The Divas Pen: Author of Sensual and Dark Romance writing as Sienna Mynx and T.A. Ford

This my dear author friends is a letter from one of my favorite reviewers. I visit his blog frequently. Though I don’t read the books he reviews, his ‘reviews’ always draw me in. So many times we (authors) are left feeling empty after a reader shreds our work and then dismisses our favorable reviews as dribble. So many times we take it personally. So often we are not able to move on to the next tale without the question of doubt whispered to the back of our thoughts.

Well Big Al gave a response to us that clearly illustrates why readers are very much so entitled to their reviews and why we authors need to put on our big girl panties and endure. Again, I don’t seek out reviewers like Big Al, however many have bought my book and took it upon themselves to state their opinions. And though Big Al mostly comments below on grammatical errors and such (which I do believe we indie authors struggle to overcome and MUST improve upon – myself included) his overall message is the goal and perspective of the reviewers of our work is really a reader to reader exchange.

This clarifies a lot for me, and it should for my author friends who lick their wounds and sulk after a beating. Readers want to know what a fellow reader thinks, and should be able to express themselves. And we can reserve the applause and roses thrown at our feet for places like our blogs, fan pages and yahoo groups. Not a bad idea?

In the short time since starting this blog I’ve received multiple emails from authors whose book received a negative review asking, even demanding, that I remove the review. Rather than address them one at a time I decided to address all these situations in this post. Consider it an open letter to both authors whose books have been reviewed or will be in the future, as well as my readers.

I’ll start by saying I don’t give negative reviews lightly. I understand writing a sixty thousand word novel isn’t easy. It is much more than two hundred times tougher than writing a three hundred word review. I’d guess it is easily thousands of times tougher. I get that. I’m not going to dismiss your months or years of hard work without a second thought. I’m not out to torpedo anyone’s budding career as a novelist, nor is a single review from me going to do that.

However, I also have to consider the purpose of a book review. It’s to help readers decide if it is a book they want to buy. The primary purpose isn’t to help the author, publisher, or anyone except the reader. The author would like a positive review and may benefit from it, but that purpose is secondary. For this reason I will not remove a review once it has been posted. Requests to do so will not receive any response. Doing so would be a disservice to my readers. I will post it to the other sites as indicated in the submission guidelines page. Asking or insisting I remove a review is no different than if I demanded an author stop selling their book.

What Gets a Negative Review

Authors and readers should review the Guide to Reviews page to understand what the rankings mean to me. In this I mention that personal taste can influence the star ranking. However, this really only comes into play when a book is borderline between two different rankings. I’ve made a minor change in the Guide to Reviews page to make that clearer. Any book with 3-star ranking or lower has some definite flaws. What and how serious those flaws are will determine the ranking. These might be problems with the story or the characters. It may be a convoluted or difficult way the author has of expressing themself. If so I’ll typically explain what these are so readers can decide, based on their personal preferences, how this should impact their purchasing decision.

These flaws might be technical issues such as typos, grammar, or incorrect word usage. Those types of flaws exist in virtually every book. I’d venture a guess that a sharp eyed reader will find some in this post. I’d be amazed if some couldn’t be found elsewhere on this blog.

How these kinds of things impact one of my reviews depends on the type and number of errors. Yes, I’m actually keeping track, to a point. I’m not a professional proofreader or copyeditor. If I’m not sure, I don’t count it. Chances of not counting something as an error that should be are much higher than the opposite. If there are a very small number of errors, up to about seven in a typical novel, I’ll indicate this in the format/typo issues area of the review with something like, “no significant issues.” More than that, but under around twenty I’ll say, “a small number of errors.” If there are less than twenty, this is the only place these errors will be mentioned. If you wonder why I mention them at all it’s because the complaint I hear about Indie authors the most is that their books are full of these kinds of errors. My experience is that most aren’t, and only readers with an extremely low tolerance would take issue with so few such issues.

Errors beyond this amount are when they may start impacting the reading experience. My note in the format/typo issues section will indicate how serious the issue is. If the errors detract from the reading experience it will be mentioned in the analysis section.

