Sunday, 21 December 2014

Negative Reviews

Okay. So, we're all grown-ups here. I knew this was going to happen sometime. It's one of those inevitable things like the fat content in ice-cream adhering to your hips via your eye-sockets, or drug mules producing evidence after being fed laxatives (we watched 'The Mule' the other day - some images stick.)

It happened on ******** a site I will not name. There I was, just casually checking out my own book - as you do - and I saw that my review number had increased.

I then saw that my overall rating had decreased. And the ulcer in my stomach chose that moment to sink its long fangs into my soft flesh.

On ******** the site that will not be named, there is a warning message to authors that comes up after bad reviews. It repeatedly gives the very good advice that you should not leave comments on negative reviews. It's a bad idea. Suck it up and get on with your life. People appreciate bad reviews because it legitimises the good reviews that have been left.

It's all great advice.

They even appreciate the fact that at the moment you're reading this message your brain is interpreting it as BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH so they add in one final time we really don't think it's a good idea to leave a comment.

So that's cool. I don't want to be THAT author (and we all know what the Catfish I'm talking about, don't we?)

I also don't want to get on ******** site's bad side since they were nice enough to let my work colleagues post reviews when Amazon thought we were involved in some sort of vast review conspiracy theory (instead of them obviously being the only people I'd managed to sell copies to) and kept obliterating them.

But look. Look here. Look what I've found.

It's a BLOG!!!

And because it belongs to me I can talk about anything I like on it (subject to Blogger terms and conditions of conduct.)

And what I want to talk about tonight is a negative review. I'm going to dissect it line by line by line to my sweet little heart's content. I'm going to pick it apart and find out what useful information it has for me.

Maybe there's a measure of truth to be teased out of this situation, maybe there's an actual problem aside from personal preferences to be addressed. And if not, at the very least maybe there's some kind of message that will helpfully let kindred spirits of the reviewer know of their similarity and therefore give them the opportunity not to waste their money purchasing my book when it's just not going to be their cup of tea.

Line by line sounds a bit too intense. Instead, I'll dissect it word by word.

First word - AWFUL.

Full of awe. For some reason this version of the word has become sodden with negative energy, whereas the flip-side "awesome" has a sprightly core which positive vibes ring cleanly through.

Onto the second word.

Oh no, wait. That was it.

I don't know about you, but after having written this vitriolic wee rant leading up to it, I now feel a tiny bit let down.

The reviewer in question downloaded a copy of my book from NetGalley. It's a website that allows reviewers to download books for free in return for an honest review. It costs about $400 for a self-published author to list a book for six months, and in return we're promised an interested and opinionated readership who don't mind letting everyone know their thoughts. This is the second review generated from NetGalley, so at the moment is $200 worth of opinion. That's US dollars, not our feeble NZ ones.

A review usually encompasses some or all of the following: a quick outline of the story, a summary of the writing style, a note on how reading the book made you feel and, if the reviewer is feeling generous, a quote from the actual text to illustrate some points or a brilliant tag-line of their own invention to sum up the reading experience.

Unless your education and upbringing was radically different from mine, you've probably been forced to write at least a few of these throughout your years of schooling. On a book you didn't choose, and didn't necessarily want to start, let alone finish. I'm betting that if you did your work may have reached the expanse of a sentence. Maybe a full paragraph. Maybe more.

I have a one word review of my own.



  1. Totally get that Katherine. It's disappointing enough to get a review from someone who hasn't enjoyed your book and that often says as much about their choice of book as it does about the book itself. But a single word? Your description is spot on. The only good news, if it can be called that, is the complete lack of rationale is so self evident its unlikely to put potential readers off. All the best for better reviews.

  2. That's pretty shocking especially since you've forked out a lot of money to list your book on NetGalley. I guess since the review is posted on a site we won't name, there's nothing you can do. I've had a similar experience on the site we won't mention - no review, just a one star rating.
    It hurt for five minutes, but at least I haven't spent any money on it. Thanks for sharing your experience, and keep up the great blog.

  3. Kath, you are strong enough to withstand the horsepuckey of book reviewers. The first bad review I had on my memoir, first I felt sick and decided I needed to rewrite it. (No, I didn't) Or the university press who called my memoir an "outline" - which also blazed a gaping hole in my soul. We do let others blast us with icky reviews. But guess what, my book is still selling after 4 years and just reached 150,000 in book ranks out of 75 million titles. So who ya going to call wrong?