The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

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Monday, February 7, 2011

THIS BOOK SUCKS!

        And I'm talking about your book.   I'm speaking hypothetically so don't get overly alarmed.  I have never liked the term "sucks" and have always reprimanded my kids when they used it when they were young.  However this has become such a commonly used term that it is now essentially acceptable to describe something that one doesn't think very highly of.

         So what am I talking about?   Negative reviews, that's what.  Not many authors are thrilled about getting a negative review about something over which they have probably laboured for hours and poured their heart and soul into.  It would be like somebody telling you that one of your kids was ugly. 

          If I've written something that I deem as my pride and joy, the last thing I want to hear is somebody bad-mouthing it.  Sure, a few legitimate criticisms about this or that might be expected.  But a scathing review that would make me hang my head in shame in the company of other writers and the world in general is not what I'm hoping for.

          On the hand, for the author who is trying to make money at this writing gig, are bad reviews really the end of the world?   Would I rather have a few bad reviews, or maybe a hundred bad reviews, than absolutely no reviews or just one or two nice reviews written by my mother or some sympathetic relatives?

          The old adage says, "Any publicity is good publicity".  Why not apply this to negative reviews?  Your book isn't a restaurant and no one's going to eat out of it.   Writing is subjective and opinions can vary widely.  Perhaps your book has been marketed wrong and has fallen into unappreciative hands.

          At least knowing that you've gotten several bad reviews tells you that someone read your book.  How sad it must be for the author who looks at their Amazon book listing to see absolutely no reviews--ever--and never sells a book--never.  

           If you've developed an image of notoriety, you get attention which in turn can become highly marketable if you play your cards right.  Cult followings have developed from mediocrity as well as misunderstood genius.  I would prefer to put myself in the latter camp, but at the same time it's important to be honest with oneself.

          Pay attention, listen, and learn from the negative things that are said about your work.   Consider the source of the criticism first to see if these are the voices you want to be heard about you.  Then carefully examine what has been said about your work.  Does the criticism have merit?  It's rare that your average author will be criticized for who they are rather than for what they've written.  If there is something to learn from the criticism, learn it, absorb it, and try not to repeat it.  

         Take your hits in stride and fight a good fight.  Capitalize on what some might perceive as failure.  It's mostly up to you to save your image unless you have a good publicity manager, which you probably don't.  You can make some pretty appealing grape juice out of sour grapes when you add the right amount of sugar and color.  If you get knocked down in the first round, jump back up and keep on swinging. 

           Would you rather have bad reviews than no reviews?   What would you recommend to an author whose first attempt is considered a failure by some?   Can you think of some examples of writers, musicians, film directors, or other artists who were ridiculed at first and became successful later?

             Tomorrow I'll be reviewing a book that was written as a negative critical response to best seller.   If you wrote a book that was well received, would you welcome other books written as negative responses to your book?



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42 comments:

  1. I'd rather have a bad review that was honest than have a supposedly "good" review whose praise was not legit.

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  2. Hey I can live with bad reviews that tells me something I may not have even thought of, than someone telling me how wonderful my book, which tells me nothing at all. When you push them into telling you more about what it was they actually like or thought was wonderful about it. They can't tell you. At least when someone doesn't like it they tend to give you a long list of what they didn't like, which in my book is far more helpful.

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  3. Three words...

    Vincent van Gogh.

    He died before his success, though. :-/

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  4. Any honest review is helpful. I tend to look into "good" reviews for the hidden "but."

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  5. I would like to receive honest reviews, bad or good. Look Howard Stern, if it wasn't for the negative would we even know who he was? :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

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  6. Hey, if you have written a book and it has been published you outshine about 99 percent of the world population anyway so you may as well be proud of yourself. If you get even one revue, good or bad, you are now in the 99.99999999999999999999999 percent. All authors beat me hands down, I've never written or published a book. As far as I'm concerned, WELL DONE. Love you guys.(I read a lot).

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  7. This question poses a definite balancing act. If a poor review was given, at least someone read it, right? No reviews, to me, might be seen as no one reading. Also, the true will only make us grow; that's if the receiver can take the truth.

