Sticks and Stones

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.

6 thoughts on “Sticks and Stones”

  1. As seen through their own lens. People’s remarks will mirror their makeup. I find people who are deep in fantasies don’t cope well in reality. The ostrich’s head in the sand. People who demand more in a book must be lacking in that “more”. More fantasy feel good and less realities. More free nudity and less restrictive nudity. More happy life and less harsh realities of life. Keep writing my friend. Allow your book’s realities flow. Some will swim with the flow, some will go against the currant, some will head for the safety of the bank, some will drown. Thus is life.

  2. Absolutely. Shit happens and bad reviews happen also. 1-star reviews happen.
    The weird thing is, though, that everyone gets those. Look on Google or your favourite search engine and see that famous books like The Handmaid’s Tale, or ‘The Great Gatsby’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald got piss-poor reviews too.

    I know that doesn’t make it easier to chew down that bad review, especially for a wrong reason. I once had a 1-star review because the book wasn’t free, go figure.

    Trying harder isn’t going to ward off bad reviews. This is a big world, Will, but no matter where you stand, you will stand on someone’s toes. Keep walking. Keep writing.

    1. That’s a great phrase about standing on someone’s toes – thanks, Paul! And yep, I came to that conclusion as well – trying harder can only be for my own sake.

  3. Unfortunately, not everyone will like every book, so one star ratings and reviews happen. It is best not to comment on or acknowledge any such reviews (or the five star ones either). The only time I have broken that advice was when someone left a one-star rating for my novel Life Models on Goodreads the day before the release date. There was no way he could have read or even seen the book, so I had to comment on it. There was no review, of course, just that rating.

    1. Thanks for the comment and the tip, D.H. – I agree. And that certainly was odd that someone would leave a one-star rating before your book was even available. Some people get their kicks that way, I guess, but it’s hurtful to us.

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