Monday, 30 January 2012

Authors, take it on the chin

I recently stumbled over open complaints about negative reviews. Authors who either felt the need to educate readers or who felt personally insulted by the reader in question. I say reader here, because Amazon reviews can hardly be described to be professional. Though called reviews, they are merely readers' opinions. Nothing wrong with that, if only authors would understand that they are exactly that: opinions. And although I understand that receiving two or even one star 'reviews' is hurtful, there's no reason to go and whine openly about it.

Above: screenshot of the reviews I've received in the UK for Excuse me, where is the exit?
In many cases, if the book is well written and in general liked, the person reviewing it had a bad day at work, was left by the partner, didn't have regular bowel movements, whatever their reason, they had to take it out on someone.
In some cases, if the book is mediocre to bad or unreadable, those opinions are valid and important to the potential new buyer. That's what they are there for, by the way, despite the common misconception of authors thinking they're for them and therefore demand constructive criticism. I argued on one of the threads to think about how one goes about it personally. When I hated a book back then, in the days when I wasn't an author, I would've told my friends, 'Man that was utter shite, bored me stiff. The main character is just not right in the head. Don't buy it.'
I wouldn't have told my friend what the author could've done better. Why? Because I didn't care; I was a reader, a consumer and when that particular book didn't do its job, I moved on to the next.
It's rather ridiculous to demand anything from a reader. He or she already bought the book and spend valuable time with it, so him or her writing down what he or she thought of it, is a bonus, not something they have to do. To argue back or complain about it, doesn't really work in the author's favour, I would think. I for one would steer clear of giving an opinion, even if asked.
I received my first 2-star review today and guess what? I grinned, partly because I feel complete as an author now and partly because I knew it's going to happen after my post on Amazon was deleted. It's probably just a payback review for daring to speak my mind.

Besides, a mix of reviews is a good thing. It's natural that not everyone loves your book; some didn't get it, some didn't like it and then there are those who are completely taken. So no reason to complain and in case you have more negative than positive reviews, then, well, then back to drawing board.

So, authors, chin up, the next one might be five stars and the sun will shine again.


  1. I couldn't agree more. As a writer, it's really nice to get nice reviews. But those reviews aren't for me. Those reviews are for other readers who are looking for something to read. They want to know what other readers like them thought of the book, not what the author and her friends think of it.

    To me, getting one and two star reviews is still a good sign. It means that I connected with the reader. Obviously not the way that I wanted, but something I wrote stuck with them and made them think that they had to talk about it.

    1. True. Although I will never understand why people feel the need to finish a book they didn't like. I have friends like that. I'm rather impatient, if a book bores me, I move on to the next. And I only feel really compelled to write a review when something is absolutely pinning me down in the seat and I can't put it down. Only then will I really talk about it.

      I wrote reviews in the very beginning, but gave up soon.

    2. Elle I love the way you view one and two star reviews... I will now look at low ratings as something positive... Stella loved the post and you are correct; a review is only one reader's opinion about the work.

    3. Hello, Alm, nice to see you stopping by :-)

  2. As writers, we have to have a thick skin. Not everyone who picks up your book is going to like it - that's life. We all know and accept the fact. So complaining about negative reviews is a pointless exercise. Like your post's title says - Take it on the chin, and move on.

    As for reviewing the work of our fellow writers, I don't necessarily aim them at the reader, or the author. Far better to just say what you feel about the work in question.

    If you knew you weren't going to like a book, why buy it in the first place? That's the reason we all read a couple of pages first surely. :)

  3. Jack, you hit the nail on the head. Every book we buy is a risk. It may have us laughing, crying, sitting at the edge of our seats; it may leave us disappointed and that's only our very own feeling we're entitled to tell everyone who wants or doesn't want to know.

    I don't review fellow writers' books anymore. Not on Amazon, unless the writing impresses me so much that I need to tell others and the author.