Wednesday, August 02, 2006
You Take the Bad with the Good
(Subtitle: Surviving a Bad Review)
Okay, so I'm doing something I NEVER do. I'm posting about a bad review.
Why, you ask, would I want to draw attention to a bad review?
1. To let those who haven't yet been in the position of getting a bad review know that it's okay, that life goes on, and your book will NOT sit on bookstore shelves , gathering dust while readers snatch up last month's Top Picks.
2. To address an issue with the book that was reviewed.
Let's talk about the first purpose.
Chances are, if you're published, you'll sooner or later be on the receiving end of a terrible review. Regardless of who you are, how fabulous your books are, or how many hours you spent on revisions, it's going to happen. Why? Because reviews are opinions. And opinions are bound to be different because people like different things.
The first bad review is especially tough to handle. You've been sailing along on that I'm-Finally-A-Published-Author high when WHAM! out of nowhere comes this review that basically says you aren't talented enough to draft a grocery list.
You're ready to hide under the proverbial rock, afraid to face your writing friends, your crit group, your editor.
How could this happen to YOU? Your book won ten contests! It's the next DaVinci Code (ask an editor how many folks are writing the next Da Vinci Code. I'm thinking it's in the tens of thousands, LOL). This is so unfair!
This is life.
Here's my suggestion on how to handle it:
1. Find a safe person to rant to. And make sure it's not in a public forum. It's generally frowned upon for an author to fume about a bad review, no matter how scathing or unfair it might be.
2. Consume large amounts of chocolate, ice cream and comfort foods.
3. Once you've eaten yourself into a coma, move on. There are worst things in the world than receiving a "1" from RT.
A couple things NOT to do:
1. Don't email the reviewer and threaten bodily harm or tell him/her she's stupid and blind and had obviously missed the point of the book. That will get you nowhere.
2. Don't wipe your hard drive clean and quit writing forever.
3. Don't turn blame elsewhere. Regardless of all the individuals who are involved in preparing a book for print, ultimately when a book is published, the AUTHOR'S name is on the cover. Your name. Your reputation. Your sales. Your responsibility. Not the editor's. Not the cover artist's. Not the copy writer's. It's your responsibility to make sure the book is edited thoroughly(hiring a freelance editor is an option). It's also your responsibility to make certain the book's title, blurb and cover are acceptable. In the very least, they should accurately communicate the content (and mood) of the book. True, an author may have little control over the cover or cover copy, but remember, it still comes back to you. If the cover suggests the book is a mystery but it's actually an erotica you've got problems. Mention your concerns to your publisher.
That leads me to the second reason for this post.
Being a newbie to the NY publishing biz, I did what many newbies would do--I kept quiet about my concerns. It's my nature to go with the flow. And being new, I assumed everyone else knows a LOT more about stuff than I do.
Well, I think I made a mistake.
Here's a quote from my RT review:
"There's a nice bit of a mystery, but those looking for a traditional ghostly romance will be disappointed. A large chunk of this story reads like a rather typical erotic romance with mild BDSM."
Clearly, the reviewer picked up Sex and the Single Ghost expecting something VERY different from what she got. What was she expecting? A "traditional ghostly romance." What did she get? "A typical erotic romance" with "a good amount of mystery."
And why would her expectations be so off?
Perhaps the cover and/or the cover copy.
Looking at the cover and copy, there is no reason why a reviewer who is not fond of bondage to believe it's in this book. Nor is there any reason for Jane Bookbuyer standing in Borders, looking for something fun and funky to read, to expect hot sex and bondage either.
And so I post this message, spreading the word and asking you all to help me spread it even further. Sex and the Single Ghost is typical Tawny Taylor fare. It's funny, yes. But there's lots of hot sex and some mild bondage.
Please, if you have the time and inclination, post on your blogs, or better yet, post a review on Single Ghost's Amazon page.
Reader beware! Sex and the Single Ghost is not chick lit. It's erotic romance and it's hot.
Thanks so much!
by Tawny Taylor at 6:46 PM |
Commented by Nonny:
- I'm still battling my "Inner Dickwad" who takes every possible criticism and turns it into garbage like, "Well, if you're going to get upset about a review at all then you might as well give up now, because it's just going to be worse when you're in print and you obviously can't handle it." (Yeah.)
So usually I end up talking/ranting about it with one of my crit partners, usually Morgan, cause they can usually smack some sense into me. :P
Regarding the cover of Sex and the Single Ghost... whoever decided on a chick-lit/comedy style cover for it should be bitchsmacked. I don't understand why they put covers on books that clearly give the wrong insinuations of the genre ... because like it or not, a lot of readers do judge the book, at least initially, by its cover.
