Note: each quote is from a different review.
Once a writer publishes his novel, people are liable to read it. Upon doing so, some of them may come back to his book page and post their thoughts on what he wrote. What they think is largely outside an author’s ability to control; while he can work as hard to craft the very best novel he can, striving for depth of narrative, and to create striking characters and a compelling world, inevitably some people will find his effort lacking.
“One of the few books I’ve ever had to abandon.”
Reading a negative review is never fun. There is that initial shock as you realize that you’ve been hit with a 1 star review. A moment of morbid curiosity as you click over to look, akin to slowing down to stare at a car accident. A sensation of dull disappointment as you read the critic’s words, strive to understand why they disliked your novel so, to see your work from their point of view.
“The whole book was like a run on sentence. The ending was the worst, like the author missed the deadline and still didn’t know how to end it, so made up some more crap and bam, you have a lame ending. It is so laughable, I want my money back!”
When you finish reading the review, your first instinct is to immediately navigate away, to close the window, to make the words vanish. But they linger like a retinal afterimage, hovering in your mind’s eye. The tone. The energy behind the words, whether it’s amused contempt, sharp derision, boorish intolerance, or cruel barbs.
“The writing is also very clunky and nonsensical in some parts. For example, one passage went something like this – “She saw people. Who were flying. In the sky. With. Wings. Of. Fire.” (this was NOT an actual passage in the book, but it’s very close.) The author’s period use was way off. I know what he was trying to do – place pauses for effect, but he did it all wrong. Instead, it was distracting and puzzling. I had to read a couple passages two or three times to even make sense of them. Note to author – don’t use punctuation effects if you don’t know how to do it effectively. “
Now, a part of you know that this is how the game works. If you put your work out there, you will get bad reviews. Your work can’t be everybody’s cup of tea; in fact, given how you feel about many other popular novels and television shows, you fully realize that you actually don’t want your novel to be loved indiscriminately by everybody. At least, your mature, adult mind doesn’t. But that part of you that’s still six years old, that dreamed of being a successful author, that part doesn’t listen to reason, doesn’t care about logic. Instead it just feels confused and upset.
“Action packed but more like reading a comic book without pictures.”
What’s an author to do? In the end, nothing. You can’t respond without making things worse. You can’t delete the reviews, nor should you try. After all, regardless of whether you agree with them or not, each reader is absolutely entitled to their view. In the end, you can only ignore them if they are poorly written or displaying ignorance, or try to absorb something useful from them if they are well written and cogent.
Or you can take heart from your positive reviews. The following came in a couple of days ago. It was a wonderful ray of sunshine through the low hanging clouds of recent bad reviews:
“My attraction to Throne began with the description. As curious as I was to read it, I was also slightly apprehensive concerning the treatment of such a loss; within a few pages, however, that apprehension disappeared. Regardless of whether or not Phil Tucker has ever experienced or been witness to such grief, he captured the extreme range of emotions perfectly. I felt as if I were reading my own story…with a few extra mythological beings.
Although I’m a sci-fi/fantasy junkie, I’m also a nerd for the classics; I enjoyed seeing a well-written modern take of the journey through the underworld, the loss and restoration of humanity, the crossover of the spiritual and mundane realities, etc. There are times when the story becomes quite graphic, especially during the battle, but the gore is necessary and not overly-theatrical.
I encourage everyone over the age of fifteen who can read sentences, ranging from simple to compound-complex, to read this amazing book.”
Bad reviews are a part of this game. They’re going to come. The fact that I’m getting mostly 5 star and 1 star reviews says something, I guess. I’ll let you decide what. But either way, I think the best thing I can do is try to ignore them. Enjoy the good ones, ponder the bad ones, and then forget them both. Because in the end, what I’ve got to put my energy into is writing. Focusing on my next novel. Improving my skills, challenging myself, striving to do better.
The reviews will keep coming. I’ll keep writing. And so it goes.