Monday, December 08, 2014

My books' bad reviews

"Sour face" photo by Sam DeLong,  used with attribution, CC BY-SA 2.0 

Not everyone will love what you create.

Some people love spicy food; others hate it. Still others won't go out of their way to eat something hot, but won't mind it if they get served something with a little bite to it.

Our tastes are highly subjective. Just because someone doesn't enjoy something, doesn't mean it's bad. 

For example, I'm not a huge fan of country music. I won't go out of my way to find a country station, but I won't turn off the radio if they play something by Reba McEntire. However, I probably would never buy a country music album, nor review one if it came my way.  

Subjectivity rules in the land of our enjoyment, which is why I am always puzzled when creative folks go off the deep end when they get reviews they don't agree with.

I thought I'd share with you snippets of some of my negative reviews. Why? Because they are a matter of public record, since they have been posted on Amazon and the like. And also because I think it's important to cultivate a personal distance from critical commentary, but not to pretend it doesn't exist. I don't write for everyone on the planet; I write for the readers who are moved by my work. Not everyone will be. That's okay.

Disappointed in a tale about a spoiled teen. (DERELICT, 1 star review)
not well developed, poor plot line, simplistic.  (DERELICT, 2 star review)
After slugging [sic] thru about 120 pages, I found no action, Just young adults (described as geniuses) doing stupid things trying to enstrange [sic] themselves from their parents. (DERELICT, 1 star review)
Rambling convoluted story line of Ro, the main character. Too boring and kept loosing interest. Didn't finish the book. (DERELICT, 2 star review)
Teens are already involved in way too much sexual immorality; they for sure don't need to be enticed and encourage to pursue perverted sexual immorality.* (DERELICT, 2 star review)
This book is about a group of young adults who behave like children, have an experience set commensurate with their being children, and in general are presented as if they were children. That’s really all you need to know about the book. And about the author, now that I say it. (FUTURE TENSE, 2 star review)
And it was an okay story. To be honest, I almost put it down part way through chapter 1. Everything felt too familiar. The character in the story made several references to The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland, aiding in the overly familiar themes. (THE BETWEEN, 3 star review)
What you must remember when you are putting your work out into the world and into the hands of a paying audience is that it no longer fully belongs to you. And that your audience has the right to not enjoy it. 

Look at your most favorite story/album/movie's Amazon page. There will be one and two star reviews that basically wonder what drugs the creator was on, or how anyone with two brain cells to rub together could like it. :shrug: Subjectivity at play.

My favorite book from childhood (and beyond) is A WRINKLE IN TIME. This is from a 1 star review of it:

I am having a hard time understanding how this book was even considered for a Newbery. the best words I can come up with to describe this pile are: Awful, boring, tedious, ridiculous, predictable. I couldn't read more than 2 pages without falling asleep. I hated the characters and actually wished for them to die.
Clearly this reviewer and I read different books. Or we exist in different, parallel realities. They loathed what is a beloved part of my life and a book I have re-read as an adult many, many times. This review doesn't negate my love of this book.

I'm going to say that again because I think it's important: This review doesn't negate my love of this book.

Nor will I get anywhere engaging in a fruitless argument to convince them of how wonderful I believe "WRINKLE" to be. 

Remember: Subjectivity. Spicy food? Love it. White chocolate? One of the most vile substances on the planet.

 * Author's note:  Some readers will make comments that make no sense to you, or seem to be utterly unrelated to the story. Again, subjectivity. In DERELICT, there is the start of a relationship between two female characters, that is essentially an emotional one. I think the characters hug at one point in the story. To me, this reviewer's intense objections shows how much one's experience of a story depends on what one brings to it.

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