Thursday, March 23, 2017

Dealing With Negative Reviews with Katy Huth Jones

Hello! I have Katy Huth Jones here today to talk about the dreaded negative reviews - or, as I like to call them Neggie Revvies (they sound a lot less intimidating that way) - and what you should do about them ... if anything. I remember my first negative review well - of Sew, It's a Quest. The reader obviously didn't like retellings, as she compared it to putting newspaper through a blender and making paper mache.

(Personally, though, I like paper mache.)

Katy Huth Jones is a lovely lady. I've not had a chance to read her books yet, but my mom has them on her account, so I plan to. I also won a dragon from her, and dragons are nice.

Find her on the Interwebs:




Dealing With Negative Reviews
by Katy Huth Jones

Most novel writers, I believe, work hard to craft the best story they can tell. We want to publish a book we can proudly market to readers. We hope they will all love the characters and the story as much as we do. After all, we've invested hours and hours and hours of time, sweat, and tears between the first nugget of an idea through multiple drafts, editing, proofreading, beta readers, and formatting, until the finished product is ready to launch into the world.

While waiting for the book's first reviews, we bite our nails, but we secretly dream of seeing 5 stars on every one. We love this book; surely the rest of the world will, too!

The reality is, not every reader will love our story. We don't love every book we read, either, so we can't expect a reader who prefers cozy mysteries to fall in love with our action adventure book, or a rabid fantasy fan to rave about our regency romance.

On Goodreads, there are back-to-back reviews of one of my books that are total opposites. One gave it 3 stars and said, "The very long passages of exposition, detailing just what had happened, rather than showing the reader what was happening was poor story craft. It was disappointing." The reviewer below rated it 5 stars and said, "Well written and surprisingly believable for a work of fantasy . . .a highly engaging tale which is difficult to put down."

If we can keep reminding ourselves that not everyone prefers our genre or our style of writing, it helps to handle these kinds of reviews. The nasty ones written by trolls are the saddest of all, because those people are using the relative anonymity of the internet to vent their anger on innocent victims. We should pity them and pray for them, but never, ever respond to their reviews! A discerning potential reader will see through a drive-by troll review and not let it sway their purchase of your book.

The best kind of negative review is the one that helps us grow as writers. My first novel was published by Cool Well Press in 2012, marketed as a YA fantasy with a fourteen-year-old protagonist. A book blogger published a review, which hurt at first because it was my first three star. Here's an excerpt:

"I just read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, which is another book about childhood cancer. The difference between TFiOS and this one is the intended audience, I think. This is an allegory, written in a very straightforward manner. The tale does not take any detours into romance or death or the sadness of families. It seems to be for a child who has suffered either with or near cancer, and says 'you have fought the fight, and survived. Take great comfort in that.' For someone who needs to know they’ve beaten the enemy.

"So I must say this: if this story is for a reader in the Juvenile age group, let’s say younger than 13, then it works. But if it is intended for a more Young Adult crowd, there’s not enough that happens in the story to keep their interest. The formality of the manner of speaking, the fact that I felt I was being told exactly what to feel, and going directly from Point A to Point B left me unsatisfied. It was a nice story that is perfect for the 8-12 age range.

"3 of 5 Stars (Based on Ink and Page’s Rating System)"

After I got over my pity party, I started thinking objectively about what this reviewer said. I realized that in trying to write an allegory of my cancer experience, I had built in too much emotional distance from the reader to interest the typical teen. Younger readers (such as the eight-year-old I used to be) can enjoy the adventure and the new fantasy world with the fun talking birds. Once readers hit puberty, the hormones kick emotions into overdrive, which must be why so many YA books have romance in them, even if they're still basically adventure books. This reviewer actually helped me by pointing out the difference between MG and YA, so I was able to make sure the next books I wrote were truly YA, with "romance and death and the sadness of families."


In writing, as in life, when we stop growing, we stagnate. Negative reviews are potentially much more helpful than ego-boosting five stars to help us keep growing and learning as a writer.

18 comments:

  1. Loved reading about how a negative review helped you, Katy! This was really encouraging - thanks for sharing ;).

    ~ Savannah
    scattered-scribblings.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you, Savannah! I wasn't sure if including that would be helpful or not, so thanks for the feedback! :D

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  2. Thanks for this advice, Katy! That is a good point about negative reviews being able to help you grow as a writer.

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    1. You're so welcome, Sarah! Thanks for reading!

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  3. Thanks for sharing your experiences. You're right. The intensely personal nature of writing can make it hard to take those bad reviews, but if we can learn from them, hopefully we'll grow as writers.

    I recently re-read the prologue to Lord of the Rings and I love what Tolkien said there, basically he said, some people do not like my books, which is fine, because I don't like their books, or the kinds of books they would write if they wrote them!

    And writers everywhere say, "Amen!"

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    1. Amen! There are definitely books out there I wouldn't want to touch with a 10 foot pole! Rattlesnake books. :)

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    2. Ha!!! LOVE that D.J!!!!

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    1. You're welcome, Rachel! Thanks for reading!

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  5. I try to think of them as constructive criticism instead. If there is something to learn from the review, I try to take it with me. If not, I try to remind myself that the person who wrote the review (I.e. "I couldn't even finish it--too dark for me") probably shouldn't have tried reading it in the first place. Sometimes people don't read the back cover close enough and have preconceived notions about what your book should be lol.

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  6. Thanks for sharing your experience, Katy! How encouraging!! Hugs!!!

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  7. What would you do or should you do when receiving a negitive review in person? I fought tears (my go-to emotion for everything, lol!!) when a reader cornered me in front of my family and rattled off things that she didn't like. There were nice things mingled in...I think ???.... but it didn't help snap me out of the shock I felt at this readers bold P.O.V. I think I giggled a crazy apology. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions when and if there is a next time?

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    1. Wow! You must have really hit a nerve! I would have been just as stunned as you if someone had so boldly cornered me. The only time that has ever happened to me was in a writer's critique group I went to for a while, and we weren't supposed to "defend" our writing, so I didn't say anything, but I was fighting back tears. I guess if someone felt compelled to list all the things wrong with one of my books, I'd thank them for reading it, say I'm sorry they didn't enjoy it, and as kindly as possible tell them I'll consider their comments. (Those comments will probably never be forgotten, and we can "consider" them without changing our stories.) I'm sorry you had such an awkward encounter! ((HUG))

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    2. Thanks! I'll take that hug, lol! I think uncomfortable circumstances tend to grow us the most and I think the Lord used this person to help begin the thickening of the skin process! ;D One person's P.O.V shouldn't erase all the many positives, yet that's how that pesky Satan works. Thanks for the story and encouragent, Katy. I'm so glad we have had the chance to meet through Indie-eCon. Happy writing!

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    3. You are SO right about Satan being involved in the negatives! I'm really glad to have met you, too! May you always find joy in your writing!

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Hi! Now that you've read my post, hast thou any opinions that thou wouldst like to share? I'd love to hear them!

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