, odds are good, I'm either pretty sure I want to read it, but don't know anyone who has & want to make sure it's not a total bomb with a great jacket or . . . I'm pretty sure I don't want to read it, but there's something about the blurb that keeps me hanging in, and I need justification that I'm not being a stupid idiot & missing out on something great.


It's my belief that, more than anything, is where reviews come in. They offer an unbiased (even if not always objective and balanced) opinion for those people who are on the fence and looking to have their own suspicions verified. Meaning: one bad review from a reviewer is NOT going to make or break your book in the court of public opinion. And it's not worth the hassle and drama -- for us or the reviewers -- to defend ourselves against their right to an opinion.

Now, I ask you all to bookmark this post for me, so I can be reminded of my current level-headedness should the above situation happen to Yours Truly. :D  And, offer up any other suggestions on how we all can avoid the car wreck of inevitable bad reviews.

7 witty remarks:

Stina Lindenblatt said...

What amazed me about the specific cases you're talking about is that the authors got their friends involved. Big mistake. It's not the friends' career at stake. It's the author's. But the friends did a great job of killing the author's career.

Meredith said...

So, so true. It's just not worth it as an author to take on a bad reviewer--it makes the author look unbelievably bad.

KarenG said...

Authors need to stay out of the arena when their book is being reviewed!! Even the good reviews are not there for the author, but for other readers, so best to just go away either smiling or in tears and eat a cookie or something.

Like you, I can't help but observe the train wreck and so I wonder-- Was this particular incident a recent one?

Jen Chandler said...

I've been reading a lot of posts lately about reviews. I've also been giving a lot of though to the topic. Like you, I'd like to think if someone gives one of my books a scathing review, I'll be able to shrug it off, pour myself another pint, and continue writing without letting their anger or negativity get to me. But I know that's not true. It's a delicate balance to be sure, but we must remember that reviews are simply opinions and not everyone is going to have a favorable one of what we do. Heck, if we're pleasing everyone, we must be doing something wrong!

Great post!

Patti said...

I totally agree with you. It's hard not to react to bad reviews, especially if they become personal, but you need to, like you said, have a level head about you and resist.

Colene Murphy said...

I want to believe I won't look at my own reviews should the day come. But I know myself well enough that I probably will until something breaks my heart. Though i know better than to retaliate at least! But you have a good point about why people read them. I'm the same way.

Rusty Webb said...

I've got a plan in place to stalk and berate anyone who gives me a bad review until they agree to retract it. I'm pretty sure my plan is flawless.

Sigh. Reviews are tough. I handed out a pretty rough one, from a big publisher, not an indie, and felt really guilty about it. But at the same time, I do want to keep folks away from that book. It was pretty bad.

And I would be near suicidal if someone did that to me. I guess I'm of two minds about the issue. It's okay to give reviews to other people, but not to me... that seems to work.

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