Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Monday, June 24, 2013

When a Favorite Author Writes a Bad Book

There's this bestselling author-- award-winning, Oprah interviewed-- whose writing I adore. Except the last book of hers I read was truly vomit-worthy. It was slapdash, thrown together, lame and really awful, especially compared to all the other brilliance with her name on it. That was my opinion, at least, and I reviewed it on Goodreads like I do every book I read. I gave it one star and a critical review. Not mean though, and many other reviewers had similar complaints to mine.

And I feel guilty about it. Not sure why. Out of the thousands of reader reviews on her books it's not likely she'd read mine. And if she did, what would her reaction be? "Oh my goodness, how could this person trash my work like this? It's petty and mean. What does she know anyway? I'll never write again!" Haha, not likely. I imagine she's secure enough in her own writing that she lets bad reviews slide right past if she notices them at all.

Successful authors get criticized just like everyone else if not more, but it doesn't stop them. Even poor sales and a new book not getting picked up by the publisher doesn't stop them. They keep right on doing what they love--writing books.

Like Tom Cruise, how he got so much criticism in the media awhile back. All of a sudden it was the in thing to hate Tom Cruise and make fun of him. What did he do? Just kept on making movies. He's putting out one or two films a year, and making more money than ever playing the incredibly attractive rebel action hero.

I find it inspiring to read one-star reviews on popular bestsellers. I figure if it happens to them then so what if it happens to me. Absolutely nothing should stop a determined writer. And there's no way to please everyone. That same book I could barely tolerate got plenty of 5 star reviews. People like what they like and they don't like what they don't like, and there's no accounting for taste. How could anyone not like Tom Cruise? He's gorgeous and a fantastic actor. The last two movies he did, Jack Reacher and Oblivion were awesome! 

29 comments:

  1. As long as your reviews are your honest opinion and not vitriolic I think it is right to publish it. You publish good reviews so why not ones of books that only deserved a low rating?

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  2. I think any person putting themselves out there like writers, painters and actors are going to have missteps. Not everything they produce is a gem. I like how you turned it around. Haven't seen Reacher yet. I just can't see Cruise physically as Jack Reacher who is a huge guy in the books.

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  3. I still can't believe Tom Cruise is half a century old!!! He so doesn't look it!!

    Oh I can't do one star reviews for stories. I just can't but that's cos I'm a wuss and prefer to live in pink clouds full 5 stars! LOL!

    Take care
    x

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  4. I've had one star reviews and kept writing. No one book fits all people.

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    1. Alex, So true that it may simply be a matter of fit and preference. A one star review, or even a whole lot of them, doesn't mean that someone else won't love that book.

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  5. Hi, Karen,

    As you say, we ALL have our likes and dislikes. BUT, there is ALWAYS room for improvement. Perhaps if she read your review, there my be ONE comment that will hit home and she will remember that point when she writes her next book.

    Sometimes we, as authors, artists, actors, and other creative people, just miss the mark. We are all human after all....

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  6. I can definitely relate to your situation right now. I bought a chick lit book by an author that I've never heard of before, but I bought it because it got several great reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. But when I read it, I hated it, especially the ending. I didn't like the characters; I didn't like the MC's love interest, because their relationship seemed to be based more on lust than on love; I didn't like the fact that the author kept "telling" rather than "showing". But everyone else loved it. I was afraid that if I wrote a review expressing what I really thought, the author would read it. But on the other hand, like you, I think I have a right to my opinion. So maybe I'll post my review after all.

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    1. Neurotic, I think you should. We who buy books depend on reader reviews to get a diverse viewpoint. And the points you bring up are valid. In fact, if I were that writer I'd appreciate knowing my weaknesses, even after the fact of publication. As an author I learn just as much from my poor reviews as my good ones, believe it or not, even though nobody really wants one-star reviews LOL.

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  7. Dear Karen, I know you're right about this--that true writers just keep on doing what they love--writing. And yet there is, within me, such a deep desire to have what I write be good and a bad review can throw me for a loop! Why is it that it's the bad reviews and not the good, I remember!!!!! Peace.

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  8. Such an awesome post.
    Do what we love. Keep on going. :)

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  9. Every book gets bad reviews. If that stops someone, then they shouldn't be a writer. (Or rather be an author.)

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  10. What else can an actor or writer do, but keep on doing what s/he does? I can't imagine how poor press or bad reviews can stop them. Glad you wrote about this today.

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  11. You are right, Karen. You can't please everyone. I always like to remind myself that I can't please everyone and I have no intention of doing so. Great post! I also like reading the bad reviews of the best-sellers. It is enlightening.
    I love to read different opinions. It keeps my mind open. And, dare I say it? I don't like Tom Cruise (who cares, right?

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    1. Julia, What? You don't like Tom Cruise? Haha, no worries, I like him enough for both of us :)

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  12. Good advice about continuing forward, even amid criticism and doubt.

