As writers, we have to accept that bad reviews are inevitable. No one book can appeal to everyone. Bad reviews are an occupational hazard.
As writers, we are also not entirely unintelligent, and we understand that reviews are for readers, not for authors. Therefore, authors need to accept that whether good or bad, reviews are a valuable tool for other readers to discern whether a particular book is worthwhile or rubbish. In fact, we like the odd bad review, because statistics show that these validate the good ones that have been submitted. As a result, we appreciate every review – constructive criticism included. A negative review can influence an author’s future projects, and help them to grow and develop as a writer, producing work of a finer quality as they learn from their mistakes.
For example: A constructive criticism pointing out that using British English for a novel set in America is distracting, is something a writer can learn from. Similarly, if a reader feels that a story “felt rushed” toward the final chapters, an author can address this and make an informed decision with regards to improving this shortcoming. Character development and plot lagging are very real concerns and bringing these to an author’s attention will not only NOT offend the writer, but will be taken to heart and appreciated.
While I wholeheartedly agree with an honest review policy, there are a few key points I think reviewers should keep in mind before tearing a book to shreds. Writer’s work hard, make no mistake about that. And when we receive a review that is just plain MEAN, it grinds us. One liners such as: “Worst book ever” or “That’s four days of my life I’ll never get back” are kind of pointless. WHY? Explain yourself, so that we and other readers can UNDERSTAND.
Do you not suppose, given that this is what we DO, that we couldn’t best you in a war of words? Really? Of course we could. But we don’t. Because it is inadvisable to do so and because, to quote George Carlin: “Never argue with an idiot – they will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” As George is, amongst other things, a writer, I can only assume that he was referring to stupid critics that spend more time trying to insult an author than in writing an honest review.
And so, writers simply shrug off these harsh, utterly pointless reviews and proceed with what they love to do: write. But let me let you in on a little secret. A writer ALWAYS has something to say. Not replying in print takes every ounce of our self-control, but you can bet your ass that in our heads, we have a whole lot to say in return.
This blog post is pretty much what we would say, if we could:
Dearest (Bad) Reviewer,
Firstly, I must congratulate you on your extraordinary ability to remain sour for extended periods of time. I am sure that this must take some effort on your part, maintaining the delicate balance between perpetual bitterness and scathing sarcasm, and for this, you must be duly applauded.
There are a few points I feel I must mention in order that you “up your game” and grow as a reviewer. (YES, dimwit, I AM reviewing your reviews…stings a little, doesn’t it?)
Spelling: If you, as a reviewer, cannot spell for shit, then perhaps you should not comment. It makes you look like an idiot. Authors use spell check – if you want to compete on an even playing field, perhaps you should do the same.
Criticising other reviewers: Starting your review with: “I can’t believe how many 5 stars this book received because it is so dreadful” is hypocrisy. If you feel that your review is honest and your opinion matters, then it goes without saying that this rule applies to your positive counterparts. Do not judge them, and we will not judge you.
Abbreviations: Peppering your bad review with OMG’s and WTF’s does not make you clever or funny. It makes you stupid. If we can type out 100,000 words, surely you can manage three or four.
Freebies: If you are too cheap to pay for books and insist on only EVER downloading freebies, then you should never leave a crappy review, because while the book may have been bad, you are cheap. And cheap trumps bad, every time.
Using the word Hate: Hate is a very strong word. It should not be applied to an object. If you order a steak and it is not to your liking, you simply “don’t like” it. You don’t HATE it. This is dramatic and far too emotive for something as simple as an innocent book. Save your hatred for rhino poachers and serial killers. They deserve it far more than any book.
Do your research: Read the blurb before the book. Possibly a few other reviews, seeing as you are so quick to post your own. This will tell you whether a book is sad, funny, suspenseful, etc. If forty seven reviewers have claimed that a particular book reduced them to snotty, blubbering mess, then the chances are this book won’t have a happily ever after.
Sex: I’m terribly sorry that sex scenes bore you. Sadly, EL James’s “anal-fisting” is a hard act to follow. After 50 Shades of Grey, sex will seem boring. While I am sure when you were hanging from the chandeliers last night while your husband burnt himself with cigarettes and did unmentionable things to you that us mere mortals can only dream about – sadly, writing about sex is harder than doing it. As an exercise… have sex. Then write about it in intimate detail and let ten of your friends read it. I bet they won’t have the same earth-shattering orgasm you did.
And finally, I am truly devastated that you will not be purchasing another of my books in future. I did so look forward to another review from you that would make me want to slit my wrists.
Now, obviously this letter will never be published and will be forever only in my head. But seriously – the next time you write a review, try and be objective – and bear in mind that for every crappy, scathing, utterly unhelpful review that is written, there is an author out there, taking the moral high ground.
Now that that’s out, I have to say that in researching this blog I read a whole bunch of 1 star reviews on Amazon & GoodReads and I am impressed with the effort that some of these reviewers put in! I haven’t laughed so much since that time my kid got stuck in the toilet. To give you an idea, here’s a link to a creative 1 star review:
Happy Tuesday everyone!
Originally published on Melissa’s blog.