Nancy Mehl is a best-selling, award winning author who lives in Missouri, with her husband, Norman, and her Puggle, Watson.She’s authored thirty books and is currently writing a new series for Bethany House Publishing. The Kaely Quinn Profiler series will kick off with book one, MIND GAMES, in December of 2018. The last book in her Defenders of Justice series, BLIND BETRAYAL, will be released in the spring. She is also working on a new cozy mystery series for Guideposts, The Mysteries of Martha’s Vineyard.
Readers can learn more about Nancy through her Web site: www.nancymehl.com. She is part of The Suspense Sisters: www.suspensesisters.blogspot.com, along with several other popular suspense authors. She is also very active on Facebook.
YOU MEAN NOT EVERYONE LOVES ME?
(OR WHEN THE BONES DON’T SPEAK.)
Many people think being an author is exciting…and it can be. But it’s also a lot of hard work. Then there’s that other aspect of being published. Your work is out there in the public domain which means there will be…(insert suspenseful music here, like the theme from Jaws) REVIEWS!!!!!
This is the part of writing that can bring joy, laughter, and yes, even tears. Please don’t think all authors have iron hides and that nothing ever gets to us. I’ve wept over a nasty review that came at a low point in my career. You see, an author’s life can be a lot like a roller coaster ride. We may be on the top of the hill one day, but we all know what comes next. The screaming, the crying, the regret that we ever got on this horrible ride! When we’re at the bottom of the hill, gasping for breath and wondering if we’ll survive, an unkind or unfair review can hurt – and hurt a lot. But most of us regroup and get back on the ride, begging to go again. No, we’re not mentally unstable (well, at least some of us aren’t). We’re just determined. And we’ve learned that unfair or mean-spirited reviews are part of the ride. If we can’t take them, we have to get off the roller coaster for good. And that option is even scarier.
There are different kinds of reviews. Let’s talk about some of them.
I had a reviewer from a large publication criticize a Mennonite character because she didn’t sound like a Conservative Mennonite. Uh, maybe because she’d left the community many years before? I asked my publisher if I could write to the reviewer and ask for a correction. The answer was no. It just isn’t done. It may not seem right, but it’s reality. Make a reviewer angry and things could get much, much worse.
As your readership grows, you’ll run into reviewers who feel we want to know how they would have written our books. (We don’t, by the way.) They attack facts and sometimes even give away plot points we don’t want released. This recently happened to me. Besides arguing that my medical information was wrong (I worked with a doctor on this particular point, by the way), this amateur reviewer had several other erroneous “corrections.” Then she mentioned that a particular character survived his ordeal. Not something I wanted readers to know before they read the book! This woman actually called my characters stupid. She is a writer – and a Christian. In this particular case, it took a few author friends to talk me off the ledge. I wanted to confront her, but they convinced me to let it go. In the end, God will have to take care of me. My guess is that her career won’t go far if she spends her time attacking other writers.
E.E. Kennedy who writes wonderful cozy mysteries, shared this about her book IRREGARDLESS OF MURDER: Talk about jumping to conclusions! I got a one-star review from someone who hated my (joking) title so much, she didn't even read the book and on the strength of that prejudice, declared me a dreadful writer! If she had read the first page or two, she would have seen what I was up to! There was nothing to be done. I just had to laugh.
Here's the review in its entirety:
"Really? The main character is an ENGLISH TEACHER?? An English teacher who uses the word "irregardless", despite the fact that "ir" is a redundant prefix? I would not only have to suspend my disbelief, I would have to take it out back and shoot it in the head. Kennedy is a dreadful writer."
Roseanna White, author of A SONG UNHEARD says: “I had one reviewer complaining that my book (set in 1912) included far too many anachronisms--technology and words that would not have been used in 1810. She kept complaining that it was not Jane Austen-esque...never seeming to realize it was set 100 years later!”
Author Ann H. Gabhart, author of the recently released THESE HEALING HILLS, shared these “kind” comments made about one of her books. She says: The book in question was one of my Shaker books but I don't remember which one. Anyway, I spotted the review on Christianbook.com. The reviewer said that "Ann Gabhart's book makes me want to wash windows." I thought the publishers should have grabbed on to that, because it takes a lot to motivate me to wash windows. But everybody likes clean windows!
Another review on Amazon said, "Free is too much to pay for this book."
Oh well, what can you do, but laugh and go on writing?
