Dianne Harman - So You Got A Bad Review?, Jan 12, 2014
When my first book, Blue Coyote Motel, had been out for several months, I was interviewed and one of the questions was “What do you do when you get a bad review?” I flippantly told the interviewer I’d never had a bad review. Well, having now published four books, I’ve gotten a few.
The question is a valid one and certainly one that authors discuss a lot! When someone says something negative about one of my books it’s kind of like saying my child is ugly. How dare they?
I think the most important thing is to differentiate between a snide, nasty one or two star review and a valid low star review. I have definitely learned from some reviews which were negative, but pointed out reasons that person didn’t like the book. Those I can live with. The ones I think are despicable are laid out below:
1. A review that says they don’t like that genre. (Well, why did you ever read it and what gives you the right to review it?) And authors, that’s a good lesson in being honest about the blurb. People expect certain things from certain genres and if they don’t get what they’re looking for, they’ll take it out on you and the book.
2. Why bother writing a review that’s a one or two star review? If you dislikes a book that much, get in touch with the author. Between all the social media outlets available, it’s pretty easy to find the author. Tell the author what you didn’t like about the book and why you would have given it a low review.
3. I have a feeling that a lot of these negative reviews are done so that the “reviewer” (and I use the term loosely), can have, as Truman Capote put it so succinctly, (their 15 minutes of fame.) It may be the only time that the person will ever see their name in print.
4. In Blue Coyote Motel, there is a rape scene and a pedophilic priest. Tea Party Teddy is a satiric outlook at the Tea Party movement in the Republican Party. I have received negative reviews for both of these books and have wondered if the reader took issue with those subjects, although that has never been said in a review, but it may not be politically correct to do that! Even one of my family members said they couldn’t get past the pedophilic priest. My husband was a California State Senator. Two of his detractors gave Tea Party Teddy one star damning reviews, such as “Don’t waste your money.” I don’t think it had a thing to do with the book, but more about my husband’s politics.
5. Interestingly in the sequel to Blue Coyote Motel, Coyote in Provence, there is nothing that is controversial and I’ve never had a low star review on that book. (Please readers, don’t feel that you have to give me one now!) It’s made me think there is something in the subject matter of the books that causes strong reactions and some of those reactions result in a low review.
6. I think one of my favorite stories about low reviews is an author who has consistently written best sellers. The other day she told me she’d received a one star review and could not understand it because the reviewer titled the review with the words “Couldn’t Put It Down” and then went on to say that they’d read it in an afternoon and it was a wonderful page turner. And then they gave her a one star review! Go figure!
For those of you who write books and get an occasional bad review, let it go. Even if it’s a legitimate review, there will always be people who just don’t like your book. Yeah, I know, it’s hard to believe. I think Stephen King is a genius, but I can’t read his books. Didn’t sleep for nights after I read one of his books. Does that mean he’s not a good writer? Of course not. I’m just not wired for his books and I’m sure a lot of people aren’t wired for mine. Now I just say “Next.” I’ll read the review once and that’s it. No beating my chest and telling everyone how unfair it is. For one thing, it just makes everyone else aware of it and want to read the review. The reviewer ends up getting more than their 15 minutes of fame.
For those of you who review books – I’d ask you to remember what your mother probably taught you “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all – or get in touch with the author.”
And one last thing. If all you’re getting is one and two star reviews, better take a long look at improving your writing!