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Friday, March 09, 2007

HOW TO BE A WRITER II: HOW TO DEAL WITH AMAZON REVIEWS

Hello, friends. I join you today from the London Desk. I have been reading your comments on my previous posts with a glistening and interested eye. As usual, you have made some excellent points, which I must address.

anonymous said...
Point #5 is okay as far as it goes, but don't you feel that you really need special instructions to cover dealing with negative reviews on Amazon?


And then . . .

anonymous said...
You forget to mention, on number two, that once one finds a bad review on Amazon, one must immediately fill in fifteen good reviews with different usernames, emphasizing on how the writer is also an amazing humanitarian and as gorgeous-slash-handsome as an underwear model.


Anonymous often has the best things to say. Amazon reviews must be addressed, if one is to learn how to be a Writer.

I was getting some music from iTunes the other day. For my new book, I needed some Abba. (Sometimes, you need Abba. It’s just a fact of life.) I noticed one of the reviews below the picture of the album I was downloading. It said: “Someone should get these women some signing lessons.”

Okay. You might not like Abba, but I think the last thing you can say is that they need singing lessons. Even the harshest of their critics acknowledges their cold-as-a-Swedish-winter technical perfection.

It just goes to show, once your creation is out there in the world . . . be it a song or a book or a play or whatever . . . it’s open season on you. If you are a writer, you are getting exactly what you wanted. People are reading your work. The downside is, some of the people reading your work won’t like it.

Some of those people like to write Amazon reviews.

Of course, the most “sensible” advice would be never to read the Amazon reviews. But everyone reads them, so that would be lying, stupid advice. And I will not give you lying, stupid advice. I am going to give advice on what to do after you’ve read them, which you will do. Probably several times.

1. EMBRACE THE LOVE

First of all, the majority of the reviews (at least in my experience) are full of love. Sometimes, they are full of love I don’t feel I deserve. Many people who decide to write Amazon reviews do so out of kindness and appreciation.



Sometimes, Amazon will whisk you off your feet.


But okay. Having said that, it’s time to . . .

2. FACE THE HORROR


And then, they will come. Maybe just one. Maybe several. You will first note the single star, and the subject line that reads: “UGH! HATE IT HATE IT HATE IT. DIE, WRITER! DIE!” You will begin to sense that this is not going to go well.



You will feel like the reviewer is trying to tell you something.


Here you’ve knocked yourself dead writing a book, you’ve poured your life and soul into it, maybe years of your life, and what do you get? You get a review that says:

ilikekittenz91:
This bok sux I hate it and the authur is so stooped. i wish she woud catch on fire. do not reed it! i am going to throw this bok into a volcano.

The urge to come to your own defense will be strong. “Who are you to judge me, ilikekittenz91?” you will say, shaking your fist at the screen. “And by the way, BOOK HAS TWO O’s IN IT, #@^$&#^$&*#^$&*!”

The important thing is . . .

3. FIGHT THE URGE TO FIGHT



This is not the answer.


Being a Writer, you know you can compose a truly devastating reply to this review. You can take it apart and assemble something as perfect as a Swiss watch out of the parts. Oh, yes you can. Clever you. It will probably start out with the fact that ilikekittenz91 probably does not live near a volcano, and then you will slowly start to work in some killer jokes about pyroclastic flow.

Not that ilikekittenz91 would even GET a joke like that.

But . . . don’t.

Why not?

Whether you like it or not, ilikekittenz91 is entitled to her opinion. The fact is . . .

4. YOU CAN’T PLEASE EVERYONE

We all have things we look for in books. What I want is not necessarily what you want.

Some people only like books with long shoe shopping sequences in them, and therefore, they don’t like mine. Or they may like one of my books, but not another. Or they simply thing I am a horrible, no good, very bad Writer.


Sometimes, readers simply will not like you. Try not to take it too personally.


And that’s fine. The minute I agreed to be published, I accepted the fact that people can and would say whatever they liked about my books.

