**There are links at the bottom of this post; a few are to blogs where a DEMON POSSESSED blog tour is happening and copies of the book are being given away, so check them out!)
As is usually the case when a book is released, DEMON POSSESSED has been getting a pretty good number of reviews lately. And I’m extremely pleased to find they’ve been very positive; I mean, I suppose it’s entirely possible someone’s written a terrible review of it somewhere but I haven’t seen it.
But something struck me earlier, as I checked what came in from my Google alert and did a little link-following. Of the new reviews turned up today, two kind of stood out for me. Not because of the content of the reviews, exactly; well, yes, but not the way you think, maybe. Not because they were overwhelmingly positive or negative, either. But because of their disagreement on a specific issue.
The first was Mrs. Giggles’s totally fun review. The second was…well, I’m not going to say, because this person didn’t post their review on a personal blog or anything like that; it was on a share-your-opinion type site, where multiple people can post, and they don’t need to have me linking to them, as it’s not my place at all to be playing in the review pool for my own book over there or pointing fingers (good or bad, and this is not bad).
Here’s the thing. Mrs. Giggles wasn’t necessarily enamored of the book. She didn’t hate it but she didn’t love it; she didn’t love DEMON INSIDE either, for much the same reason: she just doesn’t like Megan much. She found her depressing in DEMON INSIDE and kind of whiny and selfish in DEMON POSSESSED, and wimpy overall. Which, again, fair enough. I really like Mrs. Giggles a lot, and respect her and her opinion. (Bear with me, we’re about to get to the point.)
The second reviewer hadn’t read the previous books in the series, so was coming to Megan with fresh eyes. And she really wasn’t crazy about Megan either. Why? Because she thought Megan was “too tough.”
And THAT is why readers, and reader reviews, are so awesome. I grinned like crazy when I saw those reviews–well, Mrs. G just made me…yeah…giggle, the way she usually does, especially when she called Megan “Miss Me-Me-Me”–but seeing them basically one on top of the other seriously made me smile all big.
Because it’s so subjective. It’s just so, so subjective. What I like in a heroine may not be what you like; what you like I might hate. What I think is funny you might not, and vice versa. The hero I think is an absolute droolworthy studmuffin, alpha without being overbearing, might seem like a controlling dickweed to you and might be an utter milquetoast to another woman, and again, vice versa. It’s all about what kind of person you are, and what kind of person I am, and what our experiences in life have been and continue to be. EVERYTHING about us colors our reviews or thoughts or experience of what we read. Seeing reviews for a book is like getting to peek through a little window into someone else’s head, like reading the book is.
I just think it’s so cool. I love that there are places where people can discuss books, and share their opinions; it’s important to me. I love that readers can share what they think and feel. Not just because I love books and blah blah blah, but because it proves, again and again, how much VARIETY there is in the world.
This is why I’m always confused when I see writers getting so furious about bad reviews. Because it’s just one person’s opinion, and people in general are going to bring their own thoughts, feelings, and experiences to reading. You can’t please everyone all the time, you know? For me, review dichotomies are a pleasure; they remind me again that this is a subjective business, and what works for one person may not work for another (this is the same reason I never got upset when I didn’t get personal rejections from agents or when I got rejections at all, really; I did get a couple of personal ones when querying UNHOLY GHOSTS, from two fantastic and gentlemanly and smart agents, and I appreciated every word, but in the end I didn’t need to implement their suggestions because I got my own awesome agent anyway, and the book sold. And guess what. Those two wonderful agents who rejected the book? They weren’t wrong. They just have their own tastes).
Sorry, I digress. The point is, there’s no point getting upset over a bad review–well, okay, by “upset” I mean “publicly upset,” if you know what I mean–because someone else may come along who loves the book with a desperate burning passion. When I read reviews on certain bookstore-type sites, I often go and read the worst reviews first. Because sometimes–not all of the time, but sometimes–if I read a few of the best reviews, and some of the worst, I feel like it gives me a more complete picture of the book. I’ve seen bad reviews there where the reader mentions something they really hate, and it’s something I actually love; that sort of thing.
