The Art of Book Reviews: Surviving a Bad One

Oofta! Oh, it hurts. It punches you in the gut and makes you question everything – the dreaded negative review!

Someone read your book and they hated it. I mean, it really made them miserable. And they’ve just plastered the internet telling everyone who will listen or read just how bad your book is.

We know it’s bound to happen eventually, but man does it hurt when you fall off your cloud of 4 and 5 star reviews to the cold hard ground of the 2’s and 3’s.

My advice is simple – forbearance. This too shall pass. You can’t please everyone…. You see where I’m going with this? The plain and simple truth is that bad reviews are going to happen and we can’t be afraid of them. Yes, they suck to get, but it is just a fact of writing and putting yourself out here.

For the sake of speaking some truth, I’ve copied in my first gut-punchingly negative review below:

This is a really tricky review to write, because this novel has real potential to be a beautiful, engaging and enjoyable read, and the writer also has the ability and talent to write well. However, the novel has been completely let down by the editing.

The novel tells the story of Austen, a woman dissatisfied by life, by her husband in particular, who needs to find out what she wants from life. She makes the brave decision to go and work on a ranch in Wyoming. This is a really interesting idea – there is potential for drama, humour, and an investigation into relationships, character and what makes people tick. I’m convinced the author is capable of this, as her characters are warm and could be developed into something really special. She obviously knows the places she is writing about and has a real love for those places and people, and this could all be made into a wonderful book.

However, the novel needs a good editor to take it in hand and help the author realise its full potential. I’m not talking about typos or issues with grammar or spelling here, but fundamental issues with the structure, style and content of the novel. Dialogue, for instance, is extremely unnatural. The characters have long, in depth conversations with each other about their innermost feelings that are unnatural and unrealistic. Characters in novels need to sound like real people. And while we have this insight into the characters feelings, we know nothing really about Austen herself – what she does before she gives it all up to go to the ranch, what her background is etc., all those things that make fully formed characters.

The language too needs a thorough edit. The text is full of complicated words and convoluted, complicated sentences that need to be tightened, strengthened and restructured. There also needs to be a much clearer point of view. These are all issues that a good editor could sort, working with the writer to draw out the fabulous story and the great writing that is in there somewhere.

I’m giving this book three stars because I really feel that this author has the potential to write and write well, and the idea for this novel is sound. However, Ms Cooper has been totally let down by poor editing, which is a real shame.

Three out of five stars

I have to take this in stride. I have to remember that this is one person’s view and that I have numerous other reviews out there calling Dust a “beautiful piece of literature” and “inspiring, captivating, and relevant.” I need to remember that I have readers on their third go-through of the novel and others who have messaged me directly saying Dust put into words feelings they had bottled up inside and could not describe. It has helped lift burdens off shoulders and inspired action in women I don’t even know. This is a gift and I’m honored to be a part of it. I just need to take this one review with a grain of salt, although I admit I’m a little scared to look at any new reviews coming my way now.

To make myself and other authors feel better I’ve included some negative reviews given to some very famous, best selling, and award-winning authors below…

J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone:

3 stars on 11/1/1999 – “It’s not that this wasn’t a good book… but I just don’t understand all the hype! … The plot line isn’t too original… I can honestly say I forgot who half the characters were a week after reading… and the whole idea of wizards and spells has been done many, many times, in a much better way. I have a sneaking suspicion that the people who are going nuts over this book have never read anything else.”

2 stars on 11/9/2001 – “… all in all, I predict that this book – and series, from what I can guess – will not become a classic, not even remotely in the same boat as the Hobbit or James and the Giant Peach or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory… If you really want to read a good book, don’t buy the hype and read this one…there are others that are better.”

2 stars on 1/23/1999 – “I may be the only person in the world who didn’t love this book. I don’t think it’s a bad book, but I don’t understand the big excitement about it. The writing is pedestrian, the characters are not that well developed, and frequently things happen that we as readers had no idea were possible.”

