A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
There are four types of reviews: the good ‘this book was awesome’, the bad ‘this book sucked’, the indifferent ‘I suppose it wasn’t awful’ and the last kind, the downright offensive, usually including personal attacks on the author’s intelligence, parentage, choice of career and sometimes (and to me most annoyingly) wild inaccuracies about the book suggesting it hasn’t even been read properly.
As authors we’re advised not to look for reviews as they only drive us insane (one website in particular some of us avoid altogether), but I can’t not search obsessively for reviews; it’s like picking a scab. And of course we now have Twitter, so when a review goes up, it’s drawn directly to our attention via social media. If I have a message telling me there’s a review out there, I must immediately click on the link and look at it.
So, assuming you are an author like me, an obsessive review hunter, not in the slightest bit imperturbable, how do you deal with these reviews?
For me a good review elicits massive celebration: a whoop, a happy dance, a glass of wine. I’ll also make a point of sharing the review on social media or putting a link to it on my website.
But the big question is, should you reply?
The sensible industry advice is, don’t reply to reviews, but if someone has been generous enough with their time to write the review and it’s a lovely one, which might well sell a few books for me, it seems, to me, churlish not to. I was raised to write thank you letters so I always make a point of tweeting back, emailing or posting a single comment on a blog post, if I’ve found a particularly nice review.
It’s the bad or downright offensive ones that really upset me. Luckily I’ve never had a downright offensive review, but I’ve had a couple of bad or inaccurate ones (with the wrong name of the main character or misreported ‘facts’ from the book) and they’ve hurt. Some reviewers make a point of putting these reviews that could damage my book sales on Amazon, or Goodreads and those make me pick up a pen and scrawl a reply in angry spiky letters.
But once I’ve shouted at the computer screen, yelled at my husband, grumped at the children, sobbed into my pillow, drank a bottle of wine and shaken it off, I’ll throw that letter away.
I do not respond to bad reviews.
We’ve all seen the ‘crazy authors’ who have done so. It escalates swiftly.
Worse, some authors get friends to reply for them (which only embroils your friend in an online argument) and we all know about those who have made a fake account and pretended to be someone else, while posting good reviews, or replying to a bad one.
You can imagine every publicist in the country immediately putting these authors on ‘do not publish’ lists.
So how should do you deal with a bad review:
1. Learn from it – take out anything constructive and apply it to your next work. So readers seem to hate instalove, make sure your next couple has a slow build romance.
2. Remember the old adage: there’s no such thing as bad publicity. The thing one person hates about a book, might be the one thing that turns someone else on.
3. Re-read your good reviews, remember that this is one person’s opinion and take heart.
4. Ignore it. Do not let it ruffle your inner calm.
5. NEVER REPLY. If you reply you risk being embroiled in a Jacqueline Howett, Stephan J Harper or Candace Sams style media storm. It simply isn’t worth the risk.
6. Cheer yourself up by reading some of these bad reviews:
“Here all the faults of Jane Eyre (by Charlotte Brontë) are magnified a thousand fold, and the only consolation which we have in reflecting upon it is that it will never be generally read.” -James Lorimer, North British Review, 1847, on Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
“How a human being could have attempted such a book as the present without committing suicide before he had finished a dozen chapters, is a mystery. It is a compound of vulgar depravity and unnatural horrors.” Graham’s Lady Magazine on Wuthering Heights
“At a conservative estimate, one million dollars will be spent by American readers for this book. They will get for their money 34 pages of permanent value. These 34 pages tell of a massacre happening in a little Spanish town in the early days of the Civil War…Mr. Hemingway: please publish the massacre scene separately, and then forget For Whom the Bell Tolls…” -Commonweal, 1940, on For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
“She makes me detest all her people, without reserve. Is that her intention? It is not believable. Then is it her purpose to make the reader detest her people up to the middle of the book and like them in the rest of the chapters? That could be. That would be high art. It would be worth while, too. Some day I will examine the other end of her books and see.” Mark Twain on Jane Austen.
“Once you’ve put one of his books down, you simply can’t pick it up again.” Mark Twain on Henry James.
“This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.” Benito Mussolini’s The Cardinal’s Mistress:
“There are two ways of disliking poetry; one way is to dislike it; the other is to read Pope.” Oscar Wilde on Pope
“He leads his readers to the latrine and locks them in.” Oscar Wilde on George Moore
“What other culture could have produced someone like Hemingway and not seen the joke?” Gore Vidal on Hemingway
“The greatest mind ever to stay in prep school.” Norman Mailer on Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye
“This is easily one of the worst books I’ve ever read. And bear in mind that I’ve read John Grisham. I’ve read the Sweet Valley Middle School, High School, and University books. I know my bad literature.” Susan Cohen on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Bryony Pearce lives in a village on the edge of the Peak District and is a full time mum to her two small children, husband and cat. She is vegetarian and loves chocolate, wine and writing. People are often surprised at how dark her writing is and since the publication, by Egmont, of the award-winning Angel’s Fury, have started looking at her as though worried she might start serial killing in her spare time.
She enjoys doing school visits, festivals and events, when the children let her out of the house. Her new book The Weight of Souls is published by Strange Chemistry on 1st August 2013.
For more information on Bryony, please visit her website www.bryonypearce.co.uk follow her on Twitter @BryonyPearce or like her FaceBook author page BryonyPearceAuthor.