Blast from the Past: Letters from Readers

In the past week, I’ve been going through the last of my paper files, scanning everything so the hard copies can go to the shredder. As I was doing so, I found a file I hadn’t seen in several years. It contained letters I’d received from readers back when I was still with Berkley.

These days, we rarely get letters. When readers have something to say to us, it’s done via email, on our blogs and websites, our Facebook pages, or through reviews on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, etc.

Reading over these old letters, I found some I’d like to share here:

Do any of us ever get tired of comments like these? I think not! Sometimes, readers will give us some insight into how they chose our books:

And sometimes, they’ll tell us what we’re doing wrong. Bear in mind that these are comments about my conventionally-published books, which were proofread by me, my editor AND my copyeditor–and these goofs got past all three of us:

 

And if these mistakes weren’t bad enough, take a look at this page from A Time for Legends, published by Berkley in 1990. Read the opening paragraph of the scene that starts on this page very carefully. Notice anything out of sync?

Yep. The guy’s wearing a bandana around his chest. That’s not what I wrote, but sometime after it went to the printer….

The comments we get online are not always so diplomatic. Online, readers/reviewers can be anonymous. They can take cheap shots at us without ever revealing their identities. They don’t have to put a return address on an envelope. The internet is full of trolls, and unfortunately, these sites are not exempt. Amazon, for example, requires only that one have an account and make at least one purchase in order to post reviews.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in freedom of speech. I don’t expect everyone to love my books, nor do I expect anyone who doesn’t to keep it to themselves. I respect legitimately critical reviewers, even when I don’t agree with them.  Bad reviews are a fact of life for all authors. We can’t please everyone. I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve had only a few bad ones so far–but there’s a huge difference between a reviewer who’s read a book they don’t like and/or find full of factual and/or grammatical flaws and some so-called reviewers who just slam one book after another. This is a problem especially for self-published authors. It’s been suggested that some reviewers go out of their way to attack self-pubbed authors.  Author Elizabeth J. Kolodziej recently did a very insightful blog post on this. Check it out at http://www.vampyrekisses.com/?p=1761.

How do you tell the difference? Easily. Check the reviewer’s profile. No name? No info of any kind on the profile? How many reviews have they written? Are all of them 1-2 stars? Is the writing barely literate? Not someone you want making recommendations for what YOU read.

It would help if some of these people actually read the books they review. I had one bad review in which the reviewer wrote that Connor, my protagonist in Chasing the Wind, was some kind of superhuman but it was never revealed exactly who and what he was. Not true. It’s spelled out quite clearly….

 

 

 

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7 responses

  1. Having a whole lot of bandannas, I was thinking that it would take quite a few of them to get around the chest. And I never caught that during my read through!

    Great letters! I even like the factual errors ones! They’re really quite welcome, and not at all the troll sort of thing we tend to see online at times. Thanks for posting!

  2. I think this is why a certain group on Amazon thinks authors should not be allowed to respond to reviewers. They can dish out crap but don’t want to be challenged on it.

  3. I remember wondering about that bandanna and just figured he either had a small chest or they made bandannas bigger in the middle east. It’s a wonderful book and I loved it.

  4. Well, having my fair share of idiot reviews, I can honestly agree. While, yes, some of my works could use a bit of editing, they weren’t so bad that you couldn’t get through them. One reviewer wrote that he just didn’t get what I was writing, and that he just “couldn’t go on”…yet pointed out all these things wrong with it. If he had kept on reading, his questions about the story would have been answered.

    I don’t know why Amazon allows these reviews, but I guess, as you say, everyone is entitled to their opinion. I just wish I could voice mine about the reviews.

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