Thursday, March 31, 2011

Authors and Negative Reviews

It seems there has been a lot of drama going around the blogging world lately.

Normally, I don't post about heated topics. I'm highly allergic to drama and angst (Except in stories, of course), and I learned long ago that you really can't change people's minds about anything, so why point that spotlight on yourself? But, in light of the recent author/blogger drama on twitter and facebook, I felt compelled to add my two cents to the mix. So, this is my own opinion, garnered from the years I've spent as a writing professional, on Authors and Negative Reviews. Future authors and writers, this is especially for you, not to scare or scold or threaten, but just as a gentle caution of what to expect.

NOT EVERYONE WILL LIKE YOUR BOOK. This is a certainty. No matter how compelling, no matter how innovative or brilliant or well-written, no book can please everyone one hundred percent. If you don't believe me, find your favorite book or author and check them out on Goodreads. They will have 1 and 2 star reviews, just like everyone else. Some people will adore your book, some people will just think its okay, and some people will loathe it and want to burn it and scour your name from the face of the earth for writing such garbage. And it's okay for them to think that. They are entitled to their opinion. Really, that's all a review IS: an opinion. Which brings us to the heart of this matter...

YOU ARE GOING TO GET NEGATIVE REVIEWS. If you are an author, and you put your book out there for the world to read, you are going to get bad reviews. Sometimes, the review will be thoughtful and well-done, with the reviewer citing what they liked and didn't like about the story. That's the best kind of negative review, but it doesn't always happen that way. Sometimes the review will be snide and hateful, as if the reader despises you personally and says all kinds of ugly, unkind things about the story you've put your heart and soul into. Its amazing the things people will say on the internet that they wouldn't dare say in real life, but it happens. This is why many authors I've spoken to stay far, far away from Goodreads. Because Goodreads is brutal on authors, and some of us would rather not know. So, now that you can expect at least one negative critique of your book, how does one respond to such a review? What should an author do in the face of such bad press?

NOTHING.

Let me say that again. NOTHING.

At the very, very least, you can email or post a comment thanking that reviewer for their time in reading and reviewing your book. Then you go and rant to your best friend, or your hubby, or your dog. You do not take out your hurt and frustration on the reviewer. You do not leave a comment on their blog, defending yourself and your book. You do not tell them how wrong they are, and that they must have misunderstood your writing, and that everyone before them has given your book steller reviews. Because it doesn't matter. You aren't going to change their opinion--again with that word OPINION--and you are only hurting yourself and your career by acting in such an unprofessional manner.

Yes, I know. Negative reviews hurt. They downright suck. Believe me, I've gotten more then my share, and its not fun reading "Julie Kagawa, you give fairies a bad name." (Actual review.) I know your book is your greatest achievement, and that you've come far and struggled so hard to get it published, and you should be very proud of that. I know its hard when you wrote the best story you could, went through all the heartache and uncertainty of getting it published, only to have a virtual stranger put it down like its nothing, like we don't have feelings and it doesn't tear us apart every time someone is cruel. I know its unfair that we can't defend ourselves.

But that's the world of authors and reviewers, and the only classy way to respond to bad reviews is graciously or not at all.

Thankfully, there are many out there who will love your book and your stories, and those reviews will be wonderful and glowing and make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. But, if you are to swim these treacherous waters of authordom, you must also be prepared to lose a little blood, as well. This is just fair warning, take it from someone who knows, and start working on that thick skin. And a sense of humor can help tremendously.

So that's my two cents on authors and negative reviews. Comments and discussions are welcome. However, any mean, ugly, or hateful comments will be eaten by the gremlins.

Julie

29 comments:

  1. Julie, I want to say this is very well done! I totally agree, as a reviewer I don't love all the books I read, but I try my best to do the "bad" reviews in a well written way, because you know what..I may know someone who WILL like it, or a blog follower may like the book. I never tell people NOT to buy a book. Why, you ask, because my review is only MY opinion. I can't speak for anyone else.

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  2. *sigh* this is really a tough subject but you brought it right to the point. Of course it hurts getting negative reviews, I can only try to imagine how vulnerable every author must feel when putting your baby(=book) out there for everyone to criticize.

    I gave books 5 stars no one else did, I gave books a negative review all of my friends loved. It is how it is, every person is different and looks at your book from a different (and very subjective) angle.

    Also, I can honestly say I don't like writing negative reviews because I just know I'm talking about someone's baby, but.. bloggers blog and write reviews for readers and not for the authors.

    In addition, sometimes a negative review can also help increasing the buzz about a book, especially when readers are conflicted and actually start discussing. This ends in people getting even more curious about said book and might buy it.

    What I want to say, even such a negative review , if handled professional without getting personal can help. However, one should never ever get personal in a review, period.

    Rant and rambling out!

    2 thumps up for this post Julie!

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  3. This is the best advice ever when it comes to negative reviews. Or, reviews in general. At first I was shocked at what I saw online, but now I'm saddened for a particular author. Thanks for posting this. It's a great reminder and advice to those of us praying to make it.

