Monday, 16 March 2015

The Truth About Bad Book Reviews by Rebecca Hamilton - Blog Tour - Come, the Dark

Today I welcome fellow author Rebecca Hamilton to my blog as part of her Come the Dark tour. She is talking about a subject very close to many authors' hearts: the bad review.

Enjoy Happy Geek Media's debut tour of Come, the Dark, Book 2, in the Forever Girl series.
The Truth About Bad Book Reviews
by Rebecca Hamilton

Warning: This will be one of my longest guest blogs ever. I have a lot to say on this issue.

Someone suggested I make a guest post on this topic, and I admit, I was ambivalent about doing so. Mostly because honesty won’t get you very far when it comes to this subject. However, I’m going to put it all out on the line. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

The first thing you have to understand is that there are bad reviews, and there is trolling. Both can be upsetting, for different reasons, and by the same token, both are easy to shake off, for different reasons. Only one can ever be helpful to anyone, though. So to kick things off, let me explain the difference between the two.

A troll review is NOT when someone doesn’t like a book and says so. A troll review is a review that meets any of the following requirements.

  1. The “reader” never actually read the book, and is posting the review just to be an ass. How do you know if someone is doing this? Well, I suppose sometimes authors might have their suspicions, but the easiest way is when they outright say, “I didn’t read this book.” Yes. It happens. 
  2. The “reviewer” makes things up. I don’t mean the review misinterpreted something. In my opinion, that’s still fair game; it’s my job as an author to be clear, and it’s also possible no matter how well I do, someone may still not follow along as easily as I would hope. When I say making things up, I mean blatantly. For example, saying they hated  the book because in Chapter 12 Big Foot came out of nowhere and ate frog legs and hit the character upside her head with a meat stick, and then the character turned purple and floated to the moon, got pecked by a bird, popped, and then died a deflated piece of plastic. It’s entirely possible they are mixing one book up with another, but I’ve seen some reviewers adamantly defend to other readers that they definitely have the right book.
  3. Claims of plagiarism where there are none. I have seen people go as far as to make up things that happen in BOTH books (the book they are reviewing and the book they are saying has been plagiarized) in order to make this claim, while in the same breath openly admitting they have a pre-existing issue with the author on a personal level. It’s not hard for anyone to see what is going on when that happens. Now, while I personally would not press charges for accusations like these, an author actually does have every right to do so. If you suspect plagiarism, I’m sure the plagiarized author would much prefer you report it. You can do so on Amazon by scrolling to the bottom of the book’s page and finding the Feedback box. There is a link there to report copyright violations. Do so.  

To be honest, I think a lot of people confuse negative reviews with bad reviews. A bad review would be unhelpful to other readers and the writer, but a negative review can still be helpful to both. Also, readers have the right to write bad (unhelpful) reviews all they want. Sometimes those reviews are positive (Yay! Book! 5 Stars! Yay!) and sometimes those reviews are negative (I hate this genre.)

So let’s look at the different kind of negative reviews.

The “They have a point” Negative Review.
These are my favorite. When someone makes a complaint about my book that I can say, “Touche. Fair point,” it makes the review a bit easier to swallow (because not all authors are like “yay, bad reviews, maybe less people will buy my book now and I can afford even less food for my kids my this month” but hey, maybe some are.) But at least in these cases, you can relate more easily to the reader’s feelings.

The “Grammar Issues” Negative Review.
This can be broken into two categories. The claim of poor grammar, with no examples, and the more critical review posting samples to illustrate their point. Some authors prefer the former, because it remains ambivalent if it’s even true. Other authors prefer the latter, because it gives them the chance to fix those errors moving forward, should they really exist, or will illustrate that the reviewer is the one confused about grammar, which helps give more context to the review. (I have seen where reviewers have said certain things should have been changed, but a copy of CMOS would have cleared up their confusion.)

Which group am I in? The latter. If I have errors in my writing, I would love to fix them. Also, as I have tested in the top 5% for Grammar and Language, so I end up obsessing wondering if what they thought was an error really even was an error. And here I am with no way to look it up, because they didn’t specify. This is not to say they should—as I said, some authors would hate it if they did! Some reviewers feel it would be disrespectful to do that. It’s not possible to make everyone happy (that does for readers and writers alike) So I completely respect the reader’s choice here. My preference is nothing more than me wanting to better myself if I’m wrong or gain some peace of mind if I’m not. I do my best to create a quality product, never rush a release, and always have multiple leading editors in the field comb through my work. Yes, errors still get through. And I fix them as soon as I learn about them. So for me, these particular critical reviews do sometimes serve to help me become a better writer, which makes them valuable. That said, it’s not a reader’s job to edit my work, and I would never expect them to. I just won’t complain if they do ;) and maybe next time I’ll even earn a more positive review for them—if they decide to give me a second chance!