A review written for Kim Vogel Sawyer, author of the upcoming book, UNDER A PRAIRIE MOON, reads: “This doesn’t happen often, but I simply could not finish this book. The snippy, snarky dialogue between characters grated on my last nerve. I didn’t like any of them. … I suspect that there was going to a redemption and resolution at the end somewhere, but I just couldn’t hang around long enough to wait it out. Thanks (sort of) to [book provider] for providing a complimentary copy of this book.”
Kim says: She tagged it as follows: angry mothers damage daughters, annoying books I could not finish, books I can’t recommend, books I couldn’t finish, damaged family relationships, DNF, family secrets damage relationships, mothers and daughter.
The reason this one tickles me is she takes offense with the characters’ snarkiness but her review is snarky. LOL! I’m still giggling.
From Carrie Stuart Parks, author of PORTRAIT OF VENGEANCE: Here is a deeply insightful review from Sideshow John:
It’s important to mention that Sideshow John does like (among other things) a folding knife, holster for his Smith and Wessen, brass fish scaler, marine water pump, and sportsman
hand winch. He felt the cz silver earring stud too big........
If only Carrie had added a character who carried a gun and a knife, liked to fish, and wore a "not too big" cubic zirconia earring!
I received this uplifting review for FATAL FROST: Book one in my Defenders of Justice Series: “Unfortunately, the boring writing makes it dead on arrival. Try again, Nancy--in the meantime, I'll revisit your other books.”
Uh…no thank you????
And our last category:
You have to have a sense of humor or you’ll never make it as an author. Although this isn’t an actual review, I think it fits.
I wrote this for the Acknowledgments page for my novel, GATHERING SHADOWS:
"As always, thanks to Raela Schoenherr and Sharon Asmus. I’m so blessed to have you both in my life – even when the edits are so extensive it makes me think about changing my name to Gertrude and moving to Canada, eh?
"And most of all, my thanks to God who has given me this wonderful opportunity – and kept me from becoming Canadian."
A joke right? I received an email from an angry Canadian reader who vowed to never read another one of my books since I…wait for it…hate Canada. Sigh. Yeah, really.
Here’s another from Carrie Stuart Parks: Well, I simply must share my favorite on THE BONES WILL SPEAK:
“Don't let the title fool you. I couldn't recommend this book. The book title is misleading and has
nothing to do with the story. There is no speaking bone.”
From Debby Mayne whose upcoming book, HIGH COTTON, will release in March:
The funniest response to a book I got was a fan letter many years ago. A prisoner said he dug my book LOVE’S IMAGE (Barbour - Heartsong Presents) out of the prison garbage can and read it. He said he fell in love with the heroine because "she's hot," and that he plans to look for someone like her when he gets out of jail. However, he told me the hero was a "wuss" and that he should have fought for his woman. In some strange way, I was flattered by his letter.
From author Brad Whittington, author of THE RELUCTANT SAINT:
From WELCOME TO FRED: “It is not the type of book I enjoy. The author has my same last maiden name is the reason I thought I should try it.”
Then there’s this one:
This book's story jumps all over the place like a squirrel trying to find a nut and in this book you will find lotsa nuts.
And finally, a classic from author Gayle Roper, author of the Seaside Romance books:
In one of my Amish books, I mentioned Intercourse, a real town on Rt. 340 in the middle of Lancaster County, PA. A lady wrote and said she'd never read one of my books again because I named a town such a terrible thing. And she'd been letting her nieces read my stuff!
My husband suggested I send her a postcard from that town.
My final word:
If you think I’m attacking reviewers, you’d be wrong. I was one for several years. Even wrote reviews for three years for the largest newspaper in Kansas. But I refused to write negative reviews. Why? 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” I believe I am to encourage others, not hurt them or dampen their spirits. If I couldn’t write a positive review, I didn’t review the book – or I wrote a synopsis. I never assumed the book wouldn’t appeal to anyone. It’s important to remember that just because you don’t like a book, it doesn’t mean others won’t.
So, what can authors do? How do we survive the dreaded unfair, mean or funny review? If we can’t find anything helpful, we ignore them. To be honest, most of us don’t even read our reviews. It helps us to keep our sanity! Instead, we concentrate on the good ones. Besides, the truth is, a mean-spirited review usually reflects badly on the reviewer – not the author.
As you can clearly see, bad reviews are part of the ride. Not our favorite part, but they can’t be avoided. We just need to hang on tight and ride to the end with our joy and our hope intact. It can be done.
I’m giving away a copy of my upcoming book, BLIND BETRAYAL to someone who leaves a comment, along with their contact information.
As long as you promise not to leave a bad review. (Wink, wink!)