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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Second Round Strike or How to Handle Reviews

After taking a day to lick my wounds, I'm back. Yes, it took me a whole day. The wounds on my back were hard to reach. Give me a break, I'm not as flexible as I once was.

Yesterday ABNA announced it's second round of cuts. This time they were determined by Amazon Vine Reviewers who scored our excerpts on different criteria and left reviews. Each excerpt received two reviews of varying lengths and in-depth critique. The top 250 in each category, 500 total, continued on leaving behind 1500 disappointed writers this round. Yes, I fall into the 1500 on this occasion.

Late in the afternoon, after the list had been posted, reviews arrived in our accounts. As you can imagine, the reviews varied widely in terms of how the reviewers handled them. Some were helpful, some so short there was barely anything to indicate how they felt one way or the other. Some received reviews that were in agreement, whether for good or bad. Often the reviews were conflicting each other.

My own reviews fell into the conflicting category. One reviewer loved my excerpt and went as far to say I shouldn't change anything. The second reviewer, well let's say there wasn't much they wouldn't change. What, oh what, is a writer to do with reviews like these?

"It's great!"
 "You don't know what you're talking about! It sucked!"

First of all, taking a deep breath is always advisable. Shouting, screaming and stamping feet will get you nowhere and few people will be willing to help you with your writing if you take criticism in a less than congenial manner. Back away and think about what they're saying before getting worked up.

Second, do not, and I can't stress this enough, DO NOT respond to a bad or less than glowing review with anything other than 'Thank you for your time and input.' There have been several examples recently of authors going off on a reviewer. These hissy-fits end up going viral on the web and the author loses all credibility, hurting their chances of a lasting career. Please see my first comment.

"My mommy says I'm awesome."

Third, remember that every review is subjective. Nothing is going to be loved by everyone and few things will be hated by everyone. Any review or bit of criticism should be taken with a healthy dose of salt. Yes, this means even those glowing reviews we all love to get. This doesn't mean go changing your work every time you get critiqued. Instead, get several peoples' opinions. If you end up with three or more people making the same comments over and over, take a look at what they're concerned about. Their advice might carry some merit. If it's only one person, don't go making changes unless it's something you completely agree with. If you change your work for every single person, you'll never finish anything.

I'm lucky enough to have comments and feedback from other people. While some of my reviewer's comments do carry merit, some things they didn't like worked well for numerous others. Now my work begins as I sort through comments and fix things that need fixing before querying.

At least they both agree it was 'unique.'


  1. As a reviewer, I whole heartedly endorse this blog. I'm very put off whenever I see an author complaining about negative reviews. It's especially off putting when they shriek at me "but everyone else loves it, so why aren't you like them", like I'm deficient in some category and am the only person on the earth that cannot comprehend their awesomeness. You're essentially calling me stupid.

    Just a handy hint for authors: Don't talk down to reviewers, even if you think that it's only going to be between "you and me". It never stays between the two of us, because of course I'm going to tell my reviewing friends about you. Even if I tell them in private, they're going to make a point to avoid your books and get *their* friends to avoid your books and give the reason why. Eventually it's going to get out, especially if you have a habit of talking down to and about reviewers. One day someone isn't going to take it and the next thing you know, you're the latest mention on Dear Author or any number of independent blogs, losing you any number of readers. Your sales might go up temporarily, but as someone who was around for Candace Sams and Jaqueline Howett, it's usually just so the reviewer can slam your work.

    If I can mention one more thing, cool it on the trading reviews and getting everyone else to post reviews for you. At some point people are going to wonder if those are true reviews or if they're as "real" as Joan River's face.

    1. Thank you for your thoughts.

      The swapping of reviews seems to be a hot subject right now. There are writers for and against it. Personally, I stay away from reviewing most of the time, although I'm always happy to discuss something I've read or recommend someone's book if I really liked it.