Attempting to Dissect a Bad Review

Feb 16, 2017 | Books, Loreless, Reviews

I recently received a rather confronting review on Amazon about my novel Loreless.

Some of it was positive, some bordering on an insult and, in part, outright scathing.

At least that was how I read it and I feel compelled to react.

As an author, I have been advised not to react to negative reviews.

Supposedly there is even a website for authors “behaving badly”, although I think it is geared more towards fraudulent authors.

So I will do it here in my own realm and not openly on Amazon.

The Importance of a Review

Up until this point in my publishing journey I have had, almost exclusively, 5 star reviews for Loreless.

This is excellent and I am grateful to ever reader who takes the time to post a review.

For independent authors, reviews are the best way we can communicate to book lovers that our work is worth reading. We don’t have the finances to pay for the professional reviewing services traditional publishers use.

We rely directly on our readers for feedback.

But, just as there are millions of books out there in the world, there are millions of readers.

Not every reader will get the message you are trying to deliver. Not every reader will appreciate what it is you are trying to say. Others will only look at the technical aspects of the writing and some will have opinions about how it can be improved.

I have to keep reminding myself that all comments have some merit.

In the long run I have to listen to these voices and use them to help me improve as a writer.

Sometimes it’s a bitter pill to swallow.

So, let’s read the review:

Here I take a deep breath.

Let’s break this down.

Ok, it begins relatively positive in my opinion. They gave it three stars!

The reviewer found the story, or at least the subject matter, unusual and interesting. So somehow it sparked something in them. I had written something out of the ordinary. This is good.

Was this their opinion before they started reading?

At the very least, the book description worked, which is something that was harder to write than the actually book itself.

Characters

What I don’t understand is, if it was interesting and unusual, how could the characters be flat.

Aren’t many-sided characters one of the things which make a story interesting?

If the characters didn’t resonate with the reviewer then I suppose I have failed in some way.

The characters were all individuals to me in my mind’s eye. I lived and breathed them.

Also, if there is no plot to drive the story, then how is it possible to maintain interest. Especially if the characters are flat.

An excerpt of text to review
Plot

There is definitely a plot.

I went to a lot of trouble to create a story which makes sense. I did try to cram a lot of information in it but there is a cause and an effect, this constitutes a plot.

One example of plot is the Wizard of OZ: A tornado picks up a house and drops it on a witch, a little girl meets some interesting traveling companions, a wizard sends them on a mission, and they melt a witch with a bucket of water.

Sorry, if you haven’t read it, I should have used a spoiler alert.

In Loreless, Billy finds himself stranded in the Australian outback, through his interactions with the indigenous people he meets, he comes to a new understanding of himself and his heritage.

There is also a major sub-plot which traces the history of his ancestors. So, Loreless actually has two plot lines.

Did the reviewer even read the entire novel?

Loreless waiting for a review in Scheltema bookstore, Amsterdam
Getting the Message Across

What disturbs me most of all is I didn’t get my message across.

The whole purpose of the novel is to expose the reader to Aboriginal culture.

My main goal was to communicate that the culture is alive and kicking, and not dead.

That, even though indigenous Australians have been through terrible things, their culture remains strong.

Somehow “Who would have guessed such a thing?” comes across as an insult. Not just to me as an author but indigenous people in general.

No, dear reader, not everyone is as well informed as you are.

I will take it on the chin. However, it was the line which cut the deepest.

 

Thankfully most of my readers have experienced the novel in a totally different way.

They enjoyed it and many have told me so. I have to take heart in that and know I have written something worthwhile reading.

My goal was to deliver a message.

I know for the majority of readers I have managed to achieved this. I hope many more will understand what it is I am trying to get across.

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