Lipstick & Danger

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Bad Review Kills Author

20130626_074420-1This might sound absolutely ridiculous to some, especially if you aren’t a writer. We all write reviews for products, hotels, restaurants, movies music and even books. These are part of our culture now and we depend on them because we are busy people. Wasting time using, visiting or paying for something that is of poor quality rubs us the wrong way. So when does a review cross the line?

Obviously if you are purchasing a product for your child and it falls apart on the first use, then that is a serious problem. This may be a safety issue and you, of course, want to warn other parents. Cars suffering from a number of mechanical problems pose dangerous scenarios for the general public and we owe it to our fellow man to offer caution. I’m sure you understand all of this. No explanation necessary.20140718_191829-1

Then there are other products like movies, music and books that we may or may not purchase. Many of these can be rented or borrowed from the library without much investment. Having said that I want to encourage you to think twice about the reviews you post, especially for authors. Your words affect whether or not the next person gives the book a try. So what if you don’t like it? Stop reading it. Just like your unique tastes in reading, you aren’t going to like everything. The next guy might love it. Let me offer a list of why this is important.

  1. Novels take 4-18 months to write.
  2. Hunting for a publisher – 12 months or longer
  3. Self-publishing – 3-12 months
  4. Editor – $350 or higher
  5. Formatting – $350-$600
  6. Cover – $65-$150
  7. $100
  8. Books you buy for book signings: $$$$$$$ A lot!
  9. Marketing – Even if you have a traditional publisher you are most likely told to do 70% of your own promotion. Lots of time.
  10. Marketing materials like bookmarks, postcards and business cards
  11. Expected to have a website or blog which can also add up
  12. Travel for book signings
  13. Workshops, conferences and writing organizations to become better at your craft. More money.20140718_192028-1

The other day I checked out some of my reviews. Out of 55 I had three that were not so great; ranked 3 stars. The others were all 4 & 5 stars. Awesome remarks. But those three stuck with me. My feelings were not hurt so much as it caused a sense of lost, of disappointment because I’d worked so hard to entertain readers. Rather than feel sorry for myself this is what I decided to do.

  1. Read all the reviews one by one. This was an ego boost.
  2. Thought about how to improve next time.
  3. Read reviews of other authors I liked; especially the bad ones. Made me feel like I was in good company.
  4. Moved on. Chances are the people who wrote those couldn’t write a book so I’m already way ahead of the game.

In parting I’d like to offer a little advice; if you don’t like a book please remember that someone worked really hard to make it happen at great sacrifice. When I find a creative endeavor that falls below my expectation I decide if I can’t say something nice then I won’t say anything at all. I know it isn’t hurting anyone. Maybe you could recommend they try the library copy first.

6 Responses

  1. I don’t think a 3 is a bad review, because it’s average. And what one person likes might not suit another person. I won’t review if it’s less than a 3 because I’m not going to finish the book anyway. I’ve actually emailed authors and told them I didn’t feel I could give it a good review, so I didn’t want to review it. Bad reviews do hurt people, BUT a bad review won’t stop me from buying it.

  2. This is excellent advice. I typically only review books I can give at least 4 stars. I know how much work goes into each and I’d rather not discourage a fellow author.

    I personally don’t mind if a 3 star or less review comes through *if* it is about something other than their personal taste. Did they feel the formatting was off, did they find too many mistakes or glaring plot holes or did things feel forced and stilted? These are reasons to write a negative review, but not because you personally disagree with a writer’s choice of subject or simply didn’t connect with the characters. Those things should be left for other readers to decide for themselves.

  3. When I read a book with huge flaws: plot holes, poor word usage, weak writing, I will compose a negative review. In my head. That review never goes public. Why? Well a review is my opinion. If you were to ask me my opinion I’d be happy to share but I’m not so arrogant as to think my opinion is any more valid than yours or anyone else’s.
    Mind you, if I LIKE a book you bet I’ll share that positive experience.

  4. Great post – and a good reminder.

    I think the review that stung the most for me was one about the first book in a series. The reviewer commented that certain threads were left hanging & said I needed a better editor. There were threads left hanging – they they were subplots started on purpose, because they lead the reader into the next book in the series. In hindsight, I wish my publisher had included the first chapter of the next book in the first book. Something to let the reader know I’m not an idiot, there’s more to come.

  5. I try to point out the positives in my reviews. Thanks for pointing out how much effort and money authors put into their books. I never knew until I became an author. Also, be glad you have 55 reviews! That’s impressive! I have three reviews on mine, luckily all 4 or 5 stars.

    1. Thanks for your comments. I am very pleased with the number of reviews. This is another area where people just don’t understand how important those are to a struggling author. I’m very fortunate. I hope you’ll visit again.

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