Monday, April 17, 2017

The Power of a Bad Review

I've been debating to broach this topic for a couple of weeks now, but I decided if I don't let it go, it will eat at me and possibly cripple me for the rest of my life. Having no one to discuss this with in "real life" who could possibly understand, you guys are it.

I generally check my Author Amazon page a couple of times a week. I check my stats, and then reviews just to see if anything is happening because I don't get many reviews, so when I do, I'm excited. Even if it's a bad review. At least someone is reading my book.

So, I checked. And I got a 2-star on several books (several books) from the same reviewer. It seems she purchased my boxed set on KU because it's free for KU subscribers. Not only did she leave the reviews on the boxed set, she decided to leave the reviews across the board on each of the individual stories. Nine (9) stories total.

Now, anyone who has had the experience of a bad review knows DO NOT ENGAGE the reviewer. It can only lead to a pissing contest and a social media nightmare. I've heard enough of these stories since I began writing to know not to do that.

It also seems that this reviewer left comments on one of the last reviews and when I looked, it seemed as though she and another reader were having a conversation about, not only MY books, but another author's as well. On MY comment board. WTH?

So, I politely inquired of the reviewer that if she didn't like my books, then why was she going to bother reading the rest. She gave me her answer, we had several paragraphs of dialogue where I explained my thoughts about my writing and why I wrote the books the way I did. She seemed satisfied with my answers and I thought she would either repair, replace, or hopefully bump up the stars. (Because I had done this once before with a different reviewer and she did bump up from a 2 to a 4.)

Nope. What she then did was read the final boxed set, trash it and pretty much tell the world, "Don't bother reading this series." IN THE HEADING!

I looked up her stats because she was a top reviewer and found some comfort in the fact that she didn't like anything she ever read. Every book was tagged with 2 stars. (Some 3, but those were few and far between.)

However, during this time, I had just taken my mother for cataract surgery and had to make sure she had her required eye drops 4 x a day, (hard to do with an Alzheimers patient), was getting ready for Spring Break (which meant I had to get my school responsibilities together when I came back b/c my mother's NEXT surgery was that week--lots of paperwork), try to get the yard in order--we've had rain, finish doing my mother's garden (b/c obviously she can't do it anymore), make a list of what to clean in the house during Spring Break and attempt to install my new bathroom sink, but most importantly...

...finish the book I had started in March. Yes, on March 1, I started the 3rd book in the Ladies of Dunbury series and had 75,000 words written. I was on a roll writing (even with all the other stuff on my plate) because I LOVE this story and was just writing, writing, writing. Until I read the reviews.

And then I stopped. Dead in my tracks. I didn't even look at my computer for almost a week. My Never Give Up Never Surrender mantra was out the window. I honestly wanted to give up writing. I hadn't been this depressed in about twenty years. Seriously. I mean what was I going to do if I couldn't write. It's not like I can just go out and get a job. Not with my mother the way she is.

I finally broke down and wrote to a good friend and dumped the whole load on her (which I did not want to do because really, who wants to hear this shit). Thankfully, she talked me off the ledge. She loves my stories and is a talented writer in her own right, so her kind advice to "let it go, there are trolls everywhere" seemed sage and heartwarming.

I know and understand that every reader will not like what I write. I get that. I do. And I have several 1 and 2 star reviews to prove it, not only on Amazon but Kobo, B&N, Smashwords, and Goodreads to boot. However, for some reason, this just slayed me. My overwhelming urge was to kick this chick in the teeth and tell her, "Well, if you hate what I write, then write your own damn book."

That's the thing about this business that gets me the most (and I think most other writers as well). We pour our heart and souls out onto the page, write what we love, take the time to revise and edit--sometimes for months--and publish with the hope that this book will
make the NY Times bestseller list
make us the most money we ever had
give us the recognition that we crave
fulfill our heart's desire
fill in the blank

What this chick did with her reviews was to take away my dreams of a good life for Monster, make me rethink my future as a writer, and jack hammer my fragile ego to smithereens. It took almost 10 days for me to go back to my computer, something which has never happened. EVER.

I'm happy to say that I am finally writing again, have 83,000 words on the story, and if I play my cards right, one final chapter to write. I'm trying not to hear this chick in my head every time my fingers touch the keyboard, but it's damn hard.

I know this is a business and it's not supposed to be personal, but it is. I don't care who you are, whenever someone says something about you, good bad or indifferent, it IS personal. The old adage comes to mind -- if you can't say anything nice about someone, don't say anything at all. But in this day and age with the privacy of the internet, manners have gone out the window.

I'm sure this reviewer, who actually said to me, "I feel I'm doing your readers a service"
does believe she IS providing a service. But at what cost? She has no idea who I am, what I'm trying to achieve, or what my life is like at this point in time. She sits on her throne and reads book after book and passes judgement on what she thinks is good writing. (She told me that's what she does all day--just reads. Must be nice to have that kind of life.)

Anyway, I guess the lesson I learned this time is to never ever read your own reviews.