- 11:10 AM
Commented by Tawny Taylor:
I was/am a lot like you. Criticism is not something I take well. And the frustration with reviews is that they come AFTER the book is in print. You can't go back and "fix" the problems, even if they are valid. Honestly, the reviews that are tough but spot-on are the ones that bother me the most. Because I want to go back and make changes but I can't.
I have gotten a smidge better at handling bad reviews over the years. But I still have my moments.
With Single Ghost, I'm doing what I can to make sure readers know what they're buying. I think the cover is adorable, and I can understand why my publisher went that route. But it doesn't give *any* suggestion of the bondage elements in the book. That could be a problem, because bondage is something some people are very uncomfortable with.
- 4:52 PM
Commented by Jen:
- That's it Tawny. I'm posting a link to this blog on RD. You totally rock.
I'm going to remember this. I need to remember this. I am going to be published and there will be reviewers who hate it.
Good comment about the reviewers expectation. As a reviewer, I don't think about what the author is aiming to accomplish. If I think I'm getting a romantic suspense and it's not, I'll probably review it with luke warm feelings.
It's good to know what genre the author is writing in. Had this reviewer been at all familiar with your work, she would have known HOT is the word to use.
- 10:05 PM
Commented by Marty:
- Having just sent my first baby out to reviewers today, I appreciate the honesty and reality check. I may come back for hugs and ice cream :)
- 10:28 PM
Commented by Stacy Dawn:
- Good post. There are so many new things that pop up AFTER you've got the contract that no one prepares us for.
- 10:31 PM
Commented by Jodie:
- Tawny said:: Don't email the reviewer and threaten bodily harm or tell him/her she's stupid and blind and had obviously missed the point of the book. That will get you nowhere.
Aww why not!! *falls on floor and chucks a 5 year old tanti* I wanna I wanna I wanna!
*ahem* Great advice. I do agree. We want our work to get top rating but at some stage the universe is going to have to balance out. It's either a bad review or your car gets stolen or something ;p
- 1:18 AM
Commented by Ann Cory:
- Sound advice I'll take to heart. I've received a few bad reviews for books, as well as good reviews for the very same ones. I try and remind myself it's only one person's opinion. Regardless, I still drown my sorrows with ice cream, kick myself in the butt a couple times, and totally vent to a close friend, lol.
Does it keep me from writing? No. But I never forget them.
This is where that old saying - don't judge a book by its cover - comes in to play I guess!
It's so cool that you shared that. I bow down to your Sassitude.
- 4:46 AM
Commented by Bernita:
- Excellent, sensible post.
But I keep wondering... what part of the word SEX in the title did the reviewer not understand?
- 1:16 PM
Commented by Shelli Stevens:
- LOL I hear you, Tawny. Bad reviews can bring you down for days. And you have great advice on how to handle them.
I had someone I gave a 3 to in Divas, essentially bad mouth me and the Divas for her blog. That goes on the 'what not to do' list.
I can't wait to read Sex and the Single Ghost! :)
- 4:06 PM
Commented by Patricia:
- Hi, Tawny. Fascinating post. I read this post and had to ruminate on it over night. Most authors don't talk about bad reviews in a public forum, so I commend you on your gutsiness. What struck me as interesting is you placed all the blame on yourself. I think you whipped yourself too hard. Once an author signs a contract with a publisher, she gives up a certain amount of control over her book. Unless an author independently publishes her own book, then some things are out of the author's hands.
A particular review of one of my books, (Sensual contemporary romantic suspense) stated that my book came from a publisher that mostly published erotica so therefore my book had so little romance in it, it appeared to be in the background. Ouch! That hurt.
I've also had other publishers, completely change my blurbs and took final say for the cover.
I've also learned that some reviews truly come out of left-field.
We can give our books everything we have to give, blood, sweat, and tears, but I feel it is a team effort between author, editor, and publisher to make sure all the ducks are in a row before the book is released. So don't take on all the blame. Cut yourself some slack, lady. You're a fabulous writer.
- 5:46 PM
Commented by Tawny Taylor:
- Good luck, Marty!
Jodie, LOL. I'd much rather get a bad review than have my car stolen.
Shelli, I can't even believe someone did that. Wow.
And Patricia, Thanks for the thoughtful response. I can ONLY comment on what I could have done differently, since my behavior is the only thing that's under my control in this situation. But I really do appreciate your support!
- 8:57 AM
Commented by Cara North:
- Great post and helpful to all of us just getting started. And a huge reminder for me- when I send my stuff out I will be sure to include "extra details" so no matter what it looks like they know what they will get. I enjoy your work- and thought the cover was different from what I normally see on your books, but it wouldn't stop me from picking it up.
:) your readers know what we are getting (wink) new readers just might find something they have been missing! LOL!
- 3:53 PM
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