Granted, I’ve been extremely lucky. I’ve never been on the receiving end of a truly terrible review–well, no, tell a lie, I was once: a reviewer from a fairly respectable review site absolutely hated DEMON’S TRIAD, the X-rated book Anna J. Evans and I wrote together for EC. That one stung a bit; not because she disliked the book so much, but because the things she really aggressively disliked about it were the elements that gave it that X rating, and were clearly warned about in the book’s blurb. So yeah, there was kind of a feeling there that if she hated those elements, why not pick a book without them instead, and let someone who doesn’t mind or enjoys the other stuff read DT, if you know what I mean. But even then, I was more bothered because I felt she was doing a disservice to readers who might have really liked the book, but instead only saw the very low rating she gave it and assumed it was awful. But here I am, digressing again.
My point is, yes, I might feel differently if I’d ever been really, truly lambasted. I’ve been very lucky in that even the reviews I’ve gotten that haven’t been very positive–like one of the reviews for DAY OF THE DEAD, which pointed out that I’d accidentally not even explained WHY my villains were doing what they did, because it was a novella set in the world of BLOOD WILL TELL and so would be apparent to readers of that book, but of course I couldn’t expect that only those who’d read it would read DOTD and also, even if they had read BWT they deserved a memory refresher, so that was quite dumb of me–even those still had very positive things to say about the characters or the writing that made me feel good.
Would I be hurt, if I got a truly awful review, that called my work “shit” and ripped it apart? Probably. Not so much because they didn’t like the book but because they were particularly harsh about it (I enjoy clever Literary-Offenses-of-Fenimore-Cooper-esque reviews as much as the next girl, but there’s a line between stylish and funny–like Mrs. Giggles–and just plain nasty. It’s hard to pin down, really, where that line is, but I think you know it when you feel it, don’t you?
So yeah, I might be hurt or upset. But I’d like to think I’d still be glad that that particular reader read the book, and felt something about it, and passed that feeling on. (This is another way I find negative reviews on those bookstore sites helpful; if someone leaves a terrible review I check out their other reviews. For example, I will never take advice, on movies, or books or music, from the person who gave THE GODFATHER a one-star review because it was “boring” and “not fun like the movies McG makes.” Yeah, that person is entitled to feel that way, but I think it’s pretty clear that her/his tastes and mine have nothing at all in common.)
Not everyone is your friend; not everyone is going to like your work, or like you. And that’s okay. (I actually have some thoughts on nastiness in general, which is part of a post I’ve been planning for a while and may share later in the week.) It’s more than okay, really. Some of the best discussions I’ve had in my life have been about books I loved with people who didn’t love them, or whatever. If everyone felt or thought the same things about everything…well, that would suck.
And here’s another thing. I love seeing those diverse opinions because it reminds me as a writer how many different types of people are out there, and to make sure my characters have depth. It reminds me that people have opinions on things, on hundreds of things, every day. It reminds me that someone who had a certain experience as a child may be colored by it as an adult, so I need to make sure my characters are consistent all the way through. It reminds me that people see things differently, because they are different, and so I need to make my characters unique.
And I have to be honest, I wonder about writers who attack reviewers, because it seems to me they’ve maybe forgotten that; that they’re not seeing that diversity and thinking of the lessons it teaches us or about the many possibilities it presents for new and better ways to develop characters and deepen their relationships, or improve their writing, or about how different people are touched by and respond to different things. Perhaps other people aren’t important to them, and they’re not seeing those people as fascinating individual creatures but as mere sources of income of Creatures Who Must Adore And Obey. That is of course just a theory, and isn’t meant to say those writers are sociopaths or whatever; negative reviews hurt, and not everyone responds to that the same way. I just have a personal violent distaste for writers who snipe back at reviewers and always have. (Although I do try not to discount the fact that all of us can have an awful day, and all of us are capable of having a straw break our backs, as it were.)
What do you guys think? What crosses the funny/nasty line to you? How do you feel about negative reviews in general? How do you feel about reader diversity and subjectivity, and what do you look for in a review?
*And yes, I realize that in writing this I have probably set myself up for the mother of all vicious reviews. I will try to be brave.
And now…a bunch of links to reviews!
Wicked Li’l Pixie
Yummy Hell Faery
Jessica’s A GREAT Read
Books Books Everywhere
Wendy’s Minding Spot
My Book Addiction and More
Just Short of Crazy
Beguile Thy Sorrow
In addition, there’s this blog tour going on, and there are some copies of DEMON POSSESSED being given away:
(If you know of a review I don’t have, or a blog tour stop/giveaway I’m not aware of, please let me know!!)
Goodness, this IS a blog post!!