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Negative Reviews = Great News!

The fundraiser for rape crisis centers has raised more than $1000 as of 9:30 this morning.  Y’all are wonderful!!!  To celebrate, I’m adding an autographed copy of Heroes in Training [Mysterious Galaxy | B&N | Amazon] to the prize giveaway.  Thank you all!

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Over the past few weeks, Google Alerts brought word of a number of new reviews of my books.  At least half were wonderfully positive (thank you!), but some of them were … less flattering.

This is a good thing.

Don’t get me wrong — I’d much rather see more reviews describing the books as the best books ever.  I’d be lying if I said the negative reviews didn’t sting.  However, there’s no such thing as a book that appeals to everyone.  If you expect absolutely everyone to love your writing, you’re gonna be mighty disappointed.

“Wait a minute,” you protest.  “That’s probably true, but just because you know it’s pretty much inevitable that someone’s going to trash your book doesn’t mean it’s a good thing.”

Excellent point, imaginary reader.  Let me explain where I’m coming from by describing a random author who recently spammed a discussion group I was reading.  He was advertising his book, and included the line “Only 5-star reviews on Amazon!” as a selling point.

I had a pretty good idea what to expect, but I clicked over to the book’s listing anyway.  Call it morbid curiosity.  His claim was absolutely correct.  He had a handful of 5-star reviews, all praising this book to the Heavens.

The thing is, almost any book is going to get a few good reviews.  At the very first signing for my very first book, my friends and family were there to support me.  They bought copies, and some of them (not all, sadly) even read the book.  Those that hated it, well, I’m someone they know — they’re unlikely to trash me online.  Meaning the only reviews from that group are probably going to be positive.

Call them first circle readers.  It’s great to get those positive reviews, but I don’t give them much weight.

These days, I also have what I’ll call second circle readers — people who’ve read my stuff and are loyal to me as an author.  They already know they like my style, and are therefore fairly likely to enjoy my new books and post positive reviews.

Then there’s the outer circle.  Readers who don’t know my fiction.  Sadly, this is the biggest circle for most of us.  Here’s where things get risky.  Some of them will love it, and some won’t.  Statistically speaking, this is where most of the negative reviews are usually going to come from.

The fact that more reviews are cropping up for my books, and that these reviews are a mix of both positive and negative, suggests to me that I’m reaching that outer circle.  New readers are picking up my stuff and giving it a try, and that is a very good thing.

(That said, if those of you who like my books want to run out and post 5-star reviews all over the web, I certainly won’t object!)

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Comments

temporus
Apr. 9th, 2010 03:27 pm (UTC)
I think that's a healthy attitude to have regarding reviews. The only time I think negative reviews are bad is when they really have nothing to do with the novel. I've seen people try to use the Amazon reviews as protests against pricing policy for ebooks, and sometimes people try to make political or ideological points with 1 star reviews, things that aren't about the book itself, but about the author or other circumstances. That kind of thing frustrates me to see.
rj_anderson
Apr. 9th, 2010 03:44 pm (UTC)
The only time I think negative reviews are bad is when they really have nothing to do with the novel.

Exactly! I have two one-star reviews on Amazon.uk berating Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter for being the US edition of a book the reviewer had already bought in its UK edition (which has a different cover and title). I mean, I feel sad that the reviewers mistakenly bought the same book twice, but... it's not the BOOK's fault, surely?

Also frustrating are the reviews where the person has clearly misunderstood the star rating system, and gives it a glowing, praise-to-the-skies review... with one star. Um?

But I like and admire Jim's attitude about what negative reviews really mean. I will have to keep that in mind in future.
temporus
Apr. 9th, 2010 03:58 pm (UTC)
That's exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about. What does that have to do with the novel?

Someone told me years and years ago, that any review is better than silence. If nothing else it lets you know people are reading the book.
jimhines
Apr. 9th, 2010 05:38 pm (UTC)
Complete agreement here. Negative reviews of a book are one thing. Nasty notes that have nothing to do with the book? That's the reviewer being ignorant. (Or a jackass, in some cases.)

I've got a one-star review of my fiction collection on the German Amazon page proclaiming "Hey, this isn't another goblin book. It's a collection!" I'm sorry the reviewer was disappointed, and I even sympathize -- the publisher did market it pretty hard to the goblin readers. But if you're going to post a review, review the actual product.

The crusade of 1-star reviews over e-book pricing on Amazon is even more annoying...

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