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….