Since reading a brilliant blog post by Lisa Jewell earlier this year, I’ve been approaching negative Amazon (and Goodreads) reviews with rather more of an objective viewpoint. When Into the Darkest Corner was first published, I have to say that getting one and two star reviews HURT. I think the first one caused me to actually cry, lose sleep and suffer a massive crisis of confidence… but after a while, I got used to them, and having lots of positive five star reviews certainly helps with that. My books aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, after all, and once I’d got my head around that, reading the reviews was actually a valuable learning experience. Many of them had very valid points to make and all feedback is useful, isn’t it? For me it is, anyway. Even if that learning experience is ‘get a grip and don’t worry about people who don’t like your writing’ or, in the words of my former boss, ‘toughen up, princess’.
However, I had a one star review on Amazon.com for the US edition of Into the Darkest Corner yesterday, and this one really upset me. I wanted to write this blog last night but decided to sleep on it, in the hope that it would take some of the sting away. I’m certainly calmer this morning (and it’s Mother’s Day, so I got a cup of tea in bed which helped) but I still want to write about it.
(Actually what I want to do is reply directly to the review, but everyone knows you DON’T enter into a correspondence with negative reviewers. That never makes things better.)
Now, most of what this particular reviewer has to say is perfectly reasonable. She thinks the story is ‘spoon fed’ to the reader, she thinks it’s too long and she doesn’t like the characters. All of this is entirely fair enough, and I appreciate hearing things like this because it reminds me that I need to work hard to get the balance of detail, characterisation and nuance right when I’m writing.
But then she just spoils it all with this bit:
“This author may have a future but not if all of her 486+ relatives keep leaving fake reviews to make her feel special.”
This little sentence REALLY upset me.
I want to reply to her that, to my knowledge, only one person I know personally has left me a review on Amazon.com, and that was my Aunty in Florida, and as I recall she didn’t actually like it that much.
What she’s done there, my reviewer, is insult all of those lovely kind people who don’t know me from Adam and yet took the time and trouble to leave a review to share with others and let everyone know what they thought. Good or bad. Much as she did, herself. Reading it again makes me so angry! Why would you even say something like that, when the rest of the review was negative, yes, but at least making some valid points? Because that isn’t making a point about my book, my writing or even me – it’s just plain nasty. Attacking my reviewers rather than me or my book makes me madder than a mad thing. It’s unkind!
And that, I think, is the key to it. I’ve always believed that people who are unkind often are like this because they are coming from a place of hurt themselves. Attack is a form of defence. This is the only way that I can find to deal with this kind of vitriol – to assume that she must have had a really bad day. Or maybe she is a writer herself and hasn’t had any reviews at all yet. Or something like that…
I am hoping that writing all this down will be a bit cathartic and I can now leave it, forget about it and get on with Mother’s Day. I hope you all have lovely days, wherever in the world you are. I have a roast dinner to cook, so I’d better get on with it.