Thursday, April 25, 2013

"Hours of verbage (sic) and boredom" (says a review I could have lived without seeing)

Reece on Monday said it was unimaginable that anyone didn't.  Hilary on Tuesday said it was a big fat lie that anyone didn't. Chris on Wednesday was worst of all - he made it seem like a good idea to give it a go.

Readers, until this week, I was that unimaginable big fat liar who'd never given it a go.

Hand on heart, I did not read my reviews.

Wait a minute, wait a minute, hang on.  Let me add a few caveats.  If my publicist emails me and the subject line is "nice/good/great/fab/amazing review from _____" I open the link.  I read, I download, I email to my dad to print and give to my mum for her scrapbook.  Thanks, Mum.  (She spent her working life in libraries and is a better archivist than I could ever be.)


Also, on the Saturday after the UK publication date of a new Dandy Gilver I will buy the Scottish broadsheets (if I'm there) and look through the book reviews.  It's a small country with a lot of newspapers so the strike rate is high and I'm not a big enough name for anyone to want to take me down.

And that - that last point - is why I don't look at reader reviews on Amazon etc.  All you have to do is write a book to make someone on Amazon want to take you down and leave you bleeding.  And while I enjoy a good one-star review of Pride & Prejudice as much as anyone (click here for a favourite) I don't see how any writer could want to read sneers, swipes and cynicism about their own stuff?  How could it not make you want to curl up in a ball and only uncurl to put a DVD of Pillow Talk in the machine and open the Pringles?

That was my position until earlier this week, as I say.  Since then I've had the highest of the high and the lowest of the low: a Goodreads review (click here) of the ARC of AS SHE LEFT IT that made me go and stare at myself in the mirror just to see what that big a genius looked like.  (Not really.)

And this (click by all means).  One of the two-star reviews of my first published novel, AFTER THE ARMISTICE BALL, is a doozy.  It's an anonymous review by someone who's never reviewed anything else (not even the banana slicer) and it's got everything: mistaken beliefs hotly defended, unfounded accusations, personal attacks - I'm crass and discourteous, don't you know? - and then there's the bit that really got me.

My "bad writing" is illustrated by writing that's nothing like mine. God, that's annoying! The reviewer gives "over-vivid, lengthy, painful and agonizingly contrived descriptive phrases" as a taster of my kind of prose as well as an evaluation of it. Tricksy. But if you can find a noun in AFTER THE ARMISTICE BALL pre-modified by four adjectives, one of which is pre-modified by an adverb, I will give you a thousand dollars.

So, all in all, I'd rather not read reviews.  Except Chris made a good point about saying thank you for kind ones, Hilary was a shining example of psychological health and Reece was convincing about using them as tools for improvement.  I'm going to wait and see what Sue Ann says tomorrow.

13 comments:

Kristopher said...

It's interesting Catriona, I recently decided I was going to do a series of blog posts that reviewed the FIRST book in some longer running mystery series'.

I know that many (most) folks like to read a series from the beginning and I thought it would be useful for newbies who are reluctant to jump into a long-running series to see how the early book stands the test of time.

In compiling a list of books for such a collection of posts, AFTER THE ARMISTICE BALL, was a title that came immediately to mind. It stands the test of time and in no way contains any writing like that which was described in the review.

Err on the side of the strong reviews and try to ignore the others. ;-)

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

So after my post tomorrow, you're going to weigh all our advice and decide which way you're leaning? Knowing that, I might have to change my post. :)

Chris said...

I made it sound like a good idea? More like a foregone conclusion: I can't not look. I have, however, trained myself to look less frequently, and it's done wonders for my mental health.

Also, I love the irony of your detractor's over-vivid, lengthy, painful and agonizingly contrived descriptive phrase.

Meredith Cole said...

No pressure, Sue Ann! I'm really enjoying reading how everyone does or does not deal with good and bad reviews...

Catriona McPherson said...

One thing became clear to me recently - I didn't understand why Amazon never suggested that I would enjoy my own books like it seems to to everyone else. I thought "Man, they must be REALLY bad" then I finally twigged that it goes by your browsing history. Duh.

Catriona McPherson said...

Also - thanks, Kristopher!

Hilary Davidson said...

Amazon is a strange place, made weirder by the fact that some of the nastiest reviews are written by people with a grudge against the author. My friend Todd Robinson got a vile one-star review when he relaunched THUGLIT magazine, and it turned out to be from a former boyfriend of Todd's wife (a guy she'd dumped, of course).

I'm suspicious of that character who "reviewed" AFTER THE ARMISTICE BALL but never reviewed anything else, Catriona. (Just for fun, I tracked down that anonymous reviewer's real name, and I'll DM it to you. Note to everyone who thinks you can leave anonymous reviews on Amazon: YOU CAN'T.)

Alan Orloff said...

Oh those crazy, amusing, infuriating, cruel, hilarious, weird, unbalanced, wacko, beautiful, terrific, terrifying Amazon reviews! (enough adjectives?) A great way to procrastinate a few hours of one's life away. (Hilary, do you have the key to Amazon's mysterious back room? Do tell!)

B.K. Stevens said...

I don't understand the impulse to leave a nasty review. Some people must have too much time on their hands--and mothers who failed to teach them the cliche about what to do if they don't have anything nice to say.

Catriona McPherson said...

Oh,Hilary. What if it's someone I know? This could be good!

Catriona McPherson said...

Hey, you know what's just occurred to me about that bad review? The reviewer complains that nothing's being said in the dialogue and then compalins that I didn't reveal the solution. In other words, s/he misses what's going on and then moans that s/he's missed it!!! Humph.

Reece said...

I'm with Chris, I can't not look. I admire your fortitude.

And someday I want to hear the full story on your nasty Amazon reviewer. Hilary doesn't just write amateur sleuths -- apparently she is one!

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Years ago I received a truly horrific review on my first book - not about a book but about me! It turns out it was posted by an attorney I once worked with and who got fired from the firm (and not because of me). Amazon took it down after they were contacted.