Tell me -- Have you ever had a review that just knocked you off your feet? What did you do about it? Do you read your own reviews? Do you write reviews?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2017


Stacy McKitrick said...

Yeah, I had a review that pretty much floored me. Full of roll-eyeing GIFs, too! I just figured that reviewer was looking for attention, so I wasn't gonna give it to her.

So yeah, I do read my own reviews. I know I shouldn't, but sometimes I get a really good one that practically makes me cry and motivates me like nothing else. So I take my chances reading the reviews, and try to laugh off the bad ones.

I don't so much write reviews for the books I read, but write down my thoughts, as long as they're positive. If I didn't care for the book, I might give it 3 stars on Goodreads (for my own reference), but I won't do it anywhere else. I didn't always do that, but I do now because I now KNOW how hard it is to write a book.

I'm glad you were able to get past the bad review and started writing again. Frankly, your books couldn't have been that bad if she read them all (I've gotten series books and if I didn't like the first, I didn't read any more). I think that reviewer was just looking for attention and, unfortunately, you gave it to her.

Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

I haven't even checked my reviews in about a year. Maybe I've given up.

What I do know about people, there are some very sad and hateful ones out there that don't care about anything except their own sorrow. They will crap on their own birthday cake to spite their well wishers simply because they haven't layered enough love onto them. Or even, no reason at all.

I've come across one such neighbor lately (nothing connected to my writing). Have no capacity to guess where his evil comes from.

There are just too many people in this world.

It shouldn't be against the law to kill certain breeds.

Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

A second thought...

Two of my favorite writing peers, who did react to a review of mine, are still in my social network a year later.

Anne Gallagher said...

Stacey -- I usually roll with the punches when it comes to a bad review, but this was 9 in a row, seemingly all written within days of each other. And she said she read them all because "she's OCD like that". She had to finish them. The main thing that hurt the most, was that she damaged my sales. Not that they were great to begin with but I was gaining some traction with the start of my new series and since the reviews came out, sales have dropped again. I guess trolls don't understand that some people make their money by writing books. Thanks for sharing.

Mac -- I get crap all the time at school too, so this chick just about stretched me to the limit. And yes, I agree, it should be legal to kill certain breeds. Thanks for stopping by.

Ted Cross said...

I think most of us feel this way all the time. I go from the high of a great review to believing I'm a terrible writer after reading others. The bad ones make me doubt that the good ones are true, that those people are just being kind. Then there are the nonsensical ones, like when a woman on Goodreads gave one star to all of my books even though she hadn't read any of them--she got pissed off when she saw that I had voted one of my own books onto a list of fantasy novels. It always hurts to see the bad reviews, but I don't feel there is any up side to doing anything about them. I try my best to put them out of my mind and just keep going. Easy to say given that I haven't really written much in the past three years!

Karen Jones Gowen said...

I got a few really bad reviews on my first novel Uncut Diamonds, and since it was the book I'd been working on for ten years and had put everything I had into it, yes those reviews truly did get me down for quite awhile. What helped was getting back and writing another book, and another and another. And getting a couple of really good reviews on Uncut Diamonds later didn't hurt either. Since then I've gotten bad reviews and they just go over my head, none have discouraged me like those early ones did.

I think your friend's advice is excellent. Listen to her, not to the troll.

Anne Gallagher said...

Ted -- I absolutely agree with everything you said. I generally let the bad ones roll off my back and let them go, but this chick hit me with NINE in the space of like three days.(And since then 4 more) I think what infuriated me the most was instead of just leaving them on the boxed set, she decided to spread them over the entire series. That hurt! I'd love to see what Amazon says about it, but I know they'd just ignore me. Thanks for stopping by. Great to see you again.

Karen -- First books are always the hardest to get a bad review on. My LADY'S FATE still has a lone 2 star review on it on Smashwords. It slays me every time I see it. But as a writer, yes, the only thing to do is move on. And I did finish the book. Today as a matter of fact. Thanks for stopping by. Hope all is well.

Laurel Garver said...

Some reviewers are more concerned about building their own "brand" as a tough critic. Think of the restaurant critic in Ratatouille--how cramped and sour he was, so enamored of his status that he couldn't actually enjoy food.

But we also have to be careful to not be so cowed by fear of displeasing some crabby reviewer out there that our stories become too careful and lack surprise or risk taking. Write the stories of your heart, and by all means stay away from reading reviews in times of stress.

Never give up, never surrender! :-)

Anne Gallagher said...

Laurel -- Funny you should mention Ratatouille. I just watched that the other night. And that was my biggest fear, I think, with this reviewer...every word I wrote after that I heard her voice in my head. I finally drove her out, because after all, this is MY book and she can't take it away from me. I mentally challenged her to write her own book -- hours of research, hours of writing, editing, revising. And I came to the conclusion that she can't, because she's lazy and ignorant and would rather tear someone else down because she knows she can't and is jealous. And yes, no more reading reviews for me. Never give up, never surrender! Thanks for stopping by!