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  4. This post really helped me prepare myself Julie. Thank you for this "warning". Even though I'm still an amateur writer, it's like a common knowledge to me that not everyone likes your books, or in my case, drafts. My heart is burning in rage about the reviews I've read from Goodreads. I mean hey! What’s "good" 'bout it? So ironic. Anyway bad things aside. Your books gave me fantastic dreams that I'm not having for a long time. And for that I'm really, really grateful to you Julie Kagawa. Your books inspired me to write, to imagine and to dream again.

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  5. And then we have the reviewers who misuse their power by lording it over authors that they are allowed to say whatever they like. It's like they're saying "You're my b*tch now, Author".

    But yes. I agree with you. Once it's published, it's no longer yours.

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  6. I love this post Julie! Thank you so much for posting this, as I know this is a very sensitive subject.

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  7. I always feel like authors have a pre-publishing thick skin. Because they torture their characters, put them through horrible conflicts and vicious monsters. There are amazing good parts - the boy gets the girl, the girl saves the world from destruction by gremlins, etc. But there are bad parts and an author has to sit there and write (sometimes, however, with glee) horrible scenes and death and destruction. Characters lose blood.

    And for that, the author has to, too. People always say not to dish what you can't take. And while I definitely wouldn't want to be facing evil fey creatures, like in your case, you kind of have to apply that same suit of armor and just work your way through the bad reviews and end up on top writing, right? It's not easy, obviously, but what about writing is? It just has to be worth it in the long run. Does writing that one scene of victory, and the feeling it leaves you with, equate the readers who actually GET the book? Because I think that's a lot stronger than negative reviews.

    Great post, Julie!

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  8. WELL SAID. I avoid Goodreads like the plague since one poor review can trump a dozen good ones and put my creative processes through the blender. I still need the reminder that I'm not supposed to have everyone in love with my book. It hasn't happened to any other author, even the great ones, so why me? Great post.

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  9. That's a good response for something you didn't want to get involved in. I heard about this through another website I follow and couldn't believe the author's response. Quite frankly, that made me not want to read the book. There's always someone who will write a nasty review just for the sake of crushing someone else, but you shouldn't respond to that. *sigh* When will the world grow up?

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  10. *Pushes imaginary "like" button for this blog post*

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  11. Very well stated. As a reviewer, I always find something I liked about the book, and try to state who I'd think would like it. There's always someone out there who's going to love a book I might not have cared for. Just because it didn't appeal to me as much doesn't mean it won't to someone else. It's a matter of being tactful, kind, and backing things up. And I never, ever, ever, ever get personal. That's just nasty and inconsiderate. Too bad there are people on both sides of the issue who take things to extremes.

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  12. You couldn't have said it any better. Thank you for posting this. =)

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  13. Very nicely put, Julie. It's a hard lesson but an important one all the same. As a reviewer I have to admit that writing negative reviews is difficult but I think you bring up an excellent point, never say something online that you wouldn't say to a person's face. My favorite moments are when I see people coming together online with respect and joy over something. Rudeness never adds something to the universe. Thanks!!!

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  14. Yes, well put! Thanks. I actually brought up a similar topic recently in a school visit--in talking to some high school students about writing and publishing, I mentioned the reality of rejection letters, and reminded them (and myself!!) that, just like a reader isn't going to like every book they pick up, editors aren't, either. :) And, in both situations, professional courtesy--on both sides--goes a long way.

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  15. Although I despise some books so much, I feel obliged to write positive reviews as I know how much effort and time, heart and soul, theauthor has put into the book. And especially when it's a debut when they've had such a rollercoaster ride to begin with by finally getting it published.

    I guess it just comes to the type of person writing reviews. I'm really generous and empathetic mostly because I feel I am not betraying my own self and how I want to be treated even though it is only an "opinion".

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  16. I know how much negative reviews can hurt, like getting kicked in the stomach. Sometimes you just want to shake the person and say, "Did you even READ the book?!" But alas, one cannot do that through a computer (I hope).

    Then there are the moments when you get 5 star reviews, and you feel like jumping up and dancing around the house like you just escaped a mental hospital (not that I have ever done that...*sheepish laugh*)

    So, I guess I'll just have to give you a good review here to make up for any bad ones you got in the past. I LOVE THOSE BOOKS!!!! Not only were they well written, but you managed to make a whole cast of characters that seem to come alive, and I can't help but love all of them. Keep up the good work, and I can't wait to read the Iron Knight (who couldn't use more Ash?). Oh, and by the way, if Megan ever breaks up with Ash, I call dibs :)

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  17. Thanks for the advice, Julie! I think negative reviews only really suck when the reviewer is being impolite, which is totally unnecessary. But, that's gonna happen no matter what. Being gracious, or just remaining silent for even the rudest review is the only way to make sure you minimize the damage it can have on the book's success.

