Sunday, September 03, 2006

This book is stunning. Awful. Amazing. Boring. A Must Read!!!:

My very first book, Make Me a Match, came out on September 1st. On August 29th I got my first bad review. Well, okay, not terrible. Not, “Hey, you suck! Please, please, please don’t ever write anything again.” But lukewarm. Three stars. “Not what I hoped,” the reviewer said.

Blah.

This review came after a barrage of terrific reviews. No matter. My life was now divided into two parts: before and after The Review.

Before The Review, life was good. Words like “amazing,” “stunning,” “a major new talent,” filled my growing head.

After The Review, all was darkness. Maybe I shouldn’t write. Maybe Warner won’t even print my second book. Maybe this reader is right and I was so very wrong to think I could write….

Wait. This was one person’s opinion. Only, it was one person’s opinion on Amazon. My sales began to plummet. (Not that I was obsessively checking ….)

My first impulse was to e-mail all my buddies and have them bury The Review with a sea of raves. I called my first buddy.

She said, “Oh, honey. That review’s nothing. Did you see what Romantic Times said about you?” She sounded as if someone had died.

This was odd, as Romantic Times gave me a gushing 4 1/2 stars review. I reminded her of this. She said, “Yes, but they rated you mild.”

Mild? How had I missed that? Mild meant there’s no sex in the book. But I have sex. Um, let me re-phrase that: my book has sex. Hot, vivid, interesting sex. Heck, there’s even a love scene in the Garden-of-too-Many-Lawn-Ornaments.

“I know they got it wrong,” my friend said, “A silly mistake. Typo, perhaps. But it’s really a shame.” The someone-died voice again.

I wasn’t going to call any more friends.

I drank a glass of wine. Walked in the rain with my daughter. Punched my pillow. Ate chocolate ice cream. Mint ice cream. Mocha chip. A few cookies.

“Mild…” said Romantic Times.

“Not what I hoped…” said dumbo on Amazon. No, just kidding. Not dumbo. Said a very thoughtful reviewer.

I had to think this through.

Okay. This wasn’t about the review. It was about me. How could I be so weak as to take this one (stupid! Lame! Wrong!—oops, sorry, more ice cream…ah, that’s better…) review and let it convince me that my career was over? That was pathetic. Especially with all the great reviews the book has gotten.

And yet, there it was.

So what do all you writers out there do when you get a bad review? And readers, when you read a review, what makes you trust the reviewer? Do you trust a rave more than a pan? Do reviews even matter to you? Chocolate-ice-cream stuffed writers want to know…

(Update: six days later, I resisted asking all my buddies for reviews, and got some nice reviews anyway...except for one. One Amazon review WAS my Mom. But I'm not telling which.)

Cheers! --Diana
http://www.dianaholquist.com

18 comments:

Elizabeth Hoyt said...

AHHHH!!! NEVER READ REVIEWS!!!

I already have this worked out with my agent--not that I've gotten any reviews yet, but I have had *ahem* one or two rejection letters. SHE reads the reviews. She may forward me any glowing write-ups, NOTHING ELSE.

Now, here's what you do if your eyes should accidently fall on a bad review. You get a big wonking candle and you light it. This is your Bad Juju candle and it will magically burn away all the negative vibes of a bad review so you can continue writing. Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia ice cream optional.

Yes, my agent thinks I'm insane, but she humors me.

Lori Wilde said...

Diana,

I'm with Elizabeth. I never read reviews and I never google myself. I used to and it just made me crazy and distracted from the work. Let's face it, not everyone is going to think everything you write is brilliant. So why put yourself through the torture? With good reviews I always figure they're just being kind and with bad ones I sink into depression. Much better just to spend the time improving my craft.

And if your eyes accidentally do fall on a review--stop reading it. Seriously. I have a quote I keep by my computer that says--"He who jumps into the void owes no explanation to those who stand and watch." We are jumping into the void. We are the risk takesrs. Anyone can stand and watch and bad mouth our attempts. Who cares what those who stay safely on the sidelines think?

MarilynS said...

OK, Diana, I'm a reader.....I read constantly and I try to support those authors I read by writing reviews. I recently had a woman contact me and said she bought the book due to my review.

I think we "readers" owe our authors praise and I just left your website and guess what? All I see is praise for your book. I'm going right out to purchase it and I'm sure I'm going to love it as well. I agree with the other two posts, dismiss the bad and concentrate only on the good. It sounds to me like you are a very talented author. Continue writing those incredible books!

Karen W. said...

I read reviews mostly to see if the synopsis sounds like something I would like and take ratings/grades with a grain of salt since they are just one person's opinion and my mileage may vary. :-) I'm planning to read your book soon, Diana. The great cover caught my eye, and it sounds like a book I'd really enjoy. Good luck with it!

Diana Holquist said...

Elizabeth and Lori--Sage advice. I MUST stop reading the reviews. And checking my Amazon page. And, um, okay, googling myself. But it's just so nuts. You put the book out there and then --silence. I need some feedback. Or at least, something that says there's someone out there, even if they hate it. Does it drive you nuts waiting for feedback?

And thanks, Marylns and Karen for the feedback and support. It's SO very nice to know there's someone out there!

--Diana (who is NOT going to read any more reveiws...but still may overindulge in the Ben & Jerry's...)

Nicole said...

Hey, don't worry! And I tried buying your book the other day and the store I was at was already out. Plenty of that Size 2 book and none of yours.

