Monday, March 4, 2013

Book Reviews

I planned a quiet Sunday editing one of my manuscripts and reading a friend's latest. No sooner had I logged in than I started getting a stream of instant messages (IM)  from a fellow writer who loves IMing. I really find it annoying. This time, however, he was walking on the ceiling. Thought I'd better talk him down before he hurt himself.

So, here's the situation. Male friend has just published his first book. He's a thriller writer in the vein (pun intended) of J.A. Konrath. Lots of blood, brain matter, f-bombs. His prose is fast-paced and necessarily rough, as befits his subject matter. He's not for everyone. He's also fixated on every review that comes out.

Fast-backward a few months. Male friend is a professional writing colleague of a female author. I don't know her, haven't read her material and probably won't. It's not that I don't like her:  I don't read historical romances. Never have. Don't know anything about the genre. So, I stay away.

Male friend has promoted female author for weeks, blogging about her book, posting good reviews on all the appropriate social media sites, introducing her to many of his colleagues to secure speaking engagements, even though his genre is light-years different from hers.

When female author asked to help with his promotion, he was delighted. He sent her a free advance reader copy (btw, he bought her book), answered her questions and waited.

Her long-delayed review hit yesterday. And that sent him to the ceiling. She gave it one star. I tried to tell male friend that he should ignore her, since his other reviews have been mostly four- and five-stars, with one three-star from me. Hers would eventually get lost in the noise of better reviews. He was having none of this.

"How could she stab me in the back?" Him wailing.

"Do you know if she has any experience with your genre? Maybe it's just not what she understand and likes." Me being reasonable.

"I want to confront her." Him being unreasonable.

"NO!" Me raising my e-voice.

"But how could she do this to me?" Him wailing again.

"Well, your book isn't for everyone. Historical romance readers will never find it, so you don't have to worry about her fan base. It's not yours." Me getting a little annoyed but trying to be supportive.

"How do I remove her review?" Him getting on my nerves.

"You don't. The first amendment gives her the right to voice her opinion. Your other reviews will cancel hers out." Me grinding my teeth.

"I guess, but we are on a panel together next month. What do I do?" Him calming down.

"Greet her as if you never saw her one-star rating. Pretend it never happened. DO NOT bring it up." Me hearing my manuscript whimper that it was being ignored.

"I'll try, but I just want to rip her face off." Him approaching panic again.

"Don't read any more reviews. Don't check for rankings. The book is out. Nothing you can do will change the fact that you're a published author." Me turning away from the terminal.

"But she hurt me so bad." Wail raised to ceiling once more.

"Oh, get real." Me losing patience and turning off the IM feature.

And that, my friends, is why I never look at my book's reviews or ratings. Now, if male author would just get that message...


  1. Wow! Intersting situation. He clearly gave it to her never expecting her to trash his work. I mean, who would?

    I feel bad for the guy but thinks it says a lot about this author's 'friend', too. I guess if I truly hated someone's book that much, I'd have privately emailed and said I just couldn't get my head wrapped around the characters so would rather not do a review. Nobody would expect her to lie but she certainly went to another extreme.

    As writers, we understand not everyone will love our books...subjectivity is the name of the game in this business. In his case I wonder if it went beyond a bad review, though. More like a case of writer back-stabbing worthy of a cozy mystery! Sure, we all have our own opinions, but I'd never do that to another author. I know what hard work it takes to write a book, even one that might be medicore by my standards.

    He's lucky he had you to tell him to step back, though. To jump in with his anger would only make it worse.

    Nice post.

  2. Okay, that? That was sheer poetic beauty. Hysterically funny poetic beauty, nonetheless. Sharing immediately so everyone I know in the ether can laugh their butts off. :)

    Fyi, you rock. Just sayin'.

  3. I don't normally get upset about 1-star ratings, but if I'd been pushing someone's work and she turned around and gave me a 1-star, I'd be pretty ticked off. Better she send him a private message and say the book just wasn't for her. In the end, though, he's better off just moving on.

