Sunday, February 23, 2014

Negative Reviews

In this week's blog post I wanted to discuss negative reviews, and if they have a place in the current world. I'm also testing the effectiveness of dictating a blog post through the voice to chat option on my phone. I had to go on a last minute trip out of town. Currently I am driving on the road and trying to write a blog post at the same time. Please pray for me and hope that I do not crash! 

For those of you who have been following my journey I have finished editing the 11th chapter of the novel, and have started editing chapter 12. I also got a message today saying that The Writer competition, I wrote Liquid Perception for it, has been disbanded. This on the heels of getting a message saying that I had made it to round 2.  The person who was running it erased all traces of the account the competition was linked to. I'm going to declare myself champion right here and now. If anyone who was in the competition wishes to challenge me, send me a link to your submission for the first round. I will not be too proud to admit it is better than mine if I think it is. Otherwise I'll get an impartial third party to declare a winner between the two.

Now back to the subject. I recently saw a link to a NY Times article that asked two authors their opinions on if negative reviews were needed (link). I'm not going to try to put things as eloquently as those two, but there are a few things I want to say on the subject of negative reviews. I personally love negative reviews that provide constructive criticism because there are a lot of positive things that can result from them. My reasons are listed below.

1. Negative reviews give authors a chance to acknowledge or fix errors

Sometimes authors are too close to their writing to see the the issues with it. That is one of the reasons why all authors need an editor. There are still some small errors that slip through the cracks even after looking over the work hundreds of times. If your published with a traditional publisher they have control, and the error may not ever be fixed.   At least you could put something on your website to let people know that there is an issue. An independent author can fix the issues and resubmit the story.

2. Negative reviews could give authors ideas on how to improve their craft 

Beginning authors are constantly evolving creatures.  Until they find their true voice the way they write is in a state of transition. I've heard from several experienced authors that you need to write somewhere in the range of 1 million words or right for several years before you're really ready to publish. There is a lot of truth to that. I have found from reading my own awful first draft that I have improved so much since I first started the first Virtual Wars novel.  When I go back and look at the first draft, I wonder what the crap was I thinking?  Constructive criticism in a negative review can help give an author direction. It can help provide a path for the author to improve that they did not see before. I also think that some of these authors need that negative reinforcement to let them know that things need to change. If the reviews are too nice, the author may not feel as if the change is needed or important.

3. Negative reviews can help push sales. 

I can hear you all say "What are you smoking?" Just hear me out. Take a look at recent trends on television. Some people love watching a train wreck. You can see that on the roads when there's an accident people are all looking around to see what happened. Slowing down traffic at the same time. Grr! This is the reason for the success of shows like Maury and Jerry Springer. Word of mouth is the best advertising even when people are speaking about it in a negative way. That doesn't mean that authors should write horribly broken stories.  I doubt any author really wants to be known for that! Believe it or not there is a small market for it! However, you don't want your negative reviews to outshine your positive ones. You want people to like your writing overall. If you think about it, some of our most interesting conversations end up being with people who have an opposing view. Those people who have taken the time to write the negative review have friends too. Their friends may read your book, in spite of the negative review, just because the critic was talking about it.

4. Negative reviews add credibility to the overall rating of an author's work.

I'll be the first to admit that I am one of those people who doesn't trust the rating for books that only have positive reviews. Who is writing all of these reviews?  Friends? Family? People they paid to write a positive review?  With a negative review you know this is most likely someone who read or at least partially read the book. The trolls who post negative reviews without reading the book are usually easy to pick out. Again I am talking about the well thought out reviews that contain constructive criticism. I use these kinds of negative reviews to try to find out if this is a book that I will enjoy. I look at what other people dislike about a novel, and decide if those things will bother me enough to not enjoy it.

I hope you enjoyed this week's blog post. I wanted to add a note about the speach to text option on the android keyboard. It's most useful for short text messages. This blog post was mostly written using that tool, but not without heavy editing afterwards. I'm not sure if it saved me any time in the process. I would not recommend using it for the purpose of writing a blog post!

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