Thursday, August 27, 2009

Seekerville Welcomes Stephanie Newton

Wait. She said WHAT about my book?

I think most writers read reviews. There are a few stalwart souls who can resist the temptation of finding out what this or that reader thought, but I think those writers are few and far between. Most of us pour over reviews, trying to decipher meaning from every word. Did she really mean that all my writing was lackluster? When she said that the book was melodramatic, maybe she was only talking about the one part where the baby bird fell out of the tree.

Why is it that when most reviews are overwhelmingly positive, it's the lone negative voice that we recall with vivid clarity? And how should we react when our work is being publicly denigrated?

Some people respond inappropriately, like the recent twitter debacle where a reviewer's phone number was given out by an irate author. Other badly chosen responses might include going to bed for days, or swearing to never write again. Getting one's friends to go to the review site and flame the reviewer might also be considered an inappropriate response. So, how should an author respond to a negative review?

I think there are a few choices. One, remember we all get them. Reading is subjective and not every reader is going to like every book. Our beautiful covers and scintillating back cover copy is designed by marketing to draw in the most readers possible. Some of those will be disappointed by what they find inside the covers. But most will be surprised and delighted.

Two, call a trusted friend or critique partner and whine. My critique partners are one of my greatest assets as a writer. I know I can count on them to be incensed on my behalf, but I also trust them to be the voice of reason when I need it.

Three, fuggedaboutit. It you're obsessively checking Amazon, Good Reads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, etc. for reviews, just don't do it. Or make one day a month your review reading day. Seriously, you should be writing. You don't have time for all this obsessing.

Option number four is the one that got me thinking about this blog post to begin with. You can send that review to The Worst Review Ever. Their tag line is "Feel the Pain, Heal the Pain." Some of the entries are hilarious, but the website reminds us that though it's awful when our creative endeavors are scorned, we're not alone. Everyone gets bad reviews.

Finally, and this should not be the option of last resort, give it up. Pray about it. There's really only One opinion that counts. And I don't think He's writing reviews on Amazon.

Stephanie Newton wrote her first suspense story at age twelve. A teaching degree, a pastor husband, two kids, and six moves later, she's still writing. She lives in Northwest Florida and gains lots of inspiration from the sugar sand, aqua blue-green water of the Gulf of Mexico and the many, many unusual things you see when you live on the beach. When's she's not in her chair with her laptop, she can most often be found enjoying the water with her family, or at church, where she makes the coffee and her husband preaches the sermons. For more info on Steph's books, check out her website at


Stephanie Newton said...

Good morning, Seekerville! Because I'm the coffee geek, I've got some fresh brewed organic that a friend brought me from Nicaragua...I'll share!

Hope everyone has a great day! And btw, if you're inspired by The Worst Review Ever site and want to share yours here...I'm sure you'll get plenty of commiseration and support.


Tina M. Russo said...

Good morning, Stephanie. Finally another java soul mate. Thank you, thank you.

Great post. I for one plan to be that tiny percent who does not read them.

Cara Slaughter said...

Hi, Steph! Thanks for the good advice. I think I'd be much too curious not to read all reviews, but it's important to remember they're just one person's opinion.

Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Stephanie! Thanks for the organic coffee. I'm wondering why I drink the poisoned variety.

I read all my reviews, at least if they show up as a Google Alert. So far they've been good, but I'm sure I'd be hit hard if they weren't. The Worst Review Ever site sounds like a long as it's not my review. LOL

I noticed you live on the gulf. Lucky you!!! I love looking at water and listening to the surf.

I brought an egg bake this morning with biscuits with honey.


Julie Lessman said...

WOW ... WOW ... this post was SOOO needed and SOOO good -- thank you, Stephanie, for coming to Seekerville today!

Each one of us needs to hear this, because those awful reviews do cut into the quick, demoralize and try to tell us that as writers for HIM, we've missed the mark. Trust me, I have shed MANY tears over the possibility of that, and it's only HIS grace that salves the wound.

