Bad Reviews

Correction to the previous post: I don’t read 200 blogs (at least, I hope I don’t). I just had 200 blog posts to read. 

I’m stealing Shiloh Walker‘s title because I don’t have the Title Gene and it’s a perfectly good title for what I have to say.

I rarely want to give out bad reviews, and when I do, it’s because the book made me bang my head again the wall.

Sometimes it is voice, pure and simple. I cannot stand LA Banks‘s voice. There are others, but thankfully, they have faded from my memory.

And I think I put more weight on voice than most other readers. I write as well, and the rare author who can switch off my internal editor is a very precious find. It is damn near impossible for those rare authors to do any wrong. A few others could get there sometime in the future, and they are unlikely to ever drop out of my Must-Buy list.

So I do try to mention things that I think will or could make me biased against or towards the book.

It’s different when it’s a plot issue. I know I really get into it when it’s a plot issue, because it’s something I can sink my teeth into. And once there’s One Thing that sticks in my head, I find another and another and another. Unfortunately, I know it’s going to be bad once I find that One Thing, but sometimes, I can’t stop myself from finishing it anyway, which means I find another and another and another. It’s like a trainwreck: the momentum is so great, you can’t stop it.

And sometimes, it’s really sad because I know I could enjoy this book, if only I hadn’t found that One Thing–that’s what happened with Summer Devon’s Invisible Touch.

But Shiloh’s post had more to do with how authors respond to reviews.

My post is rambling on to: how should reviewers respond to authors who respond to reviews? Especially bad reviews?

I’ve said this before, I don’t want flame wars on this blog. Which adds another layer to the conundrum.

I could just ignore comments, but that seems rather aloof, even if it is the prudent thing to do. I do try to do the prudent thing sometimes, which is why I’m not going to be the one who outs that author, who, btw, is out on the internets doing stupid things. Some will say it’s cowardly, and that’s probably true.

There should be an etiquette book for reviewers–Jane, you game to write it?


13 Responses to “Bad Reviews”

  1. June 9, 2007 at 2:30 am

    ;o) well, May… that is one way for an author to NOT respond to a review… lol.

    I keep telling friends that authors need an online etiquette book.

    oye, the dumb things I’ve seen….

  2. June 9, 2007 at 2:33 am

    oh, btw… author response to reviews….

    This is one of the times I have to say, if you can’t say something nice… listen to Thumper’s mama. Don’t say anything at all. Even a bad review, all you say is thanks for taking the time. Hey, at least the person picked your book to review. That’s better than the books they didn’t pick up, right? If they liked it, if they didn’t, it’s all opinion and they are entitled.

    And before somebody emails me offlist…again…yes, i’ve had my share of bad reviews and yes, I hate them, and yes it sucks. But I’m not going to throw a fit over it. The world doesn’t end. The computer doesn’t suddenly cease to function.

  3. June 9, 2007 at 4:36 am

    Lol — regarding reading 200 blogs; I actually do. It isn’t as bad as it sounds though, because I use an RSS reader (Google’s) and it gives me the new posts as they appear. I know several people who bookmark pages and — damn, if I did it like that, I’d have no life. 😛

  4. June 9, 2007 at 12:45 pm

    Like every author, I’ve had bad reviews.

    The thing is, not EVERYONE is going to like your book. Just like every author has her/his own unique voice, readers come to every novel with different filters and different perspectives. Some readers might take issue with certain aspects of a book that others breeze by, or maybe even love.

    That’s just the way it goes.

    I try not to take bad reviews personally, (unless the review itself gets personal, but that’s luckily never happened to me). Reviews are for readers, not authors. They can sting, though. I mean, I AM human. That’s why I try to stay away from most the reader’s boards, ect. Those are for readers to talk honestly about a book, but I don’t necessarily want to know what they’re saying about mine. 🙂

    I write the best book I can, send it out there, promote it, and hope it does well. That’s all I can do. The rest of it is out of my hands. If I get a review that really chaps my hide and I feel a need to vent, well, that’s what friends are for…(the ones out of the public eye). I’ve never had that need before, but I’m sure one day I will. It’s a part of being an author.

  5. June 9, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    So what if the author you dont’ want to publicize — what if it was someone who lived in her house and used the same computer? Would that be less gruesome or just as bad? I guess if the “I know this person” note isn’t added it’s still gets filed under despicable.

