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