  4. It is just one review. Maybe his style of book was not her cup of tea. One thing I have realized is that not everyone will like your work. You have to take it with a grain of salt and move on.


    Straight Dope: A 360 degree look into American drug culture is out now -

  5. I do check my reviews and respond to the reviewer with a thank you, even if the reviewer did not like the book.

    This is a good example of why you should not review a book in a genre you genuinely do not like. If you accept a book in a genre that is not one you normally read in, then evaluate the writing, not the genre elements that you don't care for. I turn down review requests when the book is something I would never read, nor would my followers.

  6. Bottom line: Every book is going to receive an occasional 1-star review. A quick hop over to Amazon shows 101 1-star reviews for "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone".

  7. Good stuff! I've not received a review yet but now I know how to handle the bad ones.

  8. I also thank one or two star people for their reviews, but I don't click the helpful button. If I know a person and that person gave me a one or two star review, I would be offended. Better if they said they don't read that genre, or even if that person refrained from doing a review at all. I only do reviews on books I like. It sounds like she's a taker. She got what she wanted.

    Morgan Mandel

  9. well, it's hard for those of us who feel some insecurity not to look at reviews, but that is very good advice. Reviews don't change friendships, no matter what someone thinks of your writing. You aren't going to change to please them and you can't please everyone. Life is filled with one star reviews.

  10. Since she is a friend, perhaps he could send her a private email and ask her what she didn't like? Perhaps there were glaring editorial problems that could be fixed. But he'll never know unless he asks. Or, maybe that one star was a typo? I know typing reviews from a kindle keypad for me can be tricky, and I need to double check everything before I send it. At the very least, by asking, he'll learn what the problem was and avoid repeating that mistake in the future, if there was a mistake in the first place.

    If it was simply a preference issue on a reader's taste and she didn't like the writing even though it was fine, then I would agree with Morgan that the review should not have been done. I generally don't review genres I don't normally read.

  11. Oh, my goodness. It's bad enough these icky reviews show up from strangers, but for someone to take, take, take and then do something like this is truly bad form. However, the best response is no response. And if it comes up, be ready to shrug and say, "It's no big deal. I don't pay much attention to reviews."

  12. Hi everyone. I'm new to BBT Cafe so...
    I've made the mistake of reading my reviews and agree with Betsy...Don't! She's right on the money that some people immediately won't like what you write. I wonder why they take the time to read the book and then trash you publicly. But then I remind myself that everyone has different tastes and needs. There's an old saying, "any publicity is good publicity." I commend Betsy for taking the time to talk to her friend.

  13. I do read reviews but not regularly. I will take any review because typically it means someone read the book. :) I've also learned from comments about things people didn't like. However, I would never give a bad review, especially to a friend. Glad you kept him from the edge!
    W.S. Gager on Writing

  14. Very funny post, you are an amusing writer. The man's friend was wrong, wrong wrong. He HElPED her and she did stab him in the back. If the book was so bad (to her) that she had to give it a 1 star, she should have contacted him to tell him. And then excuse herself from reviewing. The woman has a problem if she needs to hurt someone so badly. He deserves a 2 star alone for getting the book finished!

  15. It really is better not to read reviews, if you can get away with it (me, I like to know). And a bad review will get lost in the good reviews. After all, sometimes a bad review will steer people away who wouldn't have liked the book in the first place and this is a good thing. Yet, I definitely think there should have been more tact involved considering everything the one author did for the other.

  16. The best part of this was your reaction to him feeling sorry for himself way too long! I was hysterical. Having been a professional artist for more years than I want to confess to, I know one has to build thick skin in an artistic endeavor.

    I definitely enjoyed this and hope to make the time to read more of your blogs etc.

  17. Thanks for sharing this interesting and educative information. I think many writers will find your contribution very helpful, I have equally learnt something from it.
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