Okay, world, I am poking my head out of The Cave of I Don't Blog for this entry. It's rare for me to find a topic I'm willing to blog about, but this is the culmination of several conversations I've had with fellow writers lately, both published and aspiring, and one particular string of emails with a fabulous YA author who shall remain nameless.

So, here it comes. Are you ready? I am going to tell you what I think about negative reviews. Keep in mind this is just MY perspective and individual results may vary, so consult your physician if you experience rage-induced rashes or buckets of tears upon reading your own reviews. A slight unwillingness to remove the bedcovers from your face is normal unless it persists for more than four hours.

If you are published, chances are that you will get a negative review. There are different types of negative reviews, ranging from the milder "This wasn't for me" to the heavyweights, which include, but are not limited to, "How the ampersand-exclamation-pound-asterisk did this get published?" "I would recommend this book to people in need of a doorstop" and "I have no proof but suspect this saccharine prose is responsible for the war in Iraq and the traffic jam on I-95."

If you have someone in your life like my mom, you'll get a reassuring phone call and, "Well, they'll be kicking themselves when they see how successful this book will be" or "They just don't get it." Thank you so much, Mom, I appreciate that, but I disagree. It isn't that positive reviewers understand your brilliance and negative reviewers don't. There is no such thing as a wrong opinion or, by association, a wrong review. The simple fact is that you wrote a book, and some people will hate it as much as other people love it. And both sides are entitled to their feelings.

Here is what your book is not: A thing that will universally enjoyed by all. You know this. You have read books you didn't like, books you hated, books at which you have perhaps yelled aloud while reading (sorry, sleeping cat, but WHY DID SHE OPEN THE DOOR WHEN SHE KNEW THERE WERE ZOMBIES!? GAHHH!) You've had opinions, and sometimes you were left breathless and astonished, but other times you were angry, dissatisfied, or just indifferent. The book you have written will be no exception.

Here is what your book is: Your book is a story, and that story is being put out into the world. It will be tossed in people's backseats, and will have soda spilled on it, and be on coffee tables and stuffed in backpacks until the cover gets bent, and it will be read, and loved, and hated. It'll be in hundreds of places, and there will be hundreds of opinions on it, and that's pretty cool. How many people get the opportunity to say they created something that could do that?

In my opinion, all reviews (and yes, I do mean ALL reviews) are an accomplishment. They are a ripple caused by something you labored over—something you and your publishing team worked hard to set off into the world. To become a published author, you've probably failed a few times (me, I wrote three novels the world will never see, and had over 140 agent rejections to show for them).

But now that you've succeeded and taken your first step on that sparkling road of published books and fairies and gumdrop trees, you should be proud of yourself. When you get an especially painful review, take a deep breath, look at what you've done. Look at that Shiny Awesome Thing that you bought with your advance; remember how it felt to tell your loved ones. And then, maybe, think back to a book you had negative feelings about. Then think back to a book that sent warmth through your blood and stayed with you for days after you'd finished.

And then, remember that you've written something with that same kind of power.

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Published on January 03, 2011 10:49 • 5,088 views
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message 1: by Becka (new)

Becka Lloyd This is seriously good. I think people who write books or who have anything published or done in the public eye, need to have a bit of a thick skin and be able to accept criticism as well as acclaim. They are both incredibly important into shaping what kind of a writer someone is. Some negative reviews are far more valuable than some of the favourable ones. They will help writer hone their craft if it's a viable issue.

I think it's great that someone even gets published. It's such an accomplishment in itself these days. It means someone loved your work enough that it thought the world would want to read it. That's just awesomeness.

message 2: by Jori (new)

Jori I agree. Some people who hate a book think that their review/oppion are the "right" ones, when that is un-true. Sure, it's fine to express their oppions, as long as their are not critisizing other peoples oppions just because they may think theirs is "the best" just because.

message 3: by Jane (new)

Jane Story I totally agree, and it's great that as a writer you are willing to accept the fact that you won't get all positive reviews. However I also want to say that there are good ways of writing bad reviews and bad ways of writing bad reviews. The "this book is not for me" route is probably the best way to go, I'd think, because the reviewer takes into account the fact that the book would appeal to someone else.

I also think that some people post negative reviews without giving a reason for it, which is kind of ridiculous because that doesn't help the author or other readers figure out what is wrong with the book. Reviews, whether positive or negative, should be constructive in some way.

message 4: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Sweetie, this is all fine and good and I appreciate your opinion and blah, blah, blah, blah...


message 5: by Heather (new)

Heather Very well put, thank you for that! :-)

message 6: by Kate (new)

Kate Woot Woot!

message 7: by Candy (new)

Candy I have not yet read your book though I am VERY much looking forward to it from the summary. However, you are one cool chick to have this attitude about it. How exciting to be published!!! Another thing about a negative review is that sometimes it can help you to become an even better writer when the person who writes it clearly states WHY it wasn't good.
You have every reason to be proud of your hard work and drive.

message 8: by Joyzi (new)

Joyzi I love your post better than *coughs*Becca's Be Nice*coughs*

message 9: by Kogiopsis (new)

Kogiopsis I absolutely love the title of this blog, as well as its content.
Your book just migrated up my to-read stack. Thank you, Ms. DeStefano, for being a voice of reason.

message 10: by CJ -Doctor can you help me, 'cause somethin' don't feel right (last edited Jan 03, 2012 11:28AM) (new)

CJ -Doctor can you help me, 'cause somethin' don't feel right The Holy Terror wrote: "CJ - You Carry On As If I Don't Love You wrote: "*off to check out your book*"

About that ...

