I passed the initiation, and now I’m a full-fledged author – I got a mean, vicious and spiteful review. Back in October, an Amazon Customer (referred to as AC in the rest of this post) shared her opinion of Once Upon a Night:
“If I could give this zero stars, I would. The writing was unbelievably awkward and forced. There was zero character development and terribly written sex scenes. The Cinderella cliche was forced into the story at the worst point. I would not recommend this to anyone.”
This wasn’t the first critical review I got, but, unlike the others, this one irritated the hell out of me. I even entertained the notion of reporting it to Amazon and asking them to consider removing it. My friend talked me out of it. I realized she was right: I’m not Erin Brockovich, and this is not the Pacific Gas and Electric Company. This is the almighty Amazon and its indisputable policies and policing.
This ugly and absurd rant was like a mental heartburn; I couldn’t get rid of it. My above-mentioned friend suggested a remedy for this. “Check her other reviews,” she said. So I did and found out that AC reviewed only three items: two books and a decorative tree. The other book fared better than mine, ending up with a frustrated outburst (the AC was still reading it when she wrote the review), and 3 stars. The poor tree suffered the same destiny as my novella – one star and the comment, “If I could, I would give this zero stars”.
I started laughing, and the spell broke.
During my Voracious Readers adventure, I got about 500 requests for downloads, resulting in about 60 ratings and 40 reviews on Goodreads, fourteen on Amazon.com and nine of Amazon.ca. Not all of them are 5s and 4s. I got three and two star ratings/reviews, even one star. Some readers complained that the book was too short, some didn’t find the plot believable, quite a few didn’t approve that the main character was separated and not divorced… But these comments weren’t malicious. I appreciate them; I can learn something useful from them, and I will take them into consideration for my future stories. Readers’ opinions do matter, and we should listen to them.
When it comes to those quasi-reviews like the one I got – pick up your shield and sword because there is a way to strike back. We can’t argue with our reviewers, of course, but we can fight other unfair, mean and nonsensical reviewers – with fair, intelligent, and sensible reviews. Leave comments if you feel that a reviewer was wrong or nasty. Tell them reviews are not only a matter of personal liking or disliking. Each book has to be put in some kind of literary context. A book can be great even if we don’t like it. Tell them what a review is and what it isn’t.
Today, for example, I saw a gigantic review of one of my favorite paranormal novels. The woman wrote a Coles Notes booklet! She not only revealed the plot (without the spoiler warning, which is a basic courtesy); she analysed the characters, setting, names, everything. Yes, she gave the novel the deserved 5 stars, but this was not a review. It’s a boring essay readers don’t need and should not read if they want an authentic reading experience.
When it comes to indie-authors (because I know how much it takes to publish a book), I follow Thumper’s advice – “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all”. (The writers who have publishers, earn money and have all the support are fair game. They’re not alone.)
Anyhow… I started this post with the worst review I’ve ever gotten. I’ll strike back with a one among many that really matter. The rest you can find on the book’s page here.
“… I don’t usually read short stories – I prefer reading full length novels – but the novella sounded interesting and I am trying to branch out in my reading adventures. I am so glad I did! I thoroughly enjoyed both stories! Although short in length, both stories were packed with emotion and sizzling romance. I love that the stories were loosely connected through the characters. The first story had more of a romantic, sensual feel to it and the second story was simply hot, hot, hot! Wow! This author is a talented story-teller and I really enjoyed her writing style. I can’t wait to read more from this author. And maybe in the future – a full length novel? I hope so!” (Judy)