The Good, The Bad, and The Very Ugly…Let’s Talk Reviews

on April 30, 2012 21 Replies

I find in this lifetime there are lessons lurking around every corner—and I learn most of them by being a parent and a writer.

A while ago, I picked my son up from an after school event and asked my usual question of how did things go, and waited while he said his normal standard, “Ok.” I am used to gaining no information from my son and have learned to pick my battles. Imagine my surprise when he said, “Mommy, you won’t believe it. This little boy pushed me.”

I stopped and got my mama bear expression on my face. The type that says I will go after anyone or anything that hurts my son. “What? Why? Who was it? What happened? Tell me everything!”

He shrugged. “Don’t know. We had to pick teams, and he pushed me and said he didn’t want me on my team. Said he didn’t like me.”

I gasped with horror. “Why would someone say that? Did you do anything? Tell me everything!”

He sighed with exaggerated patience. “I didn’t do anything, I don’t even really know him.”

I chattered on, but my son waved my dramatics aside.  And then said something that struck me hard with his ability to imitate an old soul. “Don’t worry about it, Mommy. He just doesn’t like me. No big deal.”

No. Big. Deal.

I was awestruck. I was the type of person who needed everyone to like me. When someone didn’t like me, the fact haunted me for days, while I struggled to do whatever possible to make them like me. Yet, here my six year old calmly acknowledged a simple fact in life.

Not everyone is going to like you.

Light bulb moment.

Once the simple fact is admitted, measured, and accepted, there is a whole lot of freedom to be gained. It just took me a while to learn it.

So, now let’s talk reviews.

If everyone can’t like us personally, of course everyone can’t like our books. And how boring that would be! (OK, I am totally lying here, because if everyone loved my book I’d be one happy person). But that’s just not logical. We all have unique tastes, preferences, and views on life.

As a writer, our job is to please readers, and we hope reviews reflect that satisfaction so we can go to our next book. But as we grow in our career, I think it’s vitally important to accept certain facts in this career.

We are going to get crappy reviews.

Actually, if you are doing your job correctly, you will want crappy reviews. Because that means your book is being read by a wide audience, and not just a tiny circle of romance authors who support each other. It’s a scary world out there, and if we meet new readers, not all of them are going to like us. But if we play the law of averages, we will gain a healthy percentage of wins and new readers.

There are all types of reviews writers suffer through. Our fellow community of authors. Professional review sites. And readers. Plenty of land mines to tiptoe through. Some will explode. Others won’t. But we need to open ourselves up to the experience or we will never grow.

Each writer has different outlooks on reviews. Some read them, and some don’t. Some are obsessed with Goodreads like watching a train wreck. Some read every one of them, and others just concentrate on the good.

I like to read them in small doses. I carefully scroll and read some good, read some bad, then make myself stop. Sometimes I learn from a review, and other times I shudder in horror at the sheer fierceness of emotion –usually dislike. OUCH.

So, as I wrap up, let me share some things I’ve learned about reviews.

1. Bad reviews are going to hurt. And that’s ok. I mean, come on, strangers are basically telling us they hate our newborn baby and that’ s not easy to take. But you also have to learn to accept the pain, and shake it off. If we don’t get bruised along the way, the wins won’t feel as sweet. Fact of life. So when I’m shuddering over a vicious review, I take what I can to learn from the experience, give myself 24 hours to feel really badly, and the next day it’s over. I usually reach out to only my close friends to help me through and after my 24 hours have passed, I don’t go back and read it or obsess. Of course, within those 24 hours I may read and dissect it over a million times.

2. I save good reviews. I receive fan mail, and many of them tell me how my book made them happy. I save all my good fan letters or links to really positive reviews and that is my go to happy place, just like Happy Gilmore. If I need a boost, I read one of them. It makes me realize I gave someone the gift of entertainment, and I did my job.  This will help balance me out if I am having  a rough day.

