Negative Reviews: Are they Always Negative?

My Suspense/Thriller Writers group on Facebook is discussing the postive aspects of negative reviews this week, and Roni Gehlke left a comment that’s worth passing along.  Roni wrote:
As a reviewer and a writer I have to say that there are all kinds of ways people can give you a negative review. As a writer I don’t mind hearing people give me constructive criticism, especially if they know what they are taking about. After ten years I’ve developed a thick skin, at least I hope I have. I still get disappointed when I hear someone didn’t like what I wrote, but as long as there are others who do, I push forward.

I cannot abide by people who just appear to be mean spirited, though.

For example, I have a favorite author who is constantly getting bashed on Amazon. It isn’t that she is a bad writer, obviously l like her and she’s been around for over 30 years writing novels. I believe there are some people who don’t like her style because they don’t hold the same values she does and because of that they criticize everything she writes. Sometimes I have to ask whether these people have even read the book or are just writing a bad review to be mean.

This particular author writes contemporary western cowboy romance novels, about strong alpha men and virginal women. Just because one believes that there are no longer virgins in the world and strong alpha males are bruits doesn’t mean that the stories are bad.

Because you don’t agree with the author’s topic of writing is no reason to give a bad review. If you don’t like gay books or ménage books, don’t read them and don’t force you’re values on those who enjoy them. When bad reviews are written for this reason it is unfair to the author and unfair to those who may wish to read the book but then follow the advise of the reviewer and don’t.

Since I started reviewing books I work carefully to check out all angles of a novel. If the subject matter offends me, and little usually does, I won’t read it or review it. Why waste my time or the readers who may follow my advice.

If the book has fatal flaws like grammar errors, even I as a novice can find, then I might mention it and shave off a few points of the end score, but it doesn’t mean it will get a bad review either. If the story has a good theme, well thought out characters and in the case of suspense and thrillers, keeps me reading until the very last page it will get high scores from me.

One final note: I read an author’s blog a few months back where she was very upset that she had received bad reviews on one of her books. This is a tough industry. People give bad reviews in ignorance, in spite and just because they can. Authors spend a lot of time and put a lot of themselves into their work. The first few bad reviews may sting, but keep in mind that you will always get bad reviews before you will get good ones. More people will complain then praise. It is just a fact of life. Try to look at the bad reviews as a learning experience of what people don’t want to see, balance it with the good reviews of what people do want to see and get right back in front of that computer and start again. If you are lucky enough to get published, that says everything right there.

Happy writing.

If you are a fan of romance and happy endings, check out Roni’s Blog: Romance Books Scene.

I Enjoy Keeping Men Up Late at Night!

A couple of days ago I received an email from Aaron Lazar, author of Tremolo: Cry of the Loon. He said: “I started A Spark of Heavenly Fire last night and am HOOKED, big time! I read 100 pages (usually I fall asleep when reading in bed after a few pages) and dreamed about it all night. Wonderful! Can’t wait to read more, Pat. You’ve got a winner here.” Today he wrote: “Read another hundred pages last night. I’m mad with you! I didn’t get enough shut eye! HAAAAA!”

I do enjoy keeping men up late at night! I like keeping women up late at night, too. During all these years of wondering what it would be like to have people read my published novels, this is one aspect I never took into consideration — how wonderful it would feel to know that I am keeping people up past their bedtime so they could read a few more pages. Such an awesome power!

In November, I posted a bloggery, “What If People Like My Books?” I had been so focused on getting published, that for some reason until then it never occurred to me to wonder what it would be like if people actually enjoyed my novels. After 200 rejections, I was poised to deal with more of the same, but so far I have received only positive feedback. It’s an incredibly affirming experience to have people peek into your mind, to become intimately involved with your creation, and to get what you’re saying. So much of me is in the books that I thought I would feel exposed, but I don’t for the simple reason that the books no longer belong to me. They belong to anyone who reads and enjoys them.

Wanda H. wrote:  “I’ve now read both books! They were both spellbinding and kept me engrossed until I finished. It was hard to put them down to sleep and not to pick them up again in the morning and instead go and do things.

My favorite is A Spark of Heavenly Fire. I love the characters and the action and the . . .  well, everything. But it only edges out More Deaths Than One by a bit.

I now see what you mean about an unnamed genre. Kind of a big picture conspiracy, behind the scenes machinations and how that affects the little guy (or gal) on the street. You did such a terrific job. I know you’re going to enjoy tremendous success not only with these books but also with the books you’ve yet to write.

Anyway, just to gush a little more…. I love your work! You rock!”

Sheila Deeth, who won the first autographed copy of my book because of her wonderfully imaginative entry for my More Deaths Than One Contest, wrote an incredible review of the book.  She starts out: The first three pages of “More Deaths than One” have to constitute a serious contender for the best opening scene of a novel. Two main characters are introduced, a garrulous waitress and a taciturn hot-chocolate customer. They meet. She talks, a lot. He reads the paper. “And Lydia Loretta Stark was dead. Again.” With two such immediately real and appealing characters, and a line like that, I’d challenge anyone not to want to keep turning the pages. more  . . .

So . . . what if people like my books? I feel honored, and if truth be told, a bit humbled.

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