June 4th, 2009

Ed reading - kanji

Worst review? Or best review?

I was poking around on The Worst Review Ever at work today (yaaaay for babysitting a desk) and it got me thinking. While some of the reviews are truly awful (my favorite was the one for the book Generations, where the "reviewer" more or less said "books that don't have a social or political agenda are worthless and shame on you for writing a worthless 'entertainment' book and COME READ MY MANIFESTO to see how wrong you are"), many of them were simply from a person who didn't like the book.

Well, that's gonna happen. A piece of writing isn't going to please everybody. Having your work torn apart or even just someone saying they don't like it is going to sting, yes. I'm not arguing with that. But sometimes it seems authors think everyone must like their work and OMG YOU HATERS ARE AWFUL for not liking it.

A good negative review is a gold mine. Sometimes the reviewer was simply in the wrong demographic or was reading from a genre they didn't like (why review a romance novel if you don't like romance novels?), but otherwise, a negative review can point out weaknesses in our writing that we otherwise might not see. The reviewer might be way off base, but they're usually coming from somewhere. Glowing reviews are wonderful, but - in all honesty - they're not very helpful. I want the crits. I want my work to be ripped to shreds. Silence is the bad thing, not negative reviews.¹

Once we put our words out there, they're no longer ours. We can't control what a reader reads. And readers have a right to not like a work. They also have a right to post their negative opinions. Especially when it's not directly aimed at the author (one of the - many - reasons that review for Generations crossed the line). Reviews are written for the readers, not for the author.

However, I do think reviewers should refrain from personal attacks and phrases such as "candy-coated turd," as colorful as that is, or saying the author should be "drawn and quartered." I mean, really. At least post valid reasons for disliking something.

¹This is somewhat hypocritical of me, since I so very rarely post critical comments. But that's because it's SO FREAKIN' HARD to judge how a writer is going to react, and comments are much more immediate and personal than a review. That, and I've been singed a few times. But still. I would rather people not hold back. Tell me why it's crap.
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