Every published story has the potential to rack up fabulous negative reviews. The wonderful thing about fiction is that each reader will come away with a different experience, and not all will be positive. I know this because I have a nice little collection of 1 star reviews I’m going to share with you today. I’m not one who reads my negative reviews over and over. In fact, unless it’s the first book in a new series, I won’t bother reading reviews lower than three stars. I’ve learned since publishing my first book that there are readers who enjoy being nasty. If you know me personally, I don’t like nasty people. Even after publishing ten books, some reviews confuse the hell out of me. Because…well…why be nasty? I don’t know the answer to that, and I never will. It’s probably best if I never find out, too. I value my sanity.
So, below is a highlight of some of my favorite one star reviews. I have commented for the first time honestly on each. It’s true, I think most of them are funny, even if they don’t make sense or don’t represent the book I wrote. They’re published reviews, out there for all to see. Which makes them fair game, y’all. Fair game.
Over half of the reviews for my first book are 5 stars. For me, I’m happy with this. I know IHYFM could have been a complete flop. I got lucky, because as a writer, damn have I grown since publishing this title. I won’t lie or pretend I wasn’t nervous about what people thought, so eventually I broke down and used the balls I didn’t really have, and read the negative reviews. And you know what – I totally survived. Here are some good ones:
‘Laura M’, thanks so much for the compliment about Zoey, the dog, and the talent comment, um, I think? But I do have to point out something inaccurate in your review. To say that Riley “lusts after every guy she meets” is actually not true. You’re not the first to say this, so it makes me laugh now. There is one man she is interested in, romantically speaking, in IHYFM. Just one. And there are others she grows to care about, because that’s human nature.
For the other readers that didn’t finish the book and totally missed the point about Riley being one of the only women alive in the story and what that would mean for her safety and well-being: There are men that actually DO lust after her – for very different reasons. Let’s face the truth about human sexuality; if there are more men left in a Dystopian world than women, how long would it be before some of those men would try to take advantage of that situation? Especially if most of those men are asshats. I mean, there’s a shortage of ladies in this series, sad to say, and that limits the playing field for all the men – be them good or bad. The real world can sucketh big time, and so does this made up one. If you have a handful of bad guys around one woman, shit’s going to get real. Which is kinda the point of the story. Riley is stuck in a rather difficult situation – on more than one occasion – because she does the opposite of what some readers have assumed – she doesn’t get it on with every man she comes across. She’s a mother who lived longer than her kids and can’t handle that, so for a long time she pretends it didn’t happen. Not everyone reacts the same way to grief. If you wanted to slap Riley across the face a few times while reading the first book, then good. So did I.
For those who have read the second and third books, they can really see Riley’s character arc come full circle. I mean, Riley can kick some ASS, right readers? Anyway, ‘Laura M’, I would love for you to read the rest of these books to see how Riley evolves as a character. She has flaws, which is how most fictional characters should be if you want to see any improvement along the way. She is far from perfect, and pretty much in denial for the first two books – all done on purpose. She’s a character who makes a lot of mistakes, so she can learn from them. That’s all I’ll say about that. *wink*
OMG. I love this one! ‘ilbob’ thanks for taking the time to let me know that you didn’t get this story, and quit before you were done. I’m not being sarcastic, either. I do appreciate your review. Can I help you understand a few things, since it seems you were confused? Let’s start with the ‘chick’. She has a name, so we’ll call her Riley. *wink*
If you read up to the hotel part, and a little beyond it, you’d know that everyone in downtown San Diego was dead. I mean…rotting in the streets kind of dead. There was no fighting over canned food and bottled water. Whatever necessities they might need are free game. It’s like Christmas during the apocalypse! But sadly, the safety of being in a city with all those amenities doesn’t last forever, which is why they leave. Does that help you? I hope so.
Let me reiterate that this is a fiction story, and some things have to be played with to make it work. The purpose is to entertain. *double wink*
Female Fantasy. I’m not sure what that is, really? Riley stabs and kills someone with a spoon down the road, and rips someone apart with her bare hands. I bet you’d really like that side of Riley.
“Utter dreck” sounds kind of awesome, but it’s not. I had to look this one up initially because though I had a feeling of what ‘dreck’ meant, I’d not actually used it myself in a sentence at any time in my life. Dreck = grime or impurity. One of the synonyms for dreck is actually ‘excrement’. I do know what that means, so if I can translate this literally, this particular ‘Kindle Customer’ thought IHYFM was complete shit. *giggle*
This review is slightly off, because in the book Riley is described as being the pretty girl-next-door type, not “gorgeous”, and if you said that to her face, she’d laugh. But since she has a vagina, the guys want her. She totally lucks out with the main male character though, I’ll give you that one. He definitely thinks she’s gorgeous. But then again, there’s slim pickings in this post-apoc world.
