Dealing with Mixed Reviews

thumbs upEvery writer knows that bad reviews are a part of the trade. But what do you do when the bad is mixed in with the good? Aren’t mixed messages kind of worse than consistently bad ones? Well, that’s what I’m wondering as I peruse some collected reviews of my books, as posted on Amazon. Some of them only came to my attention by accident, as I happened to be cruising by not long ago, and I must have turned my prompts off.

In any case, here are some of the reviews, good and bad, that came in with regards to Source, my first indie-published work. As you can see, the first one wasn’t so good, ranking the book at a mediocre three out five stars. The second is from Katy “Obsessive bibliophile” Sozaeva, a pro reader/reviewer who specializes in evaluating indie works, which was posted over a year ago. Compare if you will:

Source_2

Inventive and Imaginative, but Scientifically Flawed. I read this with some enjoyment, I admit. But that pleasure was diminished somewhat by the nagging voice that kept saying, “That wasn’t necessary/easiest/realistic.” It happened in just too many places for it to be assuaged by simply pushing the “I believe” button.

Entertaining and enlightening sci-fi story. The Earth and its colonies are running out of water. The government, left with no options, decides to hedge its bets by creating a colony ship and sending off the best and brightest to colonize the stars, while at home strict rationing and a lottery system to decide who should live and who should die will be instituted. Millions will die, either of thirst or through…

Not exactly consistent is it? And consider this: the first review seemed to have far more of an impact than the second. When Katy reviewed my work and looked on it kindly, I honestly filed it in the “Oh, she’s nice” category. On the other hand, the semi-negative review hit me where I live. It actually made me consider pulling it from the shelf and putting a stop on its sequels.

Eyes

And then consider this review from one of the short stories in my Legacies series, otherwise known as Eyes in the Dark. This story I began years back and completed for NaNoWriMo 2011. Some initial opinions I got on it were quite good, all from my writer’s group, but I was happy to see a positive review posted on a professional site:

I liked the story. It had a convincing science fiction scenario and an intriguing dilemma at the core of the plot. I liked the characters, which always helps. I’d recommend this book and read any others Matthew’s written.

I liked that review, especially the last line since it might actually lead to a rise in sales! But I have to admit, I was surprised by it seeing as how I felt the entire thing was a bit rushed and hurriedly written. As it’s writer, I am abundantly aware of its flaws and I keep waiting for someone to say the same bad things that I fear they will notice.

LiabilityOh, and I should also mention the one review which haunts me to this day. It had to do with this oldie, a short known as Liability which I wrote back in 2005. Since I merged it with another short, I can no longer find the review on Amazon anymore. However, I do seem to remember the general nature of it, which ought to tell you something!

The story is nothing special. The ending is a fairy tale of course and is totally unrealistic, but if you’re looking for a cheap read, it’s worth the price.

I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the gist of it. Harsh huh? And the worst part of it is, I took it seriously. And even though that review was one of five that were quite favorable, I still seem to put more stock in it than the others. Here’s what these other people said, just to be inclusive:

Grabs your attention immediately. Is well written IMHO.

It’s a well conceived and beautifully delivered novel. I wish it has more pages for a more lasting reading.

Good story. Gets you wrapped up in the action right away and doesn’t stop till the end.

Don’t look behind you when you read this novel, they may be watching you. thoroughly enjoyable reading.

And I can imagine what seem people would say, since I’ve said it enough time myself to know it word for word. “Hey, [insert your name here], you can’t please everybody. And there’s always going to be idiots and haters. You can’t take what they say seriously.” Yeah, but when it’s me, I say the words, but I don’t feel it. Somehow, the bad reviews always see to make more sense and leave the lasting mark.

So I put it to all the other indie writers, artists and authors out there. What is it about negative feedback that we find just so believable? Why do we treat positive reviews (I’m assuming it’s not just me) as if they are obligatory or motivated by the desire to not hurt our feelings? Are good reviews only meaningful if they come from people who are usually cruel and hard to impress?

I don’t know… All I know is, I want to get better. And the appearance of a single bad review makes me want to work harder and convince them of my worth as a writer. Funny, considering that if it were a friend of mine being poorly reviewed, I’d be telling them they rock, and telling the haters: “Screw you, with some sexual harassment on top!”