5. BUT THEY’RE IDIOTS! JUST LOOK AT THE SPELLING!

That may be true. ilikekittenz91 and her ilk may be idiots. There is no rule in life that only wise, well-spoken people can comment on you. Look around. Are you surrounded by Yodas? Are you just sick to death of the Dali Lama-like wisdom pouring from everyone in your school/work/family?

No. Of course not. So why do you expect more from the internet, home of the pseudonymed and the crazy?


Who is ilikekittenz91, anyway? And why does he/she have it in for you?


The world is full of loudmouthed people who will say anything to get some attention. And in the case of really mean-spirited, vitriolic reviews, that’s what a lot of it is: a desire for attention. Some people will take any forum they can get to scream and rant and rave.

Here’s something to consider, though—sometimes those bad reviews contain some good points. They may not always be wrong. Even the harshest ones may have some merit.

6. BUT THEY DON’T UNDERSTAND ME! AND THEY GOT IT ALL WRONG!

So you’ve written a space opera about robots who cannot find love, set in the year 9735, on the planet Oook. You called it: Not Our Reality.


It is hard to find love on Oook.


And then you get a review that looks like this:

veryliteral85
OMG! This would never happen. Robots can’t fall in love. And what is this whole “other planet” thing? And, hello, it’s only 2007. This writer is obviously stupid. This book is a waste of time. Try doing some research next time, Writer.
Recommended books: The DaVinci Code

Sometimes, people aren’t going to get it. We all don’t get something.

I once sat in a waiting room with ten people, watching Scrubs. They kept saying things like, “What’s wrong with him? He’s supposed to be a doctor?” And one woman, who had identified herself about 36 times as a nurse, kept looking at the long-haired female doctor and saying things like, “I’d like to see her take care of a patient with that hair. I don’t think so!”

They were all missing the joke gene, and it was painful. Trust me. It’s about 2,000 times worse actually being in the room with someone who doesn’t get something than just reading about how they don’t get it. Be thankful you don’t live with veryliteral85.

7. SHOULDN’T I BURY THE STUPID REVIEW IN FAKE REVIEWS OF MY OWN DEVISING, OR THE DEVISING OF MY FRIENDS?

You can. But I don’t think this is the best idea.

I know what you’re thinking—you’re thinking that leaving the bad review there will hurt your book. And who knows, maybe it will sway a few people. But if the review is really that dumb, other people will notice this. They may often notice those glowing reviews that glisten with an unnatural sheen, too. Readers don’t like to be manipulated.


Resist the urge to put your people on the case.


And in the end . . .

8. IT’S WHAT YOU DO, OR DON'T DO, ABOUT IT THAT MATTERS

As with everything in life, you must learn to take the rough with the smooth.

In time, the review will probably go away, pushed down by the natural process of things. Sure, you may have the urge to play with it, like a sore tooth. I strongly suggest that you have a backup site ready to go to instead, or to ease your frayed nerves when you inevitably do go back and reread it. Why not try cute overload, which is currently loaded down with wonderful pictures of cats and ferrets napping together?

Or why not just switch off the computer and go out and have some fun? This is one of the many reasons a Writer needs a hobby. (Point #6 on my list.)


Why not get some exercise with one of your new writer friends?


And, hey . . . at least someone read your book!

Just to make you feel better, I have collected a few actual Amazon reviews, to put it all in perspective:

Macbeth, by William Shakespeare
“Rather bleak play with a pessimistic storyline. Mediocre plot, mediocre characterization. I don't recommed it.” (2 stars)

Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
“omg, Tom sawyer is the worst book ever! believe me it is a dull, boring classic that wont interest anyone!!!” (1 star)

War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy
“This book has to be one of the worst books I have ever read. I read the first 500 pages hoping it would get better only to be bitterly disappointed when I had to put the book down. I was disappointed because this book was a total waste of time and I do not recomend it to anybody. Leave it on the shelf” (1 star)

Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
“Ahhh! I /hated/ this book! I had to read it for school and I didn't even finish it. Please, /never/ buy this book. It is like the plague, and should be avoided as such! *Shivers* It gives me the shivers to even think about it.” (1 star)

