The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Okay, here’s the thing. Not everyone is going to like your work. And that’s okay. What’s also okay is the fact that they are perfectly entitled to SAY that they don’t like your work. In the same vein they are entitled to say when they DO like it. But it’s not what they say that is the topic today, it’s how YOU react to it.

Yes folks, we’re talking about how not to respond to reviews. Again.

I’ve addressed this point before (https://clairewriteswords.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/close-your-eyes-and-count-to-ten) (Laurell K. Hamilton, Jacqueline Howett and Anne Rice, I’m looking at you here) and shown you all how an author responding to a review in a negative way can, and does, make them something of a laughing stock.

Rice’s now infamous Amazon rant being a case in point, and how many readers were put off Hamilton’s work for line where she tells her readers that

”There are books that don’t make you think that hard. Books that don’t push you past that comfortable envelope of the mundane. […] Put my books away with other things that frighten and confuse or just piss you off.”

Hmmm. Yes, I’m sure your readers just loved being patronised like that.  It’s not a good marketing strategy really, nor is it likely to actually help increase your readership.

How do I think Hamilton should have handled the negative reviews of her book? By keeping her mouth closed and making sure her next book is better.

I will say though, it can be hard when people are, you feel, being unduly harsh on your books, or, and this is the sad part, when they seem to be attacking you personally. And sometimes rising above that and being the bigger person can be hard.

Lately I was pointed in the direction of, yet another, AM (Author Meltdown) although this one is slightly calmer than Rice’s mammoth beast of crazy, or Howett’s foul language and name calling. But it’s still kinda tragic.

Stephen Leather, (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Stephen-Leather/e/B000APS0ZM/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1), author of some well received thrillers, has been letting the side down somewhat lately.

What’s he been doing? Well, he’s been responding to negative reviews.

Not in a ranty, yelling way, but in a way that is somehow even worse.

Leather has been responding to any negative review (the one and two star ones) by re-posting the five star reviews in the comments.

Yep. You read that right. Don’t believe me? You can read them here – starting about three posts down http://www.amazon.co.uk/review/R2UB3T4MCDILBU/ref=cm_cr_dp_cmt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1612181481&nodeID=266239&tag=&linkCode=#wasThisHelpful

It took me a while to think about this. I mean, I can understand a negative review upsetting a writer, but I’m a loss as to why a writer would want to react in such a childish way. It’s like putting your fingers in your ears and going ‘Lalalalala.’

I get the feeling that Leather is trying to prove that other people like his stuff, and that the five star opinions override the one star ones. And maybe in his mind they do.

But here’s the thing, everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and those people who sat down and wrote a one or two star review are just as entitled to voice that opinion as those who wrote a five star review. At the end of the day they have taken time out of their day to write it.

How should he have reacted?

He shouldn’t.

That’s my golden rule of dealing with reviews. Don’t deal with them at all. Don’t even read them unless you are made of iron, because if they are bad you’ll cry, and if they are all good then you’ll get an inflated ego.

Reviews are not for writers.

That’s the truth of it. They are general opinions that are for OTHER READERS. Writers have beta readers, editors and agents to go to for indepth critiques of their work. That’s not going to happen in 300 words on an Amazon review. And as a writer you shouldn’t take it to heart and you shouldn’t listen to everything your told either.

Reviews are opinions. That’s all. And everyone has an opinion.

So, the moral of this story? Don’t respond. Just don’t. It never, ever helps. At best you alienate your reader and make an ass of yourself. At worst….well…..

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1 Comment

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One response to “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

  1. I’m with you on the non-replying thing. I can understand the temptation to do so but it’s very rarely (if ever) going to reflect well on the writer. And in the case of the authors mentioned, it’s going to make them foolish and/or childish.

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