RU Writers, have you ever received a one star review? Helen Henderson tells us how to handle the not-so-hot reviews…
This year I’m participating in my first writing challenge. We’re supposed to write a post a week on a specific topic. Some of them relate to writing craft. Others are more personal and a challenge to write as they require us to reveal something of ourselves. So in the theme of reflection, I’m going to share a few thoughts and experiences on reviews. There are a lot of lists about handling bad reviews. I’ve selected a few items and explained what impacted my decision.
Don’t look. Unlike some authors I know, I’m not obsessive about constantly checking for reviews. If I don’t know about a 1-star review, it can’t depress me. Of course there is a flip side. I might not be aware of a 5-star review, the cherished thing you want to shout about to the world.
Evaluate the reviewer. Cruel words can be the result of an agenda. My first review was a one-star. Research revealed that the person who left it had only written one positive review. All his other comments were negative attacks on similar books in the genre. The conclusion–he was trashing the competition.
I know a case where the commenter went after the author not the book. It turned out that the author’s real life stalker had expanded his attacks into the virtual world. In the digital universe, you might not know who a person really is and what they’re capable of. So when you get a bad review, evaluate the source. It might not be what you thought.
Respond—or not. There are differences of opinion on whether to engage the creator of a bad review. I choose “not.” And the reason is an old adage about people’s minds being made up, don’t confuse them with the facts. If you really need to respond, but you don’t want to anger them further? Write a note to the unknown reviewer (at least they are hopefully unknown, and not a good friend or family member), then rip the paper into tiny, tiny little pieces. It’s cathartic on several levels.
A story from the dark side, my non-fiction days, and a case of where I wanted to yell something about a reader’s intelligence. A reader sent a letter to the editor. Her complaint about a story on a statue created to replace a missing pet? “The dog pictured couldn’t be an Airedale. Airedales are brown and white and the dog in the picture is black and white.” I’m sure you guessed the reason for my response. The story was in a newspaper and the photograph printed in black and white. I didn’t respond to the letter but did relay the story to the owner of the statue who had a good laugh.
Flip the negative. Recently I encountered a 3-star rating. The person wanted more explicit sex. There were options. Reply to the review stating 1) the story was written before the current perception of dragon shifters as hot-blooded and amorous became popular in the romance genre. Or 2) that the piece was also a fantasy and supposed to be suitable for a wider variety of ages. Or 3) there was the expected coupling. And it was not just a simple hug the note claimed. The consummation of the main characters’ relationship started off in real terms then allegory did the rest. Remember the 1950s movies? A passionate kiss, heading toward the bedroom, the closing door, fireworks going off, then the heroine emerging from the bedroom in the hero’s pajama top.
Did I read and consider the comment? Yes. Was the ending satisfactory to that single reader? No. Will it be changed to bring it closer in line to that specific reader’s type of romance and eliminate the fantasy? No. There is a lot of range in romance from a chaste kiss to as hot as you wish to read, this piece fulfilled the desired spot in both genres.
Finally, take a deep breath. Tell yourself that although the bad review, or the single star hurts, that it is not the end of the world. Concentrate on the good things that have happened in your life or been said about your book(s). In the case of the 3-star, the reader liked the writing, and acknowledged the HEA so all was not lost.
A thought to leave you with. You are not the first author to receive a bad review or a low rating…nor will you be the last. But my wish for you – May you have numerous reviews—and that they are all five-stars.
Can you ever get enough stars? Even if it only one at a time?
Join us on Wednesday for Staci Troilo!
Bio: A former feature-story writer and correspondent, Henderson has also written fiction as long as she could remember. Her background in history and managing a museum provides her with a unique insight into world building. Her heritage reflects the contrasts of her Gemini sign. She is a descendent of a coal-miner’s daughter and an aviation flight engineer. This dichotomy shows in her writing which crosses genres from historical adventures and westerns to science fiction and fantasy. In the world of fantasy, she is the author of the Dragshi Chronicles and the Windmaster novels.
Newly handfasted to the dark-haired archmage Lord Dal, Ellspeth and her husband escort his mother to her ancestral lands. While Dal searches for Bashim, a rogue mage, mercenaries under his control attack. Dal’s mother is severely wounded and Ellspeth is captured. Her sole hope for escape is Nobyn, an untrained wizard going through the throes of awakening magic. However, Nobyn is Bashim’s apprentice and under the mage’s total control.
Dal must make an impossible decision — Rescue Ellspeth, save his mother, or thwart Bashim’s plans. As archmage, Dal might be able to survive killing the future of magic, but as a man could he live with the knowledge he caused the death of a loved one.
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- It’s Great Advice, But I Can’t Seem to Follow It – Donna Cummings