    You’re a writer so what happens when you get published. Will your gears shift? I didn’t think mine would but whoowee, it’s impossible for me to do the hatchet job now (I always rather enjoyed doing them). It’s not just that I can see the food being snatched from young mouths and all. It’s the karma thing.

  6. June 9, 2007 at 12:54 pm

    food snatched thing = joke. ha, ha.
    Hey, speaking of serious issues. I hate not being able to see the blinky cursor thing on your reply boxes.

  7. June 9, 2007 at 2:33 pm

    Not everybody will love my books. Even people who love my books might not love ALL my books. That’s just life. (Did you know that scientists who’ve studied the brain have said ours are all so individual that it’s a miracle we can communicate with each other at all? It’d be beyond hoping for that everybody would like all the same things.) “Thanks for reading, sorry it didn’t work for you” pretty much covers it, I think.

  8. June 9, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    Bad reviews suck. But you know, there are child soldiers in The Sudan. Things exist that are far worse than someone not liking my books.

    Generally, I thank reviewers even if the review wasn’t wonderful. Someone did take the time to read my book after all and I appreciate that. The only time I don’t respond is if it’s personal or nasty. And so I don’t reply at all because I don’t have a responsibility to be gracious when someone is an ass. I do have a responsibility to keep my damned mouth shut in public and keep my bitching private.

    We all have preferences! It’s what makes the world such an amazing place. Art is totally subjective. My keeper is another person’s DNF.

  9. June 9, 2007 at 4:52 pm

    LOL Shiloh! I don’t know about other people, but I think I would have just slunk away in silence and sing to myself “Everybody hates me, nobody loves I think I’ll just go eat worms” a few times.

    Nonny, I do. I took a deep breath and took a peek, then added my LJ friends to my Google feeds.

    Anya, I hope I can do it with as much grace as you do.

    Kate, I would agree, except that she had the audacity to respond to those comments, and she made it sound as though she didn’t know them at all. See above. I said I fully expect to get back what I served out to others when I get pubbed. In that case, I might as well go all out. And the cursor? It shows for me on my screen.

    Charlene, hey, we even have scientific evidence of our subjectiveness!

    Lauren, to be honest, I don’t expect a comment on any of my reviews from the author–I don’t NOT welcome it, but well, we’ve seen the trainwrecks so I’ve reason to be wary, especially when it’s bad.

    So here’s another question: Do you expect a reviewer to respond to your comment? Even if it’s just to say, You’re welcome? Or would you prefer us not to respond? (whether the review is good or bad)

  10. June 10, 2007 at 4:09 pm

    Sometimes I don’t reply at the website or blog (unless I’m already a commenter on some level) and I’ll just email my comments.

    I don’t expect people to contact me back. After a certain point it’s awkward – and the back and forth seems forced. I don’t mind if people reply, it’s nice and all, but it’s not necessary and I’m not going to be annoyed if they don’t.

    Oh wait, well I have a caveat – once a review made comments about timeline issues and some editing problems. I had just gone through galleys and I wrote to ask what the problems the reviewer saw were because I hadn’t seen them and if they were there, I’d have wanted to catch them before the book went to print. A response in that situation is always wanted!

  11. June 11, 2007 at 5:19 am

    A bad review is one that gives no information that will help either a reader or a writer. Bad reviews say “I hated this book” or “this book sucked” but not what or why. To that I have no public response (plenty of private muttering, though.) Nor should any author (or reviewer) who wants to be taken seriously.

    There is no reasonable response to a bad–especially a mean-spirited–review or author response but to shrug and pretend it isn’t there. Don’t apologize and don’t argue.

    To a review–even a negative one–that gives valuable information about the book either technical or artistic, the response should be either silence–since you can’t possibly read every review–or a polite note saying “thanks.” If they made a point that may be useful to you, go ahead and ask them about it. As Lauren said, sometimes the timing is perfect to improve a WIP or as a note for the next time.

    I doubt any of us are such polished artistes of the pen that we don’t think we could improve–and if we do think so, maybe we aren’t such very polished artistes…. 😉

  12. June 11, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    bad reviews suck, absolutely. I have a very, very few blogs I read regularly and comment upon — if I’m pointed toward a review at a place I don’t read or usually speak, I may comment. I may not. I don’t always feel comfortable jumping into a conversation about my books, whether it’s good or bad, if I haven’t already made the acquaintance of the blogger, so to speak. But I do always try to send a private email thanking them, esp. if they’ve let me know they reviewed a book.

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