Friday, April 12, 2013

How Bad Reviews can be Good Reviews

Who can not be proud of their story, after all the hard work that goes into it? Us authors really puts ourselves on the line when publication day comes, and we cannot ignore that feeling of anxiety we experience as we wonder what people are going to think of our work. The book hits the shelves, readers have it in their kobos or kindles, then one day, we look and there's a review.

"The book started out great, I enjoyed all the characters and the detail..."

Then, the fateful twist: "...I really felt this author dropped the ball. From page one, the story was set up..."

Disappointment. Worse, reader after reader has something to say that makes you feel terrible. Never mind those good comments they slip in here and there. It's an author's worst nightmare, and brings up the worst sort of self-consciousness, that little voice in your head you tried to shut up when you went ahead and chose to believe in yourself.

There are good reviews - there are always some good ones - but it seems those bad reviews really sting. Of course they do! No one feels as passionate about the validity of a book as the author. After all, you wrote it, you know the characters and the scenes, you know how much darn hard work you put into getting it into shape. How could anyone undermine that?

But a bad review doesn't have to be seen as a bad thing. To the contrary, every review can be used to help you better you craft. After all, aren't you writing your next opus? Perhaps these comments will help you be more aware of things you'd never thought about before. Readers are honest, and though those bad reviews can be hard to take, if you can look at them instead as sincere feedback, then those reviews can be really helpful.

As an new author, I look forward to the release of The Pact this May 6th. I see that a few people have already added it to their Goodreads shelves, and though I've had some happy alpha readers and words of encouragement, I have to admit there's always that little part of me that wonders how it will be received by the general public. It's my first successful story, and a lot of hard work went into it. Having been through four revision cycles, and being extremely satisfied with the final review of the Advanced Release Copy, I really have no reason to doubt.

And I shouldn't. Whatever the reviews, each one gives me a chance to see how my story has affected another person, and that is a wonderful thing. That is the reason I write. I have stories in my head, and the only way they're going to have any use is if I can share them with other people. That process is a craft, and, like any craftsman, I am always looking for ways to do what I do better. What could be a more effective way to hone my skills than to have the input of honest readers?

Let the reviews come. I'm proud of my work, proud of the stories I have to tell, and even if some of the reviews are hard to take, I'm honored by each reader who has taken the time to read my work and provide honest feedback.

After all, writers have a voice that should be respected, so it makes sense that we should return the favor to our readers.

Graeme Brown is a Winnipeg author and junior editor for Champagne Books. He writes epic fantasy, with his first story, The Pact, due for release on May 6th. He is a frequent blogger and a tweeter, and a full-time math student.

Graeme Brown Winnipeg author of The Pact, May 6th


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

I agree with you, but it hurts like...heck.

The thing that hurts most is being misunderstood. I had a bad review for my book about Tahiti, but the ojection had to do with the very thing I was selling: the rhythm of the (French) tropics. The retired military reviewer thought it should be fast-paced. Of course she had the right to her opinion, but I must consider the source. Her life was surely fast-paced. She needed a about in the tropics?

Rhobin Lee Courtright said...

I agree. Yet somehow its very confusing to hear one reviewer say the characters lacked depth and the next one say the vivid characterization made the story. I guess all readers appreciate different facets of a story and writers should just realize everyone will have a different opinion of their work.

Browng34 said...

Good points, guys! One way I like to look at it is from a reader's viewpoint: there are some authors you agree with, others you just can't stand - your taste is subjective. Well, as authors, there are some readers whose criticism is bang on, others who are making their comments because, point blank, they just are not the right readers for us. Our job's the sort the salt from the sand.

Big Mike said...

What is amazing is when three reviewers give you 5 stars with comments like, "I couldn't put it down", "Lost in every word", "Wanted to give it six stars but they wouldn't let me", then you get one that comments,"I didn't like it cause it had military stuff in it.Plus there was too much intrigue and suspense. I prefer simple stories." Yeah, all true. Amazing.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)