The “They Didn’t Get It” Review
It’s not necessarily anyone’s fault when a reader doesn't "get" a book. I mean, by all means, authors should be concerned if the majority “don’t’ get it,” but a few reviewers here and there “missing something” are to be expected. Maybe you could have slowed it down and won them over, but then you may have lost someone else for slow pacing. Maybe you could have explained it a few more times, or in better detail, but then you may have lost someone else for “beating the reader over the head” or “over explaining.” Authors need to keep in mind that sometimes what would have gotten them a better review from Mr. or Mrs. One Star, may have turned Mr. or Mrs. Five Star’s review into a one star instead.

Some authors say they don’t read reviews. Whether or not they do, the world may never know. Some authors say they don’t care. We can’t know for sure. I’ll tell you what I do though (for all the flack I may catch for it). I go to my closest friends in private for reassurance. For the troll reviews, it’s more to muse over how anyone who read the book will smell something fishy from a mile away. For the “they have a point” reviews, it’s to brainstorms way to improve for the future. For the “grammar issues” reviews, it’s vent out all your paranoia over “what if I missed something” while looking at their own review for grammar mistakes for signs they may just not know what they are talking about. And for the “they didn’t get it” reviews, it’s to rehash all the things in your story that they clearly missed.

Now, I know I put myself on the line sharing this. It’s something many authors would not admit to even if they did do it. But reality is, we’re human. We worry. We care. We work hard. We want to improve. We worry some more. A quick vent to a friend helps us move on. We aren’t saying the review isn’t valid (except for the blatant troll reviews) and we aren’t saying the reviewer is wrong for their opinion (even if they DID miss something). We don’t have a personal opinion against the reviewer just like they don’t have a personal opinion against our book. We may, however, have thoughts about their review the way they do about our stories or characters. The whole reason an author vents to a friend is because of THEIR OWN ISSUES. Most especially, their own desire to improve. So if you think an author sucks, and you think they are wrong for venting to a friend about you saying so, consider this: They think you are valuable. They think your opinion, even if they aren’t sure they agree with it, is important. They want to improve. And if you think they suck, then you probably wish they would improve to (though you probably wish they had done so before publishing…). But on one thing, you and that author can agree: Maybe there is room to become better.

I’ll end on this. Who decides whose review is "right?" After all, some of the most popular books and pieces of writing are some of the most criticized as well. The answer is, you decide. You decide for yourself which reviews were right and which were wrong. So many times I have seen people say, "The other reviewers must be idiots," or "The people giving this five stars must be pompous teenage sh!theads," or "Anyone who said they liked this book is lying." My personal favorite, "All these positive reviews must be from family." Yes. All 500 of them, I’m sure. Big family. Must be Italian. In the end, not reader or author should undermine the opinions of others. What’s important is that people are reading and people are enjoying it. Even if they love that book you loathe.

Come, the Dark, Book 2 of the Forever Girl Series
Come, the Dark by:
Rebecca Hamilton
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Historical, New Adult, Paranormal, Romance
361 pages
Release Date: January 6, 2015
Rose desperately wants to escape the abuse of the father who impregnated her and the dark spirits that haunt her life. Being thrust from Georgia 1961 into the era of Salem’s infamous witch trials isn’t what she had in mind, and now her daughter is left hopelessly out of reach.
The only way to return to her daughter is by facing certain death to banish the dark spirits that plague Salem. If she doesn’t eliminate these dark spirits in time, they will destroy civilization and trap her in this strange new place, ages away from her daughter.
Even if she can complete the task in time to return home to save her daughter, there’s still one problem: she’s falling in love with a man who can’t return with her. Achieving her goals will force her to choose between the only man who has never betrayed her and a daughter she can’t quite remember but will never forget.
A heart-wrenching tale of a mother’s love for her daughter, this romantic paranormal fantasy underlines the depravity of both historical and modern society while capturing the essence of sacrifice and devotion.
TRIGGER WARNING: This book deals with the sensitive subject of sexual abuse. There is a thread in the Come, the Dark forum at the bottom of this page discussing the issue and how it is handled within the book.


Author Rebecca Hamilton
Rebecca Hamilton is a USA Today Bestselling Paranormal Fantasy author who also dabbles in Horror and Literary Fiction. She lives in Florida with her husband and four kids. She enjoys dancing with her kids to television show theme songs and would love the beach if it weren’t for the sand. Having a child diagnosed with autism has inspired her to illuminate the world through the eyes of characters who see things differently. She is represented by Rossano Trentin of TZLA and has been published internationally, in three languages.


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  1. I found this article very interesting and helpful as I evaluate the points from both authors' and reviewers side. I review books and do my best to be fair in my reviews, allotting the proper rating too. I sometimes see other reviews that puzzle me because a reviewer will state that the book was nice, yet a 1 star rating. Others may bash a book unfairly because the genre is "not their favourite." On the other hand, I've read books which required a glossary or cast of characters that would have made reading comprehension much easier for me. A prologue can be handy when the book is part of a series. Kudos to authors who can readers understand
    what transpired from a previous book when it is included so neatly in the sequel.

  2. I think venting about 'bad' reviews to friends is a completely valid thing to do - it's in private and it's healthy. The tragedy happens when that kind of venting moves into the open and the author ends up internet famous for all the wrong reasons.

    I know lots of authors say never read reviews on your own books, but it really is very hard to resist sometimes ;P


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