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
“Hey everyone! Lookit me! I'm a rich little snot and I can throw a big party in my mansion! What's "great" about this Gabsty fellow exactly? Write something about people who work for a living, not this junk. I didn't like this one little bit, sorry. Try again. Only one star for your book, sir!” (1 star)

The Hobbit, by J.R. Tolkien

“This is such a horrible book. There is no action and Bilbo Baggins is the biggest a$$ in a fantasy novel ever.” (1 star)

The Odyssey, Homer
“This book sucks. I dont care if Homer was blind or not this book is like 900 pages too long. I could tell this story in about 10 pages. Homer taking all long to say stupid stuff. Teens if you are reading this all I have to say is CLIFF NOTES CLIFF NOTES you will pass the test, unless you are in AP classes. The teachers expect kids to read cliff notes trust me my moms a teacher. P.S this book SUCKS.” (1 star)

(I invite you to go looking for more and post them in the comments. It will help you recover, I promise.)

Labels: , , , ,

22 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

This would have to be one of the most overrated novels ever published and in no way deserves it's title as a so called "Classic Of Modern Literature". The plot concerns a mother, Mrs. Bennet whose sole purpose in life is to see her daughters married. That's it. End of story and yet Ms. Austin takes several hundred pages to repeat this Theme Ad Nauseam.One has to remember that this book was written in a time when the only four things to do at night were get drunk, sleep, read or make love and some people did all 4 of these things in one lonely night!!!Ms. Austin takes full advantage of this and decides she has a story worth telling which is without plot, believable characters or any hint of suspense or excitement. As the writer Mario Puzo once said "Why would anybody with a Beach House and a VCR choose to read Proust?"Amen to that.Throw away your sleeping pills and try to read this book instead.

A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

Dont buy this book! Or buy it and tear it in two pieces because it is much to long. Wow I mean talk about boreing. Is it the best of times or is it the worst of times? You cant make up you're mind on page one sentence one even!?!

If I am this guys editer I would have told him to just write about the best of times. Thats plenty and people dont need another depressing book in this day and age anyhow.

Only ONE STAR for you but keep trying youll get there!

Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky

I wish I could resurrect Lermontov and have him write another book so I could enjoy a proper Russian author.

In about one hour, I am going to walk down to the beach and throw this book into the Red Sea.

I am in Africa and this is the right thing to do.

I hope "The Brothers Karamoz" isn't this bad, because I own it too.





That was fun.

10:15 PM  
Blogger Tobias said...

harry potter and the sorcerer's stone, JK Rowling

I tried reading this book and I cound't get past the first chapter, it was so boring and stupid, I tried to closed it but something din't let me put it down, even though I hated it, this book is haunted or something. The idea of a Wizard school is Unoriginal, it's been done for years. Google "Books similar to harry potter

gehehe, it made me laugh.

I check our library-system for maureen johnson and it knew her! (i didn't expect that). there are even books translated into dutch, but I guess I prefer to read it in the original language, so I guess I'll buy a book...

11:24 PM  
Blogger Lisa Asanuma said...

I shouldn't have read this at one in the morning. I'm having disturbing ideas of congregations full of Yodas. Masses of small green aged creatures dressed in khaki robes and swarming around my knees, mumbling wise mumbo jumbo...

There will be interesting dreams awaiting me tonight.

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is from a review of Elif Shafak's novel "The Bastard of Istabul," which I am reading at the moment.

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:

An Importantn Novel, March 9, 2007
Reviewer: Carl E. Lowell - See all my reviews

I ofund this book to be riviting fomr the very beginning. It goiev an alternate insight into life in modren day Istanbul to that of Orhan Pamuk. It also had a unversal story to tell of the relationships of some usnuasla and interesting women.

Comment | Was this review helpful to you? (Report this)

A deep and scarring form of dyslexia, perhaps?

6:52 PM  
Anonymous Jessica said...

The Giver, by Lois Lowrey.

