One characteristic of writing books and getting yourself out there online is that people will review your books. Sometimes, even most of the time, that’s great. But sometimes people will write a bad review and… it hurts. If you’re a graphic artist or musician putting your work out there, I imagine it could be the same, but reviews are expected, I notice, more for the kinds of arts you can’t appreciate at one glance or within a five-minute period. In other words, people review books, films, theater and dance because there is a significant time element involved in getting through the work. If you write a review, then you are influencing how someone else might choose to spend his or her time based on your recommendation. I get it.
But bad reviews suck. If someone writes, I hated this book, so be it. They were motivated to write that review. But if someone takes the time to write specific reasons and then make sweeping allegations about how the book is not naturist, it sucks even more. This is the case for a recent review of one of my novels that I happened to see the other day. It doesn’t make me want to stop writing, but it still gets me down and makes me question why even bother. It also makes me want to try harder, but then again at the same time I know I can’t please everyone – no one can. It makes me frustrated that there is not any chance for a dialogue with this person – they just sprayed their graffiti and checked out.
And it particularly hurts that this particular reviewer singles out elements of violence in the novel. I don’t write about murders or violent crimes. The exception in this case was a kidnapping, but the reviewer in question moves on from that to a litany of awful associations that, if anything, I was attempting to combat in the book, not embrace. The reviewer’s profile, I note, shows that they happily reviewed all sorts of fantasy and scifi novels that somehow seemed to have escaped this person’s wrath regarding violence or gender portrayals. Hmmm…
So, this is my unwelcome holiday gift: a stinky review. And whatever I can learn from it without having unrealistic expectations.