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Today on twitter I noticed that yet another author has made something of a fool of themselves online. I’m not going to link it because it feels like this has become pretty common. To sum up:

  1. A negative review was posted on Goodreads.
  2. The author and/or her agent chose to make negative comments on the review.
  3. The agent and author exchanged words on twitter and certain rude names were slung about in regards to the reviewer and Goodreads users in general.
  4. Followers of said reviewer and other reviewers did not take this kindly.
  5. Sh**storm!

There is clearly a lot more to this but I decided to forgo the Schadenfreude of reading through all the gory details. We’ve seen this before.

We’ve also seen some excellent responses to one star revues like those from Mike Mullin author of Ashfall. See here and here. I far prefer Mr. Mullins brand of response. Good show sir!

This has led me to several thoughts on the matter.

Know how a tool works before you use it.

I refer to the internet. It can be as terrible as it is powerful. When I post on  this blog, when I write a tweet, when I comment on a blog, when I put anything out for the public to read I try to be mindful of what I am contributing because someday I intend to publish. What goes on the internet is immortalized forever. Or might as well be because of archive sites. I want my google-able persona to represent me, not me on my bad days. If an author, or any user of the internet, doesn’t understand that then the results can be unfortunate. (link not writing related but darned satisfying)

I will get bad ratings.

A long time ago I thought I would not be able to handle it when I got a bad review and was fully prepared to just ignore that they existed. Ithink differently now. Everyone gets some bad reviews. All of my favorite authors, the ones I think are perfect and awesome and how-could-anyone-else-not-think-they’re-awesome!!!  *breathe* Yeah, them? They get bad reviews. Authors I think are brilliant get called stupid. Authors I think have lovely prose get called pedantic. The point is even the best get bad reviews. I have no illusions about matching my heroes. So yeah, I’m going to get bad reviews it’s just not as big a deal as I used to think. I hope the positive ones outnumber the bad but there will be some. It’s not the end of the world. Especially because…

I’m more likely to read a one or two star review.

Yup. When I’m on Goodreads I check out the top rated reviews and then I check the ratio of good reviews (4-5 stars) to poor reviews (1 and 2 stars). I’ve found good reviews tell me it’s all awesome but doesn’t always tell me what I want to know. A bad review will go into more of the types of detail I want. How was the prose? Was the subject well handled? Etc. My experience is that a good reviewer doing a one star review is more motivated to give a clear account of why. Two star reviews often want to be nice so they’ll poke around what they didn’t like but it’s usually still pretty clear.

More often than not a bad review does not put me off of reading a book. Sometimes it confirms that the plot is not going to be for me or that the book is riddled with bad writing in which case I’m better off not reading (and adding another poor star rating). More often it lets me know that this book is actually way more to my taste than that of the reviewer.

In the end I think there’s a quote that says it best.

A writer should respond rapturously to bad reviews or not at all.

Most of the time I’d say that last bit won’t fail you.

Note: I tried to find an attribution to the quote but alas my google-fu has completely failed me. If anyone can point me to a source that would be awesome!

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In the Media

There’s an article about me in the Cambrian Shield, my college paper.   The interview was done by emailing questions and answers back and forth since both myself and the student journalist, Megan Suggitt, have been deep in end-of-semester overload.  I enjoyed the process except for the part where I was asked to talk about my book.  It’s so hard to describe it when so much is still in flux.

I did notice that she called me the creator of the Sudbury Hypergraphic Society, the writing group I’m a member of.  In fact I am one of several co-founders.  Since I made sure to be clear on that in my responses I think fact got sacrificed to the god of deadlines.

It was a fun experience and I learned a few things about how to respond to interview questions.  Ah school, it offers so many opportunities to get life experience without the real world burden of consequence.

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