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  13. As far as actors go, he isn't that great - perhaps a little better than a B movie, with lots stuff blowing up around him. I call a real actor, one that can get into the character and is believable with the correct accents of the role played etc,etc,etc - I could look as good as him if I had the money to do some great work on the face, etc. I really don't care who he is dating or married too or what he believes in - that doesn't mean much to me. He has a nice personality, so I READ about, but then I do not know him on a personal level, however; having said that and reading a sample of the book - glad I didn't waste my money. Don't feel bad about your review Karen- as we say in the Maritimes - you hit the nail on the head - Have a good night.

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  14. Alex's comment says it all.

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  15. It is hard to give a less-than-stellar review to a book, because it's easy to relate to how it will make the writer feel... and it's even harder if we know and like the writer. BUT we have to be honest with our reviews, don't we? I'm less inclined to put faith in a 5-star review if it's given by a reviewer who hands out big WOW 5-star reviews to every single book. That makes them all rather meaningless.

    I've only given a couple 3-stars... and I even feel guilty about them. But the review itself wasn't unkind, I don't think. And I'm sure you weren't unkind either, Karen.

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  16. Yes, can't please them all. And sometimes, even a great author can produce a dud. Just life, right?

    ......dhole

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  17. I'm often afraid that I'm not eloquent enough to give a bad review without it sounding mean-spirited. Also, I find it hard to review something I don't feel passionate about, and I rarely feel passionate about something I don't enjoy.

    That said, I will always give a rating on Goodreads after finishing a book, whatever that rating might be.

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  18. I love your reviews, Karen. You say what you think.
    Unlike you, I would not continue reading a novel I didn't care for, (I read too slowly and there are too many books to be read on my bedside) and I will never review a book I had not finished, so one-star reviews from me are unlikely. But if you trudged through, you earned the right to vent about it. Especially if you know it will not give a hard-working author a lethal stroke.

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  19. Hi Karen .. being truthful is so necessary and we all have opinions and enjoy different reads, different movies, different everything!

    So good for you - I just don't advertise my dislikes that much .. and wouldn't do it that overtly or cruelly ..

    Good for you for being true to you .. cheers Hilary

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    1. Hilary, I'm still conflicted about my habit of reviewing everything I read on Goodreads. I started the practice before I was published and before editing for WiDo, and now that I'm a "professional" you might say, I wonder if I should still be reviewing as do. But I guess that's a topic for another post.

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  20. Good for you! If reviews are not written honesty than they are not worth writing...in my opinion anyways. I also send back my steak if it is not prepared correctly and I do not tip a waiter that gives bad service. Life is to short to tip toe around with nothing but an agreeable smile.

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  21. At the London Book Fair in April I got talking to a Indy writer about Goodreads. She claimed she never posted a bad review. She said if she doesn't like a book she simply doesn't review it. I thought as a marketing plan this was good one as this way you can avoid making any enemies in the industry. As a service to readers, not so much a good thing, is it?

    Writing reviews is a difficult balancing act. My principle is that if I have a valid criticism about a book, I will post that. But I'll try to avoid emotional critique, if I possibly can. As a former bookseller, I will always find a good wry or two to say about (almost) any book!

    I think other readers on Goodreads and everywhere else like Amazon need to have both of our positive and our negative views, as hard as it may be on the writer. And believe me, I know how much bad reviews hurt. (a particular sentence from a MA in Creative Writing tutor from my uni is still etched on my brain).

    A great inspiring post, as always, Karen!

    Hx

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  22. Hi all, I hope everyone who read this post also takes the time to read through the comments because all of them are thoughtful, insightful and add to the discussion. Thank you to everyone who added their opinions.

    I'm still not sure about whether or not I should continue to review books on Goodreads. I don't on Amazon but Goodreads is now HUGE-- way more than when I joined, and will only get more influential since Amazon bought it.

    When I joined I wasn't published, wasn't an editor, was just an anonymous avid reader with opinions and I found it a good way to keep track of everything I read or wanted to read. At least they still allow you to do that without putting any stars if you don't want, or posting a review. That may change though who knows what Amazon will do.

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  23. Bravo for you, Karen. So you weren't published when you started reviewing books for Goodreads? Maybe I should join and review books, too.

    Your post is correct. All people like certain stories and NOT others. I think when you review books they should be truly how you feel about the story, not the author.

    Thanks for a great post, Karen. ~Victoria Marie Lees
    http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com

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  24. I guess everyone has a less than stellar piece of work now and then. :-) I like John Grisham, but don't care for his non-attorney tales. they just aren't the same, something is off. Even writers have strengths and weaknesses. And you are right...just keep going.

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  25. I've been disappointed a couple of times like that. I figure the author knows full well when they put out a bad book. Seriously, they've got to know, right?

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