Anybody else got mixed reviews to share? This experience feels somehow cathartic and I recommend it highly. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt your bottom line. Hardly anybody reads this site anyway 😉

Next Big Thing Blog Hop

inspirationGood morning people! Today, I will be participating in the NBTBH, thanks to my good friend and fellow author Melanie Edmonds who was nice enough to invite me to participate. As some of you may know, Mel and I are members of the Writer’s Worth group, an indie writer organization that is dedicated to the betterment and promotion of new and aspiring authors.

In addition, she’s one of the people taking part in the Yuva anthology and one of its chief contributors. Look for her story Swan Song in the collection just as soon as it’s available. And you also click the following link to learn more about her work: http://writer.apocalypseblog.com

So, what is this blog hop thing all about? Well basically, its a thing where I and my fellow authors, in their respective blogs, offer people a sneak peak at our works-in-progress by answering ten questions about it.  We’ve also included some behind-the-scenes information about how and why we write what we write: the characters, inspirations, plotting and other choices we make. I hope you enjoy it!

Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts and questions. Here is my Next Big Thing!

1. What is the working title of your book?

Well, there are a few. But in this case, I’d have to go with Whiskey Delta, my first attempt at zombie apocalypse literature.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

Actually, interesting story, it came from two place. I began working on an idea for a near-future story about a militarized border between the US and Mexico, as part of a Climate Change-fueled dystopian scenario. But at some point, with all the talk of fencelines, borders, military units, and blockades, I became convinced it would be cooler with zombies. And an idea was born!

3. What genre does your book come under?

Tricky, but I’d say horror since zombie lit tends to end up in this category. Post-apocalyptic would be an equally appropriate category too, since the greatest theme of the work is how disaster of such proportions turns people against each other and forces us to put survival ahead of all else.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I’d say Adam Beach or Lou Diamond Phillips as Sergeant Dezba, Stark Sands as Lieutenant Braun, either Anne Hathaway or Jennifer Lawrence as Corporal Saunders, and

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

In the sun-baked lands of New Mexico, the Rattlesnakes live by a singular philosophy: “Leave none undead!”

6. Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?

Self-published, like all my works thus far. However, that may change with time and a little promotion. We shall see!

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Roughly six months. But then again, once you got a working idea, zombie lit pretty much writes itself!

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I would have to say World War Z, since the focus is on the zombie apocalypse, though more concerned with the aftermath than the way it happened. And of course, the graphic novel of The Walking Dead and 28 Days Later, which were big inspirations for me.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Watching Generation Kill was a big boost, as it gave me a really good feel for the kinds of antics, military lingo and problems faced by today’s grunts. Studying up on various zombie franchises, from 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead, to Dawn of the Dead and The Walking Dead, were also a big push. My own passion for military history also played a role, as it helped me to understand things like grand strategies, unit tactics, and the way wars are planned and carried out. And of course, playing lots of Modern Warfare also helped to get me in the shoot-em-up, blow-em-up, action-packed mood to write all the action scenes.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Plenty of speculation as to how a zombie virus (the Ambulus Mortus strain, in my story) would work, where it would come from, and the effects it would have on the infected. I explore a good deal of the long-term effects in my story, and the race to find a vaccine and/or a cure is central to the ongoing series which I have planned.

Who’s next on the NEXT BIG THING BLOG HOP?
So glad you asked! Below you will find authors who will be joining me by blog, next Wednesday. Do be sure to bookmark and add them to your calendars for updates on Works in Progress and New Releases! Happy writing and reading!

  1. Rami Ungar: Without a doubt, he’s my first nominee. He has several irons in the fire, some of which I have had the honor of reading, and I know he’s hard at work and would like the chance to share about his process.
  2. Khaalidah Mohammed-Ali: My second-in-command over at Yuva and an indie writer in her own right with An Unproductive Woman. I know she too deserves to share her writing and anything I can do to bring it to a wider audience, I will.
  3. Goran Zidar: Another major contributor to Yuva and an indie writer of renown. I’ve been reading his material for some time and very much enjoy his techno-savy, grit, and realism. I know for a fact he’s got works in the works, so I say let’s hear about em!