Fat Mogul vs. The Bad Review

borrowed from blog.returnpath.com.  click the pic to see how they used it.
borrowed from blog.returnpath.com. click the pic to see how they used it.

I have to admit that in my relatively short time as a published author, I’ve been incredibly lucky with the reviews I’ve gotten.  I say lucky because no matter what my books might deserve for reviews, every author gets those horrible ones from time to time, no matter how good their stuff is.  Just a quick look at Amazon’s page for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone shows that even the infallible Ms. Rowling herself can rack up some strong opposition.  Granted, out of the almost 9,000 reviews she’s got on there, only about 500 of them are 3 stars and under.

Most of my friends in the author world have received some rather horrible reviews thus far, causing me to cringe slightly whenever I go out to check how my review status is going, knowing that any moment could be the one where I finally get that blast of 1 stars that state their absolute distaste.  I don’t cringe because of the fact that I don’t believe my books deserve such attention, in fact, I’m quite surprised at how well the reviews have come through.  I’m just not sure I’m ready to read them.  I’m fairly thick-skinned…but I’m also somewhat obsessive.

In fact, I’ve received a few negative reviews…which I’ve definitely scoured over in deep thought about whether or not I want to take them to heart for much longer than I probably should.

In (even more) fact, I actually did receive one 1-star review..on a limited release short story I did for The Defenders Saga called Dominion of Evil.  It was a little short story I put together rather quickly just to give a slight glimpse into the history of that world, but was really just intended as a special gift because of how grateful I was for how well the release of that book went.  I didn’t want to keep it out for long, because I realized that it could be confusing for those who haven’t read the actual book (which, when you’re offering the book for free, can be most of them).

Here’s my single 1-star review (as of this moment…I’m sure more will come):

I’ll start with what I liked about his ebook. That would be the font.

To describe this ebook as a story would be stretching the definition of the word, since it provides no background story, very few descriptions, way too much dialog, and incoherent sentence and paragraph structures. It’s almost as if the author was certain that every reader would be familiar with his work and would know the characters intimately – sadly that wasn’t the case.

I tried so very hard to like this ebook, but there really isn’t much to like. Other than the subject matter (super heroes); I cannot tell you much more about it. For instance: I cannot tell you what the character’s super powers are, what the heroes look like, what their uniforms might be like, what where their lair is located and what it looks like, who the nemesis is and where he came from or what his powers are… because they’re not defined in any way, shape or form. If there was a story line to this ebook I must have missed it – it doesn’t even contain a fable. It’s almost as if the story was written in shorthand and transcribed by an archaeology student.

But please, don’t take my word for it. This is just my opinion and your time is yours to do with as you wish. I’m just peeved that I can’t back get the hour I spent “trying” to like the story.

Now, to be completely fair, most of what he states here is completely valid.  It’s actually the exact type of thing I would have expected from someone who read the short story without reading the actual book….and I can’t help but believe that he did read the story, considering how much it’s exactly what I expected…except when I looked at how he rated other books, I found that he used this almost exact review for three other books that he rated on the same day.  Bad reviews are something that are difficult to take entirely seriously, although they must be taken in review to some degree.  For someone to mark something as a 1 or 2 star, well, there’s a certain about of unhappiness that has to back that up.  There are only a few books in my lifetime of reading that I honestly believe deserve a 1-star rating…and just a couple more that deserve the 2.  Maybe this story was one of them…it definitely has the problem of not making much sense without the rest of the source material.  And seeing as it was intended as a companion piece, not a marketing piece, I can see how such a visceral response might have come into play.

But that’s exactly the game that an author gets to so easily with bad reviews, trying to determine if they were marked down for some ulterior motive (you see, there are many authors out there who get folks to 1-star other similar books in order to help their own rise to the top), or if it was how someone really reacted to the book.  Unfortunately with all of this game play that goes on among independent authors, your feedback isn’t always seen as being genuine.

Now…where I take things a bit more seriously are with the rest of them, the ones that I’ve actually gotten.  The Legend of Buddy Hero is my most reviewed book, which is understandable, seeing as it’s the first, and has a bit of a name growing around it.  If you read through the reviews, you can see that although it averages a 4.5 star ranking, most folks like to take a moment to discuss something they didn’t like about the book.  One states that the paperback version is too heavy.  A few talk about how they wish the ending was expanded.  And one even discusses how he wishes the book were more like other superhero novels instead of like a comic book.

Some authors take issue with such notes, which I can understand.  I mean…the guy who wished it were like other superhero novels, well, he’s missing the point entirely.  But knowing that gives me a better perspective on where my readers are coming from.  As well as a better understanding of how genre readers work in general.  The person who talked about the paperback being too heavy, well, she may be right….I haven’t actually spent any real about of time holding the book up in my hands for a read.  Unfortunately, I’m locked into that size for this book, and the rest of the series, seeing as I’d like to keep them looking similar for bookshelf purposes.

And the ones about the ending…well, to be honest, I agree.  There’s reasons for the ending to be the way it is, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be better….

I find bad reviews both a blessing and a curse.  As I review my reviews, I come up with ideas on how I could have done things differently, realizing that I shouldn’t (at least at this point) change things too drastically in already published books.  But I use that information moving forward to try to allow more of my books to appeal more openly to more people.  I don’t expect my books to have mass appeal, and I’m not going to change them to meet some trend.  But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.

So keep bringing on those bad reviews, whether they are 1-starred or 5…or anywhere in between.  I’m more than willing to hear your thoughts…even if they’re direct to me, instead of in a public forum.

After all…how else will I learn, right? 🙂

Have fun out there!

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