Sunday, January 20, 2013

"If you believe your good reviews..."

Not too long ago, on Facebook, Joe R. Lansdale said, "If you believe your good reviews, you have to believe your bad ones, too." The comment struck me and stayed with me. Up until then, I'd been pretty lucky that the vast majority of Amazon reviews of my work had been positive. And all that kindness had worked wonders for my self-esteem, making the act of laughing off the occasional bad or indifferent review pretty easy to do.

In the last week or so, due to circumstances that I still don't quite understand, my work reached a much, much bigger audience than I was used to. Jon Bassoff at New Pulp Press put THE BASTARD HAND up for free on Kindle for a few days, and in that period something like 16,000 readers downloaded it. As if that weren't staggering enough, another 200 or so bought it the first day or two it went back to full price. I don't know where those big numbers came from, what sparked the surge, but I'm glad of it. The sudden interest affected most of my other work as well, and I saw a significant spike in sales all across the board.

I mention this not to brag or puff out my chest (I already did that part, over on FB) but to note that one of the results of this upswing has been a handful of new, less-than-glowing reviews.

" have to believe the bad ones, too..."

Bad reviews STILL don't bother me, exactly. So I hope I'm not misunderstood here. But reading them has caused me to evaluate the situation a bit. And I've concluded that there are THREE different types of bad review.

One: The useful kind. This is an honest, insightful review that can actually help you, the writer. It's the kind in which legitimate points are made and you can actually learn something from them. Obviously, this is the best kind of negative review, and you'd be a fool as a writer to get upset about them.

Two: The funny kind. The review that is so WAY off the mark that all you can do is laugh. You shouldn't worry about these, honestly; if YOU can see that it's a dumb-ass review, trust me, most readers can as well. It's not going to hurt you, so have a chuckle.

Three: The only kind that annoys me a bit-- the review written by someone who shouldn't be writing reviews. They either haven't read the work (I got one from a reviewer who admitted to reading only the first ten pages... um, you have to actually read it to review it, okay?), they've admitted a bias to the genre (would you review, say, a romance novel, good or bad, if you HATED romance novels?), or they're just practicing being snarky without any specific content ("This book sucks ass! I hate it!")

That's about all I have to say about that. But I want to reiterate: I can deal with the occasional bad review. I'm not THAT thin-skinned, honest.

And after all, I win in the end, don't I?


  1. I read this review of reviews and am about to render my review.
    First let me congratulate you on your recent success with your numbers.
    Let me also compliment you on your insightful take on the whole matter of reviews. I must say it is the premier outlook one should have on the matter. I was reminded of a Film Critic who used to work in my local television market who it became quickly obvious to me liked nothing. No matter how popular or what genre, he seemingly liked nothing. I often wondered why they continued to have him on. One evening, he had nothing but praises for a film I had seen. It was in my opinion a waste of celluloid. How them could this guy, who hated everything made actually LIKE this Trash? It was his second to last sentence in his review that he let it slip that a friend of his was involved in the making of that movie.
    My point being, always consider the motivation of the reviewer. Are they offering an insight to the work? Are they doing it for attention? Are they out with an agenda? Or do they just want to tear down something someone has built.
    Best wishes.

  2. The good thing about unfair criticism, though, is that it proves that people are aware of your work. Beyond that, the work has to speak for itself. Most people seem to think it speaks very well.


  3. An article on the business page of the NYT today really makes you doubt Amazon reviews even more. Clearly it is too easy to garner good ones or be the target of bad ones. I hope they can fix this because there is not much newspaper reviewing going on anymore.

  4. With the demise of the bona fide newspaper industry, as Patti mentioned, we're stuck with the Amazon thing (and Goodreads), which as you noted, H, can be a good thing... or not. Been discovering very similar waters lately — food for thought (and good to remember one's mirth!).

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