But everyone else says my book is great

Everyone and I disagree. It happens.

I’ve seen two star reviews for books I’d give four or five stars. I’ve seen one star reviews on books considered “classics of literature.” If 9 out of 10 disinterested reviewers love your book then what I think shouldn’t matter. If all your family and friends love the book and give it a great review, the same thing goes, if you’re sure they will tell you the truth.

However, before discounting my opinion entirely you might be doing yourself a favor to understand why I didn’t like it. Is it a matter of difference in taste or did you push the publish button before your book was ready? If spelling, grammar, and typographical errors were enough to influence my ranking it is almost surely the latter.

Conclusion

As an avid reader, I think we’re living in an exciting time. The opportunity to experience a variety of voices, different subject matter in fiction, and to find quality reading off the beaten path is greater than ever before. This is why I focus on indie authors. However, being an indie author doesn’t mean a free pass for those things that are objective and clearly wrong. If you’re an author planning to submit your book for review and can’t live with the consequences based on what I’ve said in this post and the submission guidelines, possibly you should reconsider.

You can visit Big Al’s blog here and leave a comment: Big Al BlogSpot
Or share your thoughts! I’d love to hear them!


8 comments to “A word on negative reviews – by Big Al”

  1. JovanBleu26
    January 7th, 2012 at 5:19 pm · Link

    I think an author should take the good and the bad and grow from it. I am the type of person that looks at all the reviews and drums through them to see what they did or didn’t like about the book. I then decide if the book is really something I want to read, is it something that I can get into. We as readers know what we like and know what we don’t like and a good or bad review doesn’t change that fact.

    Everyone has a right to their opinion but their opinion is just that an observation that they concluded to after reading the book. I for one had to read “Accidently Mistress” more then once because the first time I read it I has a “WTF” moment. I couldn’t wrap my head around the characters, I didn’t untderstand their motivation behind certain things, I wasn’t sure what you as the author was thinking when you wrote the book because it was so different from the other works you had done. But after reading it a second time and obviously picking up on what I missed the first time, I gave a rating and review that I could deal with. That told how I actual felt about the story being told.

    I tend not to review somthing if I don’t like it because as a reader I can’t tell you the writer how to write. I feel like it would be like someone telling me how to do my job without knowing what it is I do in the first place. I have to say I agree with Big AL and not taking down the negative reviews if it helps you as a writer grow, but I think you have to ignore some of those negative reviews as well because some tend to be more about what that reader wants then what is good for the story and the characters.



  2. The Mynx
    January 7th, 2012 at 11:58 pm · Link

    @JB – Great points. Yes Accidental Mistress was quite different from my other stories, and it happens to be one of my faves. Christophe wasn’t the alpha male in the story and Zuri was in more control than most of my heroines but still a little too obsessive about family obligations for the love match to stick. I’ve gotten some bad reviews on the french in the story. I used a quotation in the book three times that had some misplaced style rules in french and the reader flipped. That’s been corrected. I can tell that anybody who comes after the bad review complaining about the french is just piggybacking on the first negative review without cause. But whatever..it’s almost laughable because the book isn’t written in french and the dialogue is thin when added. Other than that I’m happy with the book. Thing is I can appreciate that some of my fans aren’t, and I welcome them including you to leave truthful reviews expressing what didn’t work for you.

    As for a ‘reviewers’ right to ‘review’, I’m in no position to tell a person what he can and not say about my work, just as they are in position to dictate to me what I can and cannot write. I 100% agree with you on that score. It’s funny because I’ve been asked by fellow readers to critique other authors book and give my faves. I’m really uncomfortable doing something like that. I did it once or twice and decided not too. I don’t actively seek out reviewers for my books and each time I find one by a ‘blogger’ I’m surprised and flattered they made the effort. I’d never ask them to remove it, unless they’ve tried to exploit my work or do something malicious.

    I guess for me the review is a reader to reader thing, and I’ll leave it at that. I grow from my critique partners, editors, and many of you ladies who constantly tell me what you like and don’t. Reviewers mean little to me.



