Saturday, September 1, 2012

Don't ask for what you don't want!

To keep this from seeming overly heavy, I will intersperse this offering with pictures of puppies and flowers. This is the best I can do to lighten the mood, because I have a few things I want to (in golf lingo) grip and rip. So with no further delays...a cute puppy and a guitar signed by George Romero.

Some of you reading this might post reviews from time to time. Many of you WAIT for reviews to be posted about your work. (I know I check EVERY MORNING!) So, this one might sting a bit. If you are feeling a bit cranky after reading this and think that perhaps I am a giant ass hat, then you are probably one of the offenders. So here it is...we all love to read reviews about our stuff provided that the review is good, glowing, and says we are absolutely the most talented-yet-sadly-undiscovered writer in existence. I have spoken ad nauseum when it comes to complaining about reviews. Sadly, some still miss the point, or get it and choose to ignore it. A bad review stings. I would be a big fat liar if I said I haven't read a negative review of my work and wanted to just drop my head and weep. (Time for pretty flowers.)

But get past the haters and trolls and maybe focus on a few strangers out there who don't know you from Bupkiss. This is a 2 Star review from my book Dakota: "I don't often write a review that is less than complimentary as I know I could not do well writing. However, this was a disappointing read to me. Beginning with two Seattle cops and ending up in the "War of Northern Agression" is a stretch; one I did not particularly enjoy. The characters are well developed, the story is well told, but I just could not wrap my mind around traveling back in time! What's the point? And what did that have to do with the drug war in Seattle? Though I did finish the book, I don't think I will be seeking this author out again. I gave the book two stars simply because the prose is beautifully put together; but the story line is disappointing.

Now here is the product description from"Dakota Riley is a member of the Seattle Drug Task Force. During an investigation into an international drug smuggling ring, he loses his best friend and partner. To add insult to injury, he is assigned an African-American rookie, Marc Bradley.Seeking revenge rather than justice, Dakota ditches the rookie…and almost gets himself killed. After leaving the hospital for a ‘forced’ vacation, Dakota and Marc head to Marc’s hometown of Charleston, South Carolina.A day out on a fishing boat goes wrong when a mysterious storm arrives. The boat is destroyed, and the two men wash ashore…in 1861, just prior to the start of the American Civil War." This is now my favorite "negative" review of all time. Good character development...well told story...beautifully put together prose.

Now, of course not all negative" reviews are that glowing, but if you read between the lines on some, you may find points brought up that are actually helpful. And if edits are repeatedly mentioned...FIX IT! I had a person take an ax to Zomblog...she didn't think that the story went anywhere, and I had too many characters who muddled up the story because they were mentioned in one page and killed in the next. SHE WAS RIGHT! But I learned from that BEFORE her review, so I thanked her and asked if she would read Zomblog II. She loved it, gave it 4 stars and asked for more of my stuff. Which brings me to this next point...after more puppies...

So, you have a book written and you want it reviewed. You want to ask people...maybe even beg your readers to provide that little kindness that means more to us than they realize. You ask a few of your peers if they will take the time to read your baby and pen a review. Great. I do that (but I gotta say, writers are some of THE WORST when it comes to issue that I still do not understand). But here is what I DON'T do. I refuse to write some flowery drivel if I read the story and think it is rubbish. Kind of hard to be the man with the "Brutally Honest Review" policy and then I spew a bunch of phony drivel about how everything is wonderful and every book I read is the next "must read" title in the literary scene. If your book reads like a bad high school theater production, I am gonna say so. BUT...and here is where it gets tricky...IT IS JUST ONE OPINION. (Hold on...time for flowers again.)

If you want a bunch of 5 star reviews from people, stick to friends and family. has been the hot topic them. However, that means you don't get to go on some tirade when a total stranger who reads your book and thinks it is simply terrible. And here is the funny matter how good your book is, some people WILL hate your stuff. They just will. It does not mean you are a bad writer (sometimes). So, if you want me to review your best be able to handle the truth. If I like that I will say so, but if I don't...well I'm not gonna write some hate-filled rant about your work, but I will say what I didn't like and why. And if the story didn't "do it" for me...I'm gonna say so. So don't ask if you don't want me to be honest, and don't get twisted if you ask anyways and I don't rant and rave. I've had friends tell me ahead of time "I'm so sorry, but I didn't like your book. Should I skip the review?" Easy answer: NO! It's okay, people. It just wasn't your cup of tea. Maybe next time. Besides, I think it looks more genuine if there is a voice of dissent amidst the praise.

As Indies, we must all suffer the slings and arrows of our brethren (and sistren). Our niche is famous for poorly edited work and sloppy production. We are also famous for going on social media jihads when we get negative reviews. It just needs to change, and WE can do better. So I challenge you all to start holding yourself to a higher standard. If we want to be taken seriously, then it is all up to us. Start with dialogue. There are some rules to writing it that A LOT of people just have never taken the time to learn. So ask, read, look it up, read...


  1. Very well said, Todd. I'm so sick of folks whining about bad reviews. When I give a reviewer a book, I stress that we want the review, bad or good, so long as it's honest. I don't want reviewers to feel beholden, simply because they got a free copy. And if it is bad, we try to do better next time. We had a bad review on the Demonic Dolls anthology and I sent the same reviewer a copy of the Toy Soldiers antho, with a note that said, "Seventeen more chances to impress you." We received a much better review, partially because I'd taken to heart what the reviewer pointed out as flaws. When Terrifying Teddies comes out, I'm hoping for a four star from him.

    Writing, editing, marketing, the whole Indie/Small Press scene should be about constantly learning and improving, not resting on some shoddy ass laurels.

    Thanks for all of these recent posts. They should open up some helpful dialogues.

    Angelic Knight Press

  2. Yeah! Puppies and flowers are awesome!

    One thing I would like to add from a review perspective - writing 'negative' reviews is really hard. No one purposefully buys books just to rip them to shreds, and I certainly don't want to make someone feel bad about their hard work.

    I'll be back to enter the competition! Oh you could give me a really gruesome death LOL

  3. full on agree with Kat... and Stacy can I have links please... those sound intriguing books!!
    as for your blog Todd.... 10* as per usual...

  4. Fact is, I feel this article will be appreciated only by people already behaving in a correct way toward negative reviews. Those ranting and rallying on their pages will simply ignore it.
    Recently, I stumbled by pure chance in a group reviewing one of my novelettes. I thanked the readers for posting their ideas at Amazon or other places, but soon thereafter I felt guilty. Involuntarily, I was intimidating the reviewers, so I left one last message in the group's wall, excusing myself and leaving them alone.
    I think that was correct.
    However, that was a minor break in etiquette compared to what I constantly see on FB pages or Goodreads.