I’m putting this out there for any other indie author who has ever received a bad review.
If you’ve received a bad review, my advice to you is to not take them seriously. In fact, don’t even bother reading them. People will tell you to take bad reviews with a grain of salt, and others will say to listen to them and learn from any mistakes they may point out. No. Don’t. I know it sounds ignorant or bullheaded or being closed minded to our audience (and to be honest, if you had asked me a year ago, I would have been one of those people who said to take the advice and move on), but there’s a reason why I’ve altered my opinion. Here’s the story behind my theory to not take bad reviews as seriously as people think you should:
When I wrote The Benighted, I had 4 people who read the story and edited it for me before I published it. Since then, all bad reviews I’ve received has been against the editing. Could 4 people really miss some misspelled words or grammar errors? Sure! You know why? Because (1) when you’re hooked in a book you can overlook mishaps because the story has intrigued you, and (2) its a proven fact that our brains will literally auto correct misspelled words and grammar, often without us knowing about it. Any writer knows that. Hell, anyone on Facebook who sees those stupid little brain teasers knows that, those posts stating “you can read this sentence that’s backwards/upside down/jumbled/in a Vulcan language because our brains are programmed to pick up patterns and to fill in blanks based on past knowledge so we can understand what the fuck we’re doing.” I mean, come on writers, did you ever think your story was bullet proof until it got shot up by an editor with their red pen? Don’t lie, you know you questioned your entire writing existence at that point.
But editing is a big deal in this imperfect world, and although all those negative reviews stated that my story line was pretty awesome, it wasn’t good enough to overshadow these “editing mishaps” that knocked it down a star or 2. So after a couple more reviews came in mocking that I needed an editor, I went back through to check these errors.
The number of misspelled words and punctuation mistakes came to a grand total of…7. Now, I know that sounds like quite a bit to a grammar nazi, but out of 322 pages? Really? I’ve seen worse in novels written by bestselling authors, and they haven’t gone through this much crap for it! And to top it off, a lot of the “examples” I’ve been given were poorer than the rating they gave. In the end, it was mainly readers telling their perception of how the sentences and paragraphs should be instead of actual errors.
But apparently because I’m an indie author, I’m automatically pegged as not knowing any better and thus need to be reminded…in a review…that affects future readers who would be interested in my book. Fine. It’s the way of the world. Because I have to play by some rules, I broke down and fixed those minor errors and updated the story. Hey, it got a new cover, so perfect timing for a full revamp that fixed all those 7 mistakes. And guess what! Did I get any more bad reviews bashing my editing? Yes. Yes I fucking did.
Up to that point I was pissed…
…because not only have 4 people edited it and I’ve taken these “knowing readers” into consideration and re-edited the story, I’m STILL getting the same complaints. And I’m also torn between telling these people “thank you so much for pointing that out” and “WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!” But I’ve refrained and decided to just blog about it like a normal person of the 21st century would.
And let’s not forget that all those negative reviews ended up on Amazon while most of the good ones are apparently not allowed. I have 50 reviews that are mainly 4-5 stars on Goodreads, but Amazon? 19 reviews. Talk about feeling like your getting Hulk smashed.
Quick tangent: To those reviewers who post on Goodreads, don’t forget Amazon! You’ve already bought the book AND reviewed it, so just copy and paste it onto Amazon’s site. And if you didn’t buy the book, just type this before or after your review (including the asterisks): *I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*
And if you don’t think your little review will make a difference on Amazon, believe me it will. If the little shit who wrote the 1 star review stating the 2 sentence commentary about how “very dumb” my story was because they didn’t like flashbacks could knock my story’s rating down 3 points, then your “it was awesome, you should read it” commentary will help a lot. Seriously.
So back to what I was originally saying:
There I was, like many indie authors, feeling like I was getting pulverized because I didn’t do my book justice by making it spotless.
And then suddenly I get an email.
See, I had entered my book into the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Awards, and that email was the commentary from the judge who had read my book. The rating system they had used was 1 being “needs work” to 5 being “outstanding”. I skimmed through their list of ratings and came across the spelling and grammar section. The judge, after reading the same book all these other people have read, gave that section a 4 out of 5 rating.
A 4 OUT OF 5 RATING!!
Basically a Writer’s Digest judge thought my book’s editing was close to outstanding. After reading that, the first thing I thought was, “COME AT ME NOW, BITCHES!!”
Those negative reviews almost had me. ALMOST. How is it that readers could only find the editing to bash (which is typical for an indie author and the easiest thing to dock them points for) while someone from Writer’s Digest, usually someone with an editing background, didn’t really see anything wrong with it? And to those questioning the legitness of the judge, think of it this way: Writer’s Digest isn’t going to have just anyone judging these books when the winner get’s $8,000 and a paid trip to New York City. THAT’S why I’m not taking bad reviews seriously. I truly appreciate honesty, and I greatly appreciate it when people read and rate my books no matter what opinion they have. But to be honest with everyone, any negative review past this point means nothing to me. It’s just their opinion, and that’s all I’m going to see it as. And like a good friend once told me: A wolf doesn’t lose sleep over the opinion of sheep.
And that’s what I want other indie authors to remember when they get bad reviews. It’s just one person’s opinion, and there’s a very good chance they don’t know what they’re talking about because most of them are amateurs themselves. Don’t forget that there are trolls out there, there are people who are going to talk shit because they can, who want to bash your work so they feel better about their own, who are too lazy to write a real review because they didn’t read the story so they copy someone else’s opinion, and who are just not going to like your story because it’s not their taste. You could write the most fact-based historical fiction with the most interesting plot, and there’s going to be readers who only like fantasy and will call your story boring. And let’s not forget the people who just want to voice their opinion because they (1) want attention, (2) don’t have anything better to do, or (3) think they can say whatever they want because they’ll never expect to meet you in a dark alley where you’ll use the opportunity to punch their mouthy-ass in the throat. Our society get’s really cocky when they have a computer screen in between themselves, and I’d bet my next book that all the bad reviewers you will have to deal with wouldn’t be able to state their review to you in person. In the real world, their review would be something like, “Well, it was good but I would change these couple aspects, but if you don’t want to, it’s your story and its fine the way it is. I totally support you.” I bet you do, back peddler!!
Now on the flip side, for the people who really care about you and end up not liking your story, most likely they’re going to tell you in a very tactful way because they care about you. Most of them will probably pull you aside and tell you to get your act together before you push that published button, and if you already did push it, they’ll tell you to push it again because they want to see you succeed and not drown with the rest of us. Those types of criticism are constructive and all of us need it at times. The ones you don’t need are the nitpicking, over analyzing, egotistical “you should change this cause I know more about writing than you do” negative Nancys who needs to shut the fuck up before I push them off the boat. Because in the end, that’s where we are: we’re all in the same boat striving for the same goal which is good, entertaining literature. Don’t step on someone else’s dreams because your plot abandoned ship without you, or because you have a certain “type of reading style” you like so you’ll keep handing out poor reviews to writers who aren’t meeting your personal standards.
Basically, in a nutshell, just remember that naysers are gonna naysay, and listen to only those you trust.
But yeah, as for the rest of the ratings this judge gave me…..well, let’s just say I can’t win them all lol! 😛 It’s like you painted the Sistine Chapel and your critic is a Picasso fan. No matter what, they’re just not going to like your work.
Here’s a new theory: those who can’t write, write reviews.