Sometimes They Just Don’t Get It

So I’ve been feeling really bad this week. And not just because I have a touch of a stomach bug, although that doesn’t help. No, I’ve been feeling bad because I had to leave a bad review on someone’s book. I’ve upset someone and insulted their baby.

Here’s the thing. Bad reviews happen. They’ve certainly happened to me! And yes, I was deeply upset for a week when I got my first 1-star review. And let me tell you, it was a thousand times worse than the 2-star review I left on the book this week. That review still irks my taters. It also taught me the valuable lesson of accepting that not everyone is going to love everything I do every time.

Before I go on, I want to share this super awesome article that one of my Twitter friends, Catie Rhodes, shared with me a couple of weeks ago when I whined on Twitter about a mediocre review:

5 Reasons You WANT Negative Reviews

Cool, eh? And so true!

But that’s not exactly what I want to talk about today. Today I want to talk about that wince-worthy problem that authors sometimes run into that generates not-so-great reviews.

Sometimes people just don’t get it.

I love my medieval romance trilogy, The Noble Hearts (points to the right-hand side of the screen). I think of them as swashbuckling romantic adventure … and here’s the important part … a la A Knight’s Tale. Yep, that was exactly the feeling I was going for when I wrote these books.

Have you ever seen A Knight’s Tale? It’s basically a rollicking medieval-pop flick with modern music, modern dialog, and modern mores. THAT’S what I was going for. Deliberately anachronistic, hip, fast-paced.

Several reviewers haven’t understood this. Their reviews are generally positive, but mention that the stories are full of anachronistic dialog and that they didn’t feel the way a medieval novel should.

Yep.

They didn’t get it.

And you know what? That’s okay. I knew I was taking a risk by writing in a unique style. I’ve never been interested in writing just like everyone else or mimicking what people expect to read. I’ve always wanted to be a little off-the-cuff, a little avant garde, a little different. That’s me.

Aristotle QuoteBut with risks come … risks. People don’t get it. That’s nothing new to me. I’ve felt as though people don’t get me on many levels and never had. Why? Because I’m different. I’ve always known I was and I always will be. But it’s taken a long time to make peace with that.

Writing is a tough gig. We are never going to hit the bull’s-eye with everyone all the time. And our books are always going to fall into the hands of people who don’t like our style, our characters, our choices, whatever. There will always be someone who doesn’t get it. Guess what? That’s awesome! Think about what that means for the diversity of this world. It’s a wonderful thing.

So no, I don’t jump for joy when I get one of those reviews – and I know I’ll keep getting them – that say my medieval novels were anachronistic and that I obviously don’t know what I’m doing with my history degree. The rest of the content of those reviews is pretty good, overall, and there are some people who definitely got the books all the way.

The moral of the story? That first time that someone posts a negative review and you see that they’ve totally missed the point of what you were going for is a badge of honor! You’ve stretched beyond your own immediate circle! You’ve dared. And that’s what counts.

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9 thoughts on “Sometimes They Just Don’t Get It

  1. Yep. I am anxiously awaiting the day my book is out there and receiving the negatives. It means I managed to get to more than just family and friends 🙂 I have chocolate just waiting for that moment. (The wine never lasts THAT long…)

    • I can’t remember if I medicated with chocolate, but I do remember it was August, so I definitely went to a cricket match or two feeling miserable. Cricket always makes me feel better! =D

  2. I must admit that before I published my novel, I didn’t think twice about giving bad reviews but now I does pain me a bit to have to do it. More often than not it is a question of having tried something new and not liked it so I know that sometimes I don’t get it. It makes sense that others would feel like this about my work.

    • It puts things into a whole different perspective, doesn’t it. I usually don’t review a book at all if I can’t give it at least 3 stars. But then, the other side of that is how important it is that the books we put out there, especially as self-published authors, are represented as honestly as possible. Otherwise, what’s the point of reviews at all?

  3. What I hate are the bad reviews that are clearly not written by someone who is crazy. I love the one-stars in all caps or the incoherent ones that rabbit on about their bad childhood, etc. or that totally missed the mark in what happened in the story. They are easy to discount and I assume most readers can see that, too. It’s the to-all-appearances sane ones that really are the worry! (Fortunately, not too many. Haha!)

  4. I shy away from leaving reviews for just what you’ve said, “I HAD to leave a negative review.” If someone asks me to review a book, I normally politely decline because if I know them, or they’ve asked, and I don’t like the book, I feel terrible leaving a negative review.

    On the flip side, if you don’t leave negative reviews at all, then anyone checking your reviews sees that you’re always giving positive reviews and then they become suspect.

    If a reviewer says why and it’s a reasonable explanation, then a balance of stars is good. I hate the 1 star reviews that say, “I couldn’t get this book in digital format and I’m not going to buy it in hard cover, so it gets 1 star.” Yes, readers will discern that it’s not a review, but it still gets averaged into the overall ranking.

    Or, finding out that some people at Goodreads use stars to sort their TBR books–1 star meaning, “I really want to read this book”

    There’s so much that’s wrong with the system. But there’s a lot of good stuff in there, too.

    • I have generally not reviewed books myself, and that’s exactly why. But I just had to go and pledge to myself that I would document all the books I read this year on my blog. 😛 The sad part is, after the flap this week caused by the bad review, I thought to myself “That’s it! I’m not reading any more self-published books! Too much drama gets stirred up!” And then a chill went down my back. Because that’s exactly the problem. And it’s why self-published authors have to take extra care to act as professionally as possible in the public arena.

      So yeah, no more reviews of self-published books from me unless the author asks me to do it with the full understanding that they’ll get an honest review.

  5. Pingback: Shannyn Schroeder | Author » Friday Favorites 3/8/13

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