The downside of #writing success: malicious reviews
I’m going to begin this blog by stating quite categorically that the vast majority of the reading public are lovely. Even if they don’t particularly enjoy your book they will be kind and constructive about it. If someone has taken the time and energy to write a review or add a rating on Amazon or Goodreads it is usually because they have enjoyed what they have read and occasionally have a point to make about some aspect or other.
However, the wider your readership becomes and the more your books sell, you are increasingly likely to come up against a totally different breed of reviewer. I am a reader and a consumer myself and whenever I check out a new title I page down to the customer review section. Even if the novel has tons of four and five star reviews, there are always a good number of ones and twos, their terminology so heaped in vitriol that you imagine this tome must be deeply offensive or flawed in some crucial respect (this percentage goes up as the popularity of the book goes up). Don’t get me wrong, I love the concept of customer reviews, I trust them far more than ‘official’ reviews from newspapers and periodicals – on the whole, the system works.
But every so often, like today for instance, I see a deliberately unpleasant review of one of my nine books that totally misrepresents it and is blatantly unfair. Usually, the person writing adopts a false name and is untraceable, not that I could do much even if they could be traced.
I accept that criticism will come my way as an author. I find constructive criticism really useful when I make corrections and have even re-written entire novels on the basis of a customer’s feedback! I’m also actually getting more used to criticism. I’d have a very short writing career if I didn’t! But sometimes, I do wish there was a come-back or redress for the author. I imagine it is the same for businesses who get malicious reviews online for their services or products. Often, these are posted anonymously and it’s terribly unfair not to be able to challenge them.
All the advice I have read about writing and publishing encourages me to ignore these reviews – rise above it and move on – which I certainly shall. The negativity shouldn’t be allowed to put a writer off penning their next book. You have to keep in mind all those people who have been positive and supportive over the months and years instead. They are the majority of readers, who want to encourage and promote free expression and creativity.
It’s just that sometimes, it would be nice to have a proper right to reply.