By A.J. Llewellyn
Current Mood: Bouncy
It doesn't matter how great YOU think your book is. It matters not one whit that you're selling huge numbers of copies, or that you've gotten awesome reviews.
It takes one clown to post a negative review and you feel like total crap.
Then you start to think, "Will this affect my sales?"
Should this lead to a writer suing a reviewer for a bad review?
I ask this question in light of director Joshua Newton suing the showbiz bible Variety over its very bad review of his movie Iron Cross. Until this lawsuit was filed, I hadn't read the review. Since then, Variety yanked the review from its online archives (it's now back again) and sacked most of its long term review staff. You can bet freelancer Robert Koehler who penned the review won't be getting any work out of the trade paper again).
Here is yesterday's article detailing the lawsuit.
I've since located a copy of the review and yeah, it's a bad one.
Koehler dismisses Iron Cross saying, "It will be remembered as [the late actor] Roy Scheider's Swan Song and little else."
Personally, I hate bad reviews. I hate the ones that seem to derive pleasure out of being hateful. I hate the ones that have the characters' names wrong and a storyline that doesn't resemble what I wrote.
But should writers and directors sue?
I don't think so.
I understand Newton's point, though. According to him (and others I have spoken to) Variety's reviews are positioned to not only critique a movie's content but its marketability. Have you seen Iron Cross at a movie theater near you?
No, you haven't and according to Newton, he couldn't get distribution once the review came out. How likely is this? I wonder.
To be honest kids, I've had books that had rave reviews and didn't sell so well.
I've had books that have been rated poorly and I've even had my covers attacked.
My book A Vampire Christmas had the dubious distinction of being awarded the Worst Cover (thanks Jessewave!) yet remains one of my best-selling and, most pirated books.
So, go figure.
I say ignore the bad reviews, preen over the good ones if you're having a sucky day, but mostly, don't place too much value on their financial influence.
Reviews can help you sell. Sometimes not. It's a crap shoot. It really is.
Having said that, I think reviewers need to be mindful that while it's fun to dish out sarcastic and negative comments, remember that there is an author and a publisher behind the book.
Should this temper a reviewer's comments? No.
Depending on the reviewer, I find the negative and positive comments helpful. However, I find very inexperienced reviewers are the ones who are most often quite...vile in their critique and not especially insightful in their comments.
A few years ago, I took on a gig as a sub editor on a daily paper in Los Angeles. There was a college student who came in that summer as an intern. She was excited to be reviewing rock concerts. She was even more excited once she landed the plum assignment of reviewing her favorite band.
I happened to pass her in the hall the morning after the concert and asked her what she thought of the show.
She raved about it. Her eyes shone and she bubbled with joy.
Then I got her review. It was horrible. I couldn't believe it.
I could have edited it and sent it to bed (as we say in newspapers) but I called her to my desk and asked her to take a seat. I was gentle with her, but I needed to know.
Why had she raved about the show to me, yet panned it in print?
She blushed. She confessed it was harder for her to put into words what she appreciated and loved about the show. She was worried about what people would think.
"It's so much easier to write a negative review than a positive one," she said.
I disagreed and sent her back to rewrite it. She didn't. The review went to another sub editor and I've often wondered if that writer ever thought twice about her actions.
She, to me, was a sloppy sort of writer and I hope she got editors in the future with a lot more power who could make her write an honest review.
As for the paper, they had to endure irate calls from the promoter who had gone to great lengths to provide her front row seats, backstage passes...yeah.
Life sucks when you are held accountable.
You can bet when the intern graduated, the paper wasn't so keen to hire her...so there are always consequences.
That's not to say reviewers shouldn't speak their minds, they should. Be mindful however that there should be legitimate reasons behind your bad review, beyond wanting to be cool, sarcastic, amusing and bitchy.
How about you? How do you feel about bad reviews? And should people sue? I really want to know your thought.
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