3. Don’t take it personally. Honestly, I know writing a book is personal but reviewers and readers don’t think like that. They are judging the WORK. To them, it is a separate entity, and many would probably be shocked how personally we take our reviews. Again, much easier said than done but practice. It’s a job, a career, and it’s not supposed to all roses and wine.  I now try to put some humor into the really awful ones – it’s so much easier to laugh than it is to cry! And please God, if there is one thing not to do it’s contact the reader or reviewers and defend or explain. LET. IT. GO.

4. Don’t obsess. Constantly stalking reviews just isn’t healthy. You should read some to get an idea of what’s working and what’s not, but we need to concentrate on writing our next book. Having other people’s voices in our heads other than our characters is just plain dangerous.

5. Make note of the reviewers/readers who love your book. I try to keep a list, leave them a comment thanking them, and make note for my next book. This is a great group to target because they already admitted they like your voice. They will probably want to buy your next book. Your newsletter list is gold and an untapped source. Instead of running after the masses, you have a core group of followers so treat them well.

That’s it. I’m sure there’s more, but five is enough to think about.

Oh, and to wrap it up, weeks later I was asking my son how things were and he told me he was now friends with the boy who had pushed him. I stared speechless and in shock. “How did that happen?” I asked.

He shrugged. “Don’t know. Guess he likes me now.”

Once we get to know someone, maybe we will change his or her opinion. Maybe not. Either way, life is full of possibilities, isn’t it?

Drop me a comment and share your review experiences.

Happy Writing!

21 thoughts on “The Good, The Bad, and The Very Ugly…Let’s Talk Reviews”

  1. What a fantastic post…By the way sorry about your son…As for reviews..Yeah bad reviews hurt…It hurts for a few days and then you brush it off. you can’t make the whole world like your work..Just not possible.

    1. Jennifer says:

      Thanks Savannah! And my son didn’t even think twice about it – lol! He’s so awesome, I learn something new from him every day. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  2. Roz Lee says:

    Out of the mouths of babes…

    Yet, as you say, these are our babies as surely as if we’d given birth to them, and in a manner of speaking, we have. It’s difficult to accept that there are people who aren’t going to think our child is the most brilliant, beautiful creature to walk the earth. I try to stay away from reviews, except that I can’t. Reviews are a part of the marketing process, and in order to find the good ones I want and need to quote to sell my books, I have to read the bad ones too. And, yes, we all get them. Just like cooking a meal, there’s always going to be someone at the table who isn’t going to like what you prepared.

    Great post, Jenn, though I can’t imagine anyone that wouldn’t like your work!

    1. Jennifer says:

      LOL, you said it perfectly Roz, especially like cooking!! And darlin, I have gotten some doozies but it’s all ok in the mix, right!! Thanks so much for commenting!

  3. Evie Knight says:

    Wow! This is an awesome post Jennifer. Like you, I’m mama bear when it comes to my kids. Nuh uh, no one touches my kids lol but like yours, they take everything as in “whatever”. I guess kids will be kids 😉

    About the reviews, I’ve been reading romance for a little over 18 yrs. I talk non-stop about the books I read w/my friends. Whenever I come across bad reviews from other readers, it bothers ME, and I’m not even an author! Personally, I don’t think it is necessary to shred the author + the book just because I didn’t like it, and I hate it when I see reviewers do that. In fact, it makes me want to buy the book to see for myself if it really is that bad.

    As an avid reader, I’ve come across many a time books I absolutely didn’t like. Favorite authors included. Even so I won’t shred the book, per se. If it’s an author I like, I will rate it and add a short review focusing on what was good, and what could’ve been better. And if I absolutely loathed it, then maybe I won’t even bother rating it.

    A few months ago, I read a debut book by the sweetest author. OMG! The book was NOT what I’d expected, and I’m still shocked it was published, especially by this very well known publisher. I provided a review ’cause I really like the author and it was the most painful review to write. I don’t think I want to read the next installment, but I’ll most likely give into the benefit of the doubt. You know, just to make sure.

