Musings on reviews & reaching readers

I don’t go looking at reviews often, but when I do, sometimes I find pure gems. Take this observation, from an unverified 2-star Amazon review left in June. (Why am I posting this now, when it happened in June? HI HAVE WE MET? HAVE I NOT MENTIONED MY ABILITY TO OVERTHINK THINGS FOREVER?)

But I digress early this time.

The reviewer found Controlled Descent unappealing in large part because there were repeated instances of “characters dealing with physical suffering and acting like jerks.”

Friends, I confess THIS IS A VALID TAKE, and that makes this a valuable review.

Not sure where the reader got their copy. Since the review is unverified & not linked to a Goodreads, it’s not an Amazon purchase. Might have been a convention? This means someone cared hard enough about their disappointment in a book they bought at least 2 years ago to hunt it down online & vent.

I admire that kind of dedication, and I’m (perhaps perversely) pleased I was able to inspire that passionate a reaction.

I mean, sure I’d rather inspire excitement and joy and other positive responses like loyalty and enthusiasm, but the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s apathy. I’d rather fifty people passionately but thoughtfully hate my writing than five hundred think it’s too MEH to bother rating at all.

I’ve learned over the years that my perspective on this is far from universal. Your mileage may vary, etc.

That same review complained about an “obligatory intertwined love story” and that remark kinda underscores that the book was a bad fit for them. Which happens. But not because there’s and intertwined love story.

There isn’t. Pinkie swear. There are multiple characters who are sexually attracted to others, yes. That’s hardly unrealistic. And there are comedic elements involving one character’s obliviousness, because that’s my lived experience & fun to write. But it’s a group of people who all respect consent & accept responsibility for their own attraction, so that’s that. There;s a straightforward pair-up within the embrace of a supportive, approving friendship group, and nothing more.

But!

If a reader was braced for/expecting matters to fall out as a Typical Tropey Lurve Triangle, well, I can see why they might read the interactions differently and not appreciate it. I’m not a fan of love triangle angst myself, so I can respect others being sensitive to it and having a different perspective.

I’m sharing all this as an example of why an unfavorable review can still be a good one — nay, even an excellent one.

Now, there are bad reviews aplenty out there. Vicious, vitriolic, meanspirited, hating, hateful ones. Getting a lot of those can sink a beautiful book into obscurity forever. I’ve seen stories smothered that way on Goodreads, on Twitter, on…well, anywhere readers are gathered together. Like some other authors, I fear attcks like those. So far, my obscurity has protected my writing.

(Low-star pile-on attacks have little to do with the quality of the book. Even in cases where problematic elements offended and enraged people, the massive inundation of bad reviews come from people who never. read. the. book–which is a little piece of proof that a review reveals something of its author along with its analysis.)

BUT I DIGRESS AGAIN. QUELLE SUPRISE

As long as the review is a good, honest, thoughtful one, the reasons one reader did NOT like a book inform other prospective readers about things they WILL like. That’s why I welcome good unfavorable ones. I’m grateful to all the people who took the time to share why they didn’t like my books.

Some provide insight into choices I made unconsciously about characters or style or themes–the kind of choices beta readers and editors might not question, but ones which I would rather make consciously. Other “bad” reviews highlight imperfections in plot or structure that are part of the craft ‘m always striving to improve. And yes, a few of the reviews are pure entertainment in a classic “WTAF, did they read the same book I wrote?” way.

But anyway. I thought I’d share my ponderings on this topic, and now I have done so.

That’s all for now. Until later!

OOP! CAT TAX:

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