  3. winding4me
    January 8th, 2012 at 4:39 pm · Link

    I hesitate to leave reviews (which I’ve only done on authors’ websites) because frankly they don’t react positively to said critique. You’ve jumped down my throat once, Sienna Mynx and just recently I was barred from another website because the author suspected I wrote a horrible review on a public site and on top of that continued to hypocritically read her free reads. I was stunned and am still hurting from this. We spent some time exchanging emails just so I can verify that I wasn’t the person who left said review (I had written her once to voice my distaste at some issues in her free read, but in no way was it going to stop me from continuing enjoying said read).
    Frankly, you authors are ways too overly sensitive and I am endeavouring not to express anymore opinions on authors’ websites. Will just purchase your books and wait for the next.



  4. Sienna Mynx
    January 8th, 2012 at 4:53 pm · Link

    Winding4me – you’ve made mention of my reaction to your comments on my blog where I wrote a scene that you thought was close to rape. I didn’t jump down your throat because I’m thin skinned. I reacted to a comment that hurt. On my blog. Frankly I think the author who banned you from her site is crazy. And I freely admit that some of my author friends aren’t able to handle criticism. It’s not something you’re born with. Hell even celebrities pay big money for publicists to shield their ever so sensitive feelings. I however, have never blocked you from my site or deleted a comment from you. And if you are able to tell me frankly what you think of me and my work then I should be able to address you just as frankly.

    I thought we at the very least had that understood between us. I get bad reviews constantly. Hell I think I got two this morning. I also get emails from readers who share when they hate my work and a few emails suggesting me not to write again. I didn’t ban those people from my email box, and didn’t post about them and call them out by name. Here’s my thing. I welcome criticism but I am human and in this forum if you come after in me any way shape or form I feel I should freely be able to respond to you.

    I can deal with people hating a book or my heroines, or a story line or plot, which is why I never respond to the loud criticism of my stories on Amazon, B&N. ARE or Goodreads. This is a work in progress however, Something I just recently found myself able to handle after some conditioning and internal realizations that I write for the pleasure of entertaining. If someone is not entertained so be it. I can’t look for my validation from readers but from myself.

    Again, my comment to you was in the context of the comment you made to me. It happened over a year ago and this is the third time you’ve mentioned it. Which is suprising to me because I thought we agreed to disagree. I know you support my work and have done so for many years and I remain appreciative of it. But if I’m to grow thick skin as an author I suggest you do so as a reviewer and continue to post your opinion on work you PAID to read.

    As for the author who came after you and banned you from a site, it’s really extreme for her to go after you that way and I would suggest you consider not supporting her if she can’t get passed her perceived hostilities. Just my thoughts.



  5. winding4me
    January 9th, 2012 at 12:17 am · Link

    Interestingly I have purchased the finished Before Sunrise and have yet to read it. I hesitate BECAUSE of that scene. I will eventually, but you see, your work does affect me. Hence why I’m an huge fan.
    I promise though to move on, albeit it taking so long :-).



  6. Sienna Mynx
    January 9th, 2012 at 12:40 am · Link

    @ windingme – good news dear! I removed the scene. See you do have a positive affect on me. 🙂



  7. winding4me
    January 9th, 2012 at 1:40 am · Link

    Nooooooooooooooo. THANKS soooo very much. I love your work. Adore it to eternity and back, but that scene just left me so in limbo.

    Your fan
    xo



  8. Violette D.
    January 15th, 2012 at 12:06 pm · Link

    I don’t care how many books you write, as an author, a bad review hurts. Especially, a scathing one. Authors are by nature, sensitive people, so there are times when we get upset by bad reviews. However, it’s my opinion that if you are selling the work, the reader [buyer] is entitled to give their honest opinion. I’ve learned to take the good with the bad, especially the critical bad, as that helps you grow as an author.

    @ Sienna: Which scene was that? I haven’t read the new version yet but I don’t remember any borderline scene in the unfinished product?




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