Suzanne Collins – Hunger Games:

1 star on 3/26/2012 – “… the writing of this book is abysmal. The use of first person for the whole book is annoying, over-use of dialog for trivial conversation and over use of adjectives makes it boring to read. The crude and forced revolutionary overtones are just painful to read and any social commentary about the current reality television fad is accidental.”

2 stars on May 6, 2012 – “The first thing that struck me was how very dull and stilted Katniss’s narrative voice is. The writing, while certainly not the train wreck that was Twilight, is cliched, trite, and shallow, a chop suey of the ideas of more talented writers at best.”

Harper Lee – To Kill a Mockingbird:

1 star on 9/19/2015 – “To me, this book was drawn out, dry, and a waste of my time. I would not recommend it to anyone.”

2 stars on 10/24/2014 – “The plots are rather cheap, the descriptions from the perspective of a little girl sound pretentious. There’s got to be a reason why Ms. Lee only wrote one novel in her whole life, and to me, it is that she’s only a mediocre writer.”

J.R.R. Tolkien – The Hobbit:

1 star on 8/6/2015 – “It was a challenge to read. Maybe I didn’t like the author’s writing style. Very slow character and plot development and too many useless details. Gave up. .”

1 star on 11/28/2013 – “My biggest beef with the book is that it is too wordy and self important, almost as if Tolkien felt as if he had been assured he was writing a classic.”

2 stars on 3/31/2013 – “The dialogue is stale, evoking no emotion. And despite the fantasy setting, there is little sense of wonder. All in all, this book is pretty boring.”

William Golding – Lord of the Flies:

1 star on 9/22/2015 – “Everything feels rushed and makes no sense. Has some of the worst dialog I’ve ever read.”

1 star on 11/30/2015 – “The book overall was so unrealistic not to mention confusing. The end made no sense and the symbolism was just over the top. Everything had to have some deep meaning to it and other random concepts were pulled into it. Why would anyone compare a child to Hitler? Hated this book. Never reading it again.”

Charlotte Bronte – Jane Eyre:

1 star on 12/16/2014 – “This book contains the kind of dry, rambling description that could put off the most avid reader. The self-obsession of Jane as told through the first person narrative made me dislike the book very much.”

1 star on 7/31/2014 – “This book was very boring if it wasn’t on my summer reading list I would not have read it. WORST BOOK EVER”

George Orwell – 1984:

1 star on 10/12/2015 – “Didn’t like this. Complete Borefest. First off, it’s not my typical genre, but I still tried to really like it. I wanted to. It’s a classic after all. Now I’m left to wonder “what in the world constitutes a great classic?” From what I can tell there are a whole lot of “classics” that just plain ol’ suck.”

1 star on 6/10/2014 – “If I had read this when it first came out, I might feel differently about the book. Reading it today, I found the writing style very difficult to read and over all it is just too stupid sounding considering of what we know today about technology. Couldn’t finish it.”

J.D. Salinger – Catcher in the Rye:

1 star on 4/19/2015 – “I had to struggle to give that one star. Salinger is, perhaps one of the most overrated authors I’ve ever read. The Catcher in the Rye is THE most dull, boring, cringe-worthy books I’ve ever had to force myself to read. I’d rather be locked into a school room with dozens of students raking their nails against a chalkboard hours upon hours. How this book could inspire someone to murder anyone is beyond me. The only person I wanted to murder was J.D. Salinger for the hours of my life I will never get back! Honestly, I’d rather die than read this book again. Pure torture & a massive waste of time.”

1 star on 4/21/2013 – “This book is unequivocal trash. This is basically a Martin Scorsese “After-Hours”-like awfully mundane piece of garbage novel just told from the perspective of a pompous, self-entitled 16 year-old.”

So, basically, what I’m saying is….

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Jaymee is the creative director and writing force behind Beaux Cooper Media. She loves to collaborate with other writers and journalists across the genres. Jaymee lives on the beautiful coast of Rhode Island with her cat, Ada, and dog, Bean.

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