One of the biggest benefits of traditional publishing, I have found, is promotion. While I have had some modicum of success promoting my work as a self-publisher, there is only so far I can go on a fixed and meager budget.
|Also having a professional art department |
design your cover is a pretty nice perk, too.
Venture, though, was able to do quite a bit for me in that department: they gave the book a free give-away, then kept it at a reduced price for a few weeks to drum up word of mouth. They then blasted the Twitter-sphere with seemingly nonstop tweets directing readers to my page on Amazon, and encouraged all who downloaded the book to write a review.
Now as we have said many times in this group, reviews are the most important thing a reader can do for a writer. Yes, just as (if not more) important than actually buying the book. That's why we have free and reduced give-aways periodically. Your review literally helps us get our books seen by others, especially on sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
|But we also really dig it when you buy our books, so keep doing that, too.|
And Venture Press did me proud, I have to say. While the first volume of Guns of the Waste Land had languished around nine reviews for a couple of years, within weeks of Venture's promotion push, I had garnered a whopping 61 reviews and they are still trickling in.
Most of them have been positive reviews, and I am glad. I'm certainly glad to read them and feel good about my abilities as a writer. However, there have been quite a few negative reviews as well, and that's what I want to talk about today.
That being said, though, negative reviews can be hard to take, regardless of how much they are outweighed by the sheer number of positive reviews. Ernest Hemingway once slapped a critic in the face with a book because of a bad review. Isaac Asimov claims that writers fall into one of two groups: "Those who bleed copiously and visibly at any bad review, and those who bleed copiously and secretly at any bad review." I tend fall into the latter category.
Many authors opt not to read their reviews at all or at least to avoid the bad ones, lest the experience sink them so far into the morass of self-doubt and despair that they never pick up the pen again. However, I think that most of us can't help ourselves and, like trying not to look at a a car wreck, we cannot stop ourselves from taking a peek.
This article is for those folks, my people. The writers who work a bad review like a mouth ulcer or a bug bite scratched until sepsis sets in. Even though we know we will regret it, we read the critique and worry over it for days.
Well I am here to help. If you're going to read the negative review, you may as well understand them. Bad reviews fall into three categories and you need to know how to handle each of them.
Believe it or not some negative reviews can actually be a good thing. Statistically speaking, having a some one- or two-star reviews actually helps your sales. If everything is four- or five-stars, a reader might be dubious, and suspect the reviews are from friends, family, or others who have a vested interest in making a sub-par work seem fantastic. Not every reader is going to love your work because not every reader's interests are your interests. Having a few negative reviews, then, gives a reader a more well-rounded view of a works strengths and weaknesses.
As a writer, honest, well-thought out reviews can help you in your craft as well. If something doesn't work for a reader, and more importantly doesn't work for several readers, it may be something that you need to tweak for your next project (or in the case of self-publishing/print-on-demand, something you may consider for updating the files).
Take for example the following negative reviews of Guns of the Waste Land:
Or take this one:
These types of reviews give you food for thought, so the best thing to do is consider the ideas presented and decide for yourself how much of them to internalize.
Unfortunately, not all reviews are as helpful as these.
Some reviews attempt to be constructive, but they just kind of aren't:
And the truth of the matter is the book probably isn't their cup of tea, and they don't know why, and that is perfectly okay.
Sometimes they know exactly why it's not their cup of tea:
|Though, to be honest, I do not recall blaspheming the name of Jesus at any point in the book.|
Or these folks, who apparently take issue with the fact that the book is the first in a series:
Even, here though, the readers did not realize the whole purpose of the book is to set up a series. They clearly did not want to invest in a series, and that is perfectly fine.
There is nothing you can do as an author to improve your work with these types of reviews, so the best thing to do is to ignore them and keep writing.
And then we have...
These can be just be hurtful reviews whose main aim is to ridicule the author for not living up to the reviewers admittedly vague idea of what good writing is. They differ from the previous two reviews in that they often include hurtful language whose only goal is to make sure the offending party never dares to pick up a pen again:
These reviews have no real aim other than to shame the writer for deigning to enter a realm the reviewer still hasn't had the guts to enter themselves. They want to make the author feel as bad about about him/herself as the reviewer feels about his/her own life decisions.
The best thing to do with these reviews is to ignore them. Or remember that both The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Great Gatsby have their fair share of crappy, hurtful reviews, too.
Others just make no sense at all. They are pure word salad, as if someone gave Sarah Palin speed, set her in front of a keyboard and said "Go to town!"
I hope this has been helpful because it has amused the Dickens out of me.