Jacky "Clipper"

the book isnt for kids under 16...it have many sexualle things.
i read it twise and i....and i.....i was shocked.so beware kids!!!!!peace....tupac lives


I thoroughly enjoyed the spelling errors and the Tupac comment. :D

11:08 PM  
Anonymous Liz said...

I suggest taking a look at the reviews for Brave New World, there are many great ones (both pro- and anti-book).
There are just too many people who are too thick-headed to see what literature means. What surprises me most is that people don't realize how they don't have to LOVE a book to get it, or hate it for that matter. Take something like Catcher in the Rye, it wasn't my cup of tea but I still can't deny it had its well written parts that allowed to storyline to keep moving. Maybe one day everyone (those spell-check lacking reviewers included) can sit down and actually read a book for what it's worth instead of just comparing the storyline on the cover to a book at the other end of the literature spectrum.

11:26 PM  
Blogger Becs said...

It is for this exact reason that I don't bother reading reviews in most instances, at least not before I've read the book (or seen the movie, listened to the band, etc.). I figure I'll make up my own mind about whether something is good or not. I read the jacket copy and I read the first few pages or chapter and a few random pages from the middle of a book I'm thinking about getting. If I'm still interested, I read the whole thing. It's always bugged me that my dad reads movie reviews before seeing the movie. Why not find out what the movie's about first, instead of letting some faceless reviewer tell him what to see? If I'd listened to what reviewers said, I'd never have seen some of my favorite movies or discovered some of my favorite books.

2:01 AM  
Anonymous Dawn said...

I agree with Becs. I'm not the type of person who really looks into reviews. I'm sure I'll have my own opinion by the end of the movie or the book, and I usually disagree with reviewers anyway. When I'm choosing a book, I read the back, the inside flap and the first few pages to see if I really want it. Sometimes that's not the best idea, but at least I make my own opinion about it.

7:07 AM  
Anonymous RobynSchn. said...

This blog entry is awesome! I really appreciated it, seeing as my Amazon page is pretty horrible. 2.5 stars...even my boyfriend gets bashed in one of the reviews of my book, poor guy. However, all this Amazon controversy is starting to boost sales: Those clever people who tagged my book "dull" and "boring" and "awful" have tagged little ol' BTY searchable along with Harry Potter and Catcher in the Rye. Ha ha!

9:19 AM  
Blogger gene said...

Oh God! PLEASE tell me that you made those Amazon reviews up (I mean all of them).

Better yet. Maybe we can exploit this rather finicky audience. Here's my proposal: make novels out of the two Cannonball Run films. Millions! I'm telling ya, millions!

Hey! Come back here! Nobody walks out on me! Not even myself!

10:44 PM  
Blogger SarahP said...

It's the picture of Jimmy Stewart on skates that's haunting me.

Cheers!

7:20 AM  
Anonymous Chris said...

oh, oh.I want to play. (To be nice- this was a kid's review so I hope s/he never sees this.) While not everyone's cup of tea, I loved Little Women from the age of 8 on.

A Kid's Review
Little Women has a very weak plot, going back and fourth between what the character is thinking and what is actually happening.

This book also completely lacked amusement! It talked and talked and talked, about NOTHING!!!! It absolutly moved to slow and when the book finally started getting faster, so much had changed in the story!
There are much better classics out there! DO NOT WAIST YOUR TIME ON THIS BOOK!!!

10:41 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Lynn Barnes said...

You write the best fake reviews ever. I pretty much lost it at the end of the "Not Our Reality" review when I got to the "recommended books: The DaVinci Code." Hehehehehe...

6:30 PM  
Anonymous gab said...

Haha I loved that kid review. I must say, I usually don't read reviews before I've made up my mind about something. I mean, most of the time when I decide a book or a movie is good (sometimes before even seeing it), I pronounce all reviewers who don't agree idiots who didn't get it.

8:34 PM  
Blogger Ann D said...

Maureen, this is the best advice ever on dealing with Amazon.com reviews -- good, bad, ugly, and fake. Loved it.

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