Greenhouses are totally a real thing, by the way. As are resort lodges. And penthouse hotel rooms. If most people in the world died, these places wouldn’t *poof* and disappear. They’d still be around, waiting for lucky people to happen upon them. I’m not lying – they’re really out there – Google ’em!
After those reviews, you might think this book doesn’t sell at all after a few years have gone by, but it does. I took this screenshot yesterday to show that despite these negative reviews, readers have enjoyed it. So, as long as those readers want more Find Me books, I’ll keep writing them.
This was the second book I wrote, and also my first attempt at writing in 1st person, present tense. That’s not easy to do, and honestly, I’d say from a writer’s perspective, I failed in a lot of ways. But readers who aren’t authors or editors actually love this book. Oh, the irony. lol
Dying to Forget was hard to write (for many reasons – technically and also emotionally) and I’ll be the first to admit there are mistakes. What’s frustrating as hell is that I know better. But I didn’t hire a literary fiction editor. And editors are there specifically to say, ‘Lookit. You’ve started five paragraphs with the word ‘I’. Knock it off. And hello, you know the difference between ‘too’ and ‘two’, so what the hell?’
I’ve been telling myself that I needed to go back and have this book cleaned up, but readers kept eating it up and demanding more in the series, and honestly, I didn’t have time till recently to ‘fix’ and ‘write’. So, for those who read DtF when it first came out and thought, ‘OMG, the typo’s!’ I hang my head and apologize. I learned the hard way about how self-publishing has its downsides. Just because you think you can do it all yourself, doesn’t mean you should. Recently the book has been re-proofed and is being formatted for release. Writers – pay for editing. It will save you lots of grief later.
However, even though this title needed to be cleaned up, it’s my best-selling book. *scratches head* The subject matter is heavy. I mean, deep. Suicide is not something to be taken lightly, and I don’t. There’s been readers who don’t seem to grasp the point of the story, and have gone as far to publicly reprimand me in negative reviews for glorifying suicide. Those same people don’t know that I lost a family member to suicide, and I know exactly how it feels to go through that. I’ve suffered from depression. I’ve been the victim of sexual abuse. I know people who have self-harmed. I’m not an idiot who is clueless on these topics. So, yeah, it lights a fire under my ass to have a reader assume I chose the subject matter out of the air and thought I’d simply have fun writing about something controversial. That is not what happened.
There’s nothing romantic about suicide. It’s final. And the characters in these books learned that the hard way. Piper Willow was created to evoke something other than depression from the reader: hope. If someone takes away more than that after reading her story, it makes my heart swell. Even the little things can make a difference in our lives, like how Piper helps a character improve her own self-image in order to temporarily feel better. Will straightening your hair keep you from killing yourself? Hell, no. But could seeing yourself differently help you feel better, and the tiniest bit less suicidal? Maybe. This series is ALL about the what if’s.
Readers are passionate about this one. As it should be. *wink* So let’s read some of the worst of the worst reviews, shall we?
Yes ‘Kelly C’, this is a series. There are three books, three novelettes and a fourth book in the works. There will most likely be more. A ‘three part series’ is actually called a ‘trilogy’. Kind of different rules for the two, in my opinion. The length of this book is acceptable for its genre as part of a series. In fact, there is no set ‘rule’ to establish how many words a book in a series should be, because writers, just like readers, are different. Imagine that! As a reader myself, I know that every one of us has different reading preferences. Some read fast, some read slower. Some like short books, some like long ones. Some like reading a series, others like the stand alone with that HEA at the end. I’m not that kind of writer, y’all, and that’s why on the book cover and the product page, readers are clearly informed that this book is part of a series. If you take up the six currently published titles (three are novelettes, intentionally short and listed as so) you get a whopping total of about 184 thousand words (give or take a few thousand). WOW would that be a ginormous YA book. And the ‘series’ isn’t done, so this number will only climb. If I waited to publish a book that is part of a series just to make it a certain length, it would never get published. And that would be a shame.
When I made the decision to make this book free, it was so that readers could get a taste of the series and decide if they wanted to read on (like with IHYFM). If they don’t like the freebie, they won’t keep reading, right? But some do, because I think they secretly DID like the freebie, and honestly, in the world of ‘give it to me now, and give it to me free’, sadly this is not the first time I’ve had someone complain in a review that they had to actually pay *gasp* for the rest of the books. How dare I pay my bills! If a reader doesn’t want to pay the $3.99 for the second and third books in this series, I encourage them to get a library card. I have sales often. I give away ARC’s and gift copies to readers who personally message me that they can’t wait for payday so they can’t keep reading. But writers shouldn’t be shamed for actually making money off their work. We deserve to. Plain and simple.