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  8. as someone who works in publishing industry I can tell you that there are a lot of reviewers and even famous authors who would write a great review for a bad, bad, bad book for their own reasons (usually for money), so I'm guessing that there are lots of those who would do the opposite - write a bad review for an OK book, just because they had a bad day or because they are just evil people. On the other hand there are many bad bad books which really deserve bad reviews :) because they promote bad things, immoral views or superficial nonsense. Their writers have to accept bad reviews because they were irresponsible enough to write bad novels.

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  9. Dr. Seuss?
    Hey, I was zapped with a PW review that said my book and main character were cliche. Fortuantely, that was within a day of the LJ review that compared me to Heinlein's work. Reviews are subjective. We have to live with it.

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  10. I may be wrong here but I would imagine that if there was a book reviewer who's taste in books followed what you liked, then you'd be safe with their selections. The opposite would hold true for a reviewer that didn't like books that you like!
    Either way, I've NEVER read a book review. I read the book jacket, if it sounds good to ME, than I'll read it! Love Di ♥

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  11. Give me bad reviews and give me freedom! It's up to the person to grow stronger from negative words and I'm strong. Sure, words hurt but it's true, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger! Plus, I love cheering for the underdogs!

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  12. My only bad review was from a blogger and I don't think many saw it, but it devastated me for a few days, mostly because it was a review of me and my life, not what I'd written. Reviews are so subjective. We have to learn to take the good with the bad and not let it affect how we feel about ourselves or our writing.
    blessings,
    karen

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  13. Lee-

    When I started my blog on My Space, my policy on my comments around CD's (I've never been sure if my ramblings qualify as reviews or not) was that if I could not find something nice to say, I would not say anything.

    That said, I do not see a problem with a critical review that sticks to the facts, or states an opinion without personalizing it.

    I just saw The Dilemna with Vince Vaughan. If I say I thought it stunk, that's a personal attack and the reader comes away not knowing what I didn't like.

    If I say that Vaughan is a one-trick pony and he (or the directors) overuse that trick. You know the one I mean, where he does a rambling speech that is going for laughs but never makes a point. Once per movie is my limit-not the whole movie.

    Now the reader knows what I did not like about the movie and can decide for themselves if their tastes are in alignment.

    The movie did not not stink, however the above is an accurate description of my opinion.

    Stay tuned-I'll review True Grit next...

    Kudos to you for teaching your children to learn more intelligent ways of expressing themselves.

    Larry

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  14. I can take constructive criticism, and even a bad (overall) review if it is substantiated by some reason and (albeit somthing I may disagree with) logic. It's the scathing and personal attacks that are so foul and hurting, and the artist arena leaves you wide open for mean (and usually untalented themselves) people to take shots at you. My first book, I Romanced the Stone (Memoirs of a Recovering Hippie), got (and still gets) 4 & 5 star reviews, but I stumbled upon a blog one day shortly after its publication where some gal had read it and was denouncing me as a talentless, wicked, lying, shameless and pathetic scalawag of a human being. She spent less time downing the writing than she did attacking me as a person. Fortunately that review never got further than her blog, but it hurt my tender fledgling writer's ego to the bone. I got over it - after considering the source and putting it all into perspective - and grew a little thicker in the skin ... which is one thing writers and ALL artists must have - skin like leather and a firm belief in themselves.

    Marvin D Wilson

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  15. Jeffrey -- I agree. Insincere flattery may boost our ego for a while, but we learn nothing from it other that what we learn if we find out the review was insincere.

    Jarmara -- An insightful thoughtful criticism is an experience of growth as a writer.

    Misha-- Misunderstood genius for sure. I'd like to have his greatness of talent, but I don't want to be before my time--I'd like to make some money!

    Mary -- An ebullient gushing of positivity does make me a bit suspicious. It's nice though if you can't find any "buts".

    Jules -- Yes, and Howard Stern seems to have captitalized on the aspects of his talent that others may have originally maligned.

    Geoff-- You've expressed my feelings well. I'd rather get a book published and have bad reviews than have an unpublished book and my friends and family are all saying, "You should get that published." Actually being in the market is better than just dreaming about it and never seeing it happen.

