Saturday, October 20, 2012

Mary Castillo: On Negative Reviews

"Easy reading is damn hard writing." ― Nathaniel Hawthorne

We have to be crazy to publish our writing for the world to see. Readers don't see the years of work, sacrifice, revisions, queries and rejections that a writer undertakes to complete and publish a book. What they know is that they paid some hard-earned cash for the book and it had better be good when they read it during their lunch hour. (I can say this because I'm a reader, too!) It's a trip when I receive emails from readers, or read glowing reviews of my books on Amazon or someone's personal blog. I feel that connection, a sense of sisterhood with a complete stranger whom I may never meet face to face.

But then inevitably, no matter how long I've worked on the book, or how much a publisher paid me, I get That Email, or find That Review.  When a reader comes back and tells the world that one of my books is the worst thing they've read and I should be shot for the trees that died on which my piece of trash was printed on, well having survived a few of those reviews I can honestly tell you that it stings. Even worse, it stays with you.

Here are a few of my greatest "hits" to prove I know what I'm talking about:
"Please don't waste your money on this book. For being a Latina Mary Castillo could not possibly get her Spanish any worse. The story line is weak, characters aren't well developed. Extremely glad I recived (sp) this book for free and did not waste one cent on it."

"All I should say about this book is SAVE YOUR MONEY! Not only is the theme trite and hackneyed, but the worst part is that the author, who is Hispanic, cannot get her Spanish right! Given the option, I would not have given this piece of trash even one star, and will certainly avoid buying any other books by Ms. Castillo, although as a general rule I support and enjoy reading modern Hispanic fiction."

"This book has the dubious distinction of being among the worst I've ever read. Was this author even trying? She doesn't seem to understand that just making chick lit "go ethnic" doesn't automatically make it any less vapid and pointless. Castillo reveals the kind of underachiving (sp) readership she seeks when she starts citing Nora Roberts novels. The only advantage to the book's migraine-inducing pink cover is that it might deter people from wasting their money on this frivolous trash."

Makes you want to run out and buy my books, doesn't it?
So how did I survive? Well I'm not proud to say this but I made fun of them. I even stuck my tongue out at the screen as I read those angry, indignant words. Also, I may have responded to the third critic for insulting romance novel readers who are truly the most awesome group of people I've had the pleasure to hang out with. I know; not one of my better moments! But you can see that it can be rough out there.
Now here's the healing: have you ever told someone, or posted on a public forum that you hated a certain book? Maybe you didn't use the word hate, but perhaps you disliked or criticized a work that the writer spent years of work, sacrifice, revisions, queries and rejections to complete and publish.

If you're not raising your hand, then consider this: Have you ever browsed a library or a bookstore and discarded one book after another because they didn't appeal to you?
(I know you can't see it, but my hand is up and I'm typing this sentence with the other.)
Bad reviews are the dark sisterhood of writers and readers because we are all critics. We all have books we love like our children, and others we can't finish or throw against the wall. There are huge best-selling, blockbuster books that I've read and thought, what the heck was all the fuss about? But from a numbers perspective and all the people who said, "You have to read this book!," my dislike puts me in the same category as those folks who emailed and posted negative reviews of my books.

Well then again, not in the exact same category since I don't waste time posting nasty and angry reviews on Amazon. Sorry but I'm a little busy writing all these books! But I do know this for certain: bad reviews don't make me a bad writer. From those three scathing reviews, I learned to only use Spanish in my books after vetting the phrases with fluent and native speakers. But most importantly, and especially to my fellow writers, I write in spite of the negativity and now after a few books under my belt, I don't even look at the reviews on Amazon. If anything, they make me appreciate the readers who take the time to email, Facebook or Twitter a thank you and to ask when the next book is coming.

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Samantha March said...

Great post Mary!

Maija Barnett said...

I know this post has been up for a long time, but I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed it.Thanks!

Maija Barnett said...

I know this post has been up for a long time, but I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed it.Thanks!