We must, however, give bad reviews their due. Not only do they toughen our hide (a very necessary thing in this business), but they push us to God, which is ALWAYS a good thing.

I love your statement that says, "Pray about it. There's really only One opinion that counts. And I don't think He's writing reviews on Amazon." Grin ... amen to that, sister!

An audience of One. What a relief!


Melanie Dickerson said...

Hi, Stephanie! Well, I may not be published, but I have a pretty good idea how I'll feel when I get a bad review on, and I'll tell you why.

One day I was on and I decided to search for my book's title, just to see if there were any other books with that title. Lo and behold, it came up, The Woodcutter's Daughter by Melanie Dickerson. I just stared and stared. I couldn't believe it. And right there on were about 6 or 8 reviews of MY BOOK. I can still remember how my face burned and my stomach sank. I think at the time it was being considered by an editor at a major CBA publisher. I couldn't believe my eyes. Finally I remembered that I had entered the Breakout Novel contest several months before. I never heard anything back from them and just figured I hadn't placed, especially since after I sent my book I realized I'd sent an older version, not my revised version.

Apparently I gave Amazon permission to put it on their website and allow people to download the first 50 pages for 25 cents, or something like that. And people did! And they left reviews! Right there for the whole world to see! Ugh. And apparently some of the reviews were from judges who had read my entire book. Some of the reviews were positive, and I actually learned how to make my book better from the negative comments. But I was completely panicked about my unpublished book being "out there" so I sent Amazon about five emails begging, sometimes demanding, that they take my book off their site. And they did, thank goodness. Probably nobody but Mary and Julie saw those reviews. At least, I hope that's all.

Also, I've gotten some really scathing comments from contest judges through the last couple of years that I entered so many contests. REALLY scathing, some of them. So yeah, I sort of know how it feels to get a bad review. And it stinks.

Sorry this was so long! Thanks for telling us about The Worst Review Ever site. I'm gonna go check it out.

Debra E Marvin said...

I only came for the biscuits.

Well, I guess I do have a question. I know that some writers also do reviews. Some of these reviews are of friends, or at least colleagues. In that light, how critical are they going to be if they really were not impressed with the book?

Where do authors go to see blunt, unbiased reviews of new releases?

Generally I'm picking something to read based on the self-promotion of the author online (blog interviews, websites) or by their reputation. I don't read too many reviews.

Melanie Dickerson said...

You can trust my reviews, Debra, because if I didn't like a book very much, I won't write a review for it. I only write reviews for books I loved.

Erica Vetsch said...

Yay! This is just the post I needed to read today. I've not had a public review of one of my novels yet, but yesterday I got a private review that set me back on my heels.

Today is a new day, and I'll move forward with that review in mind while I edit.

lynnrush said...

Thanks for this. Yeah, it's easy to believe something negative about yourself too isn't it? Almost easier than believing the good things. I think Julia Roberts said that in Pretty Woman, and she was pretty much right on target.

Wonder why that is . . .

BUT, you're right, we know we ultimately write for an audience of ONE.

Audra Harders said...

Good morning, Stephanie! Thanks for the positive spin on negative reviews : )

It hurts to have any bad talk flung at us, but to have absolute strangers diss our babies? What is up with that?

I'm printing off your advice, great reminders to keep on hand when the blues hit.

We're running over with berries, so I've brought raspberry blintzes with a dab of whipped cream. Do we need more coffee??

Stephanie Newton said...

Hey guys!
I LOVE coming to visit here. Love the welcome, love the camaraderie. What an awesome place!

My worst review I got for Perfect Target was one I saw on Good Reads. The lady who read it said that it was so forgettable, she had to go back to the book to write the review. And then she gave it 2 stars! I was crushed.

But then I had to laugh about it...apparently hot surfer cops aren't everyone's cup of tea. ;o) I did learn my lesson though. I try really hard NOT to look at those reviews!

Stephanie Newton said...

As far as unbiased reviews, I'm not sure such a thing exists. Everyone comes into a book with preconceived expectations. That said, there are some fantastic book bloggers out there who are honest with their opinions.