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  18. Julie your an awesome writer and no one can take that power away from you. Not even the Winter Queen and her cold fingernails can touch you for it will burn her (even though your not made of Iron...I hope not). I loved the book! Let me just say it was so good, I read the first book in five days (I feel so proud of myself *gives self hug*) Yeah and don't let the critic critics stop you from writing one. You're a writing warrior and need to stay within your writing clan (maybe I'll join you and amazing writers someday *eyes twinkle*). We will always be on your said thorough thick and thin because you rock! The most important thing to a writer is your fans (like I am now). So congrats to you,I'm a new follower! (Also, I just have to say I think Puck is so funny and he is a lovable character. I feel a little sad for I don't know why... I need to get being happy again. *smiles* Thats better)

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  19. Whoops, some errors that I hate from using the computer: It was suppose to be writing on not writing one. Also We will always be on your side through thick and thin because you rock. Finally, I feel a little sad for him I don't know why... (rest of sentence look above). Yeah, just wanted to clarify that.

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  20. This has to be one of my favourite responses to negative reviews ever! :)

    I agree with you one-hundred percent -- there are always going to be people who dislike your books and feel the need to share how awful they think it is with the world, but we can't expect there not to be. Everyone has an opinion. Honestly, I think that sometimes the words that critics use are way harsh. But it is how it is, and for the writers to try and defend themselves isn't a great idea (especially defending themselves in degrading and unpleasant ways to the offender). If we want to be a writer in this world -- or even in the Faery world -- then we have to get used to the controversy. We have to take the good with the bad in stride.

    I want to be a published author too, so I really think that this is great advice for people like me. Thanks a bunch! But just so you know: My opinion on your books, Julie, are completely positive ;)

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  21. Michele (CanadianTwiMom)April 2, 2011 at 2:59 PM

    It's great that you brought this subject up, Julie! I think this also serves as an excellent reminder to those who DO offer reviews, that it's unnecessary to be so hateful when you are reviewing a book you didn't particularly like. There's a way to offer your opinion without being so hurtful towards a piece of work that the author put their heart and soul into. Unfortunately, the internet is almost anonymous so some people hide behind their words.

    I've resisted the temptation to even argue a friend's opinion on a book I've loved because it's their opinion... like Julie said, you can't change that, and not everyone will like the same thing no matter how well the book is received in general. :)

    Good job, Julie!! :)

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  22. I remember asking you this very question in the interview you did for my blog. :)

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  23. I began writing a story in high that I let one of my closest friends read, and she ripped it apart. I stopped writing after that, after her savage review I didn't have the courage to let anyone else read it.

    After reading this, I've pulled the notebook out of the closet and blew the dust off. It needs some heavy editing, but I think after reading this, well and being much older now, I can finish writing it.

    You're entirely right. Maybe I was too young to see it then, but now... yeah. Well see what happens.

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  24. Wow everybody seems to love this blog. It's a nice blog.Thanks

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  25. As Danny says, sometimes bad reviews can make people curious!

    I just found you, Julie, after reading another one-star review of my memoir posted today and then googling "negative reviews of an author's book." And that is how I found your blog. Amazing! And I see from Google Friend Connect that you have been around bloggerland for some time and that a great many awesome people have stopped by to meet you! And that you're also a published author whose books I will now take a look at it. (BTW, I NEVER trash an author's books or the author her/him self. As one commenter above said, I also try to objectively consider the book. And if I think it's really bad I just don't write a review.)

    I had told myself and my disabled daughter that I wasn't going to read anymore one-star reviews. But I did this second one -- but this time I just laughed. So...another personal attack. I emphasize personal. I, the narrator, am the most awful mother in the world! Well, so be it.

    I think I needed to come over here to be in some truly thoughtful company. I had "heard" that yes, you should say NOTHING in response to a bad review. Actually, this is sometimes the best way to respond to certain kinds of attacks in life -- and being almost 72 years old I think I have definitely learned this, finally. Hasn't been easy. I was once, and probably still am somewhat a very shy person; and don't we, shy or not, want people to like us? It's true. You've written a book. Some people will hate it. I tell myself there are many friends AND strangers who love it. I have looked at reviews of Stephen King's and other famous authors' books, and am comforted knowing that they too have one-star reviews. Yes, it's very true that we can't please everyone. And as you say, Julie, they ARE just that -- OPINIONS.

    I feel SO much better. Thank you SO much for this post. Were you somehow whispering in my ear as I was searching for comfort? I am now a devoted follower!!
    Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror & Other Memoirs

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  26. p.s. I just downloaded your novella Summer's Crossing and read a few pages. Fantasy has never been my favorite thing, but I'm impressed with your writing and shall read on!!

    AND, just wanted to mention that the one star reviews of my memoir mentioned above are on Amazon. I had "heard" on some other blog that Goodreads, as you say here, is BAD. So...since I've never spent my time on Goodreads anyway....

    Hope you're having a great week, wherever you are. Cheers! Ann

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  27. What!? Someone actually posted that?! The iron fey is my life, I can't remember a time before I was obsessed with the iron fey and I don't want to.

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