Monday, June 20, 2011

On scathing reviews

Okay, I don't think anyone who's been writing for more than three days expects every review to be as positive and bubbly as a cheerleader's yell. But I've been crawling through the reviews of some authors on the Kindle Boards, reviews of classics, and reviews that authors I'm friends with have received, and there are a lot of blistering reviews out there.

Here's what I'm finding. The people on Kindle boards who are hyper promoting their books and touting their talents are getting hit the hardest with 1 and 2 star reviews. Usually, the complaints are that the writing is amateurish -- which I agree with most every time I see that charge leveled, clunky phrasing, the wrong words used, unclear thoughts, spelling and typos, that sort of thing. I don't begrudge the reviewers those comments, because I'd give the same ones.

There's another kind of bad review that's just a foolish mistake like the dope who reviewed Barbara Elsborg's Chosen and gave it a low mark because she didn't see how the book could be considered a romance. She's right that it couldn't be considered a romance, and that's because it's a suspense thriller. Not much you can do about that kind of review.

I'm not worried about those two types of reviews. If my prose is bad, I deserve a bad review. If someone makes the mistake of not reading the blurb and orders the book without knowing what it's about, on some level I'll actually be flattered because I figure they trust my writing enough to buy without thinking about it.Though, secretly, I'd want to slap them silly.

The other types of bad reviews are tougher because they are more likely to pop up on my stuff. There are readers out there who know science, the military, women, and a whole host of other things far better than I do. I'm doing my best to be true to what I've learned, but I don't have any experts handy who can discuss time travel, faster than the speed of light travel, alien anatomy, etc...Some writers of science fiction are getting hammered over minutia. You know, "This author says that light would be bent around the black hole at the center of Andromeda by 3%, but everyone knows that it's 4.2%. He doesn't know what he's talking about." Hmm. Okay, I guess it's a legitimate complaint (and, no, I don't even know if there is a black hole at the heart of Andromeda), but if a book is spoiled by something that minor, then I'm not sure that reader will be pleased by anything other than technical books. I'll do my best, but I reserve the right to be wrong. And I'm not joining the military just to get the verbiage down. (I'm giving it to my cousin to help me with that, she's a colonel)

Another type of bad review is the unappealing plot. Hard to take, but there's no recourse other than to try to do better next time.

The last type of bad review I saw was probably the most confusing. "The book was exactly what they said it would be, but I didn't like it." I had to shake my head. This, paraphrased, appeared on one star reviews for books like Day of the Jackal, Casino Royale, and The Foundation Trilogy. I read the blurbs on those books, they're not deceptive. Nobody tricked the reader into buying a book by promising that the Day of the Jackal is a deep love story. Yet some dope gave it a single star and complained that it was nothing but one man's obsessive quest to track down a clever would-be assassin. The reviewer said, "That's all it is. I don't see how anyone can like that kind of stuff." Of course, that's exactly what the blurb said it was. I'm shaking my head thinking, why the hell would this guy buy a book that's about something he knows he doesn't like?

Oh well. I'll deal the reviews when it's time, I suppose. Hopefully they make me a better writer.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Fred! Oh the reviews. It's a double-edged sword all right. We want them, we crave them but they are just one person's opinion and often that person can't even spell. I've generally had reviews that I've been pleased with but I get the odd one that makes me scratch my head and wonder WTF? When one reviewer finds the plot extraordinary and another says it's the same old thing - I realize reading the reviews just depresses me.
    Luckily, I don't have much I need to research in my books except the -er - sex. Sorry husband - but I'm talking about unusual sex. In fact I had a picture up on the screen of a male piercing - I'd googled - most painful male piercing and husband caught a glimpse and almost passed out. Darn it, see how easily I'm distracted!

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