Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Surviving the Bad Review

I would like to update an old axiom today. It will now go: Into every writer's life, a bad review must fall.

Naturally this is not something we writers want to hear. As we construct our opuses out of fairy-wings and vodka shots, we all secretly hope to be catapulted not only to fame and vast wealth--but to be canonized. I don't care if you write trashy romances with badly stitched plots--I'll bet you want it too: to be loved, idolized, held up as the standard to which all other books in your genre should aspire. You're only human after all--which means, ruled by your ego,that sleazy little car salesmen in all of our souls.

The bad review, I have come to believe, is the universe's way of trying to reel us in. And no matter how plainspoken or thoughtful said review is, ultimately, to the one who is on the receiving end, it is inevitably the meanest thing ever written by a clearly inferior person.

Still, it makes you feel like crap.

And yes, I've just gotten one this week. Fortunately it wasn't from Kirkus or Booklist (as if they would ever review trade books on the craft of writing anyway), but from some anonymous member of the masses at Amazon.com. With democratic forms of marketing come democratic forums for voicing opinions--it is par for the course, in other words. Like Bob Marley sang so righteously: "You can't please all the people, all the time."

Aside from the fact thatthe reviewer got my gender wrong (even though the bio clearly states that I am a SHE) I ask you to look at the contradictions contained in said review. How can he say THIS:

"Make a Scene is packed with helpful concrete suggestions and information..."

and at the same time, say THIS:

"His passion for state-of-being verbs and qualifying adverbs turns the the book into a 270-page drone in which nothing is more important than anything else."

If the book is indeed "packed" with "helpful concrete suggestions" in what reality can it also be a "drone" in which "nothing is more important than anything else?"

My only answer is that the reviewer is a quantum physicist and comes from the point of view that a particle exists both somewhere and nowhere at once. Therefore, my book is both helpful, and not helpful at all to him. This is the only way I can understand it.

Either that, or my conspiracy mind thinks that maybe one of my "competitors" in the field of scene writing (who shall remain nameless) hired someone to write a nasty review of my book to make it seem less palatable. Therefore, perhaps he never even READ it! Yes, maybe this is it!

What you are seeing are the stages of reconstruction that the sleazy-little car salesmen of my ego must go to in order not to feel like a total hack. Who cares that a publisher felt my book was worthy of being published, or that many others have had very nice things to say about it. I am a writer--therefore I hear the worst first.

The only thing that saves me from looking for a full-time gig in some soul-sucking retail mall is humor. And the knowledge that for every bad review, the good ones still balance out the scales.

(That, and imagining force-feeding my entire book to the reader while he is tied to a chair.)

I remain open to suggestions.


1 comment:

Kim Green said...

i got two heinous ones recently on amazon from readers. v. sad, actually, as they follow a half dozen glowing ones, which now glow, like waning moons, from the BOTTOM of the page. not what a struggling author wants to see on her best bookselling outlet! so, loyal readers -- help me out here! (loyal readers = my mother. memo to self: teach mom to create multiple identities on amazon.)

you hang tough, girl. there is nothing you can do but your best. it makes people mad in a personal way that you have the temerity to want to share your thoughts with others at all. it doesn't have that much to do with your actual words or thoughts, i suspect. the nerve!