Monday, July 6, 2015

DO NOT ask for what you don't REALLY 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. Good post. Bad reviews hurt, but can also be helpful - once you get through the crying. (Okay - I don't really cry, I worked with the public for too long to get that upset over what strangers say.) But, one thing I've learned from others is not to respond to negative reviews. Authors bring more attention to the review by commenting on it. And in some cases it's just been disastrous. I know when I see authors commenting negatively on a review, it makes me not want to read anything from that author. Readers have the right to review books they've read and offer up their opinions. Authors don't have the right to diss those opinions. Well, not if they want to keep readers anyway.

    As a reader, I know there are some things I like. Some I don't. Some that just aren't my cup of tea even though written well. So I don't expect anything else from my own readers, except that they post honest reviews.

  2. Well said Todd. I've seen far too many so called professional writers crying over someone's honest opinion of their work. I've always said a writer has to have a thick skin because what we produce all boils down to a matter of taste on both the writer and readers part. I'd actually be embarrassed to receive nothing but glowing reviews for my work. As I once told a reviewer for Hellnotes, who panned my first novel, "How can we as writers expect to grow if everyone's constantly blowing sunshine up our nether regions.