Don’t Be Afraid of Bad Reviews…

Woke up today and, as I often do, I checked the status of my book, Little Deaths, at Amazon.  I was surprised to see that I’d finally garnered my first one-star review.  It was a momentous occasion, to say the least.  Here’s what my 1-star reviewer had to say:

“All stories ended in the same way. No real impact and very flat characters. It didn’t strike a nerve at all….a very sad thing for a horror fiction novel.”

Aside from the fact that Little Deaths isn’t a novel, this reviewer is certainly entitled to her opinion.  I and most of my readers would respectfully disagree about the other points she makes, but that’s OK.

Little Deaths has racked up 32 reviews so far on Amazon.  Of those, 19 are 5-star reviews and 8 are 4-star.  Four of them are two-stars, and now my badge of honor, the 1-star review.  Let me point out here, also, that most of these reviews, the lion’s share by far, are from people I don’t know.  They’re not from friends or family, for the most part, because, as I have learned, getting your friends and family to review your stuff on Amazon is like asking them to lop off a limb for some reason.  (To those of my friends and family who have left reviews, thanks!)

Normally, I’d be pretty upset.  I am most certainly not.  Is it because I think I’m such a great writer that I’m above criticism?  Nope.  Is it because I think all readers will love my writing?  Hells no!  I learned long ago that people like what they like, and that everything I write won’t appeal to everybody.  In fact, some readers won’t like anything I write.

And that’s cool, because I don’t write for everyone.  I write primarily for myself.  If others like it–and this 1-star review to the contrary, Little Deaths has been awfully well received, if I do say so–that’s great!  If not, OK, not your cup of tea.

No, I’m not upset because I’ve actually been expecting this.  I mean, come on, it’s bound to happen, really.  I’ve got 4 two-star reviews.  And all of these “bad” reviews say the same thing:  slow, boring, endings that are incomprehensible.  I get that.  I really do.  Even though Little Deaths is presented as a “horror” collection, the stories therein don’t fall into the “normal” horror conventions of gore, splatter and things jumping out at you.  There aren’t really any zombie, vampire or werewolf stories in it.  It’s a different take on horror, a more quiet, Twilight Zone kind of thing, and I know that this doesn’t appeal to those who want to see blood spray and body parts consumed.  That’s OK, I just don’t write much of that.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you expect to write, if you expect to put your art out into the public, you have to be prepared for rejection.  I think a lot of writers expect rejection to end when they actually have things published, but it doesn’t…not really.  There are always going to be people who don’t like your stuff, some of it or all of it.  And you have to be OK with that.

I am OK with it.  In a weird way, these “negative” reviews make me believe in myself and what I’m doing even more.  In a weird way, they legitimize the 5-star reviews I’ve received on Amazon.

Not that I like them, agree with them or want any more of them.

I’m pragmatic.  Not crazy.

P.S.  It’s just come to my attention that the “person” who left the review also left 63 others on the exact same day.  Hmmm.  Seems kind of spammy to me, so I reported it to Amazon.


About John F.D. Taff

John F.D. Taff is a writer, published author, raconteur and wrangler of angry stoats. He has more than 80 short stories and 7 novels published. He lives in the great, unspoiled vastness of the Midwest. He has a tremendous wife named Debbie, three pugs, Sadie, Tovah and Muriel, and three great kids--Harry, Sam and Molly. View all posts by John F.D. Taff

6 responses to “Don’t Be Afraid of Bad Reviews…

  • fatimasaysell

    63 reviews in one day? Did she really read that many books and left all the reviews to do at the same time? Hard to believe. The mind boggles!

  • John F.D. Taff

    Yeah, well the world of Amazon reviews is sometimes kind of strange, I’ll grant ya. Still, there are people out there who don’t care for what I write. It’s cool.

  • mark matthews

    Great post. A strongly worded 1 star review can garner more interest than a luke-warm 3 or 4 star review. One review of my novel STRAY was “The novel had a disturbing ending. I regretted I spent the whole day reading it.” A review of my novel The Jade Rabbit said “Clearly the author knows nothing about running a marathon.” 13 marathons and qualifying for Boston happened by accident I guess. (Like the person who you discovered left 63 reviews, I have my suspicions there is an agenda there.)

    I have let a bad review wreck my breakfast, but not my lunch.

  • John F.D. Taff

    Thanks, Mark. Yeah, I agree. In the end, like they say, even bad publicity is publicity. So, whatever. Didn’t ruin more than a minute or so of my morning, then soothed myself by jumping back into the new novel. Oh well…

  • rick hipson

    Great post, John, I have a hard time beleiving that your book was writen with the one star person in mind. That’s like me posting negatively about Twilight. I think twilight sucks beyond all suckage, but then again it simply was not made for me.

    And Mark, I love the last line you write up there. IU’m stealing that one! Great words to consider.

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