Saturday, 6 October 2012

A "Bad Review" - or is it?


It was bound to happen eventually.  I’ve been waiting for the day.  Preparing for it.  Training.  Frankly, I’m surprised it’s taken this long.  Even the greatest of authors, bestsellers, get their fair share of bad reviews, so who am I to get left out?  Having read a few blog posts by successful authors about their own unfavourable review experiences, I knew that my run of 5-star reviews would come to an end.

And what better way for it to end but with a… 1-star review.  Ouch.

Well, the rating of 1-star hurt the average score for the book more than the actual review hurt me personally - you’ll see why once you read the below comment on Poison Blood, Book 1: Revelation posted on Smashwords on October 5, 2012.  Seen as I have responded to all the reviews I’ve spotted so far, I really shouldn’t shy away from discussing my first negative review:

“The author can write. She has a good flow with words. BUT, I couldn't get past the 2nd chapter. As soon as she talked about her diamond skin that glitters in the sunlight, that was a big turn off. OK the Twilights were good books, but do all vampires have to have that skin now. I love Twilight but I don't like the skin attributes. I think it is as far fetched as a vampire should be. My opinion but when other authors copy that... Maybe I will pick it up at another time but for now, sorry.”

The part of the review that refers to me and my writing (the first two sentences) is actually favourable - I’m very happy with that.  The reviewer is a fellow indie author herself, so it’s nice to have your peers tell you that you can write.  It’s also a relief that it wasn’t my writing, the story, or how it was executed (i.e. poor grammar, spelling mistakes, poorly edited etc.), that caused the reader to give up on the book after the first chapter. 

I won’t comment on the rest of the review as it is referring more to the reader’s personal disapproval and dislike of a particular skin attribute of the main character in the novel, Ellie, rather than the quality of my writing, the strength of the plot or even the likeability of the protagonist.  Just her skin.  It is a shame that some readers will judge our characters and books because of his or her skin or physical appearance.  But that is one of the realities we have to face as authors. 

A recruitment consultant once told me that he doesn’t look for reasons to put your CV through - he looks for reasons to not put it through.  This might not be the case exactly with books and readers, but some of the same principles still apply.  Readers will not be patient.  They will not make allowances for us - why should they, who are we to them?  Their time is precious, their minds in need of entertainment.  You have to grab them from the first paragraph and give them plenty of reasons to read on.  Give them one reason not to persist, and they will put it down and give it a low rating.  Be ready for this. 

As for authors conforming to the rules of the vampire mythology explored in my beloved Twilight series, why not?  I think it's their decision.  This reader happened to fall within the faction of the vampire-fiction fans that do not like sparkling vampires and so understandably did not support my decision of copying that.  She doesn't seem to have an issue with writers copying any of the other characteristics, just the skin-type, the one attribute of the Twilight vampires that she does not like or agree with.  

Personally, I love the sparkling in the sunlight - to me, this seems far more feasible than skin that suddenly becomes flammable in direct sunlight.  More than that though, I love the fact that Ellie is more than just a vampire and I hope other readers can give her a chance to tell her story.  There’s more to her than her skin, trust me!

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