    Salarsen -- Exactly! If you've put in the work of writing, hopefully somebody will read it. If they don't like it and you know why it's easier to put future projects into perspective.

    Dezmond -- You make an interesting point. Many undeserving products become financially successful because of hype, while other deserving products fail because of whim or having fallen into the wrong circles. Time is probably the truest critic.

    Alex --- Dr. Seuss was initially misunderstood because he was doing something new and unusual. It's nice to have the good reviews to temper the effect of the bad ones. And yes, one reviewer's cup of tea may not be what other readers like.

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  16. Ugh...that's tough. I'm sure I'd rather have people reading at all even if they're OPINION is that it is bad. I recently read something everyone has claimed to be AMAZING and I didn't care for it at all. Everyone is different which is why subjectivity is fantastic. For every bad review, there may be 100 good ones.

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  17. Diana -- I think you're right. I know there are certain reviewers in the L.A. Times from whom I know what to expect and I usually can figure that if they don't like it, I probably will. I still like to read reviews that counter one another.

    Jennee -- I think the bad reviews often do catch some people's attention and makes them curious about what the product is all about. Go underdogs!

    Karen -- In your case I don't see as a review so much as a personal attack, which is totally incalled for if an piece is presented as being a review. A little bit of information about the author is one thing, but in the end I'm buying or reading a book and the author should be set apart from that. It's like criticizing the works of Wagner based on what the composer believed in his personal life. Sometimes I think some reviewers just have a vendetta going against a person or what they represent.

    Larry -- I think there's a big difference between not saying something nice and truthfully examining what we thing is wrong with something and why we didn't like it. I even think it's possible to be scathing while still being constructive.
    I look forward to hearing your review of True Grit on your MUSIC BLOG.
    And hold the kudos--I tried to teach my kids to express themselves by not using the word "suck". Alas, they still use it and sometimes I find myself using it as well. Language changes I guess.

    Marvin -- As with Karen's above comment, I think the personal attack has no place in what should be a product review, but reviews are opinions and if the reviewer thinks what they are saying is relevant to how they felt about a product I guess they could defend this position. As a reader I know I'm put off when the reviewer rips the producer of the product.
    I have seen books and movies use the very negative reviews to promote their product. I've always felt this was a humorous approach that capitalizes on absurd negativity.
    As you point out it's important to consider the source of the negativity and to toughen up to stand up to bad reviews. If we're going to expose ourselves to the public eye, we have to be ready to take what comes our way.

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  18. Candyland -- But there also could be 100 bad reviews for every 1 good one. On the plus side that means 101 people read, or at least thought about a book. There are billions more people in the world and at least one person liked it, there will probably be more. It's up to us to find those readers.

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  19. This post sucks! LOL Sorry, I just couldn't resist. Some excellent thoughts brother. Trust me when I say, I needed to read this today!

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  20. Great post. My poem in tomorrow's post is exactly onm this theme. When feedback is given it's useful when it's constructive. The Feedback sandwich is a good model to follow. I prefer honest feedback but I get upset by overly harsh and negative feedback. It can often be the case that the bad reviews sting more than good reviews warm the cockles of your heart. :O)

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  21. I happen to think if you get argument and discussion going, then YES... give me the bad, too! You will end up with far more press in the long run than if you get a couple nice reviews then everything stops. Shocking the masses is worth sales. As a peon with a very small box to shout from, I try to give some good with any criticism (at least to anyone who is still a small fish--Stephanie Meyer can take it--and serves the argument of controversy well, frankly--poorly written books telling a story a lot of people want anyway), but I'd rather have a negative review from a big source than NO review. I think.

    What an honor though... to have writte a book that inspired somebody else to write a whole book... (even if it IS in opposition)

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  22. That’s a tough question. It depends on how scathing the review was. If the book is not one’s cup of tea or if the reviewer found a few shortcomings, I can handle that. However, if it’s a tirade on how bad the book was without giving any reasons to support the view, I’d rather they write no review at all.

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  23. No one likes to see bad reviews, but they do get attention. Especially an outlandish bad review. However, a review that seeks only to bash without any word of praise isn't worth it.

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  24. Very good, and positive, points. I like to read honest reviews that are critical of the work, not the author. When it gets into bashing or if there are no valid points for why a person doesn't like a book, the review's kind of a waste of time, in my opinion.