This blog piece was written a year ago.

My, how her tune has changed."

Can't see it but just read your other thread. I liked this post. Is it sort of like what that other author did? The one whose name I can't remember but you brought her to my attention and posted a scathing blog entry about a reviewer?

message 11: by Lauren (last edited Jan 03, 2012 12:04PM) (new)

Lauren DeStefano Hi guys,

Yes, I clearly made the comment that you are linking to here on twitter. I thought a friend was talking about a negative review and I was commiserating (apparently I am the only one who didn't delete her tweets, as the rest of the discussion is gone). For authors, reading their own negative reviews or the negative comments on their person from people who have never met them IS worse than scrolling through 4chan. If I had to choose between 8 hours of scrolling through 4chan or 8 hours of scrolling through people saying things that are detrimental to me, I'd choose 4chan. I think most people probably would, but I can only speak for myself here. I have absolutely read things about authors and books that make 4chan look like a hallmark card, signed with a pink gel pen and dotted with hearts. Does this mean I think readers should be censored or nicer or more tactful? No. I stand by what I said in this blog. I'm glad my book has reviews, good, bad, indifferent, and I don't think there should be guidelines. I think GR is a place for reviewers and readers to do their thing. But I also stand by my tweet--for an author it is often quite damaging to seek out. It doesn't take away from the fact that I love readers. I love every email I get from them and I love their questions and discussions, and I love that this place exists. But I stay far, far away from its dark corners. Okay, just wanted to say my part. Carry on!

Alex at Raiding Bookshelves I can understand why negative reviews would hurt, and staying away from them seems like the smart way to go. There is a difference between a negative but constructive review, and a review that disembowels an author's hard work.
I think the key for readers is to remember that you don't have to be cruel to be constructive. Some authors just have to try not to be too sensitive, I'm sure they've disliked things just as strongly in their time and the internet just amplifies negative opinions.

message 13: by Lauren (new)

Lauren DeStefano Alex wrote: "I can understand why negative reviews would hurt, and staying away from them seems like the smart way to go. There is a difference between a negative but constructive review, and a review that dise..."

There is a difference between a negative and constructive view, but for myself, I'm not telling anyone how to write a review. If a reader decides to get on GR and write "This book sucks and the author should die in a fire" it's not my place to stop them. I've absolutely never tried to censor a review, and I don't comment on reviews nor do I have a lack of respect for reviewers.

I can see that what I said on twitter was taken out of context, and I can only hope that by clarifying what I meant, no offense will be taken. I've gotten a good bit of hate mail about it this morning, which is why I thought I should hop on here and make it clear what I was saying.

message 14: by Hirondelle (last edited Jan 04, 2012 12:46PM) (new)

Hirondelle "I think the key for readers is to remember that you don't have to be cruel to be constructive"

as a reader, expressing my opinion on a book, I have no obligation at all to write anything "constructive".

I am writing my opinion of a book to share that opinion with my friends, anybody who is interested and even to remind myself later of what i thought. I am not a professional reader or reviewer nor want to be.

But some of you professionals of publishing and writing, might want to consider that maybe your interaction with readers is meant to be construtive to your marketing efforts. You need to be constructive if you want to market and *sell* your books.

Me, I gain nothing from expressing my opinions on a book except feedback from friends (and having my own multiplatform easily acessible record of those opinions when i no longer quite recall). Readers do not have to constructive with their reviews or opinions.

(And I really needed to get *that* off my chest)

message 15: by Katie(babs) (new)

Katie(babs) Have any of you read Entertainment Weekly, People and the good old New York Times? Their reviews can be snarky and scathing and have been for years. So why do they get a pass while reviewers here who give their honest opinion, even at times a cruel and snarky, reviews don't?

And please don't say because reviewers in print publications are professionals because they get paid. That argument is no longer valid.

message 16: by Heather (new)

Heather Katie(babs) wrote: "Have any of you read Entertainment Weekly, People and the good old New York Times? Their reviews can be snarky and scathing and have been for years. So why do they get a pass while reviewers here w..."

Excellent, excellent point! I agree completely!

message 17: by Experiment BL626 (last edited Jan 05, 2012 10:40AM) (new)

Experiment BL626 Katie(babs) wrote: "Have any of you read Entertainment Weekly, People and the good old New York Times? Their reviews can be snarky and scathing and have been for years. So why do they get a pass while reviewers here w..."