Stephanie Newton said...

Oh! One more thing--Melanie, your post reminded me that I meant to say the advice could definitely be applied to contest results as well! There are so many stories of manuscripts getting bad contest scores and going on to sell. Don't let those bad scores or comments get you down!

Ann said...

Waving from Unpubbed Island ...

If you are getting reviews, good or bad ... you ARE published.

That said, criticism of something that close to the heart can really dig deep. I can remember negatives I got on news stories that I wrote twenty years ago!

That's the kind of situation wehre I always need the Lord's help.

Missy Tippens said...

Welcome, Stephanie!! I'm so glad you're with us today in Seekerville!

Love the post. And you're so right. We can't spend time watching Amazon rankings or worrying about one sentence out of 20 positive reviews! :)

Myra Johnson said...

Great advice, Stephanie, and welcome to Seekerville!

Actually, I've been pondering the subject Melanie brought up--when you DON'T get reviewed. I almost think I'd rather get a bad review than none at all. At least it would show someone was paying attention.

But--like Melanie--because the publishing world is so close-knit, I also would not review a book I didn't care for rather than say anything negative about another writer.

Missy Tippens said...

Melanie, I can't imagine that happening!! Yikes. I bet you thought you were in the twighlight zone (cue the music)! :)

Debra, you're right about those reviews. I do like for my friends to review my books, though, because it can only help to have those positive ones up there (plus, I trust they'll be honest, and won't put up a review that they don't mean). But it is nice to see reviews from unbiased parties. Those always give me a real boost. And I hope they sell books!


Missy Tippens said...

Oh, Erica. I'm sorry! But yes, today is a new day. And I'm sure there will be many more better reviews to come!

Stephanie Newton said...

Erica, sometimes those private ones are the ones that hurt the most. The longer I've worked with my critique partners, the more I value their opinions and hold my breath when I send them stuff. I depend on them to be honest with me so my work will get better...but it still stings, for realz, as my son would say.

Hi, Missy! (Missy and I were the obvious standouts at RWA with our Southern accents :)

Sheila Deeth said...

Thanks for the smile and the wisdom of your last point.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Stephanie, Welcome to Seekerville and thanks for your wonderful post and reminder that reviews are just someone's opinion. As we seek to find editors who like our work we should KNOW how subjective this business is. We all have different tastes and bring different backgrounds to what we read so of course not everyone is going to like what we read. I like Melanie's view though. It mirrors what my grandmother used to always say. "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."

My funniest bad review was for a self-help book for teens that I wrote for Rosen Publishing. It was part of a series on drug prevention advice for teens. The book Marijuana received a really bad review saying I hadn't done any research because all my statements about how bad the drug was for people was obviously all wrong and that marijuana was good for you, etc. etc." This person obviously had their own bias. LOL But annoyingly enough it did hurt, because I do pride myself on my research. Go figure.

And you're right, Stephanie. The best thing to do is give it up.

Tara said...

Great post. I hope to be able to take them with a grain of salt. I probably won't, which means my husband will probably disconnect the computer until I agree to avoid all reviews. :]

Jessica said...

Cute post Stephanie, but only because I haven't gotten reviewed yet. LOL Because I'm not published. :-) I'm not looking forward to bad reviews, but to me one or two is maybe a good thing. At least the book is striking some chords, etc.
Love that worst review site! Reminds me of a rejection site where you can send in your stinky rejections. *grin*
Thanks for sharing!

Sierra Donovan said...


One more consoling thought: not all readers read reviews, and I don't think very many of them base their buying decisions on what they read on

I like to read reviews -- of movies or of books -- after I've checked them out for myself, just to compare notes and see if I agree.

But I think the impact on sales is minimal. A snarky review may hurt your feelings, but I don't think it'll hurt your pocketbook.

Stephanie Newton said...

Thanks for chiming in with the consoling thought. :)

And Sandra, you're so right that seeking an editor should've prepared us!

Thanks to all of you for having me here in Seekerville...I love your comments and shared wisdom. It's such a treat to be here.