Now, I'm honestly not a reader who thinks she should only say good things. I figure if I don't like a book, I can say so. And I have.

That said, even bad reviews can be good for you! They can make a reader want to know more about the book and even may like what turned the previous reader off. So really, don't sweat it.

Michelle said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rikz said...

Diana,

Some people do put worth in what others think of a book. And then there's the rest of us that don't. I pick my books because they interest me. And most often than not, I love all the books I read.

If I don't enjoy it, I don't run to my computer and email the author to tell her how much I thought her book stinks. I never understood why readers feel the need to do this. Maybe its because they are bored? Pity then, they don't realise that their words DO have a ripple effect on the author.

We all doubt ourselves. I make websites for a living and every day I worry that someone is going to jump up and shout that I am faking it and don't know a single thing about design! Eeek... Thats when some Tin Roof ice cream, hersey chocolate sauce and strawberries start to sound really good.. ;-)

I think most readers who write bad reviews have what I call "romance burnout"... They still read it but they have lost the magic of it all. They have forgotten its supposed to be romantic and whimsical, happy and most importantly fiction..

I don't trust reviewers. I might come across a review now and then but they don't hold any weight on whether I am going to purchase a book. They just don't matter to me... This Tin-Roof-ice-cream reader thought you should know.. ;-)

P.S... I doubt Warner is too worried about that review too.. Hehehe... Hugs!

Melissa said...

If I am looking for something new to read, I rarely read reviews from the Amazon readers. I'm more likely to go to the store and read the first few chapters myself before purchasing it. I'm looking forward to reading your book because your character sounds very unique!

Diana Holquist said...

Happy Labor Day, everyone!

Thanks for all the comments. It's good to hear that reviews aren't everything. I"m definitely trying to keep my eyes off them.

So now, let's get to the really important stuff--what is Tin Roof ice cream, anyway?

--Diana
http://www.dianaholquist.com

Lori Wilde said...

Diana,

The feedback should come from your editor. For one thing, even if a reader gives you brilliant feedback, the book is already in print. For another thing, a lot of reader feedback is just their own preference. You can't try to write to please everyone or you will end up with a safe, bland, boring book. Now if a lot of reviewers and people point out a tendency you have like maybe not developing your plot enough or not exploring emotion to full advantage, well yes, that's feedback you can use on future books. But by the time the book comes out it's usually a year or longer since you've written it, you've grown as a writer and you're probably not making those same mistakes anymore anyway. You've got to get over wanting feedback from anyone other than your editor.

Rikz said...

Diana,

It's divine, made in heaven ice cream. I found it at my local Woolworths but since I am from South Africa, I just have no idea if you can purchase it from Woolies there...

It's worth a look though... Definitely.. ;-) While you buying it get some Hersey's Chocolate Sauce and Strawberries... OMG, heaven...

Do I have you craving some now? I sure do! LOL...

:-)

Diana Holquist said...

Lori,

In terms of growth as a writer, I cringe at all the things I would change now if I only knew...

But that, I suppose, is what it's all about.

And Rikz, I looked up Tin Roof ice cream. It says vanilla ice cream with chocolate fudge swirls and chocolate covered peanuts. Apparently, some American brands make it. So now I just have to find it--quick, before strawberries go out of season!

--Diana
http://www.dianaholquist.com

Rikz said...

Diana!

You found it! Excellent.. ;-) Can you take a picture when you get it with strawberries and all and blog about it? Hehehe...

Can't wait to hear what you think! :-) Its my favorite at the moment... :D

Michelle Rowen said...

Diana... welcome to the wonderful world of the published! I deleted my previous comment because my tongue was firmly in cheek re: my thoughts on Amazon reviews (but some might not have realized I was kidding -- err... maybe I wasn't -- LOL)

My skin is still thickening. It's a painful process. But the only cure for not getting the occasional bad review is to stop writing, and that's not an option, is it?

Kimber said...

Well, honestly, as a reader, I never read reviews.
Why?
Because I have yet to find a Kimber clone. I've looked, believe me, it'd make my life so much easier, but there isn't one out there. So if this reviewer isn't a Kimber clone, how is she going to know what I like?
I might like your book. I might not. Who cares?
I'm one person out of billions.
Is your book so plain Jane vanilla that it's going to please everyone?
Yeah, I didn't think so.

Amanda said...

Hi my name is Amanda and a a reader i do NOT NOT NOT read reviews because everybody has there own opinion on books and i prefer to make my own and not follow the group. To me it does not matter how many people liked the book and how many didn't it just matters if i find it intresting enough to pick the book up and read it for myself.

Diana Holquist said...

Rikz--will do. I'm searching out the ice cream now...(so much more fun than working!). I'm also searching out where the name "tin roof" came from. Very odd.

This discussion about reviews (and ice cream) has been fascinating for me. I never read reviews either (at least, not other people's...) because they all seem too rave-y for the most part. Too enthusiastic. I mean, how many "amazing, fabulous, etc" books are there really? The raves become so ubiquitous, that when someone says, "it's just okay," it's sort of shocking.

I just put an ad in this month's Romantic Times. The headline says, "No Raves from Famous Authors" (then the copy says, "okay, there are raves from famous authors, but then my ad would like like everyone else's..." It'll be interesting to see how reader's respond. I think the magazine comes out this week.

--Diana
http://www.dianaholquist.com