I think it's because it's easier to stomp on unpaid, unprofessional, grass-root reviewers than it is to stomp on those paid, professional, corporation-employed reviewers. Unlike us readers/reviewers who lacks money, power, and influence, those big media people are abundant with all three.

Plus they're the people who own or knows people that own those subsidiary companies that helps publish and pay authors for their books. It would be stupid to lash out against the hand that feeds you unless the author have a very good reason to do so, and with proof to boot.

Personally, I view this reader-reviewers vs. YA authors drama as another variation of class conflict. Yup, that's my interpretation of the whole matter.

message 18: by Rhiannon (new)

Rhiannon Lauren wrote: "Alex wrote: "I can understand why negative reviews would hurt, and staying away from them seems like the smart way to go. There is a difference between a negative but constructive review, and a rev..."

"This book sucks and the author should die in a fire", lmao when I see someone just post something like that in a review, I'm always tempted to ask, "and then what happens next? Do they come back as a ghost to haunt you for not liking the book?" or something because it's just so vague as to why they hated it so much. I like it when people back up criticism to a book they didn't enjoy. It makes for a more well rounded detailed reason to why THEY couldn't get on board with it and what they felt wasn't suitable to their needs with the book (i.e. - character, plot, story line, dialogue, etc...). As long as it's throughly explained in more than two sentences, than cheers to those that write constructive critical negative reviews :)

Not every book is going to be their cup of tea, which I'm chill with to no end. We are all entitled to our opinion, but I also wonder sometimes when people write really horrid scathing reviews, I think, "is this person having a bad day? because if they are it shows in the words they chosen and the way they arranged it in the context for certain parts. If they are I want to give them a hug, a cookie, and a dart board with whomever they are mad at or whatever they are pissed off about today", or something like that because we're human and life hits us, so I'm hoping more so than not that the reason stems from forces outside the book and not just cause they enjoy stomping on books for the hell of it.

Also @Katie(babs), People and EW magazines report on celebs too much. Sinking as low as them and those other tabloid magazines is an example of what NOT to be in regards to writing. I always roll my eyes when I see the covers and think, "Why do they care so much about this celeb and that one? They are human beings, just under a microscope because they are in the public eye. If they didn't have all that money and the careers they had, no one would give a rat's ass about them except their friends and family."

Now the NY Times is a good example, they have a section just dedicated to books and so does the LA & Chicago Times too. These are fine examples, because newspapers they report on real issues like the war, what's going on with the race for the white house this November, and other such moral dilemas. So their opinion kind of matters a little more than tabloid magazines.

Also as Experiment said, it really is about the power and the hand that feeds, more so in general to any career field. The more money someone has that is in correlation to the field you work in, the high the risks they bring to the table.

message 19: by Laura (new)

Laura deLuna Alex wrote: "I can understand why negative reviews would hurt, and staying away from them seems like the smart way to go. There is a difference between a negative but constructive review, and a review that dise..."

I'm not sure about you dearie but I live in America where such a thing as "free speech" exists. Now what that means is that I can say whatever I want about whatever I hate WITHOUT having to tiptoe around everybody's feelings.

What does this have to do with anything? Well let us just say that although "constructive" criticism is nice and all (so are teddy bears and kittens and flowers and bunnies and whatever) I don't have to be a constructive critic. Logic tells us that because I don't have to be constructive neither does anyone else.

More importantly, it is not the scathing content of a review which makes it constructive or not but rather the readers OPINION which makes it constructive or not.

It is entirely within your power to take this comment I'm writing as constructive.

It is also entirely within your power to take this comment as all-out-attacking-you criticism.

Personally I don't care. Its not going to stop me from posting this and if you reply with something nasty it wouldn't bother me.

Well actually it would because it would clog up my email inbox and its really hard to delete emails from my phone without deleting something I don't want deleted (what can I say my phone is outdated crap(this is also criticism which can be taken constructively, or not)).

Most importantly (and the reason why I am pro-negative-reviews) most negative reviews are REALLY FREAKING FUNNY. I mean seriously. All of those funny pictures with the weird expressions and clips from tv shows. I was reading a negative review the other day from a girl who used Doctor Who clips to express her discontent. The content of the review was scathingly hilarious, so much so that I could feel the burn rising off my computer screen.

I would like to conclude this little (well not so little now but I have always been a bit long-winded(see more constructive/non-constructive criticism)) ditty by informing you that fan-girl (or is it grrl...) five star(and sometimes four stars too) can be just as bad with the construction area of criticism.

Although they may serve the purpose of stroking the authors ego as you might stroke an overweight housecat who occasionally steals your shinny things and hides them behind the toilet, they have no intrinsic value whatsoever besides making me HATE the book before even opening it because if a book has raving, lunatic fan-girls (gyrls?) blabbing about how "AMAAAAAAAAAAAAZZZING" it was... well if you think that amazing has thirteen a's and three z's... there is something wrong with you when it comes to the English language and your opinion on books cannot be trusted.

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