    Ok, I think my comment reads more like a “will”. I am anxiously waiting for The Marriage Trap, I’m sure it will be as great a hit as The Marriage Bargain.

    All the best. Xo
    Evie

    1. Jennifer says:

      An absolute brilliant way to put it Evie! Thanks for sharing your process, you really provided great insight being a reviewer and I am looking so forward to sending you The Marriage Trap!

  4. What a great post. Thanks so much for sharing. I think I’ll print it out for when I start getting reviews!

    1. Jennifer says:

      HI Jenna! You will be with the whole group but we are here to support you in the bad, but mostly celebrate in the good. And you will have LOTS of good I know it! Thanks for stopping By!

  5. Lisa Kessler says:

    Great post Jennifer!!!

    The reviews can be painful… I had one that kept scolding me and calling me “Kessler” and I felt like I was somehow in the military or something. My inner whine kept saying “But my name is Lisa!” LOL

    But you’re right, if you don’t have the lows, you can’t really appreciate the highs! 😀

    Congratulations on all the Marriage Bargain success!!! You deserve it!!!

    Lisa 🙂

    1. Jennifer says:

      LIsa! OMG, I was laughing but not! I would have been yelling the same thing at the computer. And thanks for the congrats – I am so excited to see yours in print and soaring high too – so great!!

  6. Awesome post! As a mama bear to two little girls, 6 and 7, I sooo feel ya! And with my book release getting closer and closer, I keep trying to tell myself these very things. It’s okay that not everyone will like my book, and I’m gonna happy dance that others do like it. But I can’t control either and really focusing too much on the good or the bad can mess with my head. As that P90X guy says, I just have to do my best and forget the rest 🙂

    1. Jennifer says:

      Yes, Rachel, I hear ya! And that is a pretty good term to remember because we have no control over people’s opinions. We can only play nice! Thanks for stopping by love!

  7. Kimberly says:

    A great post and a good prespective on bad reviews. No not everyone is going to like us in life but in a pinch if your having a hard time with some meanie remember one of my favorite quotes “People eat blood sausage; people are morons.” …Phil Connors (Bill Murray), “Groundhog Day.” =)

  8. Jennifer – a classy response from a classy lady. Great attitude and outlook!

  9. Great post, Jennifer and a comfort to someone who’s going through the process of getting reviewed properly for the first time. There have been a few ‘ouch’ moments all right, and I’m glad it’s me that got them, not my children!

    I’m finding the bad reviews are getting to be a bit like the rejections now – you stop feeling the pain so badly after a while.:0) There are some very odd ones on B&N though – one star and some gibberish! I’m not sure I want these strange people to like me anyway!

    I’m looking forward to the Marriage trap too! xx

  10. Wow, Jen. Wow! This is exactly what I needed to hear. Funny how kids seem to know things instinctively we adults sometimes forget. How does life do that to us? No matter. This is an awesome post and exactly what I needed to hear. Everyone doesn’t need to like me or my work. I will survive. Thanks!

    1. Jennifer says:

      I’m so happy the comments helped you Regina! It’s wonderful to see you here and we are all in this journey together! Hope you’re doing well!

      1. You were #8 on the Romance Bestsellers List at Amazon yesterday and #17 on the overall Bestsellers list! You are still hot, hot, hot!

        Congrats!

        1. Jennifer says:

          Thanks Regina – it’s always so nice to see you here!!

  11. Rayka Mennen says:

    Great points, Jen.

  12. Jen, Funny, This is going to be my next inspiration. I’m getting together some rights back books to send off to another publisher and they like to have old reviews. Of course I’m going to pick the good ones to send to them. But on other loops I’ve been hearing from people whose feelings are continuously hurt by bad readers. Usually I just shrug and say that’s one person’s opinion. The book that I received the worst review – Publisher’s Review yet – sold out the print run.

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