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18 July
2012
BadRedhead Says Viewpoints
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Bad Reviews Suck…and Why I Don’t Care

 

By Rachel Carsman Thompson, Founder of BadRedhead Media

Let’s talk about reviews, shall we?

We’ve all read instances where an author acts poorly in the face of a one or two-star review. It’s usually referred to as ‘authors behaving badly,’ usually for good reason.

Writers are generally sensitive, artistic types. We slave over our computers to pound out stories that will not get out of our heads. It’s a lonely occupation, even with the advent of social media and blogging because the ideas, the writer, and our medium are solely what bring our stories forth.

Then…after we’ve paid for editing, proofreading, graphics, and formatting (hint hint), we upload our books and wait. Martini or Nutella in hand, we wait.

What if people love it? What if people hate it? What if what if what if? (I do recommend using betareaders for a bit of loin girding.)

And so it goes.

Well, guess what: some will love it. Some will hate it. As anyone who creates art can tell you, no work is universally loved.

Most of us accept this, perhaps grudgingly and with a certain amount of angst. Then we move on. More to write. Right?

We’ve all certainly read books we’ve hated. I even threw out a CD once because the music was so incredibly god-awful, I couldn’t bear to deal with the hassles of returning, so I broke it and dumped it in the bin. And it felt good!

Why then are authors behaving badly? Or, are we?

Authors Behaving Badly – Defined

I’m of the camp that believes there are some authors behaving badly. Why?

I hear the argument frequently that one poor review will affect sales much more than ten positive reviews (though I haven’t seen actual data). And perhaps that is true. Yet, accept that when you write a book, you are putting yourself out there for any scrutiny or criticism people want to heap upon you. You are no longer the lone author in your office, tapping away to your iTunes playlist. You are now part of an established tradition and community, and you will be schooled in hard knocks whether you want to be or not.

You don’t like everyone you meet, right? Sometimes a person disappoints you, or isn’t interested in what or who you are. That’s life, baby. All artists must develop a hard shell to criticism, as a form of staying true to our own vision as well as not allowing others to manipulate our emotions. It’s been my experience that the authors who doth protest too much might want to look at what they’ve written instead. There could be merit. I’m not saying there will be; I’m saying there could be. (Example: some people object to the use of hashtags in the one-sentence intros of my second book, Mancode: Exposed. I read them. I changed nothing. But, I’m aware that the use of this tool annoys some. #ohwell.)

Peer Reviews

I, personally, would never write a scathing review of a fellow author’s book, knowing the effort we put into writing them. That said, there is a lot of crap out there (just as in music and in art), and though I’m an avid reader, I’m not a reviewer by practice, so I don’t feel comfortable advising someone else on what I believe they should have done (which I think is rather presumptuous anyway). I will email them with changes or suggestions if they’ve asked.

Meaning, I don’t review books as a book blogger – simply as a reader. I believe those who are book bloggers or professional reviewers should adhere to some guidelines (as many amazing reviewers do): review the book, not the writer; offer suggestions for improvement; point out inconsistencies or annoying tendencies; I would hope editing and grammar had already been looked at but worth pointing out if the author missed something in the process. Etc.

And yet, not every reviewer, reader, or book blogger ascribes to that. I’m often shocked at the horrible things people say that have nothing at all to do with the work itself.

(There are rumors now that Amazon will remove author to author reviews, unverified purchases, and other inappropriate commentary. If that’s the case, great. So far, there’s nothing in their official guidelines about it {though it’s been supposedly mentioned on their Facebook page}. I’m thrilled to see them taking steps to verify and set up better quality control.)

As writers, it’s our job to learn from these reviews; what we did well, what needs improvement. And move on.

Poor Reviews

Sometimes, a person will have a viscerally negative reaction to your book. They hate it with every cell of their soul. It happens. However, I have very little respect for negative reviews that attack the author personally or use inappropriate names, labels, or make judgmental statements regarding the author’s personal life. (I speak from experience. People often make these types of remarks about who I am as a person. Remember this: readers don’t know you. At all.)

But…do I feel it’s worth reacting? No way. For all the time you spend agonizing and righteously whining over that one poor review, you could have written five chapters of your next book.

What to Do

So, is it then, a waste of time to read our negative reviews, if controlling our emotions about them is more difficult than moving on? That’s up to each writer, of course.

I read all my reviews. As I said, I never respond (though I do pull anonymous quotes from them occasionally for the entertainment value, ‘trustafarian dewdrop’ being my current fav).

Negative reviews actually legitimize your work. Many people look at a book with all four and five-star reviews and say, “Friends and family,” though (from my experience), that’s rarely the case. This is hard for most authors, especially new ones, to understand. I know it took me awhile!

Breathe. Relax. It’s just ONE review. (Wait til you have received ten, twenty-five, even fifty! Vodka helps.)

Bottom Line

I write my books with my vision. That is my success. If people buy it and hate it to the point of writing a one-star review, at least I’ve elicited an emotion and that, my friends, is a win.

What if someone recommends others not buy it? Don’t care. I have faith that anyone who is truly interested in me, my book, or my work overall will be intelligent enough to make their own decision, find out more about me, or move on. The sheep that can’t make their own decisions probably won’t enjoy my work, anyway.

Final words: Reacting defensively to a poor review reminds me of kids fighting in the schoolyard over something that seems monumental at that moment, yet which they will forget about within minutes.

You dig in to make your point, fight with everything you have, and guess what? Nobody remembers anything about your book anymore. They label you instead.

If writing is your profession, be professional. Name-calling and drama is fun for some, and if you think it will sell you more books, knock yourself out.

Truly, please. Then we won’t have to listen to you anymore.


About Rachel Carsman Thompson

Author Rachel Thompson is a successful self-published author and social media/branding consultant. Releasing her first title in January 2011 and her second in December, 2011, she’s sold nearly 15,000 copies of A Walk In the Snark and The Mancode Exposed combined. Snark hit #1 on the Kindle Motherhood and Women’s Studies lists last September, and in 2011 Mancode placed in the Amazon Top 100 Paid list as well as number one on the Parenting and Family list. She will release her next title, Broken Pieces, this winter.

Thompson has over 18K followers on Twitter, an expanding presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, and several other channels. Her blogs at RachelintheOC.com (author site) and BadRedheadMedia.com (consulting/social media site) allow her to personally connect with readers. Give her a shout!

Thompson is the Blog-To-Book expert for Triberr, and her articles have been picked up by Catalyst Partnership, Business2Community.com, 12Most, and other popular social media sites. She was chosen by BlogWorld as one of twenty-three bloggers to watch in March, 2012.

 




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