Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sticks and Stones

Remember that old rhyme "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me?"
We used to chant it in school when someone insulted us. It never really made us feel better, of course.

And I feel the same way about reviews. I just read one in which the reviewer clearly didn't GET the book. It was Royal Blood, that is supposed to be a comedy spoof on vampires. The reviewer blasts my heroine for being stupid enough to believe in vampires. Well, I guess that reviewer has never been in a castle in Transylvania at night, with no electricity, during a snowstorm. If the situation is right, one starts to believe in anything. I have stayed at various old castles and houses in Europe and trust me, if you hear a strange noise in the night or see something moving that you can't identify, even the most rational of us can begin to believe in ghosts, ghouls, vampires etc.

So why should I feel so upset about one review? It's just one person's opinion, after all, and there are people in the world who actually like Lady Gaga. I don't think most people realize how fragile most writers' egos are. We never believe what we have written is any good until our agents and editors tell us so. As we write we go through pockets of despair in which we tell ourselves that we are writing rubbish and will never write anything of consequence again and all our fans will leave us and the publisher will drop us. Then we get an email from our editor saying "This was fabulous" and we dance around for a few days saying "It's fabulous. I always knew it."

Some writer friends have made a pact never to read reviews. I should learn to follow that advice, but I love reading the glowing kind and I have to say that before online bloggers I always got only good reviews from the traditional sources, PW, Kirkus, Booklist etc. They have all given me starred reviews. RT Reviews always makes me a top pick. So I have to remind myself that online reviewers are not pros. They give a personal rather than an unbiased reaction to what they read.

Sometimes I'm tempted to respond and explain where the reviewer didn't quite understand what I wanted to achieve, but that's not a good idea. And besides, if one person didn't GET my book, then I still have improvements to make in my writing. So it's back to work, I guess.

And tell me--are you ever influenced by reviews? Do you read the Amazon reviews before you buy? I confess to doing that before purchasing something eletronic and if a book got all 1 stars I don't think I'd try it.


  1. I might rely on reviews for an electronic product or a pair of shoes, but for a book, I rely on the flap copy. If the abstract sounds remotely interesting to me, I'll pick it up. Of course, the luxury of being an avid visitor to my library is that it costs me nothing to read these books, and if I don't like it, I can return it and move on to something else.

    As an online reviewer (both at Goodreads and on my blog), I try very hard not to review books that I didn't really like--I think only two of the 30-something reviews on my blog aren't glowing raves--and it's for this exact reason. I know how hard an author works to bring his or her book into the world and how rightly proud you guys are once it's out, and Pollyanna as this may sound, I don't want to crush anyone's dreams.

  2. Hi Rhys, I never read Amazon review or pay attention to Kindle stars. I just read the book synopsis to decide if I want to try it. Re stays in spooky places and imagining vampires and ghosts, I suggest reading the book "The Believing Mind"--fascinating new book by Dr. M. Shermer.

  3. I don't write public reviews for just this reason. I treasure my online friendships with "my" authors, and wouldn't even dream of hurting their feelings. Plus that, I really do tend to love everything I read!

  4. I'm like Farin: I'll look at reviews for electronics before buying, but for books, usually not.

    I can imagine how hard it might be to get a review like this... I would shrug it off--you can't please everyone.

  5. If I buy books online (which I seldom do, as I just love rummaging through book stores) I usually read the synopsis and one or two of the reviews with the highest and lowest "star-rates" to see what other people liked or didn`t like about the book. But I don't think I've never NOT bought a book which sounded interesting to me just because of a bad review. I just think sometimes reader reviews give me a closer look at the story or the "style" of a book than a synopsis.

  6. I love the Royal Spyness series...and think you have a great sense of humor! Keep up the great work. :-)
    If I've read a book before and like it, I don't bother with reviews. If it's a self-help book or I'm looking through several books on a particular subject, I do look at reviews.
    Looking forward to the next in the series... :-)

  7. I just wanted to add that Royal Blood is my favorite in the Royal Spyness series. I'm sorry that the reviewer didn't get it because I had so much fun reading and laughing out loud at times. I love your style of writing and I look forward to each new book! Thank you ;)