"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wah! Nobody loves me!

Okay, my last post was about how book reviews influence you as a reader. Now let's talk about how they influence you as a writer.

Of course, if you lived and died by whether all reviews of your work were glowing, you'd probably never write a word. Or, you'd become a serial killer, although I suspect you'd be easy to catch. ("The killer is targeting anyone who gave a bad review to Freezer Burn. I'd say our list of suspects is pretty short.")

Like I said last time, I've gotten some really nice reviews, either in person or in writing (e-mail, blogs, Amazon), but of course, the one I remember most is when my doctor told me the ending seemed contrived, like I was trying to rush the story to get it done. She also said she enjoyed the book and that I was a good writer, but the C-word bugs the crap outa me.

Lesson learned for little Gayle Sue - skin isn't thick enough yet.

Even worse, in a way, was a little comment on the Wake Up Celebrity Author site. They're having a contest, where the book with the most votes gets a prize. I'd tell you all about it, but the site is problematic; I can only access it about ten percent of the time. At any rate, one guest voted for my book and gave it 3.8 stars, out of 5. Here's his comment: "I didn't read it but here's my vote."

What the hell? I mean, thanks for the vote, I guess, but you never read it and are reviewing it? What part of Crazy Town do you come from?

Someone said they didn't read their reviews because "if you believe the good ones, then you have to believe the bad ones." I don't remember who said this, but if you know, please tell me. If you do read reviews, you have to throw out the outliers. Good reviews that are so vague as to sound solicited are worthless. Ditto for bad reviews that focus on the author ("You're ugly and your mother dresses you funny" is not a review). If the ones left are mostly positive, then yay for you.

But what if they're bad? If they're meaningfully and thoughtfully negative, then maybe I owe it to the reader to take another look at what I'm writing. After I stop slamming doors and calm down, that is.

If they're just silly and stupid, there are a number of things you can do:

1. Submit them to The Worst Review Ever blog. It's a great site for posting bad reviews and talking about how you dealt with your feelings when you read them.

2. Blog about the experience yourself. Joe Konrath is pretty good at trotting out his hippo-thick hide and parading bad reviews in front of the rest of us, while he laughs all the way to the bank. Note: Can you believe that reviewers of his horror novel, Afraid, described as a "gore fest for fans of gross-out horror" complained that it was gory? What did they not understand about the description?

3. Read the negative review aloud, in your whiniest voice. This is a tip I got from another writer at a conference. Actually, I don't have to do this with my doctor's review - her voice is naturally whiny.

4. (Virtual) death to your enemies! This one was given to me by a therapist I saw many, many years ago, when I needed help in figuring out why I was married to the (seriously) wrong person. My favorite way to "kill" people in my head is to imagine them in a giant trash compactor. Sometimes I squish them quickly. If they've really pissed me off, I snap each bone. Individually. K-RunCH.

Or maybe you just don't read the reviews at all, good or bad. But if you do this, tell me your secret: how do you resist? I'm so insanely curious, I can't help but look. Must be why I like mysteries!

Come tell me - do you read your reviews (be honest)? How do you handle the negative ones?


Patricia Stoltey said...

Boy, I'm sure glad I liked Freezer Burn!

As for reading my reviews, Gayle-- hell, yes. I hunt for them via Google Alert. I can't wait to see the next one. So far, I've not had one that was ALL bad, knock on wood. I ignore the unfavorable parts and roll around in the good parts (sort of like a cat and her catnip).

Selective perception is a wonderful thing.

Gayle Carline said...

Patricia - Ha! You've given me quite a visual, of a grown woman rolling around on a bed of words, like "great", "moving", "best ever"... Yum!

Karen Walker said...

HI Gayle,
I've received one bad review. It was from someone who had a blog--the publicist I'd hired had sent a review copy. It devasted me. Then I sent it to online writer friends who rose up in support. The review was not a review of the book, but a personal attack on me. The bottom line is, you can't please all the people all the time. You can only do the best you can and hope people will enjoy it. I'm working on developing a thicker skin. Hope you can as well.

dino martin peters said...

Hey pallie, well dear Miss Gayle Carline, woulda enourage you to take you cues from our Dino, the Master of Detachment. Our great man just let such thin' roll off his back...

Sometime ago I and the ilovedinomartin Dinoblog came under attack at 'nother blogg for my use of the Dinolingo...well I was grateful that some pallies came to my aid, but knows that the only true way to deal with negativity is to follow our Dino and let's myself gets detach from some stuff.

All we needs to do is follow our Dino's perfect example of keepin' cool....

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