Happy Wednesday, RU! I’m very pleased to welcome Wendy S. Marcus back to Romance University. When we last chatted with Wendy, she was reveling in the moment of her debut release. Seven months later, Wendy rejoins us to share her experiences with reader reviews. Please be sure to leave a comment–Wendy’s generously giving away two copies of her latest release, ONCE A GOOD GIRL.
The class is yours, Wendy!
Hello RU Crew! Thank you for having me here today to discuss Reviews and What Not to Do.
I remember my days as a pre-published writer, compulsively checking my e-mail and regular mailboxes for contest results and editor/agent replies, desperate for feedback on my writing, for validation. Am I good enough? Will they like my story? I remember sitting in my quiet office reading what others had to say about my writing and thinking: Wow! That’s harsh.
Fast track a year and a half later. I’m a published author – still looking for feedback on my writing, for validation. Am I good enough? Will they like my story? Only now I don’t have to stalk my mailboxes and wait to find out what people think about my books.
I can go looking. And look I do! On Amazon. Barnes and Noble. Goodreads. I can (and do) search my name and the title of my book on the Internet to find blogs and websites where my books have been mentioned.
(Imagine a skull and cross bones here.) WARNING. When you search out reviews of your books, you’d better damn well be prepared for what people have to say. In a public forum. For all to see. And newsflash: Not everyone is going to like the story of your heart, the one you spent hours and hours of time at the computer, away from family and friends, to create. And let me tell you…You think contest judges and editors can be harsh? Just wait.
I am very lucky to have received mostly wonderful reviews of the two books I’ve published with Harlequin Mills and Boon. However, like any seasoned author will tell you (in addition to telling you to avoid reading reviews!) it’s the negative ones that will stick out in your mind.
For the purposes of this post, as a learning experience to all of you (a what NOT to do sort of lesson) I will share my worst review ever and how I handled it.
Picture this: I’m basking in first release new authorness, drinking in everyone’s congratulations. I’m interviewed in magazines and on blogs. My book has finally reached the masses and they LOVE it! Four and five star reviews are popping up all over the Internet. I’m linking them to my website, blog, Facebook, and Twitter to create buzz about my book. I am living on a cloud much higher than nine – maybe twenty-five. Or the penthouse cloud. Each positive review fuels me to search out more. Validation. I deserve to be among my fellow authors. My book is a success! I am a success.
Then WHACK! (Imagine a HUGE reality slap to the cheek here.) I come across this one star review:
JFC. This wasn’t at all enjoyable. It took me almost three days to read less than two hundred pages!
The hero could be a bit of a jerk, and him keeping secrets wasn’t a particularly smart move but god, the heroine!
She was an immature brat. She was completely bipolar in her emotions and decisions. She’s say or think one thing and then do completely the opposite. She blamed everyone else for her actions, and there was not one stage where she didn’t act like a child. All that was missing was for her to stamp her foot and say ‘NO!’.
I could go into detail about certain events, but I honestly couldn’t be bothered. She was one of the worst heroines I’ve ever come across. Not to mention that when she fell pregnant her behaviour just escalated to completely stupid and moronic. If I was a character in this novel I would be slapping her round the face and telling her to grow the fuck up and move on and stop comparing herself and every man in her life to her parents.
This was a terrible novel. Apart from the unlikeable characters, the author threw around medical terms, some without explanation, and some with, and it felt like she was staring down her nose at readers (not literally of course). But she wrote in such a way that reader’s felt completely belittled, and as if they should be ashamed because they haven’t be a nurse/doctor/whatever for X amount of years.
Avoid this book and this author like the plague. I wish I could UN-read this. 1/5.
Now I’m not naïve. I know not everyone will like my book. (Even though deep down inside I wish they would!) But do people have to dislike it so meanly and hurtfully. And publicly?
Thanks to the Internet, readers have been given a forum to voice their likes and dislikes. And if you want to be a published author, you’d better be prepared for it….at least better than I was!
So. On to what not to do….basically, don’t do what I did.
First, I internalized this review and took it personally. I cried. A lot. I e-mailed it to my sister – my biggest most supportive fan – who did a negative review of her own (of the reviewer.) But I digress. I was so upset she didn’t like my book I considered posting a comment offering to refund what she’d paid for it. Thankfully, the businesswoman in me quickly shutdown that idea! (Don’t want to set a precedent that will have bad reviews popping up all over so people could request their money back from me!)
Then I got insulted and angry. How dare the reviewer say such horrible things? I’m a nice person. I worked really hard on that book. I went back to read the review again. And wouldn’t you know? Hands shaking with outrage, instead of clicking the read more button so I could see it in its entirety, I clicked the LIKE button. Holy crap! Now this evil (in my opinion) reviewer was going to get an e-mail that I, the author she hated, liked her review. I unliked it. But the damage was done. She’d know I’d seen it.
Then I reported the review. And I e-mailed some friends to report it as well. But the site refused to take it down. (Note: It is very difficult to get a review taken down and basically amounts to wasted time and energy.)
So I took to Twitter! (You’re sitting there shaking your heads in disbelief, right?) At the time it seemed the logical progression. Although looking back, I’d been anything but logical. Of course my friends and fans came out in full force to support me and protect me. And it made me feel better. But it also gave this negative review much more attention than it would have gotten if I’d simply ignored it. (Kind of like posting it here! But here I’m using it as a learning tool.)
You want to be an author? Be prepared for public reviews like the one above. You think you won’t get one? Every. Single. Author. Does. Even if you’re lucky enough to never stumble across it.
The most important lesson of bad reviews: Do not engage the reviewer. (At least I remembered that!!!)
Everyone is entitled to their opinion.
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To learn more about me, to read an excerpt, or to see some of my good reviews (to counteract the bad one I shared), visit my website: http://WendySMarcus.com
Are you a published author? Have you received any bad reviews? How did you handle them? As a reader, how do you feel when you see a bad review up on the Internet? Have you ever written a bad review? Don’t forget to leave a comment for your chance to win a copy of ONCE A GOOD GIRL.
Be sure to stop back on Friday for Theresa Stevens post on line editing.
Wendy S. Marcus lives in the beautiful Hudson Valley region of New York with her husband, two of their three children, and a much loved Bichon Frise named Buddy. A nurse by trade, Wendy has her master’s degree in health care administration. After years of working in the medical profession, Wendy has taken a radical turn to writing hot contemporary romance with strong heroes, feisty heroines, and lots of laughs. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with her family and blogging/e-mailing/tweeting with her online friends. To learn more about Wendy visit her website, http://www.WendySMarcus.com.
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- Debut Author Interview with Wendy S. Marcus
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- Weekly Lecture Schedule for Oct 11-15: Anna DeStefano, Barbara Vey & Theresa Stevens