I believe what should be considered rule number 1 in the book of rules an author should live by is “Never attempt to defend your book in the face of a bad review.” I’ve written/read many reviews over the years and there is only one thing I’ve seen that can make bad review even worse, the author attempting to debate it.
Bad reviews are going to happen. I’ve said it here time and time again. But if you attempt to coerce the reader who claims to have had a bad experience into believing they actually did have a good experience, well, it just ain’t gonna happen, and you, as the author, are going to appear petty and afraid of criticism…you’ll become a target, or worse, completely ignored.
I mean, what can you honestly hope to get out of debating whether or not a bad review was deserved with the person who wrote it? Are you going to make them feel bad for writing a bad review and have them change it? Maybe, but you probably shouldn’t expect that person to consider reading one of your titles again in the future…or recommending you to their friends. In fact, if anything, you’re bringing reason for them to talk about you to their friends, but in an incredibly negative way.
I’ve ranted and raved (mostly inside my own head) time and again whenever I’ve seen authors fall into the trap of trying to reason and rectify a bad review, instead of recognizing that it’s just a simple part of the artistic process….not everyone’s going to like you.
But I’ve talked about all this on here before, and even quite recently. What I’m here to tell you is how I almost became one of those people…<gasp>
This past weekend, I received my first official, will be on my record for forever, bad review. You can read it here, if you’d like. (I’d suggest it, seeing as it’s short and I’ll probably comment toward it a bit here, possibly in confusing ways…more confusing than usual, maybe).
My beloved book, the one I think is pretty damned solid, the one I believe everyone should just plain adore, The Agora Files, was given a 2-star review. I came across it about the same time I finally realized I wasn’t going to make that one final sale to reach my sales goal for the month of August (another silly thing for me to get worked up about because August 2014 is officially, by far, my best selling month ever).
It’s a simple review, one marked, initially, with hope that the reader might have actually enjoyed the book, but that nothing was actually resolved…at least, nothing truly was resolved…there’s a lot of subtle character-type things that are resolved, but, well, yeah, I’m not defending, just trying to make a point about how stupid defending a book can really be.
Review made simple…”I hated the ending…worst than Lost.” Okay, so maybe he didn’t reference Lost, but I’m gathering the disappointment in resolution was probably similar. And it should be. That book ends on a cliffhanger, one that I honestly feel bad about in many ways and have apologized to more than one reader who has announced disappointment with where it left off.
But my immediate reaction was, “2-stars! 2-stars because the book doesn’t resolve everything in the first book in a series?!?” Yeah, that good old anger portion of grief, I know. I was stupid. I was disappointed. And most of all, I was quite hypocritical, because I’ve been anxiously awaiting the impending bad review, knowing that I wouldn’t be considered an author until I officially got hit with it.
There was probably some denial in there, I would assume. But what came next was the bargaining. Yeah, I suddenly realized what the problem was for this reader and knew that I had the information which would make them okay with how things ended. I knew what would fix those stars! I would tell him, make sure he was aware, that there’s a second book on the horizon, first draft just finished and everything, and this one (although honestly still not quite resolution filled) gives tons of answers and creates more questions and keeps the story flowing along its intended path through the second act (that is the second book) toward the final and third act, which I believe will be a glorious masterpiece of perfection wrapped up in a resolution filled paperback (or ebook, should you prefer).
I had the answer, and since he left the review on both goodreads as well as Amazon, I had a method with which to deliver it…
I’m being completely honest here when I tell you that I had goodreads open, ready to comment on the review, when I realized how completely stupid/hypocritical I was being, aided in part by a little message from the goodreads team which says pretty much precisely the same thing I’ve said to every author I’ve seen do this for forever. “Don’t do it!”.
It’s actually a pretty adorably worded message from goodreads saying things like, “Yeah, we get it, you got a bad review. It happens. It sucks. Commenting on the bad review, however, is the worst thing you could do. Of course, maybe you want to do it anyways. If so, please click this extra button showing that you are of the proper mindset (ie not drunk out of your wits) to send such a message.”
Sure, I can reason with myself and state that it’s not such a bad thing to tell the person that it’s the first in a series and that all will be revealed in due time. But I’d be wrong. The person has made their mind up that they didn’t enjoy the book and for me to attempt to tell them differently, well, it’s stupid. And for me to use their bad review as a place to market future books, well, it’s bad form…it’s against author etiquette, in my mind. And I really can’t believe that I was so close to doing it.
As far as where I am in the stages of grief following a bad review, well, I’d say I’m somewhere between depression and acceptance…not quite in either camp fully at the moment, but, you know, doing alright. I mean, I do feel pretty great that the lack of an ending is all he commented on…after all, it doesn’t have an ending….he’s not wrong. And I can’t really fault him for not being wrong.
And…although it’s a very small part, there is a small part of me (tiny, infinitesimal) that feels a bit of glee to have finally gotten the bad review that I’ve been waiting for. I’m not stupid enough to believe it’s the last, but the first is a necessary band-aid-ripping-off type of pain that an author needs to become the cynical *-hole that allows him to continue writing long after anyone wants to hear from him/her anymore.
I’d like to believe I’m that *-hole. Some may say I’ve been him for years.
Have fun out there!