Smashwords has just posted a new interview with me. Check it out here: https://www.smashwords.com/interview/DavidKubicek
It is never pleasant to get a bad review. In fact, reading a review that savagely eviscerates the novel you’ve spent months nurturing is one of the most unpleasant experiences a writer can have.
This might help: Getting a bad review often means that you have missed your audience.
Even if you haven’t thought about writing to an audience, one exists for your book. If you’re successful at finding your readers—and assuming your book is well written—most of your reviews should range from 3 to 5 stars, which is where you want to be.
But every author who has collected lots of reviews has picked up some bad ones—even the most popular books by the most popular writers.
Try this experiment. Search Amazon for your favorite books. If they have enough total reviews, I guarantee that some reviewers will rip them apart. Most of the reviews may be 3, 4 or 5 stars, but there will be the inevitable handful of readers who rate the books as forgettable, a waste of time.
The bottom line is: You can’t please everyone. This also is true of “professional” reviewers,” those folks who get paid to review books and movies.
For example, one criticism of The Hunger Games is that the novel is not original, that a screwed up future world and a reality TV show where the contestants kill each other has been done before—the novel to which it usually is compared is Stephen King’s The Running Man.
Technically, everything has been done before. A fellow named Georges Polti analyzed lots and lots of literature and concluded that every story that has ever been written or will ever be written can fit into one of 36 dramatic situations, or plots. What makes each story fresh and different is what the author brings to the telling. Although The Hunger Games and The Running Man use the same basic plot elements, they are vastly different novels.
Does any of this make you feel better about getting bad reviews? Maybe the following chart will help. I’ve listed five popular novels and the reviews they’ve gotten on Amazon (as of 4:30 p.m. Central Time on July 22, 2012):
|11/22/63 by Stephen King||88||80||1,268||1,871|
|Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury||96||76||787||1,505|
|The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins||247||193||6,156||8,220|
|The Help by Kathryn Stockett||182||123||4,450||5,639|
|The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain||17||19||256||455|
Remember two things:
A review is just someone’s opinion, and as long as you’re getting mostly positive comments, don’t waste time dwelling on the bad ones.
This article was originally published April 16, 2012, as a guest post on Wise Words. I’ve updated the information in the table.
Ray Bradbury once said that there are three great adventures: being born, living, and dying. Last night Bradbury embarked on that last great adventure when he died at his Los Angeles home at the age of 91.
Bradbury not only had a profound influence on my writing style, but his book The Martian Chronicles inspired me to start writing in the first place. We exchanged a few letters in the 80s and early 90s, and I found him to be an approachable and generous man.
The first time I wrote him, I sent him a copy of the college thesis I’d written about him and his early work: Ray Bradbury: Space Age Visionary. In less than a week I received a note of thanks along with galleys for a new book of criticism of his work another author was publishing.
My first inclination when I heard of Bradbury’s passing was to take time off and read some of his stories in honor of his memory. But I immediately realized that the best memorial to a man who got physically sick if he didn’t write at least two pages every day would be to write. So as soon as I post this, I’ll go back to work on my novel. I’ll read some of his stories later.
When I was in college a well-meaning English professor read one of my short stories and encouraged me to expand it into a novel. I wholeheartedly agreed. I thought it would make a good novel then, and I think so now. But at that time I wasn’t ready to write a novel. I’d only been trying to write professionally for a short time and was just becoming comfortable with the short story form. I didn’t realize that a novel is an entirely different animal, and it takes much longer to write.
So I started pounding the keyboard to transform my 5,000-word short story into a 50,000-word novel. Shouldn’t be too hard, right? Just add scenes. Piece of cake. Unfortunately, at that time I had never heard of Elmore Leonard or his one-sentence explanation of the driving force behind his writing: “I try to leave out the parts that people skip.”
Long story short, my first novel was mostly made up of parts that even I skipped. I finally put it out of its misery at 47,000 words because I couldn’t stand working on it another minute, not even to reach my goal of 50,000 words. I never submitted it anywhere. I tried to throw it away, but the garbage man rejected it. He suggested I call the hazardous waste people. I put it on a shelf in the closet where it gathered dust and dead flies–who died instantly once they landed on it . . .
Okay, I’m exaggerating. But the best thing I can say about my first novel is that it stunk to high heaven, and the worst thing I can say about it cannot be published on a family blog. Mercifully, the thing was lost over the years as I moved from one place to another. I hope it won’t show up to haunt me when I least expect it.
Why should you care about my first novel-writing experience? I’m glad you asked.
Regular readers of this blog know by now that I have a man-crush on Ray Bradbury. Bradbury’s advice to aspiring writers is to write short stories to learn their craft. You can write one short story per week, 52 short stories per year, but it will take you months to write a novel. You get more practice, and more chances of getting it right – and you learn more about writing – by writing short stories.
Except for my one deviation described above, I followed Bradbury’s advice. I wrote 200 short stories before I wrote my next novel. Most of them were clinkers, but among the coal were some gems. I finally got it right and was prepared to tackle a longer form.
And judging from comments I’ve gotten from readers and reviewers, I did a much better job with my second novel, In Human Form, than I did with my first.
At Midnight April 20 – in whatever time zone you’re in; I won’t be anal about it – my virtual book tour for A Friend of the Family ended. It was a fun three weeks, but it was also lots of work, so I’m ready to move on to other things.
Today I conducted the final bit of business for my blog tour, awarding two $25 Amazon gift cards. One card went to J.A. Beard, whose Unnecessary Musings blog received six comments, the most of any blog stop. When deciding on a winner I included my own comments, which consisted of thanking my host and responding to any comments posted by readers, hosts, etc. This wasn’t an unfair advantage; if I took my comments out of the mix, J.A. Beard still would have won.
To award the other card I put the names of everyone who left a comment on the tour into a bowl. I didn’t put in my own name, of course. If a commenter left more than one comment I put his/her name in for each comment he/she left. I thought this was fair for two reasons:
I wrote each name on a piece of paper, folded it, and put it in a bowl. I held the bowl above my head, and my son Sean drew a name. The winner was Louise Wise. Louise is the owner of Wise Words, a stop on my blog tour. She also left two comments – the most comments any one person left was four, so in this case the greater odds weren’t that great of an advantage.
The good thing about doing a virtual blog tour is that the interviews and guest posts will be anchored in cyberspace until time itself comes to an end.
Okay, maybe I’m being melodramatic. The interviews and guest posts will be anchored in cyberspace until (and if) someone takes them down. So if you missed any of the stops, here is the schedule.
Now I’m taking a break from my novel work long enough to write a short story. We’ll talk again soon.
I extend my heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped make yesterday’s launch of my short novel A Friend of the Family a success. Your downloads propelled it a long way up the top 100 most downloaded books in two of Amazon’s categories.
On the Science Fiction list A Friend of the Family peaked at #26 and on the Literary Fiction list it peaked at #21.
For those of you who aren’t into the digital book thing, never fear. The paperback is in process and will be available by mid-March.
Thank you again for participating in yesterday’s event. Enjoy the story!