Okay, publishing world, it seems we need to have a little chat. You’re cyclical, I get that. Every so often the same subject rears its ugly head on Twitter or Facebook, it all kicks off and some writers’ delicate fee-fees get hurted.
But here we are again with the ‘low ratings and reviews are just mean’ bullshit.
It’s even getting to the point where a publisher has tweeted that negative reviews come from ‘haters’. No, I am not kidding.
Over the past few days, several tweets have crossed my timeline from various writers, all saying much the same thing. “I just got my first one-star review, not that it bothers me, ha ha, they’re just a hater or a troll or a jealous loser!”
There then follows in the thread, a flurry of supportive replies from the OP’s (Original Poster’s) friends, reassuring them that everyone gets low ratings or negative reviews sometimes (true) and that they obviously don’t appreciate talent (bullshit).
This afternoon I saw one thread which began with an author saying after receiving her first three-star review (lucky her!) she’d now received her first one-star review, not that she cared, oh no!
Well, the fact she noticed it, tweeted about it and rallied her pals, kinda suggests she did.
Does all of this seem familiar? No wonder.
I’ve blogged about this a couple of times before, and my post How not to handle a negative review describes a situation so similar to what’s just been barfed all over Twitter that you’ll probably think I plagiarised myself with this blog post. But nope. The same thing keeps happening, over and over again. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.
From the aforementioned blog post:
If a writer has only ever self-published, there’s a distinct possibility their first contact with someone pointing out plot holes, mistakes and typos or just plain old not liking their work will be not with an editor rejecting their manuscript, but with a reader who has spent money on their book, and time reading it.
There’s also my blog post More ‘negative reviews’ fuckery on Twitter which is more to do with authors complaining about people rating their books without having read them in their entirety. Well, if you can’t hold a reader’s attention, that in itself is a valid review.
Anyway, the thread on Twitter today descended into a bunch of writers saying the person who had left the review was probably a jealous competitor, or someone who didn’t fully appreciate the effort the author had put into her work.
Let’s just tackle both of those accusations in order.
First of all, is someone who gives your book one star a jealous competitor?
Okay, that’s maybe not the extensive, detailed answer you were hoping for.
But have you any idea how insulting it is, to suggest the only reason for someone to lowball your book is because they’re in the same business, and they want to knock out the competition? If that’s the first place your mind goes, that says an awful lot more about you than it does about the book being discussed. Is it realistic to think this author on Twitter is so super-talented that the only way to tank her sales (and she’s someone I’d never even heard of a few hours ago) is to one-star her book on Goodreads?
Could it be…the reader just didn’t like her book?
Okay, then. Maybe the reviewer wasn’t a competitor trying to hobble other, better writers. Maybe they were just someone who didn’t appreciate the effort the OP had put into her work.
Even if that was the case…so what?
Too many writers believe they should be rewarded for effort, rather than paid for the end product.
What a writer imagines in their head is often far different to what ends up on the page. The scenery or world or hell, even universe inside their head is more detailed. Trust me, as a writer, I know.
So what they know about their world, their characters, their backstory, influences what they think of their own book. They know so much about their story world that they forget…the reader does not. They know all the useless details about their protagonist that didn’t make it onto paper. Or perhaps they think they wrote about said details in the book but they did so with less skill than is required, so the impression their pages give to the reader is far, far different to what’s going on in the author’s brain.
The story has to go from author’s brain to keyboard to book format and from there, into the reader’s mind. That’s a lot of places for your untrained authorial intent to get lost in translation.
What ends up in the reader’s mind is what they use to judge your book. Not how much effort you put in. Who the hell cares how much sleep you lost? That you were rushing to get the book finished for your ideal release date? That it was something you’d been working on for years? (And if so, dude, you really need to work on your productivity.)
You, as a writer, are not rewarded (or paid) according to how much work you put in. You’re paid according to the end product. As in, royalties. As long as the reader acquired your book by legal means and you get paid your share of the royalties, that’s all you need to know. Reviews are not for authors. They’re for other readers.
And if readers don’t like a particular book, they have the right to express such an opinion.
One more thing before I hit publish on this blog post. (It’s nearly 1,000 words as it is and I need to go wash my hair.) The Twitter thread that inspired this rant ended up with the OP’s writer pals saying everyone should head on over to Goodreads to 5-star the book, to, and I quote, “balance things out”.
So, readers? Beware of any book that has a lowball rating, then gets 5-star bombed. Because apparently there are writers out there so sensitive to criticism that they need all their pals to wank their egos and basically lie on social media, filling Goodreads up with 5-star ratings to salve their bruised fee-fees.
It’s funny how no-one ever seems to bitch about those undeserved 5- star reviews, eh?