‘Amazon Customer’ – I am so sorry you found this book inappropriate for your tennis. This YA series and tennis have nothing to do with each other, so I get your confusion.
Unfortunately, both rape and cutting are things that happen to our youth all the time, which is so damn sad. The research that went into this book was painful. The series is not all about rape and cutting though, in fact, it’s about redemption, forgiveness and hope, and anyone who survives the first chapter has a better chance of experiencing that.
I need to note…something really amazing happened after this book was published. Real people shared real stories about their rapes, self-harm struggles, suicide attempts and loved ones lost to suicide. These amazing and brave people made me realize this story is much more than just a YA Fantasy tale to them. I didn’t write this book with the intention of saving a life, or keeping someone from self-harm, but I am SO glad some people felt a connection with Piper Willow. As a writer, there is nothing more humbling than the real life stories I’ve heard in reaction to this series.
I’ve had parents reach out and ask me if this subject matter was appropriate for their teen and my answer is always the same – only YOU know your kids, so read it first. Parents have reached out to say thanks for giving them a platform to discuss these topics with their kids. And that’s awesome. It’s hard to bring up suicide and rape with your child. I know, I’m a mom. So you see, each family is different and that is okay. Fiction books aren’t just about entertaining, they can mean so much more to certain people. I am so blessed that the Station books have done this for some.
This review is a stellar example of a reader not paying attention to what they are purchasing/downloading. The Station series is listed in the Teen and YA genre, and the description on the product page mentions the main character being a teenager. These kind of reviews are actually irritating as hell, because the reader felt dinging it with a one star was an appropriate reaction to the fact that they don’t know how to read a book description. Let’s laugh about this and move on…
Ah, this one is kind of like the ‘dreck’ review with the little ‘drivel’ barb at the end. The underhanded punch to the writer gut is always fun, yes? lol Oh, oh! And let’s do the ‘spoiler’ thing for those potential readers to see, because that’s even MORE fun than name calling. *wink*
Joking aside, to the actual point of this review; it’s the reader’s opinion, one they are allowed to have. But ‘Redaim’, there have been several teens that have sent me private messages with their story, things like, ‘Thank you for writing this book. It kept me from cutting myself today.’ Or…’I read this book on a whim when I was depressed and thinking about suicide. Now I feel I’m worth living.’ Every time I get a message like this I cry. I would never, ever call these brave kids ‘dumb’. Would you?
If you read this far, you might think I’m a crazy, ranting brat. I really don’t want to be. In fact, I want you to read this post and be able to laugh along with me at some of the negative reactions to my work and perhaps see them in a different way. When I posted How to be a Jerk Reviewer, it was to make light of a sensitive topic for writers and each of the reviews above could fit into one of the Jerk Review topics.
Writers, look. None of us want negative reviews. It’s not like it feels good to have your work called ‘dreck’ or ‘drivel’. Readers have the right to feel however they want about something they read. The question is, do writers have the right to react to their reviews? Why or why not? I never respond to negative reviews where they are posted – I learned that fast after responding to a highly critical review from one of my friends. LOL I think it’s unprofessional to use Amazon, B&N or even Goodreads as a place to dissect my reviews – but right here – this is my blog. Maybe readers need to be reminded that writers are not robots, but real people who might actually read their public reviews. And yep, reviews are public, so when you post an intentionally hurtful one, be prepared to have your review criticized by other readers, and even other writers. It’s only fair. *wink*
In conclusion, I love my stories. Not because they are perfectly written, I know they aren’t, or perfectly developed worlds, but because they are my babies. And there are readers that love them. This is what every writer wants. Yeah, negative reviews are part of the job. I felt from the beginning it wasn’t a good thing to read them, and I don’t dwell on the ones I have. Some have helped me grow as an author and learn things the hard way (i.e. hiring an editor). But hit me below the belt just cuz, and eventually I’ll speak out about it. Writing is what I do, after all. And the older I’m blessed to get, the more I realize that censoring myself is not for the greater good.
There’s a stigma in this industry that writers should put their work out there and then let whatever happens happen without a reaction. I can tell you this is impossible to do. Writers should have the right to correct reviews with inaccurate information, or address/explain/chat about the issues readers bring up. There’s a bit of a ‘Sssh, you wrote this, published it, now don’t you dare talk about what others might say…’ attitude in the writing community. At the risk of poking the 1 star review Bear, I really want to know…why?
Writers and readers are beautifully connected: both love stories. Let us all remember this the next time we write a book or write a review. xoxo
Happy Wednesday, y’all!