|(Insert creepy sound effect from Psycho...)|
It was pretty obvious right off the bat that the reviewer hadn't actually read the books, because they cited some pretty major inaccuracies (like calling the second book religious propaganda when religion isn't actually mentioned in the book), but it took me a while to sort the whole thing out. Even despite the clues and one kind-of-obvious link, the list of people who might hate me this much is pretty short - like one-person short. And to think I'd felt guilty for wondering if she was the type to go on and leave me a bad review...
(In case you're wondering, I edited her book for her, and she wasn't really ready to hear what needed to be said. She told me a million times how awesome, amazing, and thick-skinned she was, so I was pretty worried about it from the get-go. The sad thing is, I didn't think her manuscript was bad at all for a second draft, but I could tell she wasn't getting that from me. Second drafts from a first-time author are always rough, but the makings of a solid, original story were there, and I'm actually pretty confident that she has what it takes to work it into a good book - which can't be said for the majority of first-manuscript writers and their second drafts, which is why so many first novels are never salvaged. Unfortunately, I think I offended her when I suggested that her rewrite might be more time-consuming and extensive than she thought it would be, and when I told her it wasn't ready for a professional edit. And who knows what else I may have done to offend her. Too bad she didn't just tell me. Then I could have apologized and all this retributive hate wouldn't be necessary. What a thought, eh?)
But 1 star reviews happen to pretty much everyone (although one generally hopes they're of the sincere, honest variety), and I'm certainly not going to go on the attack in the comment box (although I did have to hold back a few of my friends, who were chomping at the bit to go leave her a piece of their minds). There's really no point in trying to combat reviews that you can't get rid of, and in the end it just generates bad press. Instead, I resigned myself to the harsh reality of the situation and hoped people would notice how generic and overly-spiteful the reviews sound.
Then my sales doubled.
Seriously. In the two days since she posted those reviews, my sales have doubled. They've been pretty consistent for about the last three weeks, and were actually starting to taper off a bit, but on the day after my birthday they totally took off. I don't know if it's because her reviews have made people curious about the book, or because I'm being blessed with good karma for trying not to let her personal problems get to me, but whatever is going on, I'm tempted to send her a thank you note!
And so, today's message is that if you get a 1 star review, let it pass. Don't worry about it, don't go on the attack, and don't feel like the future of your book is doomed (and watch for an uptick in your sales, apparently). Do read it carefully and look for elements of truth, however, because ideally the person who wrote it actually read your book and may have something valuable to say.
I'm certain that if my detractor had read mine she would have been able to come up with substantive critique, and who knows? Maybe she would have pointed out something that I could have changed or learned from? After all, there will be people who find the inherent faults in my books, or who simply don't care for them. It's a given. Someone will read Laryn's story and find it a complete waste of their time, because no book appeals to everyone. Heck, for all the great feedback I've received, my own mother thought the third quarter of Laryn Rising was a snooze fest, and continually tells people, "Oh, the second book is much better. I loved the second book." Thanks, Mom.
The thing is, I knew Laryn Rising wouldn't appeal to her. It's a story about personal, internal struggle, and that sort of thing bores my mom. She reads mysteries and historical fiction, and prefers the plot-driven story over the character-driven one, and that's okay. If there's one thing I've learned through all the editing I've done, it's that there is value in all honest critique, and we should embrace it. I've also learned that not everyone is ready to do this. I can say that I care a lot about the clients I take on, and whether she (my 'reviewer') realized it or not, I did not spend hours and hours agonizing over her story without becoming invested in it. I think about it all the time, and wonder how she's doing with it and what her rewrites look like. I admit that I was blind-sided by her actions, but I do still want her to succeed, and I honestly hope the best for her book - I just wish she realized that, and it makes me sad to know that I failed to convey my sincere interest in her project. The fault there had to be mine, and that's something I think I'll always regret.
(Still, the doubling of my sales just might make up for it...)