Reviews are the life-blood of the literary community. It’s the one time when the reader’s words hold all the power. The power to persuade, to enlighten, and ultimately to destroy. Wow! What a heady thing, if you think about it. A single bad review, placed in full view, can determine the success or failure of someone’s work.
Since publishing my novel, I have periodically checked my reviews on Amazon with caution and trepidation. My subject matter, and the graphic nature of my book puts me in the cross-hairs for more than the occasional bad review. So far, (knock on wood) that hasn’t been the case. On the contrary, I am shocked by the lovely responses I have received for my debut novel. But still, I go to my Amazon book page holding my breath and telling myself over and over…“if you see less than 3 stars, don’t read it!” I mentally prepare myself for the bad, for the license some people feel they have because of the anonymity that the virtual world affords them.
That being said, I wasn’t prepared for the verbal bashing and evisceration of my work in my own email inbox a few days ago. I was cleaning out my email, mentally ticking off my to-do list in my head for my first book signing the next day, when I happened upon an email from a writer that is in the same writer’s group I’m involved with. We actually tweet for each other, post and share blurbs to market each others books. So you can imagine my surprise when I opened the email and was assailed with a personal (thank God) bashing of my novel.
I won’t bore you with the details of the post…quite frankly it still stings a bit to rehash the finer points of his critique. Suffice it to say, he referred to my book as worse than bad erotica with no story or better yet…child porn. I was dumbstruck and breathless…literally. He also informed me that he couldn’t finish the book (he said he read 10% of the book and had to put it down) that page after page of abuse couldn’t elicit the response I wanted from the reader. His final take on my book was that he couldn’t give a review of a book that he hadn’t read from cover to cover, so I wouldn’t be getting a review on Amazon from him (thank God).
Well, here’s my take on it. What I find truly offensive is that books about serial killers (with gruesome detail throughout) and a three book erotic series (with every sexual deviation and description know to man/woman) is accepted as “a great story” even though they are filled with graphic details throughout their pages. But because I tell the truth in detail, I’ve overdone it. Society lives with the condensed version of child sexual abuse…that’s why the problem is epidemic. I wrote page after page of abuse because my friends, that is what I lived for nine years of my childhood. Because some don’t care for the subject matter or how it was presented, it’s categorized with child porn and other sundry topics. I beg to differ! Abuse of any kind isn’t pleasant…certainly not a topic for dinner conversations, but if my book bothers you on any level, for good or bad, that’s an emotion, and quite frankly, that’s what I’m going for.
Last time I checked, it’s still a free country. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. I just feel that one of my first lessons as a child on how to behave in public should come into play by the reading public. If you don’t have anything nice to say, keep your opinions to your self and your mouth shut. Great words to live by I think.
It takes a tremendous amount of courage to write, create, and put yourself out there at the mercy of the viewing public, no matter what your subject matter encompasses. Critiquing should enlighten and enhance knowledge to the recipient…not attempt to destroy. That is what my colleague attempted with his unsolicited email.
My message back to him was plain and to the point…“I can honestly say I’m glad I’m not a ‘professional reviewer’ like you sir. I can saw a man’s sternum open to save his life…but I don’t think I have the testicular fortitude to partially read someone’s work and cut their legs off at the knee caps then watch them bleed out. You’ve got some big one’s my friend.”
Reviews are gifts the reader gives to an author…cherish them as I do. Words are powerful, whether in a story, as information, or as a means of persuasion (for good or bad). They need not be used to destroy.
My father-in-law once quoted this to me: “It is far better to remain silent and be thought of as an idiot, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” As for me…I’ve caught my breath again and I’m holding my chin a little higher than before. “What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.”
The truth has set me free…
Tell me what you think. Ever had a bad review? Maybe I’m too sensitive…not thick skinned enough for public consumption? Drop me a comment.