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  25. Trevor -- You had me. I was so excited that I was about to receive some negativity.

    Madeleine -- I agree that the negative comments often are more striking and memorable than the nice sweet ones.

    Hart -- To have a book written about one's own book is a marketing coup no matter whether it's good or bad. One would have to read the original to really get the full impact of what is being said in the commentary. Anything for more book sales!

    Jane -- If no reasons are given to support the views, then I don't consider it to be a credible review, whether it be good or bad. A review should have the reasons why a reviewer feels the way they do.

    L.Diane -- An outlandish bad review would be especially cool. Then your work might be considered to be camp. People might be more inclined to read that book to see if the bad review was warrented.

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  26. I would definitely prefer a negative review than no review at all--and if it was honest, all the better.

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  27. Danyelle-- definitely a waste of time as far as getting reasonable information about a book. A review should stick to the work unless there's a darn good reason to bring the author into it. Thanks for stopping in to comment.

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  28. Golden Eagle -- If a review is not honest, it's virtually worthless unless you just want to be entertained.

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  29. Being a honest person I would like someone to be honest about a book I wrote good or not so good.

    Yvonne.
    Is Nashville ready for me ?

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  30. I've seen some writers request honest reviews, then, when they get them and they turn out to be not so good, they don't respond well. Reviews are highly subjective. What one person loves, another won't. We can't please everyone, we can only find those golden reviews, frame them, and hang 'em on our walls.

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  31. Yvonne -- Insincere flattery is not really helpful to a person who has a genuine interest in advancing a writing career.

    Lynda -- To quote Ricky Nelson's famous "Garden Party": "You can't please everyone, so you've got to please yourself". If an author doesn't really want honesty they shouldn't ask for it.

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  32. If I ever get to this stage, I'm going to bawl like a baby over every single negative review. But I'm also going to keep moving forward - I'll probably be determined to prove them wrong! :)

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  33. Hey, Arlee, there's an award awaiting you on my Monday posting dated the 7th. Congrats!

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  34. Bad reviews don't bother me as I see them as feedback. Now, if the bad review is hostile in nature, then sure it bothers me. But a generic bad review is okay. Hey, almost 200 people for the A to A Challenge. That's great!

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  35. Jemi -- Ooo, that's pretty dramatic, but persistance in the end is the key to success.

    Jeffrey -- Got it. I'll be doing an award thanks post in a couple of weeks I think.

    Stephen Tremp --If it's on an intellectual then many factors such as personal taste enter into the argument, but personal attacks better come with a darn good reason. Next we'll be heading toward 300.

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  36. I think it depends very much on how the negative review was presented. If it provided an objective overview of what was wrong, I would welcome it. If it simply said, "this sucks"? Not so much. Negative reviews are beneficial when they provide an author with enough detail that the author can address the issues. But an overarching "this is the worst thing I've ever read" doesn't cut it.

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  37. I think reviews are subjective. I have read many things I don't really like and am surprised when I hear others rave about them. I think I can handle bad reviews or critiques much better now than I did before. I am learning to separate myself from the work. Realizing it is not a personal criticism. But I still think I would be gutted if I got a really nasty one.

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  38. It pays to toughen up if you're going to be published. Someone is sure to hate what you've worked so hard to create, and you must be able to take it and move on.

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  39. Alison -- the content and spirit of a criticism is so important.

    Ann -- I tend to disagree frequently with critics and popular opinion. I like what I like.

    Patricia -- That's right! I you're putting something out there your product is going to get judged.

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  40. I've probably read more books than most folks. I've always thought it to be a major disappointment when I don't like the way a book is written or flows. I always wonder if the author wrote it that way, or if he was pushed to alter it after submision and ended up with a worse product that he started with.
    Food for thought, that's for sure...

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  41. I tend to agree with you Lee - in most cases even a negative review is a positive thing - it's press and it gets folks talking.

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  42. Pat -- I'm sure that does happen sometimes. Kind of like movies that get released later with the director's cut.

    Paula -- In space no one can hear you scream--something like that? If you're in the public arena somebody's bound to get curious about what you've written.

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Lee